10 Advanced Secrets to Balance and Footwork

October 2, 2015 October 2, 2015 by Johnny N Boxing Footwork, Boxing Techniques 59 Comments

Advanced Secrets to Balance and Footwork

What’s the secret to having great balance?

It’s time to unload some secrets. Honestly, this is what gives me knockout power, incredible balance, and swift footwork. The ability to push guys around that outweigh me by 40lbs. I can spin, twirl, jump around, and slice the floor with catlike agility because of this knowledge. And just as it did for me, I hope that this opens the door to ruthless balance and power for all of you.

If there was ever one day in your life that you had to close your ego and open your mind, please let this day be it. Some of what I’m about to say may sound straight up crazy. I don’t want you to argue or counter my points with some knowledge you learned from somewhere else. I just want you to think critically—skepticism is ok! But most importantly: listen carefully and try what I say.

These balance secrets are truly advanced, so I’m not going to babysit anybody and explain every detail. Either you are on that level of understanding or you are not. This is for all the advanced guys who have been dedicated to reading my site…and I know you’re all sick of seeing beginner tutorials…

…Well, I love you guys. This one’s for you. 🙂

 

 

The Actual Straight-Line

When one of the keys to great balance has to do with axis awareness, it’s important to talk about what we think the axis actually is. To be “perfectly straight” does not mean the same thing to a professional ballet dancer as it would to an average person. And to the average person, “to stand straight and balanced” simply means to pull up your head as high as possible, chest up, and lock the knees.

While this isn’t wrong, there’s so much more to a straight line body posture. And believe it or not, there are actually several conflicting standards on how the body-awareness experts define a straight body posture. They may agree on the main points overall but will debate incessantly over the tiniest details. (Not too far off from boxing technique discussions, right? 🙂 )

I’ll do my best to share my own personal secrets that I feel can be easily visualized, understood, and most benefiting to the average person.

 

1. Hips over the arch

Keep your hips over the arch of your foot. Sounds simple, right? In reality, this small detail can require a whole new world of awareness and constant effort to maintain. Try this: get up and walk around your room. It’s best if you walk in a straight line. And as you do so, try to feel if your weight is more over the balls of your feet (the front) or if your weight is more over your heels (the back).

In my opinion, the hips should be over the arch of your foot, and more specifically, the BACK of your arch. Because NO DUH—that’s how your bone structure is built. Some might tell you the hips belong over the heels…well that’s for you to decide later once you play around and develop the sensitivity to feel where is best for you.

I feel that in people with lazy or collapsed postures (shoulders sagging forward, head dropping forward), their hips tend to be slightly forward. This can cause many problems in your axis. Because once your hips are off their intended position (over your arch), they are actually already falling forward or moving forward. And if you DON’T want your body to fall forward, then you’ll have to do something to compensate such as leaning the upper body back, or collapsing it to counter the forward hip position. So now what you have is the shoulders or chest back and hips forward. From here, it’s really hard to balance and you can be pushed or pulled forwards or backwards off-balance pretty easily.

There are many moments in movement where, during a spin, or a push, or a step, or any movement really…you will see fighters [mistakenly] let their hips collapse forward. It’s a major power leak and hard to become aware of at first. But once you learn how to detect it, feel it, see it, it’s very easy to fix. The hard part is becoming aware of the leak because in fighting, many times your legs are all over the place so it’s not easy to know if your hips are too forward or not.

 

2. Sternum in front of the hips

Keep your sternum always at least a tiny bit in front of your hips. This is a common problem found in beginners or those less kinesthetically aware. When many people try to “straighten up” what they do is pull their chest way high and then back. They’ll try to stack their chest in a straight line over their hips. And while this might seem correct, it’s actually not. There’s a good chance that when your chest is right over your hips, what it means is your upper torso is actually slightly tilted back (falling back) which then means your hips will have to come forward to balance out this off-position. (Basically you’d be re-creating the same problem in tip #1 except from a different angle.)

Again, I advise you guys to stand up and play around with this. Try alternating your sternum and hips between all the possible positions:

  • both sternum and hips forward – weight collapsed into knees and metatarsals
  • sternum forward and hips back – proper posture range allowing you to bend all the way down while balanced
  • sternum back and hips forward – looks like an awkward yoga stretch, or bad push-up posture
  • or if you can, try both sternum and hips back – should be impossible because of the way your body is built, or no balance/mobility since you’re on the edge of your heels

The most ideal for me would be to have the sternum about half-an-inch or a full inch in front of your hips. You basically want to stand as straight as you can and have the slightest shift of your sternum in front of your hips. Now you have to be CAREFUL and not to over-do it to the point that your shoulders go all the way back, and your back has an arch, or you’re leaning forward, or that your sternum is sticking out. Don’t try to puff your chest out (that will take your spine off alignment). Keep your sternum inside your chest and don’t strain your upper-body anywhere.

Now from here, you also want to suck in your belly button, more accurately, the area about 2 inches below your belly button. But you do it relaxed, and not actually holding in your stomach using muscle tension but with awareness. If you do it right and in a relaxed manner, this can make you crazy heavy and grounded—like a freaken tree.

 

3. Feel your all your joints in each step

Most people need more bone engagement in general. There has been a recent trend and shift of focus away from bone engagement and over to muscle engagement in modern body movement techniques. Nowadays we keep hearing this talk and this focus on the muscles, and what the muscles should do, and how to train the muscles, and the best ways to develop the muscles. The debates and discussions are all about the muscles and so little is said about the bones.

As I’ve mentioned before, movement technique is really about bone positioning more so than it is about muscle contraction. And the reason why is because your bones are what transfer the power. Your bones are what hold you up. Your bones are what is being felt when you hit an opponent. Your bones are infinitely stronger than your muscles.

Imagine me standing straight up and using the perfect position of my leg bones to keep myself upright. I could do it for hours even while holding a heavy object and there would be very little fatigue. But what if I was to bend my knees just SLIGHTLY? This seemingly tiny adjustment would in fact take away so much leverage from my bones that now my muscles have to do so much work. And how long can my muscles last? I’m not even asking you to squat, I’m asking you to stand and walk around with your knees slightly more bent than usual. You would tire very quickly and not be able to hold anywhere near as much weight as when your legs are straight. This right here is the reason why I feel that people do not engage the bones enough.

Muscle and bone engagement must be even.
Quite often, there is too little focus on the bones.

The imbalance of bone engagement vs muscle engagement has been caused by many things. The biggest cause, I think, has to do with poor technique. Good technique is not as common nowadays and there are many inaccurate teachings passed on by those with poor technique. Imagine if you didn’t know how to put your bone in the ABSOLUTE correct position, you would lose tons of leverage off all your movements, punching power, etc. And from here, you’ve got two choices:

  1. Either refine/improve your technique and fix that bone position. – Develop that tiny little adjustment, that tiny little 1-degree angle adjustment that doubles your power because of perfect leverage.
  2. Or go straight to focusing on your muscles. – More strength & conditioning, more lifting weights, more ideas to do anything but fix the power leak caused from your lack of proper leverage.

Guess what most people are doing nowadays. Guess where most athletes are focusing their training efforts nowadays. And can you blame them? Without being able to feel what’s going on in your body, I guess all you can really do is just count reps in training and tell yourself that being able to do more reps means you’re improving.

I want to say something:

No amount of muscle conditioning can ever fix your lack of technique. It doesn’t matter how much stronger you get. If you’re pushing the wrong part of an object, it’s not going to move.

 

Engaging the muscle and bone together.

It’s time to backtrack and focus on what we can do. I feel many fighters are too busy thinking about their muscles and how their muscles feel. When they jump up and down, they are thinking about activating and feeling their leg muscles. When they throw a punch, they are thinking about activating and feeling their arm muscles, core muscles, etc.

It’s not a problem to have muscle awareness, it’s a problem to overlook your bone awareness. What ends up happening is that many athletes start taking the bone awareness out of all their movements. So for example, because they like feeling the power in their quads and calves while jumping around, they start SLIGHTLY shifting their technique (their bone positioning) so that they can feel more of their muscles. Almost like becoming addicted to their power. Well this has many consequences.

What I find is that many athletes will start to remove their bones from the line of power. They tweak their form and position ever so slightly so that now only the muscles can apply force and not the bones. They may FEEL (and maybe even APPEAR) more powerful this way, but they are actually not. (It’s like that comparison earlier of straight knees vs bent knees.) Just because you FEEL like you’re exerting more force doesn’t mean you actually are!

There is also another reason for decreased bone engagement: it’s the act of “cushioning the joints”. Many fighters don’t like to feel the stress on their joints and so they’ll purposely take their joints and bones out of position so the muscles can do all the work. I have many things to say about this complicated matter:

  • If your bones and joints are out of position to support you, it is a weak position and can’t transfer much power.
  • If your bones and joints are out of position, you actually still might be stressing the joints even if you don’t feel like the shock impact is going through them. They could be twisted or otherwise in an anatomically incorrect position. Bones and muscles are connected, it’s kind of impossible to stress the muscles without stressing the bones/joints.
  • If you feel the need to cushion the impact from your bones and joints, there is a good chance that you are not in the proper position to transfer that much power.
  • More movement and high power transfer are not necessarily a positive correlation. You should be focusing on less movement and more stability if you want high power transfer. And if you want more movement, then you shouldn’t be in positions that require so much power transfer. (That would make it inefficient, right?)

Muscles are for movement.
Bones are for power.

I believe that energy either stays within you or is transferred outwards (and that a combination of the two is not going to have a meaningful effect). If your body is moving at the moment of impact (such as pushing off the ground), it is because your energy is staying inside of you. And that if your body is not moving at the moment of impact (such as during a punch), it is because your energy is being transferred to something else. Kind of like how when you play pool, the white ball will stay still when it transfers all of its energy to another ball.

One might think that lots of movement equates to lots of power and I don’t think so. Even when you look at a punch, yes there may be a lot of movement, but at the moment of impact, something has to hold stable (such as the feet and hips and overall axis balance) in order for the power to transfer.

And the best stability comes from your bone engagement. I think many athletes try to imagine this moment of stability as coming from the muscle and so that may be another reason why they focus less on their bones and more on their muscles.

 

How to raise your bone engagement awareness

I have a simple drill you can apply to just about any movement, whether footwork, or slipping, or punching. Try walking around. And with each step you take, try to feel all your bones and joints as having shared the impact with the ground. You should feel like on each step, there is a contributing impact in your spine, your sternum, your hips, and your knees, just as you feel the impact in your foot.

Now do the same thing but while bending your knees a lot or leaning your torso too far forward or too far backward. Basically do something so that you can feel part of your body is not contributing to the shock absorption and that one part of your body whether joint or muscle is unfairly taking all of the impact. Can you feel how there is a cut in energy flow when your entire body is not able to contribute to the impact? You will notice that the more your joints are bent (such as the knees), the harder it is to keep your body perfectly balanced and have every joint working together.

Now let’s go back to doing it properly. Stand up straight and try to relax more and more of your muscle as you walk around so that your bones can really do all the work. Walk softly and calmly, don’t try to exaggerate the thud. All you need is a small and clear thud that echos through every bone and joint in your body. THIS is a body in proper alignment.

You can apply these principles to punching movements as well. Throw punches using very minimal muscle effort and try to focus on a synchronized contribution from all the joints in your body. Notice how your punches are so much more efficient/effective when you think about the bones. Now what happens when you start to focus more on maximum muscle exertion with every punch? There’s this noise now that you feel in your body. This imbalance and distraction away from what you really need to feel…which are your bones (the leverage). What does a truly powerful punch feel like? I would say it feels like an effortless harmony of relaxed bone leverage rather than a total-body muscle strain.

*** FREE POWER PUNCHING SECRET: I imagine there are many people out there who are trying to mimic Bruce Lee’s one-inch punch without much success. My guess is they’re busy thinking about synchronizing all the muscle contractions in the body, rather than synchronizing all the bone impacts in the body. ***

 

 

Preventing the Collapse

There are many ways that our bodies collapse in their positions especially as we go through complicated athletic movements. Part of the problem is not being in the right position in the first place, and the other part is not being aware when your body has collapsed (whether during a position or during a movement).

Collapses in body position make it hard to balance, to move, and to transfer power. And the biggest cause of the collapse? Trying to get to a position in an improper way or unknowingly relaxing a critical structural point in your body at the moment of impact.

 

4. Hang your weight at the sternum level

Be as heavy as possible,
from as high as possible.

You want to be as heavy as possible from as high as possible. There are some misconceptions that I have to address before finally getting to my explanation.

First let’s begin with the 3 models of balance…

balance secrets

 

Illustration A is what most people think they’re doing:

  • being grounded means being heavy
  • being heavy means going down
  • and that going down means being low
  • and therefore ultimately, being grounded means being low

Many people try to ground themselves by becoming something like a fat rock, low to the ground, with more emphasis on being wide than tall. By creating a wide base and staying low to the ground, like a wrestler, it makes them harder to be pushed over, and is therefore considered more stable. I can tell you right now that I totally disagree with this concept because it isn’t what really happens. Read on to find out why.

 

Illustration B is what I think most people are actually doing when they try to be A:

  • too much emphasis on going down
  • their body is collapsed so much that their weight is laying on the ground
  • so now the body is low but without any weight and no strength behind their movements
  • the position is not only weak and collapsed, it’s also exhausting to be in this position

The legs, and spine, and back muscles work so much harder when everything is out of alignment. Even if you do bend your knees in the proper way, your legs will still be tired and less able to move from this position. Unless you plan on jumping a lot, it is not a good position to be in.

As you can see from this image, when people try to get low, they actually become lighter because all the weight in their body has fallen to the ground (meaning that their weight is no longer hanging from them). They are actually far less grounded, less powerful, less mobile, and much easier to push over because they actually have no weight in this position.

 

Illustration C is what I think is the most ideal position for optimum balance:

  • body is tall and erect, aligned in natural posture allowing for efficient and stable position
  • the core is strong and supported allowing for the body’s weight to hang off the body rather than collapse to the floor
  • the body has grounded weight allowing for balance and power
  • legs are straighter allowing for more mobility and energy efficiency in footwork

This illustration is not only more realistic to the way our bodies are actually shaped, but also far more balanced and not only that but way WAYYYY more mobile! But why is Illustration C so much more realistic and ideal?

 

The human body is built to resist the ground. (Vertical position)

Your body is built to be upright. All your bones, muscles, and organs are meant to be functioning from the upright position. It is physically most efficient (meaning the least tiring) for you to be standing up a lot. Perhaps it’s a bit much to be standing in one spot, but you’re definitely made to be standing, walking, running, and otherwise be in an upright position a lot.

Our bodies are not made for us to be sitting down for hours (lots of health consequences from this—link), or standing with our knees bent (incredibly tiring), or laying down (obviously). Your body is far less stable, mobile, and energy-efficient when you are not upright.

Now comes the tricky part. You have to resist the ground to have weight. Either your body is carrying the weight or the ground is carrying the weight. So if you’re laying down and none of your body is resisting gravity and everything is just relaxed and falling down, you are actually not heavy anywhere now. And if you’re standing up straight with every part of your body in alignment, then your whole body is essentially resisting the ground and you get to feel the entire weight of your body, which means you are maximally heavy. In other words, every part of your body is either working to make you heavy or working to make you light.

Now here comes the REALLY tricky part. Your body has to work in order to carry the weight rather than to have the ground carry the weight. BUT you can’t carry the weight if the weight doesn’t “drop”. The way for you to “drop” the weight is to be relaxed. And here we arrive at the hardest part of posture and position——every part of your body has to be working in order to carry the weight and not let it collapse to the ground, but at the same time…every part of your body must be relaxed so that the weight can drop freely.

Typically, we arrive at three common problem scenarios. The first is too much tension and you’re tired, and stiff, and not heavy (because your tension makes you fall over), and you burn a lot of energy when not doing anything. The second is too relaxed and your body is lazy and collapsed, some muscles get tired or sore easily and also it’s harder for you to move. The third is you’re relaxed in some places and too tense in other places and you end up burning a lot of energy working against yourself.

You have to be tall, but relaxed, to be heavy.

So it’s like everything in your body is relaxed and weighing down at the ground, and at the same time every part of your body is spending just the right effort to push upwards against gravity to keep you upright. The guys with the best balance and mobility can feel exactly in their bodies what parts have to be controlled and what parts can be free. They spend only 1% effort to stay upright and the rest of their body is entirely relaxed and free to move. The most balanced athletes will tell you that all of their body goes up as all of its weight goes down. Their body is going up AND down at the same time.

 

What is the main cause of being too low?

The reason why many fighters are in such horrible positions for balance and mobility is because they think good balance means not being easily pushed over. And so they try to dig themselves low to the ground like wrestlers. They think they need to win a pushing battle. And the moment you think like this, all your mind wants to do is put you in a position to push. You’re going to position yourself as if you’re pushing a car. What’s even worse is when the fighter’s punching techniques are built around pushing punches rather than snapping punches.

The number #1 reason people are too low
(bad balance position):
is because they think
good balance means not getting pushed over.

The first way to fix your visualization is to go back to remembering that your body is most efficient at standing upright. Using your body to push force back down at the ground is the best angle at which you can apply force. And that when you push a car, what you’re actually trying to do is push a car by pushing the ground. And that when you’re punching an opponent, you’re actually trying to convert the force of pushing the ground into a punch.

If you visualize yourself as always pushing horizontally, your body will always want to get low…because that’s the only position it can be in and have horizontal pushing capability. However, if you visualize yourself as always pushing vertically (far more powerful and anatomically-effective), you will find that your body can always push vertically from any position and especially from the tall upright position. You will also notice that very few parts of your body can push horizontally whereas just about every part of your body can push vertically.

And so when you’re trying to push an opponent off you, you do it by pushing upwards (lifting him) rather than pushing directly at him (horizontal force). Even better: you win a pushing battle by redirecting your opponent’s push so that all his effort goes against the ground and his body is lifted up using his own energy. And then when’s he’s lifted, that gives you the opportunity to tip him over). Anyways, that’s another topic…another secret for another day. 😉

 

Where is your center-of-gravity?

This is a really complicated subject. If you look it up online or talk to people, martial artists, or other “body experts”, they will tell you the center of gravity is somewhere around your belly button or pelvis area. They’ll say something that it’s about 2 inches below your belly button. And that you should focus on that area. And that if you stretch or stack that area properly, you will be well-balanced and grounded. And that whenever you move your body, you must move that area or move from that area. You might have even heard things such as if you focus or become mindful of that area, you will sleep better, be at peace with the universe, and grow magical wings. (Haha, ok, maybe not that last part.)

Well, I’m not here to dispute any of that but I want to add to it. This is purely my own interpretation from all the time that I’ve done these kinds of athletic and spiritual endeavors and I want to share what has helped me greatly.

  1. I believe that to be heavy, your weight must be felt hanging from throughout your entire body. If you are not properly upright enough that the weight is not picked up off the ground, you will have no weight and therefore not be heavy. Also, if you are not properly relaxed enough that the weight can hang freely, you will also have no weight and not be heavy.
  2. I believe the more you can go up, the heavier you can be. It also makes sense since the more upright you are, the more relaxed you can be.
  3. I believe your center-of-gravity can be manipulated to be higher or lower depending on how you engage your body, how much you tense or relax, or otherwise manipulate the way your body is balanced.
  4. I believe that your “weight” hangs from your sternum. I believe your weight, your core, your center-of-gravity, whatever you want to call it, hangs from your sternum. And furthermore, I believe there is a “CORE RANGE” from which your weight or center-of-gravity hangs from. The highest point is the sternum. And the lowest hanging point is your pelvic floor. And so it’s like your entire weight is hanging from and supported by your sternum all the way down to the pelvic floor.

I would say that you have this thin narrow vertical chamber inside your body that goes from your sternum down to your pelvic floor. And that your weight, your core, your center-of-gravity is hanging from within that chamber.

Knowing that you have this chamber, you have to be careful to keep it strong and relaxed to allow the weight to drop straight through. The top end of this core chamber is support by your chest and breathing. You have to have a strong presence and balance in that torso area to keep the top of the chamber supported. And then the bottom end of the core chamber is supported by your pelvic wall as well as your breathing. And the middle is supported by your spine and back posture. Basically, the whole chamber has to be supported.

You can bend your knees or twist or turn or move your body in whatever way that you want but try to keep this chamber strong and supported. You may start to adjust your range and way of movement to allow yourself more freedom and support within this chamber. It is better to find freedom within the limited but powerful range of a supported chamber rather than to try and find freedom from outside the confinements of a supported chamber. Your favorite fighters are more upright more often than you think!

 

5. Sit on your legs

Relax your hips over your femur. It’s kind of a weird thing to tell someone to sit on their legs but I really don’t know how else to explain it in layman’s terms. As you’ve already learned from the previous point, it’s important to distinguish the difference between relaxing and collapsing. And so we want to relax our hips over the femur without collapsing the rest of the upper body onto it.

Generally speaking, your hips are naturally always over your femur EXCEPT for when your stick your hips forward. In which case they are no longer over the femur. To give you something to visualize, I want you to imagine this:

  • Imagine that you are sitting on the edge of a really high bar stool and that your legs are dangling off while your butt is just barely on the stool. So it looks like you’re standing straight but you’re actually still sitting on something. And there is a force under your butt as if you were sitting on something.
  • If this is hard for you to visualize, try actually sitting down (with good back posture) on a hard flat surface and notice how the surface actually applies upwards force on your sit bones.
  • Now try standing up WITHOUT losing the sensation of something applying force against your sit bones. (NOTE: It’s hard for your body to “sit” on your sit bones if your hip/leg muscles are tense and not letting the hips relax onto the sit bones.)
  • Try walking around with this feeling of sitting on your femur bones. It should feel like each butt muscle is sitting on the top of a stick (your leg bones) as you walk around with a clear and strong thud in each step.

You will notice that if you bend over and stick your butt out behind you, it’s easy to feel the force on your sit bones. But the moment you stand up TOO STRAIGHT or your stick your hips forward rather than keeping them back, you will lose that sitting feeling. (Again, it helps to keep your sternum in front of your hips.)

 

This is what my dance instructors taught me to visualize:

1) That you are always VERY slightly bending forward at the hips.

Think of like when you bend over to tie your shoelaces and your upper body folds over at the hip. Well do the very smallest amount of that. So like I said, try to stand straight like you normally do but keep that like infinitesimally small bend in your hips. Some dance instructors call this “the hip bite” because your side profile makes it look like the line of your upper torso and upper thighs are biting on something at the hip level. Quite often when athletes lose balance, it’s because they fail to maintain this hip bite and the hips end up too far forward.

 

2) That you are always VERY slightly bending your knees.

Same concept applies here. Straighten your legs but keep your knees bent in the smallest degree possible. So it looks straight but you’re actually very VERY slightly bent. Maintaining this very slight bend in the knees also helps you keep that very slight bend in your hips. And like I said…try not to make the bend noticeable. Everything should appear straight to the untrained eye. 😉

Always maintain the very slightest bend
at the hips and knees.

Another way to help you visualize keeping both the hips and knees slightly bent is to imagine that your hips are always behind at least one knee at all times. If your hips are in front of both knees, you are in trouble. Obviously…it’s hard to keep track of this when you do complicated footwork maneuvers and so it’s up to you to interpret what falls within the guidelines and overall principles of what I’m trying to teach.

If you’ve gotten this far and done this tip correctly, you should feel incredibly grounded and balanced when you walk around. You can even try doing some ballet spins. Your spins will be better when you maintain that slight hip bite. Enjoy your new-found magical balance, and yes, you’re very welcome.

 

6. Point knees and feet in the same direction

Prevent power leaks through the front or back of your hips. Most people don’t know what the ideal foot and leg positioning is for their bodies. So I’ll start you off with some basic tips to help you figure out how to position your legs and how to detect a power leak. This is incredibly important because so much power is lost (up to half your maximum potential power or more) when the core areas in your body are not maintaining integrity during moments of power transfer.

Try these exercises to establish your IDEAL leg positioning:

  1. Stand with your feet together. Toes and heels touching. Apply all the previous body positioning tips you learned. Try to maintain the perfect body position when you do the following steps.
  2. Keeping your heels together, start turning out your feet so that your feet are forming a 90-degree angle. Play around with the angle, turning them in to decrease the angle or turning them out more to increase the angle. WITHOUT straining your hip muscles, pay attention to the threshold point when your feet are turned out so much that your hips are starting to cave in or collapse forwards from the back and that you feel your hips might be tucking under or sticking forward. You may notice that it’s harder to relax your hip muscles when your feet are turned out too wide.
  3. Now we do the opposite. While keeping your toes together, start turning out your heels to find the moment that your hips start to cave in and collapse at the front. And that a lot of your energy is leaking through the back.

You will notice that your hips have a greater degree of turnout before leaking power than they do for a turn-in. ANY turn-in is generally terrible for balance and structural integrity. As for determining the ideal turnout, this varies from person to person. Some people will feel best with their toes together, some will feel better with their toes at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions. Some ballet dancers can go even beyond 180-degrees (it’s crazy, I know!).

I would say that for the average male, their best performing range is somewhere between both feet being perfectly straight at the 12 o’clock position, and slightly turned out at the 11 and 1 o’clock positions. And for this reason, I tell everyone to keep their knees and feet in the same directions at all times. (But like I said, every individual is different. Please experiment to find YOUR range.)

Keeping your knees and feet pointed
in the same direction,
is an easy way to prevent power leaks through the hips.

Now it’s time to play around with different positions. Try jumping in and out. Or stepping forward and then pushing yourself back at an angle. Try throwing a power punch where you pivot your feet and hold the position with the arm extended. You will notice that in certain cases, your entire lower body is stronger, more balanced, and more mobile when you angle your feet a certain way. You may also notice that your more dominant leg (or your tighter and more tensed leg) will often pull on your hip more and rotate the other leg out of position.

Of course, this advice may seem like common sense. But the difference here is for you to really experiment and find that EXACT degree of turnout that gives you maximum power. It might be only one degree more, or one degree less, but it makes that big of a difference. In my observations, many fighters are a little too turned out when they are standing around or trying to use explosive footwork and the power leaks through the front. And then when they throw punches, many of them pivot one foot too much there is a turn-in that causes a huge power leak through the back. These power leaks make you less balanced, less powerful, less mobile, and less energy efficient.

Many fighters are too turned-out during footwork,
and too turned-in when throwing punches.

 

The knees must point in the same direction as the feet.

Another common problem I’ve noticed is that fighters are not aware of their knees. For example their feet might be pointing straight forward but their knees are caving in towards each other (as if they’re holding in their urine). This is a very common occurrence that happens when fighters are very busy thinking about their feet position and calf muscles but neglect to think about their knee positions. It can be very dangerous and lead to future knee injuries if you keep trying to transfer power through your calves while letting your knees come out of alignment. This is a big stress on the knees. I typically see this when fighters try to move powerfully and they let their knees dip down to the ground instead of keeping the knees up.

There is also the very opposite problem where a fighter’s feet is pointing straight forwards but the knees are pointing outwards away from each other. In this case the power is leaking through the hips and you will see that his hips will collapse forward every time he moves forward or throws a punch.

Sometimes, these problems can be fixed by simply becoming aware of your knee position. Other times it is because your feet need to be turned in or out slightly more. It could also be that you are bending your knees too much and because there is nowhere comfortable for them to be, they have no choice but to collapse to the inside or the outside.

The real focus is actually on the hips and not so much the feet and knees. It has to do with your hip flexibility more than anything. And if you are not careful, your feet and knee positioning will stress your hip in a way that causes a power leak.

 

7. Expand the air in your lungs in all directions.

The shape of your breath impacts the shape of your body. The way you visualize breathing has a great impact on the way you carry your body. Most people think of breathing in as going up and then breathing out as relaxing and going down. Well, this wouldn’t be so bad if people didn’t collapse when they went down. Usually what people will do during the exhale is just let go of all the muscles in their upper body and “relax” into a lazy collapsed body position.

The shape of your breath
impacts the shape of your body.

While it’s true that you should relax when breathing, it’s going to be a problem if you collapse every time you “relax”. So what’s the answer…should you stop relaxing? The answer is no. I don’t want you to stop relaxing but I also don’t want you to collapse your posture. This root problem goes way back to how you were holding your body in the first place. If you were holding an incorrect posture in the first place, you will use the wrong muscles. And when you use the wrong muscles, it’s more exhausting and you feel more tension. And then you when you breathe to relax, you let go of the tension (and with it, your posture).

The first fix is to hold your body the proper way in the first place. The next thing is to change the way you visualize breathing. Let’s start with this:

  1. When you INHALE, imagine your lungs and rib-cage stretching vertically along your spine, and also horizontally as if to shoot out through the sides of your rib cages. Imagine every single one of your ribs is projecting out sideways during this inhale.
  2. Now when you EXHALE, continue to stretch your lungs vertically and horizontally as they deflate. This is absolutely key. So you’re always inhaling into shape and exhaling into shape. You never “give up” this shape, so to speak.

Keep stretching your lungs and rib cage
vertically and horizontally as you
inhale AND exhale.

Your lungs are always in posture even when they deflate. It goes back to that theory when I said to imagine a weight hanging inside a vertical tunnel within the center of your body. Think of your lungs as shaping this very vertical and narrow tunnel. I think this is a better visualization than imagining that with every breath, your chest expands outwards like a balloon. Another useful thing I’ve heard before is to carry the air in your chest rather than your stomach. I’ll let you explore this concept for yourself and see how it changes your balance and grounded-ness.

 

Most people lack horizontal expansion

Breathing should no longer be “up and down” for you. Breathing should ALWAYS be both simultaneously up and down, and also out to the sides. I would say the problem with most people is that they collapse downwards during the exhale. And also that they are never thinking about horizontal expansion. You will notice that your body (especially your upper body) will have a whole new sense of presence and stability when you start to expand horizontally. Try to always keep your ribs expanding sideways—as if you’re always trying to grow bigger wings that extend from your back and then spreading out to the sides.

You may start to notice that some of your punching positions or defensive positions will compromise your upper body stability because of collapsed positions. Obviously, we can’t always be in a perfectly straight line but at least you are more aware of what is going on in your body and can refine your movements knowing that.

 

 

Movement Visualization

The way you visualize your body movements can decide which parts of your body you will focus on and how you use your body. I’ve developed many different helpful visualizations over the years and here I share the simple ones that I think can make the most difference in the shortest time.

 

8. Strengthen the outside BOOT LINE

Fortify the outside edge of your shin and foot. I call it the “boot line” because I’m referring to the part of your leg that is covered when you wear boots—-everything from the knee and down, which is your lower leg, ankle, and foot. And when I say OUTSIDE boot line, I am referring to the outside of your calf and your foot (as opposed to the inside parts of your calves and feet that touch each other).

So there are many steps involved in this. I’ll briefly list them now and then explain piece-by-piece after.

  • Unify the entire lower leg.
  • Keep the knees in the line. (Preventing knee collapse.)
  • Use the the outside boot line to move.

So the first step is to unify your lower leg, which means keeping everything from the knee and down as a solid unit. This will include the KNEE, LOWER LEG, ANKLE, and FOOT. So from here on out, I want you to never think of moving only the foot. You are moving the knee, AND calf, AND ankle, AND foot. Everything all together. Imagine you are wearing a stiff boot that keeps everything strong and supported together.

You can even try it now: move yourself around doing all your footwork but instead of thinking that you are pushing off the ground using only your foot, you are using your entire lower leg. Imagine everything from your knees on down as being part of your foot. It should feel much more supported. It should feel like you have so much more grip control over the ground now because so many more things are activated.

Engaging the boot line (entire lower leg) with every step,
gives you more support and control.

The second step is to keep your knees in alignment with your body at all times. As I’ve said earlier, it’s common for the knees to buckle to the inside or to the outside when under stress. Obviously, your balance support and power transfer will suffer greatly when your knees go out of alignment. Not to mention it’s bad for your knees in the long run; you can twist, or tear, or get some other kind of knee injury.

The biggest problem occurs when a fighter is INTENTIONALLY taking his knees out of alignment. This is especially common because of a fighter visualizing a punching or footwork technique in an improper way, or because he wants to cushion the impact from his joints and let his muscles do all the work.

It’s especially important that you do not take your knees out of alignment. There are three common ways to make this mistake: 1) letting the knees collapse to the inside, 2) letting the knees collapse to the outside, 3) bending the knees too much. All 3 mistakes will cause tremendous power leaks, affect your balance greatly because as your knee comes off axis other parts of your body will also come off axis to compensate, and all this puts tremendous stress on your joints.

My advice is for you to find ways to engage your knees in every step. Try to use your knee to support every move. (It’s no different from how you put your elbow behind every punch to support it.) So try moving around again and this time, not only activating your calf muscles but also to try and push off the floor using your knees. Try to push off the floor with your knees as much as you as push with your calves.

Some of you may notice that this last tip creates tremendous stress in your knees. Maybe even a little painful, perhaps? Well, this will bring us to the next realization—that your positions or movements are probably improper, or at the very least, very anatomically ineffective positions for balance and support. My guess is that many of you are probably bending your knees too much and that you are so far out of position for alignment that you have to disengage your knees from your movements. Please watch my video below where I demonstrate how to bend your knees properly. (It’s a seemingly basic concept, I know. But you need to know it.)

It is harder to keep your knees in alignment,
when your knees bend a lot.

Most of you will have to move with straighter knees and not bend down as much. My easy takeaway tips are to try and feel the thud of the ground in your knees just as much as you feel the thud of the ground in your feet. Try and push off your knees with each step as you push off the ground with your feet. If you feel lots of engagement in your calves and very little impact in your knees, you are probably not doing it right. (Please do not be an idiot and take my advice to mean that you should lock your knees and pound the ground so hard that your knees hurt.)

Some of you may find it confusing as to HOW to use your knees to support each step. This will take us to the last and final step of strengthening your outside boot line. To begin with, let’s talk about the possible directions that your knees can articulate towards. Many people think of the knee as only being able to go forwards (bending) or backwards (straightening)—basically only 2 directions.

In my opinion, the knee has 4 directions! Not only can it go forwards (bending) and backwards (straightening), it can also go towards the inside (caving inwards), or towards the outside (caving outwards). The ultimate magic secret for me is that most boxing footwork maneuvers are best support when you keep your knee outwards—which is what I like to call the OUTSIDE LINE. Your knee is so much stronger and supported from this position. It doesn’t matter if you bend your knee or straighten your knee, keep it on the outside line and you will be much more powerful this way. And of course, the opposite is true: the worst thing you can do is let your knee cave inwards. Caving inwards and letting your knees fall to the inside will decrease your stability, power transfer, and also increase the likelihood of knee injury.

 

Don’t roll over the outside of your foot or turn-out too much

*** Please do not confuse “keeping the knee on the outside line” as meaning to have your body weight only on the outside of your feet or meaning to bend your knees outwards or meaning to have a big turn-out. ***

Your feet are still planted flat and both the insides AND outsides of your knees are working together.

What I want you to do now is to try moving around while keeping your knee on the outside line. Try to see how much more stable your knee can be when you prevent it from collapsing to the inside during certain movements. You may also notice that some of your favorite flashy footwork maneuvers can no longer be done because the knee is not as free to move around (I think this is a good thing). You might notice another new sensation…that when you try to keep your knee on the outside, it feels as though you might roll over the outside of your foot (as opposed to rolling over the inside of your foot like when your knee caves inwards).

This now takes us to absolute final discussion of the outside boot line: you have to unify the OUTSIDE OF YOUR KNEE with the OUTSIDE OF YOUR FOOT. So now when you step and move around, imagine yourself supporting and powering off with the outside of your foot and outside of your knee. Or better yet, the entire outside of your lower leg. This right here is basically what I mean when I say the “outside boot line”. You should feel a billion times more stable and powerful when moving around. This visualization works especially well for fighting because fighters are often in a more diagonal and somewhat sideways stance meaning most of their footwork will be some what of a side step and so they will need more support on the sides of their legs. Otherwise, they will collapse to the inside or outside.

Using the OUTSIDE BOOT LINE
means to use the outside of your knee and foot.

It’s isn’t really so much about using the outside line as it is to use your entire leg and foot. Most people use only the insides of the feet (and forget about the outside part) and then they let their knees cave to the inside.

All this explanation I’ve given about keeping the knees on the outside and using the outside of the foot, and keeping the lower leg unified, is really just to help you maintain alignment and integrity in the entire leg. And it’s especially hard to do this when you unknowingly disengage many parts of your body that are closest to the ground. Imagine how much harder it would be to bench press if you kept letting your elbows bend in an unsupported direction and also only grabbed the bar with the first two fingers instead of all five.

 

9. Keep your body on the BACK LINE

Never break the forward line with any part of your body. I refer to the “backline” as being the rear line of your body, where your spine is. And that you should always be on this backline and base your movements around it. You are always “BACK”. This is a really strange topic to think about because many people will do this correctly for the most part. It is only in select moments that people will break this rule and compromise their axis integrity.

The problem is that fighters are more focused with the front of their body than they are with the back of their body. (Think of “the front” as being the surface of your chest and “the back” as being the surface of your back.) And that when most fighters move, they only bring the front of their body (trying to pull their chest forward) and not so much trying to bring the back of their body (their spine). Basically, they are breaking their body into 2 pieces and only moving the front and not the back. Or they might move their body in a way that compromises the integrity of their backline. And this is a problem because your body is really where your backline is.

The body always stays in one piece. It’s funny to imagine that it’s even possible to move the front of your body without moving the back. I think the real matter has to do with visualization. If you don’t realize that your movements come from your backline, you might do something like try to go forward by pushing and pulling from the front of your body (like your chest) rather than trying to push and pull from the back of your body (your spine). I imagine that if you visualize all footwork and head movement and even punch maneuvers as a movement of the spine, you should notice an improvement in strength, speed, and coordination.

 

Pretend that you do not have a “front”.

I think the tendency to focus on the frontline comes from the defensive mindset in fighting. All attacks come from the front and so you’re so busy covering yourself that you want to cover your face, your chest, and your stomach. You’re visualizing that you are protecting the front of your body rather than the protecting the back of your body. What you don’t realize is that you’re actually protecting both. You have to protect your front surface from taking damage but also protect the back from losing balance. Maybe the next time you block a punch, imagine that the front of your body doesn’t exist, and that you are protecting your spine and the back of your ribs from taking damage. See if this visualization helps you. You will position yourself differently, move differently, and have better balance.

Pretend you are fighting from behind a shield,
and that you never leave the backline.

Pretend you are fighting from behind an imaginary wall. Or like you are a medieval spearman fighting from behind a shield and that you never let your body go past the shield. When you go forward, that shield comes forward, but you don’t extend past it. When you reach forward, reach with the back of your body. Try not to reach forward with the front of your body. (Of course, nothing is ever a permanent rule. You can totally “extend forward beyond the safety of your shield” as long as you have a strategic reason and intended purpose.)

Remember that your spine is at the back of your body, attached at the back of your torso and the back of your hips. If you try to fight using the FRONT of your body, you are essentially leaving your spine and “leaving your back line”, at which your muscles will strain (with unnecessary tension) and you will lose balance and power, it’s that simple.

 

10. Zoom out your vision

Visualize that your eyes are further back and seeing the whole body. This is a tip that I would use for any situation, not only for balance but for punching, counter-punching, fighting, everything in general. The problem happens when a fighter is staring too closely and his eyes are too focused in on only one area, such as the opponent’s face.

Instead I want you to imagine that your eyes are like the lens of a camera and that you zoom all the way out. So that you can see and have full awareness of your opponent’s entire body. You have to know that people naturally mirror each other. So if you only focus on your opponent’s head or upper body then you will only be aware of your own head and upper body. But if you are aware of your entire opponent’s body, then you will also be more aware of your entire body.

This full body awareness makes you that much more responsive. You can read his feints better because you can see that it’s only an arm commitment rather than a full body commitment. You can see him tilt his spine and it’s easier to tell when he’s about to slip or come in on you with an attack. Instead of seeing his punches come one at a time, you start to see his entire combination, and how the punches flow, his rhythm, and his overall intention behind the combination.

Becoming aware of your opponent’s entire body,
makes you aware of your own entire body.

 

Focusing too much on your hands can affect your awareness level.

I am in NO WAY directly advocating for boxers to drop their hands, but I have noticed that guys who tend to drop their hands are a bit more aware of their bodies in general. They have better balance, footwork, reaction time, and overall fighting and counter-punching ability. This is a case of the chicken or the egg, which one comes first? Lowering the hands or developing the skills that allows you to lower the hands (without consequences)?

I do feel the more athletic and naturally-gifted you are as a fighter the more comfortably you can drop your hands without getting caught. And I don’t feel that telling beginners to drop their hands will magically raise their fighting skills and reaction ability.

However I do notice that, again, many people naturally operate in terms of a mirror. And because they put so much focus on their hand positioning, they are only aware of the level around and above their hands. For example, there are beginners who are taught to keep their hands all the way up to the chin. All they focus on is from the chin level and up. It’s potentially harder for them to become aware of body shots and even harder for them to be aware of footwork and balance (whether their own or their opponents’).

But if you allow the same beginner to relax his hands a little bit, maybe spread them a little or drop them a tiny bit. Their center of gravity and also awareness seems to spread more throughout their entire body. They’re not so “UP” anymore in terms of awareness. It’s like they can see everything instead of only at the face level.

It’s up to you on how you want to interpret this advice. I’m not saying it’s good to drop your hands. I’m simply saying that you have to figure out a way to hold your hands that doesn’t limit your awareness to only the upper body.

High hands = upper level awareness
SLIGHTLY Lower hands = full body awareness

 

 

Connecting the Upper and Lower Body

Become one piece, not two pieces (upper & lower)

One the most natural and yet the hardest things to do is to connect your upper and lower body together in all movements. You have one body, and it functions as one piece. It is not “an upper part” AND “a lower part”; it is not two pieces. If you see it as two pieces, it will take you forever to learn how to move effectively since your mind has to be in two places at once and the moment you slack off in one area, your entire movement loses its effect.

When you walk, do you have to tell your legs to step forward and your arms to swing back and forth? I’m guessing you don’t because it’s so natural that you body moves together as one piece. All your boxing moves will have to become just as that natural “one-piece movement” if you want that amazing footwork and effortless punching power.

Never think upper and lower,
there is only one piece.

When I say “one piece”, it does not mean to move both upper and lower (everything) at the same time, it is one piece (one thing) at the same time. So you really have to act as though your body is only one piece. Remember that your weight hangs from your upper body. So you really can’t move the bottom without figuring what to do with your upper body while you do so.

This is part of the reason why I like to imagine my core as starting from the sternum level and everything hangs off of there. It’s help me visualize moving everything at the same time. I find that when I visualize my core as starting from that belly button area, it feels too much like an upper vs lower body and I feel like I have more things to think about.

 

Connecting the upper and lower body in a way that makes you more balanced, grounded, and powerfully mobile

Some visualization tips:

  • Think of your upper body as having to form a strong frame on which to hang the weight of your body. The frame has to stay aligned so that you can relax while releasing this weight.
  • Think of your lower body as having to hang in alignment from your upper body. And that your lower body is in perfect alignment when all joints are sitting on top of each other to maintain connection with the ground throughout your entire body.
  • Your upper body’s contribution to your whole body is to stretch out and relax in order to let the weight of your body hang downwards.
  • Your lower body’s contribution to your whole body is to connect to the ground by hanging downwards in alignment.
  • Your upper body draws your entire body upwards to create the perfect hanging post out of your entire body.
  • Your lower body draws your entire body downwards in alignment to connect with the ground.
  • Your upper body needs to create the perfect hanging angle.
  • Your lower body simply hangs.

The upper body needs to stretch upwards
while staying relaxed.
The lower body needs to hang straight and sit.

 

The delicate balance objectives for the entire body:

  • The body must align without tensing.
  • The body must relax without collapsing.
  • The body must align without losing balance or mobility.
  • The body must move without leaving alignment.

 

The origin of foot speed – WEIGHTLESS vs POWER

Why is foot speed a whole different world of its own?

Foot-speed is something I didn’t talk about very much in this article because it’s almost an entirely different world of technique from “balance and footwork”. I would dare say that it is an art in itself and not well understood.

When we talk about “balance and footwork”, we are talking about the axis and manipulating the axis of the body, center-of-gravity, and other balance-related terminology. But when we talk about foot-speed, we are talking only about the raw speed of how fast you can move your feet.

 

Becoming WEIGHTLESS vs Becoming POWERFUL

Many athletes nowadays think of foot-speed as being another method of moving the body. And the focus nowadays (as with many other aspects of body movement) is to become stronger and more powerful. I’m going to pick at the modern tendency to lift weights. Want to punch harder? Lift weights. Want to move faster? Lift weights. Resistance training is so often regarded as the cure to all problems that we never really get to see the many other methods out there.

One method of movement I want to talk about is the art of becoming weightless—the art of decreasing density. It is almost lost, forgotten, and abandoned in the search to become stronger and more powerful. Now this art isn’t about becoming stronger but boy, does it accomplish the same result if not even more so.

If you want to make something move faster, you have two choices: 1) become stronger, or 2) decrease the weight of that “thing”. The tendency nowadays is the first option. But the problem with this is that no matter how much more powerful you become, you will never be able to move that object as fast as if it weighed nothing. Some of you will then argue at this point, “But then why not do both?” And my answer is that if the object weighed nothing, then you will not need strength to move it. 🙂

Increasing foot speed requires
becoming more weightless, not more powerful.

I will leave you be to figure out this secret on your own. See if you can apply it to all your other movements. And perhaps in another time and place, I can revisit this topic and do a write-up that will make the legends proud.

 

The genetic freaks of nature.

To be truly comprehensive on the subject of balance and footwork, I have to talk about those with a natural balance advantage. Being that we are now studying the sources of good balance, I can’t help but come to the matter of genetic advantage. What is it that gives them such incredible balance?

 

Foot size

I’m in the camp that believes bigger, stronger feet, will give better balance and more freakish footwork ability. One of the guys with the best balance I’ve ever seen in the world has a freakishly BIG big-toe. His big toe is like twice the size of a normal person’s big toe (probably more). And not surprisingly, he can do 10 spins and many other kinds of footwork tricks. There is nobody else like him dead or alive that I have ever seen. And his foot speed is something you would have to see in person to truly appreciate.

I too, have very big and wide feet for my frame, and have been told before by some “body specialists” that it’s probably where all my punching power comes from (especially considering that I have a thin frame). Take it for what it’s worth.

 

Bone structure and hip turnout

People with more flexible hips (think of the ability to do the side splits) and can turn out their feet (like a ballet dancer) tend to have better balance and lower body mobility compared to those who don’t. I can’t explain the anatomical reasons behind it but basically having more turn-out and flexibility in your hips allows for a greater range of body positions and body mobility without losing structural integrity. It’s no surprise that many ballet and yoga exercises will target your hip flexibility.

Of course there is also the matter of bone structure. The way your spine is shaped. The way your knees are shaped. The more your bones and joints are in line with each other, the better your ability to balance and move will be.

 

Postural health (lifestyle) and body symmetry

The way that you live your life and your daily posture will greatly affect your body’s overall balance and mobility. Someone living in an active society, with lots of walking and physical exercise every day (like an agricultural society) will have a far better natural body posture compared to someone living in a more sedentary industrial society with less exercise built around their daily activities.

This is why somebody living in a developed nation can still exercise everyday and still not be as fit as someone growing up on a farm. What’s my advice for those living in developed nations? Stop sitting down so much, try to spend more time on your feet if you can. Be in positions that require an active body. If you have to sit down a lot for work, get up and stretch and move around often. Jump around, swing your limbs around, do weird movements with your body.

Moving your body in a wider variety of motions helps greatly to maintain overall body health and keep your muscles relaxed. It’s when you let your muscles fall into habitual patterns of movement or stay in the same positions for too long that you start to develop tension and muscular imbalances throughout your body. You may notice that those with the best body mobility tend to have more body symmetry.

 

Body awareness/sensitivity & technique

Those with heightened senses will have a major advantage in balance and body movement over those who do not. Quite often, we fall off balance because we do not realize when we start to fall off balance. Imagine if you were to stand straight up and slowly tilt to one side until you fall. An average person might requires a few degrees of imbalance and tense muscles before they realize they are off balance. A person with more heightened senses might actually be able to sense IMMEDIATELY as soon as their axis starts to leave it’s ideal position. They can feel the tension in their own body much sooner and they react quicker to prevent the imbalance.

Great technique and sensitivity go together hand-in-hand. Because great technique requires great sensitivity. You can only affect what you are aware of. And when you are aware of more, you can do more. It’s not only about knowing the right way but also knowing many ways to readjust your body and bring it back into alignment. Your body can fall off balance in many ways and with that, you will need to have many ways of realigning your body to regain balance.

Like in all things, great technique can overcome many advantages that your opponent might have. His legs may be stronger but your superior technique can render his leg strength useless. He might have great balance but you might know how to find the weakest joint in his body and take him off balance. He might even be heavier than you but you’ll know how to make him feel as though you are heavier than him.

You have to know that balance is always being tested. Having great balance means you know how to stay balanced when your axis is under pressure. Maybe your body is moving in many places or your opponent is pushing you from many angles. You need to have the sensitivity to know where to apply a counter-force to prevent yourself from falling over.

 

Things that DO NOT matter in balance and footwork

What are some things that surprisingly do not help balance and footwork? Explosive leg muscles. Seriously—being able to squat a thousand pounds is not going to help your balance or balance sensitivity. Or being bottom-heavy vs being top-heavy. You could have chicken legs and still have great balance, even though the opposite would probably be more preferred.

Being fat, or stocky, or short is also another overrated quality. I’ve seen many tall, skinny, or lanky guys with incredible balance. Sometimes I wonder if being tall is more of a balance advantage than we realize.

 

Balance Secrets from the future

To those who are ambitious enough to think beyond and look for more secrets to balance and body movement on their own. Here are a few concepts I will toss out there. Maybe this will get you started on thinking more on how to manipulate your own balance and movement.

  • The Invisible Core – changing the density of your core to make yourself easier or harder to move, making yourself lighter or heavier as needed.
  • The Imaginary Walls – we often try to move ourselves by pushing off the ground. What if we could create walls around us to help push ourselves off of?
  • CoG manipulation – raise or lower your body’s center of gravity. Bring it to one side or the other. Give yourself new angles from which to move your body or PREVENT your body from being moved.
  • The Mud vs the Tightrope – allow your body to become a heavy sludge connecting into the ground, or a strong beam solid above the ground. This is a leg tension strategy.
  • The Airwalk –  the art of changing weight in the air. Most people change weight when the free foot hits the ground. What if you were to change weight before that?
  • The Pendulum and Reverse Pendulum – your body either swings from a fixed point at the top or a fixed point at the bottom. Using this seemingly simple idea, create unlimited ways to move your feet or move your head.
  • The Late Flash – something needs to happen before your feet can move incredibly fast. So if your feet are the last to move, figure out what has to happen first.

I really appreciate you guys reading this. It’s been a really long and painful journey to get to this point and I’m really proud of the experiences and suffering I had to go through to acquire this knowledge. Even though I’m far from the best, I think there are so few people in the world who are on this level of body awareness and can articulate it in a way that can change anyone’s life. This article is my best stab at the matter. If you are really interested in reaching a higher and more superhuman level of balance and footwork, I urge you to take a look my course — Dancer’s Footwork for Fighters.

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59 Comments

Alex October 3, 2015 at 9:49 am

Thanks again for all your work on the website. I have a question.
When your in a fight, in your mind what as to be the main purpose ?

For during the fight it’s like :
« What punch or what combinaison should I throw next ? »
« Did I hurt him with my last punch ? »
« I’m gonna wait for a specific counter punch” 
« My jab does’t land I’m lost »
Or even sometimes « Why the hell I am doing that sport ? »

I doubt myself asking to many question and I don’t let the puches go naturally.

Reply

james mckay January 21, 2016 at 7:25 pm

how many fights have you have? took me 10 fights before I started feeling mentally calm during competition.

Reply

X October 5, 2015 at 3:57 pm

Hello Johnny,

thank you very much for your video’s and your writings. Love to watch and read all.
My trainers asked me how come I am pretty good in short time, but it is my secret. In my living room, behind my computer I imitate your YouTube boxing video’s. I watch myself in the refelction of my door. Only when I am alone offcourse 😉

Maybe one tip, sometimes I want to see what you do with your feet, if you on your toes or you boxing with flat feet. But I can not see.
So maybe can you place your camera little bit lower, just a few centimeters will be enough.
I would be very gratefull for it.

With kind regards,
X

Reply

Mike Leen February 24, 2016 at 7:00 pm

If you want to visually learn footwork, study the best-that is what Tyson did. Hard to argue with the results. Watch Marvin Hagler, Hector Camacho, and Sugar Ray Leonard.

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Rupert October 5, 2015 at 5:56 pm

Amazing stuff, really appreciate your wisdom and willingness to share, but most of all your commitment to this website and the art of boxing!

The longer I box, the more I understand the difference between B and C, your descriptions and exercises are really helpful for pushing that learning along.

Found your website and ideas really inspiring in the lead up to my first fight a few years back, love this advanced content post now — thanks again!

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Philippe R October 5, 2015 at 7:56 pm

Lots of things to think about. Ever since i started boxing (around 1 year ago), i always felt my footwork has been terrible. Reading this i can tell i’m prone to soften my movements, lean too much forward and bend my knees more than needed. That gives me a big hint of what i should work on next.

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Adam October 6, 2015 at 7:12 am

This was quite difficult to get my head around at first, but after reading over and over and practicing, it’s amazing how much of a difference it makes when you have awareness of these things! I started boxing about a month ago and since then I think I’ve read every single article on this site I’ve already been sparring for a couple of weeks but only light sparring and I want to learn everything and get into competition as soon as possible, so thank you as this site has helped me a hell of a lot. Also I have a question I’m 16 years old, 6ft and 138lbs so as you can tell I’m pretty tall and skinny haha. My coach always tells me to focus on my straight punches and use my reach to my advantage as I usually have longer reach than the guy I’m sparring with. I want to put some weight on though to build some natural power or it would it be better to stay at my current weight as I will probably have a big reach advantage?

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Raf October 6, 2015 at 9:52 am

This article is great but I feel like it would have been more helpful if you had pictures for people to see and visualise what you mean. Not trying to criticise just thought it could help a bit more.
Love the level of knowledge in this.

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Johnny N October 6, 2015 at 11:29 am

Thank you for the feedback, Raf. I decided against providing visual demonstration because I felt the topic was not meant to be understood by all. This is, after all, advanced information. Those who are at the right level to understand and utilize this information will be able to “get it” without me having to say very much. Those who aren’t ready to understand will only need more explanation after every explanation I give.

In other words, I honestly don’t feel the images will help you very much. At best, you will have images to look at but you won’t understand it any further than that. The real knowledge in knowing this is not in seeing the positions but feeling it in your body.

Besides, if you really REALLY want some instructional stuff that shows visual demonstration from beginner stuff up to advanced…I suggested at the end of the article to check out my course called “Dancer’s Footwork for Fighters”.

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Jamie October 7, 2015 at 12:20 am

Johny,

You certainly have body awareness. I think about my stance a lot, especially when I’m tired and trying to keep it tight when sparring. But the thoughts that run through my head seem elementary in comparison.

Hands up, elbows tight, chin tucked, knees slightly bent, feet shoulders width apart, toes pointing at target – that’s the checklist I’ve got in my head and it’s already enough to think of.

There’s no doubt your knowledge on balance and stance is valuable, but it’s a hell of a lot to consider. A good place to start for me would be with tip number ten. Zooming out to get a better perspective of my overall stance and surroundings would get me thinking more about my movements.

Also, for a skinny-ish guy, I also have abnormally wide feet lol. I hated it when I was younger but love it for the stable base it gives me when I’m fighting.

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Francesco October 7, 2015 at 1:58 am

Priceless information.
It’s impossible to estimate the value of this informations.
I take 4 hours to read it carefully and only god know how many hours i will take to absorb it.
I think this is your best article of this entire site.
Those information are not just for boxing, there are for posturing in ours entire life.
Many compliments for you Johnny.
Ciao from Italy.

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Warren October 8, 2015 at 11:17 am

When you read Johnny’s article in its entirety, you walk away with TONS of body awareness. Needless to say, I’ve become a lot more aware of bone engagement. Just the thought of me becoming my own energy-zapping opponent created a powerful visual that keeps me focused on bone engagement rather than muscle engagement. I’ve become far more aware of hip and knee positing, leg movement as a whole rather than in parts, shape of my breathing, etc. Johnny just added a boatload of challenge to my training! It’s not going to be easy to break ingrained habits.

At first I wondered if a video would help me grasp the points in Johnny’s article. But then I realized that body intuition cannot be illustrated via video demonstration. You either grasp Johnny’s ideas or you don’t. Grasping Johnny’s points depends on your ability to visualize and intuitively execute.

I saw a few intros to Johnny’s ‘Dancer’s Footwork for Fighters’ course and felt as though I’d never master the moves. It seemed far too complicated. Thus I didn’t seriously contemplate purchasing the course. Now I see the connection between complete body awareness as illustrated in Johnny’s article and the fluidity of a dancer. After all, there would be no fluidity without complete body awareness.

I am going to re-read Johnny’s article (it’s a complex animal!) and then click the buy button for ‘Dancer’s Footwork for Fighters’.

Continue to share your wisdom, Johnny!

Best regards,

An avid follower

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Johnny N October 16, 2015 at 4:00 pm

Thanks, Warren. Let me know when you get around to those crazy footwork drills. They’re intense. 🙂

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DJ October 9, 2015 at 5:06 am

I think B-Hop is also aware of this 🙂
Balance SCIENCE. Johnny, you the man!

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Gonzo October 9, 2015 at 5:45 pm

Thank you Teacher.
The Universe made you for this. I’ve been boxing for nearly three decades, sparring with World Champions, and finally learning from a true Sparring Master. Bruce Lee reborn. YouTube ‘Iron Ray vs Gonzo’ and put the volume up. A humble painting from two of your cyber roosters.

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Satty October 10, 2015 at 11:51 am

Johnny, I have been reading your articles for a while now and would just like to say I’m so impressed and humbled by your knowledge and the fact you share your ideas with us. I come from a boxing background primarily but have studied other arts like Muay Thai, Wing Chun and and can see similarities in your teachings especially in this article!

Once again thank you and God bless you my friend!

Satty.

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saber khan October 16, 2015 at 5:17 am

dude!

this stuff is for me right ?
come on man, I know it is. maybe not me alone, but your idea of leaving out the visuals tells me you decided to work some stuff for people on a different level. and there aren’t many of us, so thanks. we’ve been here a long long time.

thanks a lot coach, I didn’t go through it all but just jumped into the site and man it looks tasty. in fact, the invisible walls seems really intriguing. I can imagine the push off like effect to change direction in the air. to help going to the right. so you’d need to get your body leaning in the right direction with the core while weightless. but I’m stumped by the walls. cogs I get, getting the weight down by spreading the feet and the first tip in this article, hips and arch of foot in line. but yeah some stuff seems mysterious and inviting.

cant wait to go through this read and the next whatever’s coming. thanks a lot john.

now what about unveiling the greatest in angles and timing and control of distance ? that’s my game so when can we get into the super-detail-no-pictures will explain it side of that game ?

also, ive seen you put out some great effective feints info for beginners but you know a lot of those don’t work on experienced guys. when can we expect a treatise on all of feinting that you know? I don’t think anyone but Will Pep, Nicco Locche, George Benton and Benny Leonard could come close to a masterclass on feints. But I believe with your boxing brain you may have some gems in your bag of tricks

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Johnny N October 16, 2015 at 12:36 pm

Good hearing from you, Saber. May I ask about your comment…”Great effective feints for beginners…but don’t work on experienced guys”. Which ones are you referring to? The simplest stuff does indeed work…it’s a matter of execution and HOW you do it.

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Gil October 16, 2015 at 2:15 pm

Thanks again, Johnny..you never cease to amaze!

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October 17, 2015 at 1:33 pm

that why muhammad ali is agreated boxer

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DM October 18, 2015 at 8:37 pm

Hi Johnny,

I was wondering if you could do an article on Medicine Ball workouts since the Medicine Ball is a tool used in boxing. I’m using one for my Muay Thai training.

Thank you

DM

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Miguel Campaner October 22, 2015 at 6:00 am

Awesome post, Johnny! Very detailed and can be applied immediately. Will certainly have these in my mind when I go to the gym tomorrow.

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Johnny N October 23, 2015 at 12:10 pm

Awesome. I’ll be curious to know how it went for you. What things worked, what was hard to grasp, etc.

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Michael October 31, 2015 at 12:54 am

This website is very helpful. Thnx for makin it. 2 questions
1)Hiow can I determine proper weight class or classes? I’m about 5-8 if that matters.
2) How can I make a transition from football to boxing. I’m not sure if it’s is a big deal but I’ve played football since I was 9( I’m 15). ive been boxing in the offseason but decided to take it full time.Answers helpful

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Johnny N March 1, 2016 at 12:40 am

Get in the gym and start sparring with guys around your size. And see what weight class they compete in. You’re probably going to be somewhere close to there.

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Dave November 16, 2015 at 1:13 pm

Johnny first off, I want to thank you for creating an amazing educational resource for people who are passionate about LEARNING how to box. My question is related to stance and positioning. I am very stiff when I move. I have been described as a mummy lol. Is there anything I can do “loosen up” so to speak? What motions should I focus on to appear more fluid and less rigid? Thanks.

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Johnny N March 1, 2016 at 12:41 am

Strengthen your core muscles so you can release everything else. The problem is typically when people have a weak core (internal muscles) that they end up having to use their external muscles to for structural support. And it’s when your external muscles are holding rather than moving that you look “stiff”.

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Ariel December 16, 2015 at 6:52 am

Wow so much information, thanks bro!!

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Mohamed abdelfatah December 25, 2015 at 7:32 am

Thanks Johnny for this useful article and website I ‘ve learned alot from you ..please johny I have aquestion I train every day for 25 min jump rope and 15 min sand bag is that enough for amateur boxer or not enough ..thanks my friend

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alin December 26, 2015 at 1:27 pm

Johnny, please I need desperately an advise. I am naturally right handed. My left hand is very, very week, I barely can punch with it. The problem is that I got used to fight in southpaw. My good leg is the left one. Every time when I try to fight/train orthodox I can’t move on my feet, i can’t move my head and I can’t fight relaxed and I feel completely immobile with zero dexterity. Next week I will go for the first time in a boxing gym to train. Until now I only trained boxing in my home with my brother. My brother is doing boxing for many years, he is an amatuer. He told me that the coach will force me to fight orthodox. Is that true? And is there a problem if I refuse to fight orthodox though my right hand is much stronger and better?

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Michael LoSauro January 1, 2016 at 8:22 pm

Hello Mr. Nguyen (I need immediate help, please respond)
My name is Michael LoSauro. I am a 15 year old from Tampa,FL. And I am too a huge fan of the Rocky movies. That is what brings me to my topic. Rocky has really inspired, motivated, and convinced me to try to learn how to box and to maybe go somewhere with the sport. Football is my main sport though. Anyway, hey I know you are tired of giving beginner advance but I am I guess a beginner and have not tried to box but I really want to. The problem is that my parents (well just mainly my MOM) doesn’t not support me or will spend money on me learning to box and fight. So it is hard to attempt boxing as my Mom will not really support of it. I have a very busy schedule because I am a quadruplet with a total of 7 members in my family. I want to start and learn how to box but I do not know where to start. Like finding a reliable, quality, and credible gym with great trainers who ware dedicated and know their “stuff.” And such as what equipment to buy, and what drills can I do and what routine should I start etc etc. To the point I really want to get into boxing.
But I have way to many questions to ask. Like, what are some drills I can do, how to find the right gym without it being too expensive. I really want would love to get into the sport. Like I said I have way too many questions to fit on here. I’ve looked at the site, and cannot find your email. I do not know if you are comfortable with giving out your email and that you are extremely busy, but I would be honored and grateful if you can help me out and really guide me through the process such as more advice. Sorry for boring you and please respond. I need you. GOD BLESS- Michael.

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ghost January 8, 2016 at 11:30 pm

Hi john everyones wonder whats happening to the website why didnt you add any new post or videos by last couple months?please response soon so we know what is going on . hope you are ok

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Johnny N January 9, 2016 at 3:53 pm

Hi my friend, I’ve been prioritizing other things going on in life. All is well and I’ve got some huge things going on for ExpertBoxing. You will find out about it this year! 🙂

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ghost January 9, 2016 at 11:15 pm

happy days man 😉 looking forward to it . im an amateur boxer witch the record 20-2-0 and love every single artictle from your website also i use that certainly to correct my own mistakes . i had lot of people wonder what is happening as well . anyway most important thing that you are coming back sooner or later witch new things so can not wait what hapoen now ;)take care my friend

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Johnny N February 5, 2016 at 6:53 pm

Great record you have there. I have more stuff on the way. It’s a lot of work and very time consuming but it is coming. It’s going to be a premium product. 🙂

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ghost January 10, 2016 at 3:16 am

especially all thoose guides and videos about breathing for explosive movments . people may not understand why you put so much pressure on breathing but half of them doesnt realize they can not do it proply . keep it up

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ben February 4, 2016 at 1:58 pm

Johnny where are you? 2016 needs you 🙁

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Johnny N February 5, 2016 at 6:52 pm

Working on some new stuff, my friend. 🙂

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Bob February 18, 2016 at 6:49 pm

This has nothing to do with that article but when you punch into the air are you supposed to feel like it is a strong punch. When I punch into the air my punch looks fast but I worry if I have the power behind it or not. One more thing thank you for all your years of hard work with all these articles I appreciate them all and have to read them carefully to get all the points because your articles are bs free and show that you have great wisdom in experience in the field of boxing. Thanks once again.

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Johnny N March 1, 2016 at 12:42 am

Don’t try to feel the power at the end of your fist. Instead, try to feel the power from within you, inside your core.

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Harris February 19, 2016 at 8:06 am

Hey Johnny,

First of all, I’d like to say great article! You seem to know your stuff.

My question is: Say you want to train boxing and want to have the most powerful punches, is it OK to do 5×5 or other strength training programmes to get you to your desired muscle mass and strength before you start doing bodyweight exercises and training for boxing such as press ups and sit ups? Wouldn’t this give you an advantage rather than starting boxing training skinny?

Thanks again for this amazing website.

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Johnny N March 1, 2016 at 12:43 am

Many of the best fighters you’ll see in the gym are skinny. The sport favors thin long-armed guys, especially in the amateurs.

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Remi February 27, 2016 at 6:08 am

Hey Johnny,

First of all, thank you verry much for sharing so much information about boxing in all your articles.
I have been reading your site for quite a while now. Meanwhile boxing each week and feeling my self become better. This is the 2nd time i read this article, the only difference being that the first time it was to much for me to handle. Now that i got my self on a higher level i feel that i am ready for the next step to focus on the points you listed in this article. It also makes much more sense now and i think it will help me greatly to improve even more. I will also share this site with the people i box with. They will love it!

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Johnny N March 1, 2016 at 12:45 am

Hey Remi. Thanks for the feedback and good on you for reading this again! This particular article is indeed very hard to digest for many but this is a reflection of the time I spent learning rather than a reflection of your ability. Good luck and have fun out there.

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Bob March 2, 2016 at 6:14 pm

Ok

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Bob March 2, 2016 at 6:15 pm

So that means I should feel it in my core when I punch than?

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Johnny N April 5, 2016 at 10:47 am

You should always feel it in your core when you do anything. Do keep in mind, we are talking about the deeper core muscles here, the internal ones (like the psoas and transversus abdominis), not the external (the six pack).

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DANO April 1, 2016 at 6:35 am

Johnny, I’ve been reading your website and watching your videos for more than a year and I really thank you for the daily effort you put in to help the boxers from all over the world. There is priceles information on this website.

I’ve got one question: how do you train your chin and jaw? Could you make an article Jaw & Chin Conditioning or at least give some advice? I’d really appreciate it.

Thank you in advance.

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Johnny N April 5, 2016 at 10:48 am

Conditioning the jaw and chin is not something I have too much experience with as I was born with a good chin. There are some neck and jaw exercises I’ve seen guys do in training and in warm-up before sparring/fighting. I have a little article here: http://www.expertboxing.com/boxing-basics/boxing-tips/boxing-tip-6-warm-up-your-jaw

As for neck exercises, you can look them up on Youtube.

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Fabian April 1, 2016 at 10:36 am

Really impressed by this one, love your stuff generally speaking, but seriously I have been in the game for 20 years as an amateur and I do have a very good balance overall and love the nerdy aspects of theory….but this one….pushes it very far!!!!! I see what you are talking about when I read it but it never occurred to me to theorize it in such a detailed way. You blow everyone’s mind.

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Johnny N April 5, 2016 at 10:45 am

Thank you, Fabian. It is indeed really dense material. I appreciate the feedback coming from the veterans.

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Leonard April 20, 2016 at 9:52 am

Hey Johnny, my Son is 12 years old, and just started training for boxing. I support him 100%! We are so glad that we found you and your wealth of information. Thank you. I’m actually listening to an old podcast that you did on the coach Jeff podcast show, as I write this message. I wanted to know if you do any personal training, or can recommend any boxing gyms in the L.A. – O.C. – Inland Empire area? My Son currently trains at the Warzone boxing club in Rancho. Thanks again Johnny

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Johnny N May 11, 2016 at 8:07 pm

Hi Leonard, happy for you and your son. There are so many great gyms in LA, you just have to step in and see which culture you like. Wildcard is good for sparring, can be way too crowded in there. For more low-key places, Goosens or Outlaws is nice. I do offer personal training but not often.

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Sebastian June 1, 2016 at 12:59 pm

Thanks for your “10 advanced secrets to balance and footwork” article! its insanely valuable. Especially your concept of bone awareness. It’s something I’ve never heard of, still it makes so much sense to me!

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DC Thunder June 23, 2016 at 9:53 pm

Hey Johnny, I was just wondering what your career has been? amateur/pro record etc?

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shahrokh October 13, 2016 at 5:16 am

hello Johnny. how can I strength core muscles?.thank you

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gary October 20, 2016 at 9:30 pm

Johnny,

Watching with intent, in training for a White Collar fight at the ripe old age of 47 (former UK military man with excellent fitness levels) your articles and video have been a big help thus far, this one about knee bends is really interesting as I was finding that I was using a lot of energy moving around the ring/gym with too much bend in knees. Your method seems to work for me, les energy burnt through muscle use.

Cheers

G

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Johnny N October 21, 2016 at 8:57 pm

Very happy for you, Gary. SOOOOO many guys do it.

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Paul February 25, 2017 at 1:25 pm

Can’t thank you enough for this website Man ! you never fail to amaze me with the content and explanation of that content . . . you have opened my eyes and helped bigtime with my punching progression. I train Wing Tsun but all applicable to our traditional and modern training, bone structure being fundamental to Wing Chun. Haven’t finished reading this article yet, lots to digest and blown me away! gonna finish in morning and save for future reads…thanks again Man and keep on Punching ! 😉

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