Boxing footwork is frequently neglected as it is overshadowed by the desired to practice punches. Any great boxer will tell acknowledge that footwork is crucial in boxing. Some boxers have recently become very well known for their great footwork ability and this has opened many eyes in appreciation of how great boxing footwork looks like. A fighter that is probably most well known in boxing circles these days when it comes to great boxing footwork is none other than Vasyl Lomachenko.
Why is footwork important?
Before this question can be answered, let's look at what is important in boxing. Simply put, you want to punch and not get punched. The first part is achieved by allowing your punches find their way to the opponent. Punching speed is very important but if you are a static object, then punches can become very predictable. It is all about creating angles that put you at an advantage of body position in relation to the opponent. The only way you can truly create angles is through footwork. By moving in and out of opponents striking ranche, moving around the opponent, moving before and after punches combined with fainting and upper body movement, are all vital parts of becoming a target that is not predictable. Footwork is what keeps the opponent guessing and thus making it more difficult to be caught. Footwork is what catches the opponent off guard and puts you at an advantage.
Many great boxers have achieved an amazing footwork ability that has allowed them to be set apart. Boxers like Muhammad Ali, Lomachenko, Guillermo Rigondeaux, have displayed time and time again how they beat the opponent through footwork. Great footwork lets them find openings and this is key.
Boxing footwork drills
Now that we've established the importance of practicing footwork for boxing, how to get good at it? What are some of the footwork drills for boxing? We're going to look at couple of drills that can be utilized and improve footwork.
Agility ladder is a rather new style of training in boxing, although it has been around for ages in other sports like soccer and American football. It's by no means a new invention but it has sparked it's popularity in martial arts, and rightfully so. The reason for it's popularity is that it can be utilized for wide range of footwork drills. For boxing purposes, it can be used to practice speed of footwork through regular speed drills. It can be used to pivoting, jumping in and out of speed ladder through your boxing stance. It can be used for accuracy of foot placement in speed. It can be used for wide range of footwork practice. Best part about it is the versatility because you can come up with your own footwork drills using it. It is there to provide structure.
#2 Double cross lines on floor
Double cross lines is a traditional and well known method of practicing footwork. These are to X's, one on top of another, that together form sort of a star shape. To help you visualise, here's what it would look like:
So how would one use this shape to improving footwork for boxing? You can use a duct-tape to create this shape on the floor. Each line being about 5ft long. The middle represents the center point - this is where the fighter should return to an movement originates from this point. The lines help fighter provide guidance around direction where to move. It's easy to go backwards and forwards, but this should force the fighter to move sideways and diagonally. The lines are there to provide guidance on floor around how to move. Moving out of center using one of the lines and then backwards may seem simple, but it takes skill to do it quickly whilst retaining great balance.
It's simplicity is its greatest advantage. It forces the fighter to think about lines of movement and can be utilized to develop movement in different direction.
#3 Jump Rope
It would be a disgrace not to put jump rope on the list. It is so obvious and should be a regular method of training for all martial artists. Jump rope has been used in boxing for a very long time now. Since boxing forces to make quick and sudden movements through footwork, it requires the fighter to be able to make small bounces using just the feet. Jump rope is what develops this ability. Through making tiny jumps, thousands and thousands of times, the fighter develops an ability to move quickly backwards/forwards and sideways.
It is extremely rare to see a fighter not to train using jump rope. The benefits of using a jump rope when it comes to boxing are clear. It's a fantastic method to condition your ankles and feet for rapid movements and this ability is what allows to move in and out of opponents striking range at will.
There are many ways you can practice footwork whilst jumping. You can jump backwards and forwards, sideways, jump on one leg, jump using heel to toe and switching. There are endless ways of practicing using jump and best of all, it's cheap and requires very little space!
#4 Shadow Boxing
Last but not least is shadowboxing. We've written before about shadow boxing and how to gain most out of it. To progress and develop boxing skill using shadow boxing, you actually have to VISUALIZE. Visualizing the opponent is crucial in improving your movement, and overall boxing ability. You benefit mostly when you can clearly imagine the opponent and him/her moving. You don't have to wait until your next sparring session to imagine how would you react if your opponent does ANYTHING. You could literally imagine the scenario and teach yourself how to react to it.
This is why shadow boxing is essential and is important tool to utilize. Imagine opponent that is very defensive and has great guard that is difficult to punch around. You can visualize how the opponent might change his body if you move sharply at an angle. This visualisation lets you develop movement and footwork in any way you can visualize. The only thing that limits you with shadow boxing is your imagination.