Advice to improve sparring

Discussion in 'Boxing' started by pjbennett, Sep 20, 2016.

  1. pjbennett

    pjbennett New Member


    I recently started boxing and would like to improve my sparring.

    As it stands my sparring sessions go a bit like this.

    I throw a punch, I get hit before mine lands.

    My opponent throws a punch or combination and they land the lot and don't predict any of them coming.

    I throw a punch they slip or bob and weave I get hit again.

    I suppose this is natural when you've not been boxing long but I genuinely want to improve. I'm training at the boxing gym 3 times a week and I'm practicing what I've learned by shadow boxing every day at home.

    I know this is probably like asking how can I become a billionaire but does anyone have any tips for me?

    Do I need to have a combination in mind and try to throw that combination regardless rather than just throwing the odd shot and seeing what happens (normally I get chinned!;)?

    How do I begin to see openings or predict what my opponent may do? At the moment it just seems like an unpredictable barrage is coming my way and it's time to duck and cover.

    My opponents are able to slip and roll away from punches as they see my punches early. The first time I see a punch is when it's in my face.

    I've been told that I should relax and let my punches go more. How can I help myself to do this?

    Sorry for all the questions and many thanks in advance. I'm a very committed trainer, so any advice will be well received and practiced!
  2. Pretty In Pink

    Pretty In Pink Moved on MAP 2017 Gold Award

    Drilling is a great way to get better at fighting. Two man drills.
  3. David Harrison

    David Harrison MAPper without portfolio

    Absolutely this.

    Until you're very used to sparring you won't get much of a chance to learn how to do new things in it. That's what drilling is for.

    I don't know what the setup is like for your classes, but if someone is continually having problems with something in sparring, that is when they should say to their partner "hey, could we try that again?" and drill it again and again until you can start to do it "live".
  4. Simon

    Simon Administrator Admin Supporter MAP 2017 Koyo Award

  5. Simon

    Simon Administrator Admin Supporter MAP 2017 Koyo Award

    Let's try and answer these individually, then you'll have something to work on.

    Your opponent can see it coming and there are a few reasons why.

    As a beginner you are stiff or tense. It's possible you think about throwing the punch before actually doing so.

    Your partner spots that and can intercept.

    Watch the turbines.

    The top guys / girls don't give anything away, but often there is a tell tale sign.

    It may be a slight shuffle of the feet or a fidgeting movement with the hands, but more often it is an intent.

    You can see it in there eyes.

    You need to learn to anticipate.

    If you have a training partner or friend have them throw jabs at you. Not too many and not repetitive, but move and jab.

    Try to spot the intent, then beat them to the jab, or move.

    You are giving away too many signs.

    This will reduce as you progress.

    In addition you may be throwing the wrong punch at ant given time.

    Distance is also a factor.

    I'll try and dig out a video that explains distancing.

    Shadow boxing is awesome and I love watching someone who is relaxed and on balance.
    It almost becomes like a dance.

    Remember footwork is probably more important than punching and I see too many people rooted to the spot, rather than moving forward, back, side to side and circling.

    If there isn't a video covering this in the sparring thread let me know and I'll find something for you.

    This won't work.

    You need to work your way in and set up your opponent.

    You will learn to feint, draw a reaction which lets you in.

    You will learn to hit, move, draw them in to fill the void, then counter.

    You will learn to be just out of the opponent's range, yet somehow in range for your own strikes and fighting someone like this is so frustrating.

    Here is a set of three drills that I teach in class.

    The second drill from 3.04 is a good starting point.

    Sparring Drills - YouTube

    The third drill from 5.20 is good, but build up to it.

    See tips above.

    Relaxation will come with stamina, balance, coordination, timing, speed, perception and many other attributes that all have to be worked on individually.

    Patience young grasshopper. :D

    The best tip I can give you here is stick with it. Days turn into weeks, weeks into months and so on.

    Good luck.

    As others have said it's in the drilling, but for me you need to know what to drill and why you are doing it.

    Trust your coach and don't be afraid to ask questions.

    Also sparring is about being able to set your opponent up in order for your own hits to be successful, this is done in one (or a combination of) five ways.

    The common Jeet Kune Do terminology is The Five Ways of Attack, however this definition is not confined to JKD and whatever your art you will be using one of these five ways.

    This explanation was taken from my blog and is a combination of my own works and the description in The Tao of Jeet Kune Do.

    There are many physical and psychological components to attacking movements and these components can be broken down into categories such as simple attack, compound attack or counter-attack.
    The intelligent fighter has the ability to change tactics during the course of a fight and the choice of what weapon to use will be dictated by the opponent. It is no good for example a boxer continually throwing a jab against an opponent proficient in blocking or parrying, tactics such as feinting will need to be used to draw a movement from the opponent.

    Single Direct Attack (SDA)

    Single direct attack is simply punching or kicking an opponent at the precise moment of an opening. Single direct attack requires mastery of timing, range and speed and can be used as a pre-cursor to attack by combination. Visual recognition is important in understanding which and when each punch or kick should be utilised.

    Attack by Combination (ABC)

    An attack by combination may be defined as a series of two or more attacking motions that flow from one to another naturally. Utilizing the hands and feet either separately or in combination, they are compound attacks, with each opening creating another. Although used in conjunction with feints and all other forms of attack such as a single direct attack, in attack by combination each blow in the series in intended to score. This requires economical motion, tight defence, speed, surprise and determination in execution.

    Hand Immobilisation Attack (HIA) or Attack by Trapping.

    Hand immobilisation (or trapping) tools are necessary when the opponent blocks your single direct attack creating a barrier. In order to continue your attack, you either have to change the line of the attack or remove the barrier. By trapping the barrier becomes immobilised and a new line created for a renewed attack. In addition the opponent is prevented from using the trapped arm (or leg) again.

    Attack by Drawing (ABD)

    Attack by drawing is essentially counter fighting. It is initiated by `baiting` an opponent into a commitment. It is a premeditated action and its success depends on luring the opponent into attacking the opening being offered. Subtlety is an essential ingredient, as it must not appear to be a deliberate error or the opponent will not take the opening. Attack by drawing can also be offensive actions by making the opponent react in a set manner to develop your own attack.

    Progressive Indirect Attack (PIA)

    Progressive indirect attack differs from attack by combination in that, in PIA, only the final blow is intended to score. Progressive indirect attack uses feints and false attacks to draw a reaction from the opponent, to induce the execution of a block or other defensive motion, then deceive the defensive move to score on another line of attack. The initial feint or false attack should bridge the distance by at least a half, leaving your final motion only the last half of the distance. Progressive indirect attack is a single forward motion without withdrawal.

    The above drills can be done individually or in combination with each other. In addition each has to be drilled as a seperate entity.

    As well as understanding the attacking movements it is important to understand the defensive type of opponent you may face.

    The Runner

    According to Chris Kent and Tim Tackett in the book JKD Kickboxing the runner is flighty and out of range of both hands and feet.

    Guarding with Distance

    This opponent uses distance, but remains closer than the runner, waiting for the opportunity to score a counter.


    This opponent remains well covered and is prepared to block an attack and then counter.

    The Jammer

    This opponent likes to crash into an attack in order to smother and jam it, then throw the counter. He willmaintain a good guard.

    The Angler

    This guy/girl likes to use footwork and evasicve body angulation to offset your attack.

    So as you can see to be able to deal with the different opponents you will face there are many, many components that need to be in place.
    Sparring is physical chess, a back and forth exchange, which is rhythmic and unrhythmic. It includes pauses and interuptions and the victor will be the one who can adjust, often in the middle of the exchange.

    As well as the the mechanical process you will need to work your distance, timing, footwork and mobility, feints and speed, as weill as a host of other attributes. All of these components again can be broken down into subsections.

    Speed for example is a subject all on its own, as there are different types of speed.

    1. Perception speed.
    2. Mental speed.
    3. Initiation speed.
    4. Alteration speed.
    5. Performance speed.

    One thing you can do in class is vary your sparring partner. This will help you against varying speeds, different timing and energy. When you do attack do it with confidence, speed and economy of motion.

    One thing I have my students do is what I call "watch the turbines".

    Don't intercept the punch or kick, intercept the thought process. Watch the mental turbines. As soon as the opponent gets set, thinks of hitting, or adjusts in readiness, you hit, disrupt or move. This places you a half beat in front of them. They can never get ready or set.

    Hope that makes some sense. Don't worry about the JKD terminology, it stands up and can be used in all arts.

    Controlling distance.

    Step up to your training partner, but be out of punching range. Extend your lead leg and draw an imaginary arc in front of you. Now anywhere inside this line and you are out of distance, allowing the opponent to be on the line puts you in range. This is what I call your sparring circle.
    You need to practice being just a fraction inside your sparring circle, such that with the slightest adjustment you can be in range, hit and away to safety.
    Inside your sparring circle is where you can relax slightly, conserve energy and take a good look at your opponent.
    Maintain a good guard, but keep moving. The old saying "be like the reflection of the moon in the water" remains a good one. Always moving, but always remaining the same (structurally speaking).
    This range is (if you are a counter puncher) where you can tease your opponent. You should be teasing with how close you can be to the edge of your sparring circle, getting hit to commit to a movement and ready to counter.
    If you are more offensive you can (and should) crash through the sparring circle with a commited attack. Single direct attack to draw his block/parry, followed by an attack by combination.

    Types of Sparring

    The OP if he wants to improve his sparring does not need to be sparring at too fast a pace.
    Within the class structure should be sparring of different types in energies.

    Technical Sparring

    This is what some of us may recognise as one, two or three step sparring.
    Each specific drill is worked seperately.
    It may be just a slip or parry off of a jab, or maybe a counter to a lead leg kick. The intensity is slowly increased until the energy is at full speed with the attacker really trying to land the shot.
    I have found that you have to slow the student down when doing this.This is so they understand the technique, where the points of balance are, the opponents weak spots and how they recover ready for the next hit.

    Conditional Sparring

    Here the instructor lays down the ground rules on what can and cannot be used and level of intensity.
    20% power, jab and front kick only.

    A can only defend, while B can only use kicks.

    You must throw at least a three shot combination and angle off when finished.

    All Out Sparring

    This really speaks for itself.
    The student does not need to be doing lots of full contact, as techniques are not learnt here. It is more to understand how they will react in the ring, or when under the stress of a proper fight. The effect of stress on the body will be found out when sparring full contact.

    Shadow Boxing

    Again there are different types of shadow boxing and this is something that you can definately do on his own outside of class.
    It takes no equipment, little space and only a few minutes every day.
    Even if you do not have a mirror you can turn the interior lights on at night and use a window or patio doors to obtain a reflection.

    You can shadow box for speed, movement, combinations (hands, feet or both), balance, pivoting etc.
    In terms of the sparring circle, place a shoe on the floor in front of you. As you move in you can practice a front foot pin. Excellent if you move in and trap the opponents lead hand.

    If you have a gumshield this is a good time to practice wearing it.
    Controlling your breathing is import and and you don't want to struggle in class with the gumshield.

    Iust like sparring you can set your own conditions.

    Must use a defensive move before throwing your own shot.

    Must angle off after each hit.

    Each technique must include a kick and so on.

    Getting Hit

    If (when) you do get hit, move. Do not return to the same place. If you hit a bag it comes back to the same place and gets hit again, do not make this mistake, move, angle off, slip, weave, whatever it is do not return to the same place.

    Take a few shots.

    This is good for the soul as long as long as it is sensible. When doing one or two step sparring or conditinal sparring I sometimes allow a few to hit home. Suddenly you realise it is not that bad. It also helps with controlling the flinch, which is the enemy of the beginner.

    From this thread
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2016
  6. aikiMac

    aikiMac aikido + boxing = very good Moderator Supporter

    Exactly. I'm in much the same situation as you, PJ, in that I'm trying to get into the weekly sparring class. My gym has a threshold minimum skill level for the sparring class, and being that I'm an old aikido person my boxing-specific skills are not quite there. But pad drills are helping me tremendously. The coach holds a focus pad on each hand and leads me around the ring for 3 minutes, working specific combinations that includes him trying to hit my face with the pads. Rest for one minute, do it again. This drill is solid gold for me. It's exactly what I need, and it totally sounds like it fits your problem. Eg, quote, "How do I begin to see openings or predict what my opponent may do? At the moment it just seems like an unpredictable barrage is coming my way and it's time to duck and cover." <---- that's the pads coming at my face

    Boxing is so fun. :D
  7. pjbennett

    pjbennett New Member

    Many thanks for all of your responses. I will implement drilling into my training and take time to digest the you tube videos etc.

    Thanks again. I genuinely appreciate the guidance.
  8. EdiSco

    EdiSco Likes his anonymity

    If you've just recently started boxing and if all you're doing during sparring is keeping your hands up and chin tucked in - you're doing a great job! :D;)
  9. BahadZubu

    BahadZubu Valued Member

    The above poster's advice couldn't be more true. Heck even when watching pro fights you will often hear the trainers saying "keep your hands up!". I would also add one more thing which is to use your jab. You think you have been jabbing enough? You haven't, jab more.
  10. Vinny Lugo

    Vinny Lugo Valued Member

    I did MT and boxing. Do drills like simon said. Oh and do as much cardio as possible. When you are beginning it's very easy to get winded even after just a roumd. Also when you are winded you drop your hands naturally. But keep at it and you will improve
  11. raaeoh

    raaeoh never tell me the odds

    Trust what your coach says.. yes it may seem out there, but I bet he or she knows a thing or 2 about sparring.
  12. Boxing24

    Boxing24 Banned Banned

    I did MT and boxing. Do drills like Simon say? Goodness, and do however much cardio as could reasonably be expected. When you are starting it's anything but difficult to get winded even after only around. Additionally when you are winded you drop your hands normally. Be that as it may, keep at it and you will make strides.
  13. Dave Sing

    Dave Sing New Member

    I had the same problem with my first sparring sessions. But really it just takes a lot of practice. After a while, you'll get more coordination with your movements. Thank you Simon for the tips :)
  14. LandonS

    LandonS Member

    From what you said it sounds like your dropping the hand when you throw a punch and you might be telegraphing your punches. Starting out I found recording myself shadowboxing to be valuable, set your phone up at eye level and shadow box near it while facing it. Play back the footage and watch what the hand your not punching with is doing, if somethings out of place, correct it, if you have a tell, correct it. Just having your hands up while sparring will stop alot and help you get to a point where youll relax a bit more while sparring. Record your sparring too and watch what you do defensively. Do you drop your guard when punches come at you? Do you look away? How are you managing distance? Etc etc

    Defense first, your offense will stem from your defence later.
    EdiSco likes this.
  15. itsthedre

    itsthedre New Member

    1. Work on live inside drills---so you throw some punches and your partner throws a few back and forth. When doing this, work on finding angles. This was instrumental in taking my boxing game to the next level. This drill taught me two things---how to take a punch and how to throw combos (by finding the angles). Being able to be comfortable in the pocket takes a different kind of practice.
    2. Spar with someone who is just slightly below your level, someone who is at your level, and someone who is slightly better than you. With 1, you get to try out new things and relax because you know that you are better than the other person, even if only by a little bit. With 2) you get to feel what a competitive sparring match feels like and get to see if what if what you have been doing works and with 3) it puts you out of your comfort zone battling with someone better---but not so much better where you are only worried about getting hit and knocked out. Sparring with 3) elevates your game because it forces you to think beyond and adjust. You might learn a little bit getting your a$$ handed to you, but you will learn so much when it's a competitive match.
    3. Spar at varying intensities. There is a time for slower-paced technical sparring and then there is also a time to do hard sparring. You need both, it can't be just one or the other.
    4. Do not under any condition lose your eyes. They are your first line of protection so do not close them or do not look down. Look at your opponent's eyes.
    5. A good habit to get into is to slip right after every combination. When you do this, you are being proactive, not reactive. So you don't even have to think about when the shot is coming.

    Here are some more helpful tips for boxing sparring if you are interested in reading more than what I said above. But yah the above things have helped me tremendously in my sparring sessions.

    The 5 Best Sparring Tips for Better Boxing | MMA Life
  16. YouKnowWho

    YouKnowWho Valued Member

    Try to play this simple game:

    1. You play defense and your opponent play offense - If your opponent can hit you with the first 20 punches, he wins that round. Otherwise, you win that round.
    2. You play offense and your opponent play defense - If you can hit your opponent with the first 20 punches, you win that round. Otherwise, he wins that round.

    Try this for 15 round and record the result. Repeat this for 1 month and check how the record will change.

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