Why a Boxing Stance is Fundamental
Boxing is a sport of fundamentals, and the better your fundamental approach the more likely you are to be successful at it. This includes your stance, which can be thought of as your base in that in addition to literally connecting you with the ground, it is also where your power, speed and agility come from.
Think about it: you can be as wicked-strong as a bear, though without a solid platform, your punches will be weak and ineffective, and your footwork slow and ill-timed.
Even so, developing a stance isn't so much a matter of following a set format in foot placement, etc. as it is finding the stance which works best for you. This may sound confusing in that the term "fundamental" suggests a standard, set approach which fits anyone participating in the sport. However, your stance needs to be personalized to fit your posture, height and strength so that it is the best stance for you and you alone, which takes some time and work to develop.
Just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, a boxer is only as strong as their stance. This of course means that strengthening your stance strengthens your whole game.
For instance, the right stance helps increase the reach and power of your punches, keeps you well-balanced and in position to strike quickly, and allows for optimum foot speed.
The right stance also increases your arsenal of punches while limiting your vulnerability against your opponent's punches by keeping your footwork solid and well-balanced.
However, the key words here are "right stance for you," which means not just mimicking your favourite fighter, but instead, putting in the time and work to develop yours.
Finding Your Stance
The stance which best fits your needs will be based on a few things such as your height, reach, foot speed and agility.
However, while it needs to be customized to fit your personal traits and style, the best place to start is with these standard guidelines:
- Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly flexed
- Keeping both feet parallel, shift one foot in front of the other far enough to have firm balance while being able to throw a solid punch off your back foot
- Your forward foot needs to be on the opposite side as your dominant hand
- Keep your weight balanced 50-50 on both feet
- Raise the heel of your back foot while keeping weight on its toes to "squish the bug" and be ready to pivot
- Raise your fists in front of your face so they are just above chin height with palms facing in and your knuckles pointed upward. Do this while keeping your hands level and your elbows tucked in at your sides
- This is your primary defensive position as well as your base to punch from.
- Rule #1 is to ALWAYS return your hands to this defensive position after throwing a punch. If you forget this rule—which, quite frankly, most beginners will—you will be reminded of it by the ringing in your head from the punches your opponent just landed. Somebody get the phone!
- Rule #2 is to follow rule #1, no matter what
Remember that your back foot is the one providing punching power and will be determined by your dominant hand. For instance, if you are left-handed (southpaw), your back foot will be your left foot. Likewise, if you are right-handed (orthodox), your back foot will in turn be your right foot. This is critical in maximizing your punching strength and mobility and should never be altered.
Taking your Time
The next part of finding your ideal stance is patience, and you should consider your stance a work in progress as you continue developing your other skills and strengths. Your stance is also personal enough that you need to avoid mimicking your favourite fighter, no matter how much you like their style.
This is because you have your own individual strengths, weaknesses and physiology to work from, and it is unlikely that another fighter will have your exact skillsets and needs.
One of the best tools you can use while working on your stance (other than a skilled trainer) is a full-length mirror. This enables you to see what you are doing wrong so that it can be corrected before it becomes muscle memory and is much harder to correct. This means catching yourself dropping your hands or seeing mistakes you are making with balance and form, along with some other mistakes often made by beginners.
There are some other common mistakes made by beginners. Avoiding and correcting them as you train will help solidify your stance by removing their influence, thus helping you becoming a better combat athlete.
Common mistakes include:
- Standing with your shoulders square to your opponent, which gives them a larger target to hit
- Being "out on your front foot," or having too much weight on your front leg. This takes away your punching power, which is generated from your back foot
- Misaligning your front and back foot which reduces your balance and mobility
- Being "flat-footed" rather than light on your feet. Yes, this does give you a solid base to punch from--IF you can get a punch in while your opponent pummels you
- Not returning your hands to the defensive position or dropping them below your chin. In either case, refer to rules #1 & 2 after picking yourself up from the mat
Finally: It's A Work in Progress
Now that you know the fundamentals of your stance, you can begin the tinkering process.
Are you popping the heavy bag harder when you move your back foot forward an inch? Great, solidify it with muscle memory!
Does standing up straighter mean you have to stand closer to your target for solid contact? Okay, reducing the reach of your punches isn't going to win any matches, so let's stick with a crouch.
The thing is, take the time to experiment and see what the results are and incorporate what works while avoiding what doesn't. Shadow boxing in front of a mirror and working with your trainer are two of your best resources in finding your stance, although as with so many other aspects of becoming a better combat athlete: think of it as a work in progress, and never be satisfied!