Whether you are involved in Kumite, full contact sparring, practice exercises, or a conflict situation you will want to avoid being struck. In this article we will cover some of the methods and procedures you might employ to reduce your chances of being hit.
Perhaps the most basic movement in boxing is the basic slip maneuver. While keeping your torso erect and your guard in place you bend your knees and rotate your center. You might rotate your center either clockwise or counter clockwise. All movement is done with stepping. These are “in place” activities designed simply to move your head or torso out of the way of an opponent’s straight strike (these movements can be of less benefit if the opponent is throwing a hooking strike).
Keeping the torso erect is extremely important. When students first practice this skill they often bend forward at the waist thinking this will aid them in ducking under the strike. There are a few things to consider here. Firstly, bending forward may indeed lower your head below the horizontal plane of the income strike. Secondly, simply moving your head to the left or right (when you bend your knees and rotate your center) also moves your head off the line of fire. It just does in it a horizontal direction (with some vertical component as well). Thirdly, bending at the waist causes you to expend unnecessary energy. It is not energy efficient and you will tire more quickly. Additionally, bending forward exposes you to an incoming knee or foot. This is not a great risk in boxing, but it is a tremendous risk in martial arts sparring. The risk goes up dramatically if your opponent notices that every time he or she throws a left jab you bend forward. Guess what’s coming next.
The final disadvantage (I’m sure I could find more if I thought about it a little longer) is bending forward precludes you from making a rapid counter strike. You will need to straighten your torso in order to deliver most strikes, especially if you plan to strike to the opponent’s head. This takes time and you will likely be struck before you can get into position to deliver an effective strike.
Performing the slip maneuver as outlined above allows you to deliver a counter strike either during the slip maneuver or as you return from the maneuver. Let’s explore this a little. If you have your right leg back and your opponent throws a left jab, then you might rotate your center toward A5 as you bend your knees. This will normally move your head some six inches to your left, allowing the opponent’s jab to miss its target (perhaps not fully). Now as you rotate your center back T1 you might deliver a jab of your own as a counter strike. If you are quick you can deliver this jab before your opponent can fully return his or her strike or deliver a second blow of some kind.
Instead of a jab you could alternately throw a front hand hook as you return T1. The rotational movement of your torso will make delivery of this strike more powerful. This combination movement can be performed very quickly and with little energy expenditure.
You may also decide to throw a back hand strike as you are rotating your center T5. This is a true counter since you are striking as your opponent is striking. This can be extremely effective because you are delivering a more powerful back hand strike while in rotation at the very moment your opponent’s front guard is no longer in position (he or she is punching, remember).
What we have been describing is generally considered to be an inside slip. You are slipping to the inside of the opponent’s jab. You are in fact, rotating your center to the outside to accomplish this movement and this can be a source of confusion. Just remember the movement is relative to the opponent’s arm, not your direction of movement.
I would also suggest you can think of this in slightly different terms. What we have described thus far is not much different than rotating into a Zenkutsu Dachi or perhaps more appropriately a shallow Soft Bow. Striking with the back hand is essentially a Gyaku Tsuki. A hook or jab can be delivered as you rotate back into your original position. So in reality this is simply a different application of skills you already possess.
Rotating into an outside slip (again, rotating to the outside of the opponent’s jab) can be done by rotating your center in the opposite direction. It is again essential that you maintain a generally erect posture and retain a sound guard position. Using our previous example, bending your knees and rotating your center T7 moves your head to the outside of the incoming jab. You might jab as you do this, or deliver a front hand Hiraken Tsuki or Tettsui Uchi as you rotate your center back T1 after you have avoided your opponent’s strike. Naturally you might rotate fully into a Zenkutsu Dachi and deliver Gyaku Tsuki as your center approaches A1.
Bobbing and Weaving
Bobbing and weaving can be thought of as minor extensions to the slipping maneuvers we previously discussed. The movements are very similar, but have a somewhat different objective. When bobbing and weaving you again maintain an erect position with a sound guard, but bend your knees a little more fully than with a slip. As your torso descends you now use your legs to propel your torso off to the side in a horizontal direction. This movement is driven entirely by the legs. Now as you rise upward again you will find you have moved much more to the outside (or inside) of the opponent’s strike. Now you will be able to strike at your opponent from his or her angle five or seven.
This activity takes more energy than a simple slip, but it can be effective for moving slightly to the inside or outside of your opponent’s natural guard position. It not only allows you to avoid the original strike but provides you the opportunity to counter from a slightly different angle of attack.
Like anything in sparring you will want to avoid making this a habitual movement. If someone senses you will always bob and weave then they will throw a left-right combination. The left will be designed to initiate your bob and weave, and the right will be targeted at your anticipated position just as you complete your movement. It is not good to be predictable when sparring (or in any conflict).
Avoid and Step
If you add a step as part of the slipping or bobbing and weaving maneuver then you can readily gain a positional advantage over your opponent. For example, if you bob down, and then step with your front leg as you begin the weaving motion then you will be positioned well outside of your opponent, usually at the opponent’s angle five or seven. This means the opponent’s center will not be properly aligned for a subsequent strike. You will be able to strike the opponent as he or she performs a center rotation to get back into proper alignment or during an attempt to strike you with the opposite hand.
Slip sometimes, bob and weave sometimes, and incorporate a step into these two maneuvers sometimes to add variety to your movements.
Guarded Center Rotation
If an opponent demonstrates a tendency to strike with a quick succession of strikes using both hands then you may be able to simply block off some of these strikes using a simple center rotation technique. Begin by placing both hands up in a center guard position so there is little space between your arms (less than the distance of a fist). As the opponent throws a left hand strike you will rotate your center to the right so that your right arm presses the opponent’s strike outward slightly. You then rotate your center to the left so that you intercept and press the incoming right hand strike off to your left. Using this simple strategy you can stand directly in front of someone who is throwing combination strikes to your head.
Of course, the opponent will soon realize your head is well guarded and will then strike to your body or attempt some ruse to take advantage of your movement tendency. So you can’t using this technique for very long before it breaks down and leaves you vulnerable to some other form of attack. But for a brief flurry of attacks this can be a simple strategy, particularly if you are caught out of position somehow.
The true advantage of this strategy is not in how effective it is at blocking strikes but in the opportunity it presents for counter punching. If someone is throwing multiple alternating hand strikes which you are pressing to the outside, then the hand you have moved to the outside is not in an effective guard position. Now as you rotate your center to position yourself to block off the opposite-side strike you may notice an opportunity to strike with the hand that just performed the last block. This is all the more effective because you and your opponent will be rotating to center, this brings the opponent’s face in toward your potential strike. So, you might opt to block off a couple of strikes in this way and then deliver a powerful rotational strike as a counter to one of the opponent’s strikes.
Be careful though. You can’t continue blocking for very long. A couple of blocks is all you will be able to do before the opponent decides he or she must try a different strategy. You must also be very confident in your ability to effectively guard and block off these strikes. You should practice this skill, slowly at first, with an Uke until you are certain you can make this work in a manner that prevents one of the opponent’s strikes from finding its intended target. This is not as easy as it sounds, so practice is definitely required.
Finally, this is not a preferred way of dealing with another combatant. The best strategy is always to move out of the way to prevent a strike from landing. But blocking can be useful in some situations, especially if you find you are somehow cornered and unable to move out of the way for a few seconds. But after performing this action, move off of the line of fire.