"Shall I practice shadow boxing? Really... I don't feel it...could we do something else? Ohg! no! Shadow boxing! again! "
I got these questions asked fairly often by my students. Especially beginner who feel self-conscious when practicing it. And, I’m not gonna lie, you can feel a bit ridiculous at times practicing it. But it is a major tool in your practice!
it is a wonderful way to warm yourself up and... well, let's dive into the subject!
What is shadow boxing?
It may be shadow kickboxing as well, but in this article we’ll use shadow boxing as a generic term.
Shadow boxing is boxing against your shadow. So, you don’t have an opponent. One would say, your opponent is yourself ! In any case, you need to picture an opponent moving with you. There is a big mental component in shadow boxing. Don’t just throw your punches for the seek of throwing punches. Mean it! So, we’re talking about an imaginary fight against your shadow.
Let’s see which are the benefits of this practice :
Practice your movement
I think you should, first, focus on your movement in general when practicing shadow boxing. It is a great way to get comfortable with moving in your fighting stance. Get a point of focus. For instance, you can place a glove on the ground which will picture the centre of the ring as well as your opponent and get moving around it. Try to be aware of when you’re changing stances for instance. Don’t do it unconsciously or you could get caught in proper sparring. Work on your head movement, work on getting in and out of your opponent’s zone. Try your fancy moves as well! You don’t risk getting hit back. Make the most out of it!
Get used to your combinations …
Shadow boxing is the perfect tool to get used to your combinations to the point where you don’t think about it anymore. There are several ways to work them; you can focus on a specific combination for the course of the round or you can just throw combinations in a random way. Yet, try as much of possible to be conscious of your combinations in the early stages. You’ll then get to a point where you wouldn’t have to think of it anymore. When you reach that point; You’re on the good path!
Now that your movement is sorted, get it inside your combinations work! You could work your combinations in a static way but that’s another kind of work. Here, you want to include movement around your combinations. Before and after. Don’t get carried away by your movement so you’re frantically moving while throwing kicks and punches. Cut it in chunks :
Movement- combination - Movement
…and your defence !
Yes, defence! It’s not because you’re boxing in the air that you should neglect your defence. Shadow boxing, is actually a great way to implement your defensive skills in your game. Try to always finish your combination by some sorts of defensive move. It could be a block, an escape, a slip, duck… etc. In a proper sparring situation there is a great chance that your opponent will reply at the end of your combination. Maybe during it actually, but we don’t want to get it too complicated to start with.
Movement - Combination - Defence - Movement
A good workout on its own
Shadow boxing, when well executed is a very good way to get your heart rate up! So it's a favourite when it comes to warm up. Very good cardio exercise if you’re moving correctly. You’ll have the sensation of a proper round of sparring. Not only a warm up tool, you can do an entire session if you're training on your own. Perfect If you don’t have any partners around or a punching bag at hand. Focus on combinations you want to work on and put in your game.
You’ll be dripping in no time! It was actually the base of my lockdown classes!
Here are some extra advice :
Look yourself in the mirror :
Ideally, you want to practice your shadow boxing in front of a mirror. Not to admire your fabulous looks! But it’s a good way to spot your weaknesses. In the return of your punches for instance. Are your arms high enough to provide an effective defence? Are your stance well balanced when you're throwing kicks and punches? Do you over-commit by lending too much forward? How about your head movement? Your footwork?
You don’t have to practice in front of a mirror if there is none in your gym, but it will certainly increase your progression.
Get inspired :
If you’re not sure about where to start. Check out some videos of your favourite fighter shadowboxing. Youtube is a great source of inspiration for that matter! Try to see what would work for you and put it into your practice. You’ll copy at first but soon enough you’ll move with your own style. That’s a great way to improve your game! Your teacher or students at a higher level than yours could be a great source of inspiration as well. It is a part of the learning process. We learn by reproducing what we see! Ask parents with young children if you doubt it!
Move with style !
It might seem a little shallow, but your style is something to consider. I'm not talking about which pair of shorts you need to pick up for your training! It is worth spending some of your energy analysing your style while shadow boxing. Not just to appear more cool, but because most of the time, your style will be an entry to your way of sparring; and even to the style you're practicing. Look at a Muay Thai practitioner working on its shadow boxing. Does he moves the same way than a Boxer, a Kickboxer or a Karateka ? Which style suits you the most? In which style are you the most effective? Combine it with your movement, combinations and defence.
In a nutshell :
I just delivered a simple but effective way to improve your shadow boxing practice and therefore your overall level as a martial artist. When you look closely at it, the form practice in traditional martial arts is a sort of shadow boxing! But that’s another topic !
Get your movement sorted. Be comfortable in moving in your fighting stance. Being protected at all times, when you’re not firing any hits! Get used to move, quickly and in all directions. Change stance if needed, pivot, move forward, backwards and sideways.
Practice your combinations: Choose one or several combinations that you can throw at anytime during the round inside your movement. Move before, and after but move inside if it is a part of your combo
Solidify your defence : Make sure you're in constant awareness of where your opponent can get his offence in the game. Defend yourself at all times. That’s your first job really. Protecting yourself! Put some blocks, slips, ducks, etc. Move in and out after your combos. Move!
As a general formula : Movement - combination - defence - movement - Repeat!
( the defence could be movement as well : slide in- combo- slide out for instance)
Now, put your self consciousness away and get yourself moving against your strongest opponent : Your shadow!