How do you develop the best fighting style for yourself?
I’ve had somebody ask me, “How do you choose your fighting style?” and I find it to be an interesting question. Because honestly…you don’t really get to choose your fighting style. You have to adapt to the game and do whatever it takes to win. So in a sense…if your goal is to win…your style will evolve to whatever it needs to be in order for you to win or survive in your combat environment.
Your fighting style should come to you naturally, evolving over the years as you jump through the hoops. What’s important is making sure that you go through these natural steps and growing pains to give yourself (and your style) the best chance to evolve into a fully malleable and adaptable fighting style.
Here are the 7 stages of natural fighting style development:
7 Steps to Developing YOUR Fighting Style
It is all too temping to want a shortcut to your fighting style. Why waste time with all the other stuff when you already know what you want, right? Why waste time studying what the 99.99% of the other fighters are doing when you can just shortcut to the ultimate style.
Mike Tyson’s power. CHECK.
Floyd Mayweather’s defense. CHECK.
Pernell Whitaker’s head movement. CHECK.
Muhammad Ali’s footwork. CHECK.
Roy Jones Jr’s handspeed. CHECK.
Rocky Marciano’s chin. CHECK.
I mean really…why even bother with all “the regular stuff” when you can cut straight to the special stuff? Just do what the champions do and you’ll be champion, right? Copy the champions, not the average guys. Well I don’t believe this is how true learning works.
As a beginner, it’s important for a coach to teach you sound fundamentals and basic principles that are statistically more likely to succeed. This tactic alone should help you get to a solid start as your “technique” allows you to approach fighting from a more cerebral standpoint and to give you opportunities to understand why some moves make more sense than others. But this alone will not make you a champion.
To be a champion, you have to understand the full range of everything. You have to try all possibilities, good and bad. It’s not enough to only know the “right things”, you also have to know all the consequences of the wrong things as well. This not only allows you to have more options to choose from but also allows you to understand how to counter those options should you see them in your opponent. In a sense, you have to try out every possible option in order to understand everything. The knowledge, experience, and wisdom is found not only in the moves that you see a champion do, but also in the moves that he DOESN’T do. It’s this knowledge that he has within him that makes him a true master.
How you arrive at your fighting style,
determines how successful you will be with it.
1. Natural traits/instincts
You start off with your natural instincts here. Some people are more aggressive, others more passive. Some have more power and speed. Others have more heart and endurance. The longer-armed guy will default to a long-range style. The shorter-armed guy will default to a short-range style.
2. Initial Technique & Style Bias
As you start to pick up some boxing technique and improve quickly, it’s natural to feel empowered and enjoy the learning process. You’ll naturally gravitate towards fighters that pick at your curiosity (or whoever the dominant champion is in your era). If you like offensive knockout punchers like Mike Tyson, you’ll start to work on power punching techniques and style. If you like defensive boxers like Floyd Mayweather, you’ll start to work on your defensive techniques and style.
3. Gym Culture
Who you have to face in your gym greatly determines the way that you evolve as a fighter. If you’re facing guys who box and run around a lot, you will naturally develop skills that revolve around speed, footwork, and fine counter-punching skills. If you’re facing aggressive opponents, you will naturally develop a more power punching and endurance style. Even moreso than imposing your will, boxing is very much a game of adaptation and you will naturally adapt to the obstacle in front of you.
Your competition determines
the way you have to fight to win.
4. Trainer Bias
As you spend more time with your trainer. The months and years of listening to the same guy will add up. You will start to look a bit like him and even share his mentality. You will pick up his tricks and see things the way he sees it. Although you will start developing your own unique style, you may also find it easier to do things the way you first learned them (which are probably the counter-punches and counter-movements you were initially trained to do).
5. Better Competition
You will mature as the years pass. Your opponents will be in better shape, smarter, and better adapted to the boxing game. You go from sparring random guys at the gym to facing elite athletes in tournaments. The old brawling game doesn’t work anymore. Now you have to think more, and be strategic. You’re not only fighting an opponent but also forced to game the competition and respond to a constantly adapting opponent.
6. Habitual Success
You start to keep the patterns that garner you success. If hurting guys is your thing, you’ll start to retain the combos and patterns of movements that produce knockouts. If outpointing guys is the way you’ve won your fights, you’ll start to evolve more of a boxing hit-and-run style. You’re more likely to stick with what works than to try and reinvent the wheel.
7. Your Body Ages
Your body will change and you may develop injuries over the years. Your shoulder or arm or joints will not work the same. You cannot move like you did when you were younger. You might not have the same endurance you did when you were younger. You will be forced to do things more efficiently. You may even have to abandon some of your favorite moves altogether and forced to find new and clever ways to compete against the younger guys.
The best fighting style is your natural fighting style
I remember being a young reckless kid trying to do everything. Max power, max speed, max volume. I wanted to be the ultimate warrior. And this is how everyone learns…by taking themselves to the limit and then stretching their limits. When I look back now, I can see that as much as I tried, I never really got to choose my fighting style. I simply looked for the best choice and made the best decision that I could in any situation. I realized that I couldn’t just force things…it had to be natural.
As time went by…I learned how to see newer and better opportunities. In the beginning, advanced techniques were so hard because I had to do so much to achieve so little. But then I gained wisdom and experience and now I only have to do a little to get a lot. This is the result from acquiring lots of technique, skill, timing, and accuracy. The stuff I didn’t have when I first started.
As a beginner, I DID have lots of power and speed and endurance…and so I used that. I would brawl, trade punches, and unload lots of energy. It was so fun to fight. And then as the years went by (and my opponents got better), I started to see that everyone else had power and speed too and that I had to become more refined as a fighter. The thing is you don’t really get to become more refined until you first fight and elevate yourself beyond the PHYSICAL aspect of boxing.
Now that I can see the tiny details and intricacies of every moment, I know how to counter not only punches.. but movements. If he steps or turns or moves this way, I know how to react against it. I know how to react against all his tiny movements…and NATURALLY. It was never really a concern of mine to have a distinct fighting style. I just focused on learning and winning and being willing to let go of old habits in order to learn new habits.
Have you ever driven the same route home from work for years? And then one day you figured out a better way, a quicker, easier, faster shortcut that saved time and took less effort? You never went back to the old way, did you? Once you became aware of a new (and better) option, it just didn’t make sense to choose the same options you had when you had less awareness. Well fighting style development is kind of the same. With a raised awareness, comes new options and decisions.
So as my skills and awareness changed, so did my technique, so did my strategy, and so did my style!
And so how do you choose your fighting style?