There is something noticeably different about boxers that frequently shadow box in their training, and those that don’t. The sense of calmness and comfort that exuberates from the movement of those that often shadow box seems to set in as naturally as breathing. On the other hand, a fighter that lacks shadow boxing in their training routine steps into the ring full of nerves, anxiousness and excitement. Their fight mode has often been switched on to the extreme to offset nerves. Mid fight, panic mode sets in, creating an unnatural look to their movement in the ring.
There is something to be said about the classic shadow boxing movement. The raw exercise of moving the body like a boxer is one of the oldest, most versatile training techniques for improving boxing abilities. It’s the practice of committing repetitive boxing movements into one’s muscle memory, developing a sense of naturalness that allows for relaxation, balance, comfort and efficiency in the ring. The practice of shadow boxing creates such a strong sense of calmness in boxers, that their ability to intimidate opponents through sheer composure pre-fight increases tenfold.
Shadow boxing allows boxers to practice drills and defend against an imaginary attacker, implanting footwork and dodging drills and techniques as initial instinct. The concentration and alertness required to shadow box conditions the brain and muscle memory to react in specific and strategic ways, over and over again.
This effective training technique is incredibly versatile as it can be practiced anywhere, anytime, allowing instant feedback from mirrors or coaches. Watching yourself shadow box in the mirror is fundamental, as it shows you the strengths and weaknesses of your technique. You will visibly see if your punches are off target, if you leave your head open, bend your knees enough going for a body shot, and the effectiveness of your slips. You will see yourself from the same eyes as your opponent, recognising where your technique needs to improve before entering the ring.
The freestyle nature and simplicity of shadow boxing makes it a harmless practice, as you won’t be physically punished for making mistakes. Although the predictability of shadow boxing with yourself may render the practice unrealistic compared to a real fight, it’s an important technique to develop a relaxed, natural movement in the ring.
Try this simple shadow boxing exercise to gain a better understanding of your boxing technique. Visualise yourself standing opposite an opponent. Imagine your opponent throwing punches and jabs, and begin moving around, punching and defending against your opponent’s moves. Using your boxing technique to react against your opponent will embed your practice into your brain that much quicker by visualising specific detailed scenarios and responding without hesitation.