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Boxing Tip #6: How to Deal with Getting Hit
Like it or not, if you box you get hit. Everyone deals with it differently and you will discover your own reaction seconds after your first one.
You are kidding yourself if you think you are going to go head to head with someone and defend every punch. You are going to get hit hard – in the face, gut, and a lot of other places.
Yeah, it sucks!
But, if you plan on being a decent boxer, you have to learn to deal with the initial pain and the secondary effects – the blood, cuts, broken bones, concussions, stolen air, and your brain attacking you. It can be done though, and I’ll show you how.
Now that we’ve established that you are going to get nailed repeatedly and you are OK with that, what can you do to prepare yourself?
David Haye v Ismail AbdoulEBU (European) Cruiserweight Title (Loura)
The top three things to remember before the hit:
- Keep your eyes open at all times and never turn your back. Bring up your guard and do your best to avoid the onslaught, but always keep your eyes on your opponent. Never close them and hope your opponent is going to get tired and go away. They won’t. You can’t fight back if you have no idea what is going on.
- Move. If you do get hit don’t put your head or body back where it got slammed in the first place. If I throw a jab, I’m expecting my opponent’s head to whip back and then come straight back towards me. Bob, weave, step, duck or do something to make your opponent guess where his target is going to be and hopefully miss any follow up.
In the army, when we come under enemy fire, we hit the ground and roll. Why? Because by rolling, the enemy doesn’t know where you will pop back up. If you come up where you went down in the first place, you are sticking your head in your enemy’s sights. All he has to do is pull the trigger.
Control your instinct to flinch. It’s natural, but you must overcome it. If I walk up to you and pretend to smack you in the face, you are going to respond. You are going to shut your eyes, maybe move your head, or bring your hands up to protect you. That is your body’s natural way of defending itself and it usually works pretty good. Problem is, it is easily tricked. If you flinch for no reason, you set yourself up to actually get hit.
How do you control your flinching? Get used to things coming at you hard and fast. Go all “matrixy” and actually see the bullets coming at you. So, to deal with the flinch:
- Keep your eyes open. No matter what, at all costs, keep your eyes open so you can see what is going on. You can’t react to what you can’t see.
- Allow close misses. In boxing you want to make small controlled movements that expend minimal energy. When you slip a jab you want it to just barely miss you. When you duck, you want the hook to blow air through your hair. If it is more than a millimetre away from you, it is too far.
- Drill it. When you drill it enough, you will be unphased by punches whizzing by your head. You will remain steady and focused. That is when you know you have control of your flinch.
You are going to be surprised that over time you will notice fewer and fewer of the hits. They really don’t hurt as much as you perceive them to in the first place. It’s just such a foreign concept for most people to get hit in the face that when it happens it’s like WOW. After a while though, it’s nothing more than a nuisance (for the most part). Even better is that with enough practice, things will slow right down and you will feel like you are in the matrix.
You will have incredible reaction time as your reflexes develop.
Some boxing drills to prepare you for the eventuality of getting hit:
- Spar and put yourself on the receiving end. This is a defensive drill where you attempt to block and slip while your partner wails on you. You are not allowed to throw anything back so your partner knows he is good to go to unleash on you without fear of reprisal. Keep your eyes open, guard up, stay relaxed and allow the close misses. Use angles and movement to keep from getting hit. When you do get hit, move and regroup.
- Hang a slip bag. (See Tyson training). This is as simple as tying a small bag to a string. Hit it and let it come swinging back at your face. At the last possible second, slip allowing it to brush by. Get in position and repeat.
- Have a partner throw things at you (preferably soft things). Practice moving at the last possible second.
- Build muscle. Especially true for body shots. If you have a strong shield of abdominals, the effects of body shots are going to be diminished. With a partner, whip medicine balls at each other’s abs and allow them to hit you. Or, lay on the floor and throw a ball into the air and allow it to land on your gut. You’ll quickly learn when the best time to tense the muscles is.
- In a controlled manner, get hit. I’m not talking full power, but let someone with gloves on hit you in the face and in the stomach. (you may want to wear a full face headgear) You have to get used to getting hit, recovering, and getting ready for the next one. If you don’t, the first time it happens will leave you standing in the middle of the tracks waiting for the locomotive to mow you down.
- Double end bag training is great. That little sucker tends to want to hit you in the face all on its own and is incredibly effective for developing slipping skills and reflexes.
Getting hit is not as bad as it seems. Sometimes it hurts and is going to break things or cut you, but generally, hits are relatively harmless. The pain lets you know you are still in the game. The key is getting accustomed to your own reaction (generally fear) and dealing with it effectively. You’ll never be 100% ready for a hit, but you can condition yourself to deal with it better than turtling and crying like a baby.