MMA Training Tip – Shadow Boxing (With a Partner)


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Shadowboxing can be difficult, frustrating and awkward  for new students to perform. It can be very tough for a beginner to fire their  punches in the right places or stay in a strong fighting stance because their lack of experience makes it very difficult for them to properly visualize an opponent in front of them.

Shadowboxing –or shadowfighting which I sometimes call it because of the kicks, take down entries, sprawls that I execute in addition to the punching– is one of the most useful training drills in a fighters –for both beginners and advanced students– workout routine. It promotes technical proficiency, is excellent for conditioning and is an efficient way for a fighter to perfect their attacks before entering the heat of battle that sparring or actual competition is.

One way that I find will help you feel more comfortable shadowboxing is by doing the exercise with a partner. In this article I’ll show you how to do this and I’ll also share a few drill variations for any advanced martial artists that are looking to add more challenge, effectiveness and excitement to their workouts.

Here we go!

1) Stand facing one another in your fighting stances with a decent amount of distance between each of you. Ideally you and your partner should be able to punch, knee and kick with no chance of connecting with any part of the others body. This is very important! A collision of fists or legs could cause serious injury to one or both of you so be sure to  maintain around an eight foot separation between you both at all times.

2) Set the timer –usually for 2,3,4 or 5 minutes depending on your skill and endurance levels- and start the round. At first remain in place and work your techniques from one spot on the floor using your partner’s position to help you visualize your targets. Avoid the urge to move forward as you strike and make sure your partner does the same. Simply run through the variety of techniques you know well or any new ones that you have been working on. Repeat the drill for a minimum of three rounds using the same duration for each and give yourself a 30 seconds to 1 minute rest between each round.

3) Once your comfortable with #2, do the exact same drill except add some footwork this time. Each of you should move from left to right or vice versa as you fire off punches, kicks and knee strikes. Continue to avoid moving forward because that will only put you in danger of colliding with your partner’s fist, foot or knee.  As your partner moves around be sure to maintain a solid fighting stance that’s angled as if you were actually fighting against them.

4) Alright, so now you’ve gotten comfortable with the drill both while standing still and with some footwork added in. Next, incorporate some defensive techniques in reaction to your partner’s attacks. If they jab, pick it. If they low kick, check it and so on. Remember that it’s never a real block because your partner should still be standing more than 8 feet away from you. It’s really just you timing your shadow fighting defensive move with their shadow fighting offensive attack. Be sure to throw a follow up combination after your defensive maneuver so that your chances of doing so in actual sparring will be much greater over time as you continue to practice this drill.

5) Lastly, lets make this drill a little more MMA styled. Anytime you or your partner touches the ground with you back knee –and holds it there– the other person must perform a sprawl motion as if someone had just shot in for a take down on them. If it’s you that dropped the knee, wait until your partners sprawl is complete before standing up again to resume your shadow fighting. Be sure that you have your partner sprawl regularly throughout the rounds, often at times when they are in the midst of an striking combination so that they can hone their reaction skills in a very realistic way.

Okay, so now you have it, the partner shadow boxing drill. It’s up to you to get in the gym and put it into action. I wouldn’t do it all the time because it’s still very important to develop your solo shadow boxing ability but it’s a great way to change things up whenever you feel like it.  Be sure to share to share the drill with others you think might benefit and enjoy it.

Have fun and good luck!

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