Thoughts on Coaching Tools: Shadow Sparring, #2

In my post „Thoughts on Coaching Tools: Shadow Sparring„, I mentioned my growing enthusiasm when it comes to shadow sparring.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve really come to love this simple yet immensely effective form of training. Not only has shadow sparring become a staple exercise in my own training (I’m currently preparing for two full-contact tournaments in november), I also have my advanced students shadow-spar a lot. The practice of shadow sparring just comes with so many benefits, it’s hard to cover them all. Most important for weekend-warriors and recreational-sports types, however, is the fact that you don’t really need to hit the gym in order to shadow-spar On a nice day, you can take your training to the park, on a bad day you might even just work out at home, depending on the size of your living room.

Now while shadow sparring in itself is a blast already, I feel that even more benefits can be reaped from this form of training by applying the following trick. Instead of just throwing the same strikes and combinations over and over again, try focussing on a soecific task each round. To make things easier for you, I’ll give you three sample routines you can follow, each one specifically tailored to help you work on a particular quality: technique, tactics or endurance. In order to keep the posts to a manageable length, this installment will come in 3 parts. Today, I’ll provide you a plan for technical shadow sparring. When training with Peter Zaar, the german national light-contact kickboxing, I did a lot of what you’ll read in a moment, both as shadow sparring and with a partner. I’ll add some video footage, but most of the stuff is pretty self-explanatory, anyways.

Technical Shadow Sparring for Kickboxing

Goal: improve technique, work on combinations
Duration: 10 rounds á 2 minutes, 1 minute break in between rounds
Use the time in between rounds for some light stretching.

Round 1: Stepping, evasive action and blocking. Basically this first round is all about movement. Keep your guard up, bob, weave, slip, step – do everything you’d do in sparring, with the exception that you don’t punch or kick. The goal here is to improve your footwork (which is all too often overlooked) and get your body up to working temperature. Incorporate stepping techniques for various distances, adjust your guard according to the distance you’re currently working.

For example, if you focus on a short-to-medium boxing distance, your steps should obviously be small and frequent. Your upper body ought to be moving all the time, your guard is high and close to the head.On the other hand, if you’re working a long kicking distance, your guard can be lower, your stance is probably deeper. In this distance, steps are bigger and less frequent.

Play with different distances and strategies, all without actually striking. Personally, I feel that this is where a lot of otherwise technically strong fighters fail. It is the control of distance, rythm and timing that really makes up the essence of the human game of chess we refer to as ‚fighting‘.

Round 2: Same as round #1, but add jabs. Throw single jabs, multiple jabs, doublettes, whatever. Pay attention to the interplay of stepping, evading and striking. In this round, you’ll be throwing only jabs, so you don’t get distracted by technique selection. Visualize standard situations such as a defensive opponent (whom you’d hammer with jab combinations), an offensive opponent throwing lots of jabs (some of which you counter, the rest you just block and evade) and so on. No punch should be out of context.

Round 3: Same as round #2, but add all lead hand strikes. So basically what you’ll do is throw jabs, lead hooks and lead uppercuts, preferably stringed together in combinations. Focus on proper footwork, always keep your rear hand up so as not to expose your head.

Round 4: This time, it’s free boxing. You may now throw the „big three“ (i.e. jab/cross, hook, uppercut) from both the lead and rear hand, along with every possible combination. Although we’re not looking at many different techniques here, the endless number of combinations can be overwhelming at first. Instead of getting carried away by the large number of possible attacks that are now to your disposal, keep your attention on the basics: footwork, evasive action and blocks. Those make up your foundation. All your strikes should be fired from a stable foundation – if your striking technique is superb yet you get knocked out after 20 seconds because your foundation is weak, all your training was in vain.

Round 5: Back to the lead – however, this time you’ll implement lead hand strikes as well as lead leg kicks. Again, cycle between different distances and choose your techniques accordingly: side kicks and push kicks for the long distance, jabs and roundhouse kicks on a medium distance, hooks and uppercuts on a short distance. When throwing combinations, alternate between a punch-kick-punch and a kick-punch-kick pattern.

Round 6: Things don’t change dramatically – the only real difference between round #5 and round #6 is the introduction of the rear hand. You’re almost doing free kickboxing, with the exception that you’re not using any rear leg kicks. Do not forget the foundation you’ve focused on in the first couple of rounds. Again, all your strikes should be exectued from a technically sound base. Never lose balance, never compromise your fighting stance. Pay attention to your center of gravity, your guard and your footwork. Never forget those are the things that really matter.

Round 7: Almost there. You’re free to throw any kick or strike you wish. The only limitation I’ll place on this round is the governing strategy: initiate every action by punches and finalize with a kick. Experiment with combinations for different situations (offensive, defensive, various distances, …).

Round 8: Just like round #7, only this time you’ll start your actions by throwing a kick, then follow up with punches.

Rounds 9 & 10: Free kickboxing. Still, stay focused and pay attention to a solid foundation. Try to implement everything you’ve done so far.

Et Vóila, here we are, after only 30-40 minutes of training, depending on the length of your warmup. Personally, I tend to start out slowly and use the first couple of rounds as warmup. In the next installment, I’ll cover the tactical aspects of shadow sparring. Until then, try the above routine and post your feedback in the discussion section below!

So long,

take care

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