Shadow boxing has been used as a training method by boxers for over a hundred years. The reason why it has lasted so long is because it works. It provides fighters with many benefits with virtually no bad side effects.
Martial artists may also benefit from using shadow boxing since shadow boxing drills help improve sparring techniques. The following drills were developed to teach shadow boxing skills to inexperienced students as well as to improve the skills of more advanced students.
Footwork is a common weakness in many students. Students should be comfortable moving in all directions: forward, backward, side-to-side, circular, and angular, and these movements must be accomplished while maintaining proper balance and form. The following are some drills used to better the footwork of students.
- In the first drill, the instructor calls out the direction of movement while the class responds by moving in unison, always staying relaxed and aware. The commands must be given with only short pauses between them so continuous movement is maintained.
- The next drill combines footwork with well executed strikes. While moving around, a good fighter must always be prepared to take advantage of openings by being able to fire the appropriate hand or leg technique. This may be drilled by calling out techniques while students are moving at random.
- The next drill adds combinations. Students should be drilled until they become accustom to throwing various hand and foot combinations while moving. The drill may be performed using either pre-arranged combinations or with random combinations put together by the students. The combinations are executed while continually moving, using random footwork.
- The next drills add a visual stimulus. Up to this point, the various movements were being called out. Learning to respond quickly to visual, rather than audio stimulus, is a more useful skill in sparring. In these drills, the first three drills may be repeated working with a partner.
To work on footwork, one partner is deemed the leader, the other the follower. The footwork of the follower is dependent on the movements of the leader. In other words, the follower attempts to maintain a constant distance between him or herself and the partner. If the leader moves forward, the follower must move back. If the leader moves back, the follower must move forward. Side to side and angular movements should also be used.
To add strikes, the leader simply opens a target area for his partner to strike. This works best if the targets are made obvious by exaggerated movements of the leader. The strikes may be prearranged or mixed up at random.
Students should continually strive to increase the speed and accuracy of their techniques while performing these drills. An improvement in coordination will be felt by the students after just a few rounds of these shadow boxing drills. Another benefit is the cardio vascular workout provided by extended rounds of shadow boxing. The greatest advantage that shadow boxing has over other types of sparring drills is that it may be performed solo. This permits students to improve their sparring skills at home without having to find training partners.
At home, students may stand in front of a mirror and shadow box themselves. Adding music keeps the drills from becoming boring.