A quick rundown of the 6 boxing defense techniques. Footwork, blocking, parrying, rolling, slipping, and countering! Learn how each defensive technique is used, their advantages and disadvantages. I list some examples of how they might be effective or ineffective in fighting situations.
1a. Footwork (GOING AWAY)
Quite possibly the best defensive technique ever invented. (Haven’t you ever heard the best self-defense technique is to run?) Why bother learning how to slip or roll under punches when you can run away? The problem is that you can’t attack when you’re running away. Or at least if you want to counter, you have to spend tremendous amounts of energy to bring yourself back into range again to fire counters. So basically running is easy to do and very effective but there’s little option to counter. This is probably why so many guys start running when they know they’re up on the scorecards.
- moving away is the easiest way to avoid getting hit (complete evasion)
- avoids anything and everything
- great way to frustrate opponent, tiring him out by making him hit air
- works well against slower, heavy-footed opponents
- moving the body takes a lot of energy
- hard to counter (or slow to counter)
- moving the body can be slow
- you can lose fight decisions for not showing aggression
1b. Footwork (GOING AROUND)
Pivots, side-steps, lateral movement. Great for moving away from a punch while still keeping yourself in range to counter. Good stuff, very effective in theory but not efficient and definitely not sustainable over the long run. Sure you can pivot around a punch or two here and there but it takes too much energy to move your entire body when your opponent is only moving his arm. You end up committing more energy which only pays off if you land deadly counters. Nonetheless, moving around your opponent is a great way to use angles and to simultaneously attack and defend. When you work hard to get into range, good technique will help you stay in range without getting hit.
- moving around creates great angles
- sometimes only way to escape bad positions (like against the ropes)
- works well against slower, heavier-footed opponents
- risky if you get caught while moving (requires skill to evade at close range)
- hard to punch while moving
- still uses some energy
1c. Footwork (GOING FORWARD)
Smothering is a classic way to avoid punches. Instead of stepping away and being too far, now you step forward and get too close. If you’re able to get close, see if you can get on top of your opponent. Try to project your chest onto your opponent’s head and crush him to keep him from exploding back at you with punches. There’s no easier way to take away your opponent’s weapon by grabbing his arm.
- great for neutralizing opponents’ punches
- clinch/tire out small guys
- keeps you in range of tall guys
- push opponents around (push them off balance or move them around)
- tire out weak-legged guys by making them move
- can get out-clinched or outworked on the inside if opponent is better inside fighter
- can be tiring against well-grounded opponents
- fighters using dirty tactics (head butts, low blows)
- might walk into punches
This is your basic boxing defense. Blocking is the easy way to defend without taking yourself out of range. Requires little energy and little skill. If you really think about it, blocking is not your first defensive skill-it’s your first COUNTER-OFFENSIVE skill. Simply cover your vulnerable areas, don’t try to “catch” the punch, fire back after you block.
Blocking covers both head and body and doesn’t leave you open to follow up punches. There are several drawbacks, mainly that it’s slow to counter (because hands are busy blocking) and also that you still absorb partial damage. Blocking is not very helpful for closing distance against longer armed opponents that can push you back, or defending against bigger opponents who can still hurt you through your guard, or faster opponents who retract their arms before you counter. Blocking too much can leave you stuck in your defensive shell and lose decisions for not showing aggression.
- effective against all punches
- easy (doesn’t require much skill, energy, reflexes)
- completely closed up
- great for all but the heaviest punches
- safe way to fight for fast punchers (block & counter)
- safe way to fight at close range
- easiest way to defend body punches
- good defense for jabs (most common boxing attack)
- requires high energy/high speed to counter (slow to counter…arms used as defense)
- can be trapped in a shell
- take partial damage (not effective against bigger or more powerful opponents)
- not recommended against opponents that use long arms or volume to keep pushing you back
- hard to counter against faster opponents that retract their arms fast
- hands sometimes block vision
It’s like a block but you’re slightly deflecting your opponent’s punch away with your hand. A small carry can take the power of your opponent’s hardest punches, whereas a big parry can guide your opponent off balance and vulnerable using his own momentum. At some point all your blocks should be made with a slight parrying motion to blunt the hardest punches.
The parry is a great way to wear out your opponents by using their momentum against them. It works best against guys that take more energy to commit to their punches, especially power punchers and long-armed punchers. The power punchers are always committing tremendous body force which is an opportunity to parry their punch and create openings for your counters. Long-armed punchers are especially vulnerable to parry since they have take longer to retract their punches. By making them miss and parrying their punches you will tire out their long arms faster.
The drawbacks to the parry is that it doesn’t work well against light punchers (that use no momentum) and also against curved punches. There is also a risk of leaving yourself vulnerable to fakes if you’re trying to parry a punch.
- great for power punches
- great for straight punches
- great for long punches
- great for push punches (body weight committed)
- create vulnerability for counters, make them off balance or slow down arm recovery
- tiring opponents, especially long-armed opponents and power-punchers
- useful for long-armed fighters that can hold their hands out while their head is out of reach
- useful for shorter fighters to deflect punches as they get inside
- ineffective against fast/light/non-committed punches
- doesn’t work against curved punches
- not always effective against combination punchers
- can leave you open if you get faked
- hard to do at close range
- still a tiny bit slow for countering the fastest punchers because hands are still used for defense
- not particularly helpful against body punches
The shoulder roll is naturally the next step up from the parry technique. Instead of deflecting punches with your hands, you use your body now. The shoulder roll is incredibly effective because your body can roll off your opponent’s best shots with ease while keeping your hands free to counter faster. The shoulder roll relies on rhythm for defense and effectively neutralizes entire combinations at even close range.
The drawback to the shoulder roll is that it is ineffective against smaller, faster shots like the jab–which are thrown the majority of the time. The shoulder roll can also leave you highly vulnerable to a punch if you get faked and/or roll in the wrong direction.
- effective and easy against multiple punches
- great for power punches
- frees up the hands for faster counter punching
- covers both head and body easily
- can work when blind or off-balanced
- will deflect power even when punches land
- save shoulder energy & gives tricky counter angles (when done with front arm down)
- ineffective/unnecessary against weak punches (like jabs)
- less effective in cross-stance match-ups (southpaw vs orthodox)
Slipping is the most skillful defensive boxing technique. It requires complete evasion of the punch by displacing the head or body to one side, USUALLY by going to the outside of the oncoming punch. It is incredibly effective in that the opponent misses entirely and your hands (and body) are completely free to counter or escape.
The drawbacks to slipping is that it requires very high skill and awareness to pull off successfully. It’s not enough to avoid the punch, you have to be in position to counter immediately since it isn’t realistic (energy-wise) to slip entire combinations. Should you make any mistake during slipping, you will take a direct hit.
Slipping is the best way (sometimes the only way) to counter against really fast opponents. Sometimes it’s the only way to close distance against a taller opponent, or escape off the ropes. The drawbacks to slipping is that it’s very hard to use against body punches and fast volume punchers that throw many sharp fast punches. Slipping can also be very tiring mentally and physically to do throughout and entire fight and leaves you especially vulnerable if you’re faked out.
- hands and body completely free to counter instantaneously
- creates huge vulnerabilities in opponent (he is wide open during missed punch)
- avoid punch entirely, no contact (assuming successful slip)
- create escapes (great way to escape when trapped in the corner)
- allows you to come forward while defending
- can be done with arms down (preserving shoulder muscles)
- complete evasion easily breaks your opponent’s punching rhythm (combo-breaker)
- requires great skill
- highly vulnerable if caught
- highly vulnerable if faked
- not recommended against multiple punches (very hard and/or tiring)
- not really possible against body punches
Yes, offense (or counter-offense) is the best defense. See if you can evade your opponent’s punch by landing one of your own. Maybe your punch cuts straight up the middle intercepting his, or maybe your punch pulls your head out of the way of his punch. If you really think about it, all defense techniques are simply a way of getting you in position to counter–but if you can counter right off the bat, that’s even better.
- maintains effective aggression, being offensive or counter-offensive
- no better defense than hurting your opponent badly as he tries to punch
- best way to go from defensive to offensive
- effective way to stop volume punchers
- more energy efficient since you’re combining offense and defense in one motion
- best time to hurt your opponent, counters cause the most damage
- can be tiring since opponents are forcing you to fight at their pace
- potentially deadly when exchanging punches
- your counter might get countered
What’s the BEST DEFENSIVE TECHNIQUE?!
The best defensive technique? No such thing. Use the one that fits your situation. Use the one that feels the most natural in that moment. If you have to think about it, it’s probably not natural. Evade your opponent’s punches any way that you can and be sure to counter right away. Different techniques will work best against different opponent styles. Great boxers are forever adapting their offense to get around your defense, so you’ll have to keep changing up your defense to keep them off you.
There are unlimited ways to beat an opponent. If you were a short guy fighting a tall fighter, you might want to parry from long distance to tire out his arms, then slip to get inside, and then move sideways to avoid his punches while staying in range. Or you might try to walk him down by coming in with a high guard and shoving him off balance repeatedly. Be creative and always know that you have many different boxing techniques at your disposal! Styles make fights!
Defensive technique is for avoiding punches
WHILE STAYING IN RANGE TO ATTACK!
The point of defense is to be more effectively offensive. If you don’t punch back, there is no point to even staying in range of your opponent. Learning how to use all these defensive techniques will help you block, deflect, and evade even the most skillful punchers! But most important of all, defensive techniques should make you more offensive!
What defensive techniques are you using now?
Which ones work best together?
Which ones might be helpful to your game?