Stance, Posture, & Hand Position-Part I
Greetings All, and welcome to another Dallas Fight Club Blog post. In the first post I spoke at length about the confidence building aspects of boxing and how through the training process youngsters are able to grow exponentially from a physical, mental, and social standpoint.
In this current segment I will in some detail touch upon the rudiments of boxing, traditional skills as they were once taught more than a century ago by a number of legendary trainers. Such foundational skills, not so prevalent among modern day coaches nor prizefighters, would lead to the development of several All Time Great pugilists many of whom are still unmatched today in terms of overall refinement as well as accomplishment.
In speaking of legendary trainers or all time great fighters I make no reference to any present day trainers or fighters, nor am I referring to any trainers or fighters who’ve come along in the past 20 years. That said, I do think both Terence Crawford and Naoya Inoue are a couple of throwback type pugilists to keep an eye on. Rather I’m alluding to a bygone era when boxing as a major sport was prime time. That would be the Golden Era or the 1920’s up through the 1980’s and slightly beyond.
In my opinion boxing today is a significantly watered down sport compared to what it once was easily evidenced by the fact that when you watch a title fight from the 20’s up through the 80’s or early 90’s prizefighters exhibited far superior skills, this in comparison to the present day crop of fighters who mainly void of overall defensive to offensive transitional movement stand in front of an opponent to randomly trade blows.
It goes without saying that the more you do something the better you get and boxers of the past fought significantly more, sometimes 2 or 3 times during the course of a month while today’s prizefighters are lucky enough to compete a handful of times a year if that.
Having said that and for those with an eye for the sport, there’s simply not much of a comparison at all and for the most part that applies to today’s trainers. Leaning more towards supposed scientific gains in nutrition and conditioning, present day trainers are quite inept when it comes to teaching proper boxing fundamentals, an art which has seemingly been lost on all but a small minority.
To help you better understand and you can verify yourself by pulling up past matches on YouTube and the like, the last great era of boxing was during the 1980’s and slightly beyond. Witness for example a Sugar Ray Leonard Roberto Duran fight. Not only would the entire world stop to tune in, but you’ll notice in their respective corners gray haired men giving instructions. This would be Ray Arcel and Angelo Dundee, proteges as well as benefactors of boxing knowledge handed down to them by the great trainers of yore such as Whitey Bimstein, Mannie Seamon, Jack Blackburn etc. who would in turn learn from other outstanding trainers who would precede them.
In mentioning these great trainers and as a long time student of the game myself I’m so totally confident in my coaching abilities that I’m going to throw in a guarantee here of which applies to aspiring amateurs as well as professionals. If you are an amateur or professional boxer and you’re able to learn to the point of execution what I’m offering in the following paragraphs I’ll venture to say that the skill sets and maneuvers acquired will not only work to perfection, but they will over time, provided you keep up your training, have you competing on an elite level.
Having said that I’m passing along this information because I feel I’m one of the best in regards to imparting technical boxing skills to others irregardless of ones age or ability and as my contribution to the sport I would like to share the gift I possess with all of you. As a lifelong athlete who understands body mechanics and physics to a large degree, what’s key in the following pages is that I draw from some of the most legendary boxers and trainers of All Time, understanding not only what it is they do but more importantly how they do it both from a physical as well as mental perspective with the latter often being overlooked.
It’s these two things combined along with being detailed oriented that give me an edge in the game and it’s quite rare to come across another coach who can put it all together in the way that I can. With no doubt in my mind I’m sure you will come to a similar conclusion to upon absorbing the content assembled flourish in regards to your training endeavors.
Of course what I teach doesn’t work if you don’t apply it but if you’re able to execute with rhythm and timing what’s being offered you will benefit much more than you would have ever thought to surely ascend the rankings in your respective weight class. On the other hand and for those who only aspire to garner the best recreational workout possible, learning these simple basics will lay a solid foundation upon which you can build a lifetime’s worth of skills. Top that off with the fact the more you learn the more enjoyable the workout while from a self defense perspective you will gain the know how to handle yourself in a compromising hand to hand situation should you ever find yourself in one.
Please understand that what I’m passing on is not something new nor did I invent anything here. What I have been able to do is improvise here and there so that some movements are slightly unique, otherwise the skills and drills taught have been in existence for more than 100 years with the unfortunate thing being that the information presented seems to have been distorted, lost, and or discarded in favor of a plethora of as mentioned scientifically measured conditioning regimens as well as dietary supplementation of inert ingredients that for the most part provide little to no benefit. Not that the former doesn’t have it’s place to an extent but it should never never overshadow nor should it supplant traditional boxing training and healthy eating in any way, shape, or form.
Along those lines witness the fact that our United States Olympic Boxing teams once dominant are nowadays lucky enough to come away with any medals at all and you can simply attribute that circumstance to the lack of proper fundamentals being taught to our young amateurs Furthermore, and after witnessing what’s currently being taught, unfortunately that circumstance doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon.
Moving right along, for not only am I going to present relevant topics in a concise and coherent manner, but as well in a quite simple and easy to understand format. Einstein once said if you can’t make it simple then you’re not smart enough and I’m going to break it all the way down to the minutest of details as it’s the little things the average coach, athlete, or onlooker doesn’t pick up on that lend themselves to creating the most refined of products on the road to becoming your absolute best. That said let’s get into Stance, Posture, and Hand Position Part I.
Before covering any defensive or offensive tactics or technique to include striking, countering, slipping, rolling, directional footwork and the like, an astute coach should first present information on how the athlete or recreational boxer is to carry his or herself so that I will devote the following pages to stance, posture, and hand position. From this you will have your defense built in as a matter of muscle memory, the same defensive posture from which you’ll be able to launch a potent offense. Along those lines if you happen to be a follower of any team sport or you’ll understand that it’s a solid impenetrable defense that sets up a stellar and effective offense.
In other words, while under fire you be able to with poise handle yourself defensively to ward off any foe while having at your disposal the necessary skills to become what most champions had become over the years, great counter punchers. This is a most economical style where somewhat akin to judo you will play off what your adversary has to offer up as it’s well understood that the best time to strike your opponent is when he or she is trying to strike you.
Getting right to it we simply need to start off by teaching you how to carry yourself so that we’ll first cover your stance. Stance refers to not only the distance between but also the positioning of your feet which should be staggered. We will then discuss posture wherein which you are to either maintain your upper body in the stand up style, or more likely the crouch or semi crouch position.
Lastly we’ll cover hand placement whether that entails hands held high and tight as in the peekaboo stance, or hands positioned out front to extend your offense as well as extend your defense for purposes related to quick response times. Another variation is the short hand stance, sometimes referred to as the Philly Shell or otherwise to include elevated shoulders and a cross block. The latter stance would allow you to remain unscathed when infighting. Please understand the neither your stance, posture, or hand position can be divorced from one another as all three of these elements work cohesively to help fulfill the definition of boxing, not to be confused with fighting, which is hit and not get hit so buckle up here we go.
Stance, posture, and hand position are paramount as they relate to balance in motion, body alignment, which allows a boxer to maintain punching position, and directional footwork, crucial fundamentals that must be in place before one moves on to employ offensive or defensive tactics.
First understand that balance equates to leverage so that both of these aspects combined determine to a large extent your punching power. In addition and void of proper balance, which is derived from your stance and posture, you are minimizing your power while as a competitive boxer you may very well play into the hands of an opponent who’s looking to take advantage of you, i.e. throw you off balance, get you on your heels, or otherwise put you in a compromising position to set you up for his or her ill intentions.
Furthermore, it is without the balance aspect that you are taking away from the resistance type of impact your recreational workout would provide if indeed you are looking to get in some resistance training. Building strength through resistance is something you can easily achieve on a heavy bag when your fundamentals are intact. In fact if you look at many of the All Time Greats like Joe Louis, Jack Dempsey, Archie Moore, Kid Gavilan, Sugar Ray Robinson, Rocky Marciano and others you’ll notice well developed shoulders to the point you would assume they had undergone weight training. Not the case at all as weight training was seldom used back in the day so that these fighters developed in large part due to their heavy bag work amongst other regimens to include wood chopping and physical labor.
Getting back to matters at hand, take note of the fact that under competitive circumstances when it matters, without balance or the ability to use leverage your punches will lack sufficient sting to either deter, gain the upper hand, or finish off an opponent who may be trying to finish you. That said stay focused, bend your knees, and always be on the ready and you’ll be fine.
Moving along there are 2 important factors to keep in mind at this juncture, one of which is that balance affords leverage and therefore power, and secondarily that you learn boxing by way of repetition to the point that each aspect of the sport will have a certain feel to it. That’s to say upon executing correctly over a period of time muscle memory takes over so that skills and drills for maximum effect are quite familiar while opposed to that and or when executing improperly familiarity is lacking. This will surely and at once come to the attention of the astute boxer.
Speaking of feel, if you ever feel uncomfortable, i.e. your feet feel wide, your off balance, or you’re reaching for a target in one instance while smothering yourself in another, then that simply implies you’re not in the right position to begin with. Again I’m going to make things simple so as a general rule always feel comfortable. Comfort will come with the familiarity of understanding range, distance, and a number of other factors of which I’ll cover in the following pages.
Please take note that similar to military tactics combat sports necessitate that you understand lines of attack and defense amongst other things. Before we even show you how to hold your hands, and there are a couple different hand positions depending on who you’re up against, I’m going to show you proper posture, body alignment, and positioning of the feet utilizing a line on the floor. As regards the former please note that fight sports require that you to have a lead as well as anchor foot as opposed to basketball, football, and many other sports where you can afford to be squared up.
Also note that all the following information for purposes of instruction will pertain to right handed or orthodox boxers because that’s what the far majority of people are. That said, and for those following along who happen to be Southpaw’s, just reverse everything I’m relating to you to execute in the exact opposite fashion to that of an orthodox boxer and you’ll be on the same page.
Utilizing a straight line on the floor, as an orthodox or right handed fighter you’re going to face in perpendicular fashion towards the line placing the ball of your left foot adjacent to but not touching the line while the ball of your right foot will cross over to the other side of the line. At this juncture adjust your point of focus so that you’re looking down the line as a baseball player would face a pitcher after stepping in to the batters box with feet facing home plate. Your shoulders will also as a result slightly rotate.
Just don’t place the ball of right foot so far over the line that you are squaring up but just enough to be in a staggered stance again similar to if not identical to a batting stance. Anything more or less will diminish your balance and therefore the leverage or force with which you can deliver punches. Just as well this type of balance serves a defensive purpose in that your opponent may attempt to employ a left hook to knock you off balance and to your left in line for their straight right hand. This would easily be the case and cause you to become a victim should you not position your right foot to the right of your front foot where you have much more stability.
In addition your head should line up with that back foot so that weight is slightly to the right over your right leg. Void of this position you can easily be set up for the aforementioned straight right hand while simultaneously you wouldn’t be in position to land your power shot at any given moment. This to begin with makes you a one handed fighter while for the most part your face is leading so that you want to avoid this scenario altogether unless you’re an advanced boxer looking to draw a punch . I’ll go over this in more detail below so hang tight.
From this position where the line is running between your feet, reach down and touch your knee’s with your hands to then focus once again down the line. You can now take your hands off your knees but don’t raise your head or shoulders because this will bring you out of the established semi crouch posture that I want you to maintain.
With your left foot on one side of the line and right foot on the other not only are you in a staggered stance, but in addition your head will be to the right side of the center line while simultaneously being inline with or over your anchor or rear foot so that you are in a semi crouch stance. Once again this position will maximize leverage and power while preventing your opponent from easily moving you around with his or her lead hand where you could be set up for opposing blows. Let’s now take a look at that alignment.
Now in facing down the line with your eyes front, you will with hands dangling at your sides focus on aiming your left shoulder forward towards the heavy bag you intend to work, or under competitive circumstances you’ll aim that same lead shoulder towards an opponent.
Your left shoulder will be forward but of course your head will be situated off the line with the majority of your weight toward your back foot at all times so that your face is not a target while simultaneously you want to be in a position to always launch your most potent right hand power punch. This necessitates that you have weight slightly back of center towards the back foot because along with balance, weight and how you throw that weight is a major factor in the power equation.
In fact, everywhere you move always be in position to administer that power hand full force at the drop of a hat while at the same time you can align yourself to connect with forceful lead left uppercuts and hooks, or better yet devastating counters of the same variety. More on that in a future post but for now take a peak at Legendary heavyweight Joe Louis.
Known as “The Brown Bomber” Joe Louis would shuffle across the ring posturing over his right leg where he was able to maintain a loaded and very potent right hand at all times. Notice in addition that Louis was able to simultaneously utilize an educated left hand from this very same posture which would serve to pave the way for his power punch. This posture and or positioning was and is almost standard amongst great prizefighters as the left hand is mainly a set up for the right hand. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-4DMPM2lns&t=113s
Getting back to the line and business at hand, to impart the aspect of alignment as best as possible and before placing your hands in a protective high and tight position, and that would be the Peekaboo stance, we will learn to rotate our heels outwards ala Elvis Presley style as mentioned with your hands and arms down at your sides first so as to focus on shoulder alignment and as well shoulder elevation which actually plays a huge roll as concerns defense.
We will delve more into the benefits of shoulder elevation in combination with tucking your chin shortly but you do need to make this part of your posture so do it as best as possible for now understanding that it’s a process which will be uncomfortable for a time.
With chin down and shoulders elevated let’s proceed with a drill I refer to as “Slips & Rolls Hands Down”. From starting or ready position aim your left shoulder forward down the line and then lean over and touch your knee’s before proceeding to once again signify you’re in the semi crouch.
Take your hands off your knees but do not raise up. With left shoulder front and arms dangling at your sides turn your right heel outward rotating your right shoulder to the front so that it’s on the centerline where the left shoulder once was. This causes your head to cross over the line so that your upper body weight is now positioned over the left leg and as well your head ends up directly over your left foot in a leaning or crouch as opposed to vertical position.
Now do the opposite and rotate your left heel outwards which will return your left shoulder back to the center line so that once again your head crosses the line to end up over your right foot. Rotate a couple times alternating shoulders and hips to the center line with your heels turning outwards.
Now let’s do the same thing adding punches to this movement taking note of the fact that even though this segment is entitled Stance, Posture, and Hand Position, posture and this rotational movement in general affects your striking technique so that this aspect must be included as well as understood.
Now throwing straight punches, uppercuts, and hooks, lean from side to side transferring your weight because remember weight is power so learning how to transfer your weight from one leg to the other is huge. Also very important, rotate fully to finish off your punches so that you end up behind your shoulders because you never want to get squared up to leave your solar plexus vulnerable as you would if you don’t rotate fully.
Done correctly you are well on your way towards acquiring some basic boxing movements that aren’t taught so well if at all as most gyms you go to and most trainers under who’s guidance you will find yourself don’t feature or break down this simplistic motion.
To further your understanding please note that the line you are working with will come to represent and will be replaced by the heavy bag or an opponent so that when you punch on either of these targets your head will be crossing over from one side to the other or more appropriately your weight will transfer from one leg to the other. If you don’t think crossing your head over the center line of a heavy bag or an opponent will turn the trick, check out footage of Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Ray Robinson, or any other fighter of note tearing into their adversaries and you can see this very principle at work. These All Time Greats were pound for pound some of the hardest punchers to ever lace em up. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXvIFsh0XTc&t=196s
In adding to this and because you want to whip or snap your punches along, another component of the power equation, understand that your head will cross the center line of the bag or an opponent before your punch ever arrives. Simply ensure that you do not hear your blow connect on a heavy bag until you have fully crossed over that bag.
This signifies exactly what it should in that you are punching with your hips and shoulders which end up on the center line before the blow is ever delivered and not after. If you come up with a different result then quite simply you’re delivering arm punches. Arm punches in the long run will only set you back and eventually lead to injury while at the same time you’re not getting your body into it as you should.
Please note that before any of the above occurs, heels turning outwards should precede all else for without your heels turning outwards you will limit hip and shoulder rotation and therefore diminish your range of motion. Punches simply start from the feet while range of motion is a major factor as concerns the power equation. During competition your feet may not always rotate as they do in training but you’ll be a much better puncher for it when you snap those heels out.
Part II upcoming please stay tuned.