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The 77 Most Common Mistakes in Boxing – Part 1
MISTAKE 56- Thinking That Making Mistakes is Always Wrong
You can make any mistake: you can drop your hands, throw a sloppy jab and bring your elbow up, or you can throw big wide looping hooks.
You can make any mistake as long as it is done by conscious choice.
For example, you throw a jab with the elbow out in the hope your training partner will see it and counter attack, so that you can then re-counter his counter attack.
As long as it is purposeful and you are using it as a set up for your attack, you can make any mistake, technical flaw, or postural error that you like.
MISTAKE 57- Chin Up
A common problem is that people keep their chin up when they spar. You need to keep your chin down.
Keeping your chin down protects your nose. If you get hit, you want to minimize the amount of damage you take on. By keeping your chin down, your nose will be further protected as the bridge of your nose will be vertical to the ground. When you keep your chin up, the point of your nose sticks straight out and the bridge of your nose is on a slant. Because the profile of your nose is so pronounced at this angle, your nose will surely break if you get hit straight on.
As well, your chin is further protected if you keep it down. The reason you want to protect your chin is that your chin acts like a lever and when it gets hit, it turns your head like a spinning top. Your brain sloshes around inside your skull and smacks against one side, bounces off, and smacks against the other side. This could lead to a concussion, which is basically a bruise on the brain. By tucking your chin in as you fight, if you get hit, the lever is then much shorter. Your chin is closer to the pivot point, your spine. And thus, it is much more difficult to turn your head via your chin if your chin is tucked.
You can experiment with this. VERY CARFULLY, push and pull on your chin and on the top of your head with the chin down and then with the chin up. DO THIS VERY CAREFULLY. You’ll find that your neck is much stronger and much more stable with your chin down.
MISTAKE 58- Thinking That All Punches in a Combination Need to Land
A common illusion is that people think that all of their punches in a combination need to land. This is only possible if you have a completely exhausted opponent who can not keep his hands up and who can not move out of the way.
Because of heavy bag training and due to focus mitt training, we have a tendency to believe that all of our punches will land perfectly each time. This is actually very rare. Training on heavy bags and doing focus mitt drills are fantastic for attaining proper form, perfecting accuracy, correcting distance, and for building stamina. Unfortunately, heavy bag training and focus mitt training provide an unrealistic sensation for the athlete where every punch of every combo lands perfectly. You get a knockout each time. The truth is, when you start sparring, very few punches actually land.
A combination attack is a finely orchestrated tactic where typically it is the final punch of the combo that lands on target. The first punch of a combination will be a false attack.
A false attack is a type of fake attack. A false attack looks like a real punch and is fully executed as a normal punch, but it purposefully falls short of the target. You are purposefully too far away when you launch a false attack. You would use a false attack to disguise your advancing step so that you are in range for your second and third punches.
As well, people will evade, block, and parry most punches; so, most of your punches will not land on target.
It is important to shadow box, not only because it helps you perfect your form, but also because it helps you get used to missing your target.
MISTAKE 59- Thinking that Singular Attacks are Easy to Land
A single attack means that I’m going to throw a single punch without trying to disguise it in any way.
The irony of the singular attack is that although it is the easiest to execute it is the most difficult type of attack to land successfully.
To land a singular attack successfully, you need excellent timing, great accuracy, a keen awareness of your opponent and a precise measure of your distance. As well as great speed and a strong defense of his countering attempts.
This is because singular attacks are the easiest type of attack to defend and thus, they are the easiest type of attack to counter.
Singular attacks – people think they are the most simple, but, really, they are the most complex. Landing singular attacks – sometimes this is called “pot shotting” – is a demonstration of an expert boxer.
MISTAKE 60- Thinking There is Only One Way to Do Something
I have had 5 different people teach me how to box and each one of them has taught me how to throw the jab differently. They are all right. None of them are wrong.
There is only correct technique applied to a specific problem. In other words, use the right tool for the right job.
For every technique in martial arts, there will be a dozen variations on how to execute it. It is important for the practitioner to keep an open mind and understand the benefits and the disadvantages of each method.
Having different tools in your tool box keeps your game unpredictable and adaptable. Do not dismiss a new way of doing something just because it is different than what your original instructor taught you.
MISTAKE 61- Hooks: Shoulder Leading the Hand
Many people throw hooks with their shoulder leading their hand. This is a very dangerous, and unfortunately, very common mistake.
If you throw a hook with your shoulder leading your hand, you will undoubtedly injure your shoulder over time. And become a person who “used to” study martial arts.
Stand up and pretend to hug a big tree. This is the perfect position for your shoulder when you throw a hook.
Feel how your shoulders are fully protected with the pectoral muscles and the anterior deltoid muscles of the front of the shoulder. See how your shoulder is behind your hand.
Now from the tree hugging position, pull your hands back like you are now trying to hug the side of a building. See how your shoulder comes forward and your shoulder is now leading your hand.
This shoulder position is how most people throw a hook. Note how your hands can not go back any further. Note also how your shoulders are at their maximum range of motion here.
If you were to apply force to your hand right now, and were to try and hit something, the oppositional force from the impact would shoot your hand straight back and would stretch out your shoulder joint which could potentially injure your shoulder.
Hug a tree when you throw your hook. Keep your hand leading ahead of your shoulder during the rotation.
MISTAKE 62- Fist Not Directly In Front of Your Forearm
Do a push up on your knuckles. This is the perfect position for your fist as you punch.
Note how your last 3 knuckles, your middle finger knuckle, your ring finger knuckle and your pinkie finger knuckle line up directly in front of your forearm. When many people punch, they wind up applying force to the wrong parts of the fist which can cause injury.
Regardless of whether it’s a hook, upper cut or straight punch you’re throwing, make sure your fist is directly in front of your forearm.
MISTAKE 63- Thinking Pessimistically
In martial arts, as in life, everything is an opportunity. You are either creating your own opportunities with strategies and tactics or you are recognizing the opportunities directly before you.
If he is only defending then this allows you to create your own opportunity and set him up with a tactful combination attack that will create an opening for a final finishing blow.
If he is attacking you, the opportunity to counter attack him is right in the open for you.
It’s like in Star Trek, when the Enterprise fires its Photon torpedoes, they have to drop their shields the moment they fire.
When someone launches a punch to you, they will open up one side of their face and one side of their body to extend their arm for the strike.
Unfortunately, people do not see the opportunity; they only see the problem that is their partner’s strike.
MISTAKE 64- Competing With Your Training Partner
If you want something in life, give it away. If you want love and respect offer love and respect to those around you and it will come back to you.
If you want a perfect left hook, teach it to a class mate that is less developed than you and you will have a deeper understanding of the technique.
As you teach it to them, you will teach it to yourself a second time. Through the questions they will ask you, it will force you to dig deeper through your knowledge of the technique to answer them.
Many people are too fearful of teaching others what they know because they are scared that they will use the information against them and make them look weak or insignificant.
This is a common disease in most martial arts academies.
I teach so I can get better. I teach my students all of my attacks so they can counter me. And from their counters I learn to make my attacks better and less perceivable.
My students are my training partners. Many of my students are better than me in skill and expertise only because I teach them openly and sincerely. I want all of my training partners to be better than me, know more than me, and to teach me.
Imagine how good I would be if I were training everyday with people who surpassed me in knowledge and skill. My role as Head Instructor would only be to lead, to be the hub of the wheel, to offer direction to the team.
If you want something in life give it away. Teach to learn and teach to improve.
MISTAKE 65- Hitting Too Hard When Sparring
People tend to hit too hard when sparring.
How hard should you launch your attacks? The right answer at my school is, “as hard enough as it takes for him to defend it.”
I call this the “motivational force”.
It’s just enough force for you to motivate him to defend.
If you are throwing your jab at 20% power and he still defends it, then great. Fantastic. You can set him up and counter attack him with a jab thrown at 20% power.
If you launch a jab at 20% power and he lets you rattle it off of his forehead, then he’s not concerned enough. So turn it up a bit.
Everyone is different. And thus, you need to augment your power output for each person. Guys weighing 300lbs should be able to spar with 135lb guys and have a tactical, interactive sparring session filled with fakes, counter attacks, cunning tactics and innovative combination punches.
Martial arts is all about control. Control of yourself. Control of your movements and your power output. Control of your arms and legs to move in a specific way at a specific time.
Unfortunately, people see martial arts as a way to control and manipulate someone else. This common falsehood only depletes the true value of studying martial arts.
Spar with control and execute your punches only with enough force to motivate your training partner to defend and the pure brilliance and creative magic inherent in martial arts will come alive for you.
MISTAKE 66- Not Changing Your Game
Always give him something different.
A common mistake is that people do the same thing again and again.
Often this is out of habit- it’s what they’ve always done. They do it because that’s all they know – the only answer to the hook is to block it. They discover what works for them and they want to keep on using what works. Other times, we are completely unaware that we are doing the same things again and again.
Habits, in life and in fighting, are sometimes unconscious. This is where we need our training partners, to see our habits and tell us verbally or non-verbally – i.e., sparring – about our habits and how we are acting predictably.
In martial arts we look for patterns to set up our attacks. If our opponent always blocks the hook, we can fake the hook to bait the block and then throw a real attack down the middle where there is now an opening.
Always do something different. Change your stance, lower your hands (yes, you can drop your hands), cover, block, throw a soft meaningless jab and then snap one out.
Always change things up. Never be predictable.
MISTAKE 67- Fakes: Not Selling It
The mistake people make with fakes is that they just throw the fake out hoping their opponent will buy it and then they launch their real attack. Most of the time, the guy doesn’t buy the fake and the real attack is easily defended.
Faking is like selling.
You have to give the guy a taste of it first. When you go to buy a car, the salesman wants to give you a taste of the car, ”Go ahead, take it for the test drive.” He wants you feel as if you already own the car. When you buy a shirt, the salesman wants you to try on the shirt. He wants you to feel as if you already own the shirt.
Once you’ve had a taste of it, the chances of you buying it are much higher.
Of course, sales people will tell you of how people walk in right off the street and they’ll buy a car straight away, no test drive. And this is true for fighting as well, you can throw out a fake, straight up and the person will buy it. But this is rare.
To enhance your success rate with fakes give him a taste first. Give him a taste of the real attack before you fake it.
Throw a real jab, get him to parry it. Throw him another real jab, he’ll parry it again. Now fake the jab, he’ll parry it, and before his hand touches your hand, change the jab into a hook to the side of his face that is now open due to his parry attempt on your fake attack.
If you just throw out the fake right away, with no real attacks to give him a taste of, he may not parry it, he may not be intimidated enough.
MISTAKE 68 – Thinking that Speed is Just Moving Fast
Speed is not just being able to move your hand as fast as possible. In fact, movement speed has a minimal effect on fighting. To illustrate, if you gathered 50 people in a room, ranging from college athletes to small children and measured their hand speed, there would not be a discernable difference between the fastest person and the slowest person.
Speed, or Response Time, is made up of 3 components (and this is true for all sports- football, basketball, hockey – not just fighting):
Stimulus Recognition – identifying a left hook, seeing a football in the air.
Decision Making – making the decision to block the left hook, making the decision to run 30 feet to catch the football.
Movement Time – doing the physical movement of blocking the hook, physically sprinting for the ball.
When people think of speed, they think only of movement time – the time between the initiation of the movement and the completion of the movement. They focus solely on the physical act of doing the movement. Because of this, many athletes will focus on doing hand clapping push-ups and jumping on and off boxes to make themselves faster.
While this is important, it is only one aspect of the response time formula. Response time is measured from the onset of the initiation of the stimulus up until the completion of the movement.
Reaction time is the time it takes your brain to see the stimulus and then decide what to do. Reaction Time is the amalgamation of the first 2 components of the speed tripod.
Response time is the combined time of your brain and your muscles reacting. Response time is the combination of reaction time and movement time.
To really become “faster” you need to work on 3 things- seeing it, choosing it, doing it
MISTAKE 69- Having Weak Abdominal Muscles
Your abs are the # 1 most important muscle group for punching power.
What I’m referring to is all the muscles from your rib cage to your hips. From your six pack (rectus abdominus), to the muscles of your ribs (intercostals), and your sides (obliques), to your back (erector spinae), to the muscle that stabilizes your spine (transverse abdominus).
Your abs need to be like concrete and your shoulders and your hips need to move as a single solid unit. Your abs complete the chain of force from the floor to your legs to your hips, through your abs into your shoulders and then into your arm and fist. This kinetic pathway is the secret to punching power
MISTAKE 70- Closing Your Eyes
Most beginners understandably close their eyes when punches come flying at their face. However, you want to get used to seeing punches coming at you and you want to learn to keep your eyes open as naturally as possible. Blinking each time a punch comes at you will make you completely vulnerable to attack.
It is no surprise that we close our eyes when punches come at us. Closing our eyes whenever movement is detected is genetically ingrained in us through evolution. It has kept us safe for thousands of years.
A great way to get used to seeing punches is to hold focus mitts for a training partner. Holding focus mitts is a safe and easy way to get accustomed to having things fly towards your face.
MISTAKE 71- Thinking That Safe Distance Only Refers to His Reach
A common misconception is that people believe they are safe when they are outside of a person’s reach.
There are actually a few factors that need to be taken into account when referring to safe distance. They are:
His speed – If he is blistering fast and you cannot see his punches, you’ll need to move back further away from him. This will give you more time to deal with his attacks.
Your observational skills– If you are new to boxing and you have a difficult time perceiving punches, then it would be wise to move back further away from him to give you more time to see his attacks.
His footwork– If he is exceptionally agile and can change directions with his feet really quickly and he can charge forward smoothly and briskly, then you’ll have to stay further away from him or else you get caught with an attack.
Being outside of the full extension of his longest tool (his jab or straight right) doesn’t necessarily mean you’re safe. Also include his speed, his footwork and your ability to perceive punches when factoring in safe distance.
MISTAKE 72- Just Stepping Into Range
When you are just out of range to hit your opponent and you decide to bridge the gap to get closer to him so your punches can land, a common error many people make is that they do not throw a punch, to distract their opponent, as they are advancing.
If you walk directly into range, your opponent will simply hit you. When you close the gap, you need to lead with fire power. Make it so that he is occupied by your jab and he’ll never see you stepping in.
The jab will just be a false attack. The jab’s not going to land, you’re too far away, but he may not know that. The jab, therefore, is a diversionary tactic so that you can get in closer and achieve the proper distance to land your real attack.
MISTAKE 73- Staying in Within His Range
You want to be in range to hit your training partner only when you are attacking or when you are counter attacking. If you are not attacking or counter attacking your opponent, then you are staying safely out of range or you are tying him up in close range.
If you stay within rage for him to hit you with his long range tools – his jab or his straight right – or if you are playing around in midrange – upper cuts, hooks – it makes no difference how good your defences are or how fast your parrying is, you are going to get hit.
It is far too dangerous to be within his range. You want to be just out of distance so you have as much time as possible to defend his attacks, and yet close enough so that you can attack with a single step.
MISTAKE 74- Putting Too Much Emphasis on Defense
People see martial arts as either offensive techniques or defensive techniques. Take the term “self defense”. This is a complete misnomer when it comes to learning how to fight.
Fighting, martial arts, is all about offense.
It is either offense or counter offense, that’s it. Defense is simply a component of counter attacking. Understand that it is block and attack, not just block. It is cover and attack, not just cover. Being purely defensive will get you killed.
MISTAKE 75- Not Looking For Patterns
As martial artists we are always looking for patterns. Patterns and habits in ourselves so that we can dissolve them and patterns in our opponents so that we can take advantage of them.
Patterns enable us to predict the future. If your opponent throws a jab at you and you defend with the exact same manoeuvre in the exact same way each time, then it’s only a matter of time before he figures out a way to counter your defense.
If your training partner always throw a 3 punch combo consisting of a jab, a straight right, and a left hook, to the exact same targets with the exact same tempo and with the exact same speed and degree of force, then it will become easy to counter attack him; but, first you need to recognize the pattern.
Always look for repetitive actions in your training partners. These are opportunities for you to capitalize on.
MISTAKE 76- Moving Back Too Much While Defending
People often step back far too much when defending a punch. This mistake will create a lost opportunity to counter attack immediately.
When stepping back to defend a strike, it is important that you step back just enough to make your opponent miss. You want to create enough distance so that you make him miss, but not so much distance that you are too far away to hit him immediately with a counter attack.
Due to the great distance created by the long defensive step back, you’ll now have to take a long step forward in order to counter attack him. This long step will take more time and your opponent with have brought his hands back up to his face to cover and the opportunity will have been lost entirely. You want to retreat with a short enough step so that you can quickly return fire after you’ve made him miss.
MISTAKE 77- Combination: Each Punch Thrown With 100% Power
A common mistake is to think that you need to throw with full power for each punch in a multiple punch combination. Ultimately, this will make for a less than successful combination attack.
Typically, in a combination attack, it is only the last punch in the combination that is meant to land; and thus, it is the last punch that is meant to have full power.
All the other punches are merely diversionary motions thrown as a part of an overall strategy to leave your opponent open for a final finishing blow.
Let’s take the example of a straight left – straight right – straight left combo. If you first throw a super forceful right hand, you’ll have problems reversing the rotational momentum of your shoulders and hips to throw a powerful left Hook.
You’ll have a more powerful, better timed, final left Hook if you precede it with a softer, less powerful Straight Right hand.
Certainly this isn’t a compilation of every possible mistake that’s possible when you’re Boxing; however, it is my hope that these 77 most common mistakes will serve as a guideline to serve both athletes and coaches when identifying errors. Furthermore, making mistakes is a part of the process for learning any skill and this guide is meant to showcase a pattern that all Boxers go through. When Boxing, we will all make these mistakes and it’s perfectly normal and it’s a critical part of the learning process. Former IBM president, Thomas J. Watson said, “to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.”
I hope you enjoyed this guide. Please feel free to comment below any mistakes you think I forgot to mention in these past four articles.