Perfect Boxing Stance Width

August 8, 2011 August 8, 2011 by Johnny N Boxing Basics, How to Box 56 Comments

Find the perfect distance between your feet to give your boxing stance the best balance, power, mobility, and efficiency.

boxing stance width

Here’s a question I hear everyday,

How far apart should my feet be?”

Every trainer knows the answer to this one…

“About shoulder width!”

  • and so the boxer adjusts his stance as the trainers give him feedback.
  • “Errr…too far!”
  • “…now it’s too close!”
  • “…it’s still a little far”
  • “…ALMOST…but not perfect.”
  • “…you know what…whatever, just use what feels comfortable.”

The answer is so simple yet many boxers never get it right. Everyone knows how far apart a boxer’s feet should be yet nobody knows their own perfect stance. Some trainers just give up and let fighters stand in whatever way feels most natural to them. But is that the right way to do it?

I did figure out an easy way to determine the proper distance between your two feet. I call it the “High and Heavy” method.

 

The “High and Heavy” Method

 

1. Stand straight.

Standing Straight Boxing Stance

Start out in the “high” stance, feet spread shoulder width.

 

2. Rock side to side.

rock side to side

With your body straight, rock slowly side-to-side, shifting your weight from one foot to the other. Notice my feet don’t lift more than a few inches off the floor.

 

3. While rocking side-to-side, WIDEN your feet.

rocking wider

While rocking back and forth, slowly widen your feet until it’s almost impossible to rock side-to-side anymore. Your hips should feel so heavy that your feet become stuck to the ground. This is now the “heavy” stance.

 

4. Bring your feet back together. Stop when you feel “high and heavy”.

boxing stance width

Ahhhhh. I found the perfect distance! HIGH AND HEAVY!

  • Still rocking back and forth, slowly bring your feet together. This time you want to be as tall as possible while still feeling “heavy”. The perfect width is when you feel tall and yet your hips still have just enough weight that you can’t rock so much. The moment you find this balance between “high and heavy”, you have found your perfect foot width!

 

A little video demonstration of the “high and heavy” method.

 

What is the Point of the High and Heavy Method?

Why HIGH?

Standing HIGH gives you reach, mobility, and energy efficiency.

boxing stance high VS too high

High vs Too High

  • Standing higher, you can reach your opponent’s head better while keeping yours further out of range. Height and reach is always an advantage in boxing!
  • If you stand too high you will have less control over your balance. If your center of gravity is too high, you will have no weight to throw or defend against punches. I call this problem “floating hips”. You can fix this by getting “heavy”.

 

good mobility in high boxing stance

Good Mobility from Higher Boxing Stance

  • Standing high allows you to move better. Standing with your feet closer means you have more room to spread your legs. You can take longer steps to to go in and out of range without the need to jump. You’ll be able to move FASTER as well as FARTHER!
  • You can also pivot faster. When your feet are closer together, you can get more rotation on your pivot than if you were standing in a wide stance. Swinging your foot just 2 feet might only pivot you 30 degrees from a wide stance, whereas it could pivot you 90 degrees from a narrower stance.
  • Standing high increases your leg efficiency. Because your legs are more directly under you, you use less energy carrying your body weight. (Notice how basketball players place their legs under them when they want to jump high.) When you move around, your legs distribute your body weight better so that one leg doesn’t absorb too much of your body weight.

 

Why Heavy?

Standing HEAVY gives you balance and power.

boxing stance - heavy vs too heavy

Heavy vs Too Heavy

  • Getting heavy, and lowering your center of gravity gives you more balance and power. Grounding your body weight allows you to throw and defend against harder punches. Getting heavy allows you to apply more of your body weight against the ground, moving with more power and more control.
  • Now you have to be careful of getting too heavy.

 

Too Heavy

boxing stance too wide results in less mobility

  • Being too heavy and too low to the ground is obviously bad. You’ll actually have even less balance (your center of gravity may be closer to the ground but it’s spread apart). Your feet are so far apart that anyone can push you off balance. Your feet have less room to step out, resulting in decreased mobility.

 

Wasted Leg Strength from being TOO Wide

boxing stance too wide wastes leg strength

Being too wide will waste leg energy.

  • Instead of just carrying your weight, your legs are applying horizontal force against each other (further adding to the downwards force already applied by gravity). You will burn more energy jumping up, or even side to side. Having your feet so far apart makes your body weight shift drastically from one leg to the other when you move, forcing each leg to work harder as it passes your body weight back and forth.
  • A wide stance moves less efficiently in all directions, using more energy, and with less range. Gravity only pulls your body down, yet your legs support at an indirect angle while adding their own unnecessary force. Even just standing still will tire out your legs if you stand too wide.

 

standing tall

Standing taller results in the most efficient use of leg strength.

  • Gravity applies downwards force.
  • The legs apply only upwards force (effectively counter-acting against gravity).

 

#1 Problem With Boxing Stance: TOO WIDE

The problem with most boxers is that they stand too wide. They do this because they feel more balanced and more powerful this way. The truth is, they’re just wasting energy. If you stand too wide, you may feel more balanced because you’re pushing harder against something. I’m willing to bet you’ll fall off balance easily if your opponent throws a hook. You might FEEL like your legs are adding power to your punch but this isn’t the case.

Legs in a wide stance are just applying more force to each other,
not necessarily the punch.

Many beginner boxers start off a fight being too wide. Their feet have no room to move and so they rely on jumping to get in and out of range. Jumping around only works for so long. And then the worst happens: their legs get so tired they can’t even stand in a normal boxing stance. So they stand higher, raising their center of gravity and walking around the ring because their legs are too tired to step in like a boxer. Without any weight to their stance, they get pushed off balance and don’t have the power to counter.

And that, my friend is the tragedy of the beginner boxer’s stance: Too wide and then too high!

Forget about punching and blocking,
if you can’t stand right, you’ll lose anyway.

 

 

The Perfect Distance: HIGH and HEAVY

Boxing is a tricky fighting art that requires both power punching and constant movement. Having power requires you to ground your weight whereas moving requires you to lift your weight. It’s a very tricky balance most boxers can’t figure out. Some boxers are the “stick and move” type which is running and jabbing all day. Other boxers are the slow-footed sluggers that punch powerfully but move like they’re stuck in quicksand.

The perfect distance between your feet, the “high and heavy”, will ground your weight for maximum power while still allowing you to move swiftly around the ring. You’ll have good reach and height on your punches and be able to take nice big steps using minimal energy.

So the next time you step foot into the gym, remember: HIGH AND HEAVY!

 

Why Is The Distance Between Your Feet SO Important?

The entire fight will be you moving along the ground. Finding the perfect foot width maximizes your body’s relationship to the ground. The distance between your feet determines the control of your body weight over the ground.

Again, maintaining the perfect foot distance between gives you:

  • balance
  • power
  • mobility
  • efficiency
  • height & reach

 

The SECRET to the Boxing Stance

So what happens after you find your perfect “High and Heavy” stance?

  • Well, I suggest you fight with it for a bit. And then when you’re ready…whenever that is…you can read the next part. (Oh, I’m just kidding myself. I know all you guys are going to read that right now!)

The secret to the perfect boxing stance:
it constantly changes.

Don’t get confused just yet. Let me explain. The “High and Heavy” method is to find the distance between your feet in your boxing stance! When you’re fighting, you want to constantly shift your stance SLIGHTLY–WITHOUT CHANGING YOUR FEET DISTANCE. When you move, you will come up SLIGHTLY higher. Raising your hips (slightly) will lighten you just enough to move easier. When you get into punching range, you will do the exact opposite. You want to drop your hips (SLIGHTLY), so that you have a little extra balance and power to throw and block punches. You may have heard trainers tell their fighters, “Sit down on your punches.” They mean for their fighters to drop their hips, thus dropping the weight, which is another way of what I call “getting heavy”. The saying was not meant to be taken literally, but of course that’s exactly what people do.

THE BEST BOXERS…the absolute BEST boxers…realize:

It is simply the MOVEMENT of lifting or dropping the hips
that allows a boxer to be mobile or powerful.

The greatest boxers can shift their hips with such subtlety that their opponents cannot tell whether they are moving or punching. The “High and Heavy” position for them is simply the balanced line that gets crossed ever so slightly throughout the fight. The experienced boxer will move and stand from his “high and heavy” stance and slightly drop his hips ONLY when he throws a punch or blocks a punch.

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56 Comments

sss August 7, 2011 at 10:25 pm

thanks alot dude

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Ahmad August 7, 2011 at 10:29 pm

LOL I train some younger boxers and the dailogue at the beginning is spot on!
Great article for a great solution! Keep them coming…

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Shahin August 8, 2011 at 12:26 am

Heel to Toe.
One vital mistake here, is your back foot, the heel of your back foot should line with your front foots toe, or you will lose balance leaving your back foot behind your front foot, a big mistake, though this is a perfect way to understand the distance. Nice.

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Chia August 8, 2011 at 8:20 am

Great! Haha you’ve just described by current issue to the Tee. One question though, what do you mean by dropping the hips? Like a subtle squat? I guess what I’m asking is, how do I know I am doing the hip movements correctly.

Anyways Great Post. Keep’em Coming!

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Johnny N August 8, 2011 at 1:25 pm

@everyone – thanks, fellas

@Shahin – hehe… I left out that detail on purpose.

@Chia – yes, dropping the hips is basically a subtle squat were you slightly relax your hips and catch them again with your legs. You know you’re doing it right when you feel a little more weight in your legs all of the sudden.

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tonybal August 9, 2011 at 5:08 am

first place your feet stright out an adjust wile you have someone try pushing you side to side.youll have your feet right if the person pushing you cant push you off balance.next you take take a step forward and a person try push you backwards and forward and you sould not get out off balance.then just walk around shadowboxing while your feet is always with eatchother and never get too far apart…and you also want the weight not on your back or front foot but at both feets…

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Ram August 12, 2011 at 5:54 pm

nice
Thanks for this! I’ve been trying to figure out my stance for months now. This is really helpful.. ^^

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Johnny N August 15, 2011 at 4:34 am

good tips, Tonybal. enjoy the basics, everyone!

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veronica August 16, 2011 at 11:17 am

8) i love to box it is so fun

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Brad August 18, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Crouching
I’m just starting boxing regularly again after a long time away. Over the years, I’ve really unlearned a lot. I keep getting told not to crouch so low, keep my stance so wide, and my guard too high(or too low).

The problem I’m having is that I’m having a lot of success sparring that way. Don’t get me wrong. I’m by no means shutting everyone down, but I do well because I have some decent foot/hand speed and long arms.

I start with my stance kind of high and narrow(to me), but as I feel more comfortable I begin to drift right back into the crouching stance with a high guard (against a tall fighter) or a wide stance with my lead hand low or somewhat extended(against a short fighter).

To be honest, I have doubts about my instructor’s advice because what I’m doing is working pretty well. Do you think I would have more success if I fought more orthodox?

Excellent site, BTW. You have a great understanding and explain it very clearly. Better than the instruction I get in person. There’s a lot of subtleties that you capture very well.

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Johnny N August 18, 2011 at 7:52 pm

@Brad – sounds to me like you’re fighting like those Olympic dudes. Wide stances, lots of crouching and hands held all over the place…watch some footage and let me know if I’m right.

The truth is…the stance DOES work at times for amateur boxing, which is based on a point system. Standing in whacky and spread out stances can help you out-touch your opponents and score more points. It relies on a lot of athleticism which it appears that you have.

But when it comes to delivering real power and putting maximum damage on your opponent, a conventional stance is not only more powerful, but also more efficient. If your trainer came from a pro background and fought in more grueling fights that went beyond the 3-round amateur standard, then I can see why he tries so hard to correct you.

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Brad August 19, 2011 at 4:48 am

Thank you
I watched some Olympic boxing and that was pretty much spot on. Wide stance, a lot of jumping in and out, pulling away from punches, keeping a really high or low guard.

It makes a lot of sense. We’re usually going light contact when we spar, so its working for me because there’s no real power needed.

I’m definitely going to work on keeping my form more orthodox. It feels like I actually have less movement, but I know its just that I’m not used to being able to take such big steps. Right now I’m making several quick shuffles or hops to move around. I see why I get so tired.

Once again, thanks for the help and for making such a great site.

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Brad August 19, 2011 at 8:02 am

One more question
Do you have any tips on how to take advantage of my athleticism without compromising my form?

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King Lion August 19, 2011 at 8:53 am

EXCELLENT tutorial!
Wow, there is such a significant amount of knowledge on this site and I’ve yet to get caught up on a lot of it, but seeing as I still need to read up on a lot more, I just had to take the time to acknowledge to Coach Johnny N, that I found this particular article, very thought provoking and informative. All the lessons on this site are great, but this one was a real eye opener and I have no doubt that it will be extremely useful to me when/if I get into the ring. Thanks!

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Johnny N August 22, 2011 at 5:33 pm

@Brad – use your athleticism to walk and pivot swiftly, instead of jumping around. Hover at the edge of range, and then take a really fast 2-inch step to come into range and pop your opponent with a jab, and then quickly step out 2-inches to avoid. Combine precision with your athleticism.

@King Lion – it’s very humbling to re-learn the basics. Everyday, I’m constantly being re-taught what I thought I already knew. You’re welcome!

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sayan April 4, 2014 at 10:21 am

i luv this art..i combine with juso and i think the best combination..even the british army does it..so nice..i wish the old school still remained

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Brad August 24, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Thank you. I’ll focus more on taking swifter, more precise steps. It should really help.

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islndhog August 26, 2011 at 1:26 pm

I wish I practiced this sport than football this knowledge continues to blow my mind.i didntt realize how much it takes to really box or fight correctly just amazes me thank u for helping me beat my cousins in backyard boxing

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Johnny N August 27, 2011 at 9:50 am

@Brad – let me know how you do. It’ll be hard to resist. The “fast feet” thing at Titleboxing will help.

@isIndhog – it’s not too late. And you’re welcome!

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D@@h Bitch September 6, 2011 at 11:38 pm

Fuck you man cuz u fuckin amaizin
Nw teach me how to box fo real

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D@@h Bitch September 6, 2011 at 11:41 pm

Freakin Amaizin
Dude u r Amaizin (no homo) Nw teach me hw to box

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Little Big Guy September 7, 2011 at 6:29 am

Man, this site is great. You add so much knowledge to my training that I don’t even fully get in my actual sessions. I am kickboxing, but I started out boxing. There are differences, but your tips/points are top-notch. Fantastic site, and a thank you for your dedication to teaching the sweetest science of all!

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Brad September 22, 2011 at 5:36 pm

I’m doing so much better. I can usually land a couple jabs or a quick 1-2 and get out before most guys can counter. With some guys, I can step in with a flurry and step back out of range before they realize what’s happening.

More than anything, I’m making people miss way more now. When I really focus on quickness and precision, it feel like I’m running away a bit but it makes guys lunge after me. Then boom, 1-2 right down the middle. Especially when I pivot away from the right hand and counter with a 2 of my own. It actually made a guy fly completely past me while he threw his right last night. Felt a (tiny)bit like Mayweather. :-)

At this point my biggest problem is a tendency to stick my chin out(like an idiot) when I throw big punches or get off balance. That and my conditioning. I start out floating around, making angles, dancing in and out of range, using head movement. By the last round of sparring, I’m basically planting my feet, counter fighting. Parrying and blocking as best I can(which isn’t great), with almost no movement in comparison.

Thanks again, your advice has really helped me put together a decent(but improving) boxing game. My coach still really gets on me, but now its just about my chin.

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Johnny N September 27, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Brad, I’m so happy for you. Here is a great tip for not getting caught with your chin out:

– spar SHOT FOR SHOT. Go easy at first. You and a partner spar but taking turns throwing only one punch at a time, never combinations. You’re only allowed to use the right cross or the left hook. Whatever punch is thrown, the other guy has to counter WITH THE SAME PUNCH. That will teach you many skills: how to see a big shot, when you’re throwing a big shot. How to counter a big shot with the same shot. This skill is critical because you learn how to counter immediately instead of evading first and then counter (often becomes too slow).

– as far as endurance goes…keep up your conditioning and try not to burn out your legs being fancy in the early rounds. Take small steps and move only as much as you need. A great boxer always APPEARS to be moving more than his opponent but in reality, he’s not.

Hope to hear from you.

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John Taylor York September 28, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Hey johnny I was wanting to know how to fix my jab. I feel like it is slow and I feel like it doesn’t have any power. Also my left hook is slow. Any tips would be greatly appreciated

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Johnny N September 29, 2011 at 3:17 am

JTY, your punches might feel slow because you’re off balance or have too much weight to one side. Most people with a slow left hook have too much weight on their front foot. As for the jab, it feels slow and weak because you’re trying to load power with your arm. Your jab gets its power from stepping forward SLIGHTLY with your front foot as you drop your body weight at the same time. Imagine yourself RELAXING your hips (releasing your butt/hip muscles) as you step forward and reach out with the jab. Your arm should fly straight out and hit right when your weight drops. You’ll have to practice this a lot before you feel the power.

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Dave December 30, 2011 at 4:45 pm

My legs are getting strong enough that I can get very low in my boxing stance so much that it may appear humorous. I am a swarming/stalker type boxer find it makes my balance way stronger than normal….is their any benefit in being able to have such a low stance? What are the pros and cons?

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Johnny N January 3, 2012 at 1:52 am

The advantage is that it makes you feel comfortable and fits your style. The cons is that it makes you highly vulnerable to getting held down, and getting hit with all sorts of punches to the head and body. Crouching super low is a not a commonly used stance in boxing so hopefully you know what you’re doing. As long as you’re beating everyone in the ring, no one can say otherwise. I can’t comment until I see a video of you doing it in sparring.

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curtis c January 3, 2012 at 5:28 am

what stance should a body puncher be in? A crouch and if so should the legs be wide and spread apart?

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Johnny N January 5, 2012 at 12:04 am

Body punching does not require a special stance. You can throw it from your normal boxing stance.

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Diego January 31, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Hey Johnny! I wanted to increase the rep of my pull ups! What is best breathing technique for pull ups & chin ups? Do we have to breathe in when we are hanging underneath the beam or do we have to breathe in when we reach above the beam???? I have just started this sport what is the best way to start as basics !!!!!

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Johnny N January 31, 2012 at 11:04 pm

The general breathing method for any exercise is to exercise during the contraction phase and inhale during the release. So for pull-ups, you exhale while going up and inhale while going down. That’s the basic breathing method for now.

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Diego February 1, 2012 at 1:22 am

So, in the case of push ups we have to exhale while doing down & inhale while going up???? Is that true?? And what about bench presses ???? My gym instructor mentioned that we have to inhale , when we contract and get the weight closer & exhale when pushing it away??? Pretty confused!!!

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Johnny N February 1, 2012 at 1:27 am

You instructor is right. Exhale while exerting force. You always exhale when you’re exerting force.

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saber khan February 1, 2012 at 3:03 am

uhh diego, it’s exhale when contracting a muscle and inhaling when relaxing. exhaling squeezes the core tight and keeps balance and increases both mentally and physically the ability to work under control. in a bench press, u are contracting the muscle when you push the weight upwards and relaxing it (opposite of contract) when you back to your chest

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Diego February 1, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Thanks, Saber & Johnny!

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Jannis March 22, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Hey man now I have the solution of my stance questions, my problem was all the time that I dont feeling the weight of my hips, by me its a little different cause I have much biger thighs than hips :D,if I was puncing and rotate the basin comes a powerful shot but I was feeling that the hips dont come in game like the have to, now I find the solution thank you!

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kushal April 22, 2012 at 6:09 am

thats all i wanted to knw,,, thnk you,

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David Parnell April 26, 2012 at 3:50 am

I like this video. I find it understandable. I think it’s important to consider the right stance when tutoring a boxer as the right stance gives a boxer a good centre of gravity. This gives them balance to block shots with a good guard. I noticed your back foot was pointing straight forward, similar to the way I point my back foot in my stance. A lot of coaches teach a varied stance often with the back foot at a right anlge. It seems to me that the front foot taught in stances will always be straight pointing at your opponent (or in this case the camera), but for some reason the back foots position varies in stances taught with different coaches. Anyone any suggestions to this. Good video all the same. I find it legit.

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Johnny N May 1, 2012 at 4:30 pm

I wanted to clarify that the back foot should be around 45 degree angle, not straight forward into opponent.

In the video, I am standing sideways only for demonstration of the stance width, not the angling of the feet.

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Hassan Haibeh July 17, 2012 at 9:50 am

Johnny great article mate. I just turned 20 and started boxing 3 months before my birthday, i’m currently 105 kilos mostly fat :/ but for a big guy I’ve been told by many that i have wonderful technique, speed and agility for my size i don’t pack a powerful punch however. I fight orthodox i normally spar with welterweights to work on my quickness, cardio etc, but my defense is pretty below average do you have any tips to help improve my overall defense ? One more thing is my style i fight with a mostly high stance my reach is average i’m 6ft i haven’t really developed a consistent style yet, when i spar i just spar whatever style sometimes i stand high sometimes heavy mostly high for my hand speed but with that high stance i’m much more prone to get hit compare to when i stand heavy, also with my hands i’m always told to put it up for protection i try my best to do so but when i want to attack i prefer it when my hands are lower i always land when i throw below my chin, when i throw from my chin i doesn’t land as often, i like to throw from below my chin because my awareness is good and so is my reflex i’m able to easily back away from a punch to counter but usually i’m caught between knowing when to throw and when not to so that affects me from doing my best during sparing, but on the pads and bag i’m a beast.

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Hassan Haibeh July 17, 2012 at 9:53 am

I leave my left hand slightly lower but my trainer insists i use the Peek-aboo stance it protects me well but i struggle to attack with it.

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Johnny N July 17, 2012 at 7:02 pm

You’re a tall guy so it’s always gonna be hard to keep your hands up when you’re busy punching downwards. The peekaboo position will also be more difficult for you because your opponent is under you instead of in front of you. A lot of tall fighters will drop their front arm a bit for faster reach, it’s a natural thing. You can still use the peekaboo during more defensive situations.

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Kim Brown August 29, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Hi,
Just started teaching boxing class at my fitness studio. I have completed the punch fit course, but am well aware it barely scratches the surface on knowing the significant details of teaching correct technique for boxing and those holding the focus pads. I want to run the most efficient class, focusing of course on them getting a top workout but also developing the best technique. The main issue is with some clients having concerns on their partners not holding the focus pads with enough resistance. Now I am enforcing communication between partners, partnering up according to height, strength and endurance levels, is not always possible. Any tips to give to help improve the pad holders technique. I know with practice it will come, any other specific tips or drills you may suggest.

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Johnny N September 4, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Pad holder tip:
– hit the pads against the punch (as if you’re slapping his fist with your mitt). Don’t just hover the pads there.

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John March 19, 2013 at 2:21 pm

You are a genius. All your content is exceptional. Keep it up man. You’re changing peoples lives every day.

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Johnny N March 21, 2013 at 3:59 am

I try my best, John, so thank you for that!

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Negus March 26, 2013 at 10:39 pm

To be honest, ever since i stumbled upon this site I’ve been reading it religiously so thanks. i mean really thanks for the work you must have put in to share your information with others.

Quick question though: My coach says that when doing a basic step drag, the rear leg must follow the lead leg instantaneously and arrive almost at the same time, is this true? if so how does one do it?

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Johnny N April 2, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Move the lead leg and then the rear leg. I wouldn’t worry too much about making it instant because then you end up jumping from one position to the next instead of letting it flow. The biggest tip is to take smaller steps and you’ll find it’s easier to move faster that way.

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choi sw June 20, 2013 at 7:16 pm

I appreciate u for good explanation.

I never seen good explanation like this.

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