Sometimes you have no choice but to run. You’re hurt, tired, blind, or injured and you need to run out the clock. And as much as you want to turn and run away, that’s the worst thing you can do. Running will only rapidly exhaust what little space and energy you have left.
Knowing how to retreat can help you avoid dozens of punches while using only a little bit energy and space. Done cleverly, it will not only buy you time but also create counter-punching opportunities for you.
Learn how to make it difficult for your opponents to take your ground
…even when you’re not fighting for it.
How to Give Up Your Ground
Learning how to retreat is an especially important skill for beginners. It will help you survive in losing situations against bigger, stronger, or more skilled fighters. Knowing how to retreat will prevent you from taking damage when you have no choice but to run.
Sometimes you’re hurt, or you’re tired, or maybe there’s something in your eye, or your nose is clogged and you can’t breathe. Or maybe you’re winning and you just want to run out the clock. There are a multitude of reasons for not wanting to engage. Heck, Floyd Mayweather, one of the greatest fighters of our time is constantly making use of the retreat maneuver…so why not you?
There are two tips, or better yet, 2 RULES for retreating:
RULE #1 – Don’t give up any more ground than needed
- give up a few inches for each punch, or each combo
- giving up too much ground wastes space and energy
Anytime that you want to avoid a punch, all you have to do is step back a few inches. You don’t even have to do it with both feet. You could just step back or step to the side a few inches with either foot and that will be enough. No more worrying about slipping and blocking and all that, just step back a few inches and you will be clear. And if he’s real aggressive with a combination, one step or even a few steps could easily evade the whole combination altogether.
The common mistake is give up too much ground. For example, this would be jumping back 2 feet when all he did was throw a jab. Or running halfway across the ring when all he did was throw a 1-2. It’s a bad idea because you’re exerting far more energy than he is because you’re moving your whole body and he’s only throwing his arms around. The other problem is that you’ll quickly run out of space this way. And now you’re in a terrible situation because not only are you tired but you also don’t have any more space to run.
To preserve your space and energy,
only give up a few inches of ground.
RULE #2 – Don’t give up any more position than needed
- move your head, your body, or your feet, but not all at once
- you have more movement opportunities while using less space
- you can avoid more punches while using less energy and less space
- this also forces your opponent to use more effort and expose himself to your counters
When you retreat from a position, you don’t have to give up your entire body space all at once. You can give up your position in increments. For example if the punch is high, you can simply lean your head out of the way instead of moving your body away entirely. If the punch is low, you can pull your hips back instead of moving your body away entirely. And then finally when you need, you can move your feet which takes your body away entirely.
By not moving your entire body away all at once,
you can avoid more punches while using
less energy and less space.
So for example if your opponent was to throw a combination, you can lean back, then pivot your body, then step, then slip, then step again, another pivot, another lean, another slip, another step. You can alternating again and again between little subtle movements and steps to give up as little ground as possible. This will help you avoid more punches while using less energy and space. This also develops your skill in using angles to evade which at the same time creates counter-punching opportunities for you as your opponents swings and misses at different angles while you are still in range.
To help you better understand this theory, please watch my video up above for example movements.
How to Practice Retreating
Practice your subtle retreat moves in shadowboxing, on the mitts, against a slow-punching opponent, and finally in sparring. Learn how to be efficient in your movements and use smaller and smaller moves. Otherwise, you’ll burn all your energy running and only give him more room and confidence to throw more punches at you.
My last tip is to keep a presence in front of your opponent.
If you run away and give up your ground too easily, it will be as though there is nothing to keep him from running straight into you. Instead, you want to maintain a physical presence right in front of him. Like your body forms an imaginary wall. And even if he wants to run into you, he can only run into you one inch at a time. Because you’re still there, turning, slipping, pivoting, ducking, dodging, and stepping all over. Yes, you’re running away, but you’re still there! You are not a ghost, you are a physical mass still holding your ground.
You’re running away but you’re still there!
Ultimately, retreating is supposed to help you preserve, time, space, and energy. And once you’ve gotten your breather, the only way to keep him off you is to fight back. So do all that running and then get back to punching!
Great article Johnny
That last round of sparring/fight a much needed skill! Not retreating too much also plays mind games with your opponent like your really not that tired, that your ready to engage, can exhaust his mind too! Potshot until you get some wind then put some punches together expert boxing crew! Win that fight! Ok getting too worked up at 10 o’clock at night lol
Awesome more on footwork technique and strategy please
A smart idea
Thanks for another great article, Johnny. I was able to put these to work in a drill last night, combining them with the Philly Shell defense. I had a sparring partner start off with slow punch combinations that gradually increased in speed and power as the rounds progressed.
My best evasion ever! I was told I was quite frustrating to try to hit.
Porter needs to practice this more, and some other stuff on this site…
Man this would have come in handy a week ago. Glad to see you posting again. Love this sight.
Bruce Lee reborn.
Another Great Work of Art.
Thank you Teacher.
Hey johny great read, love you work man! I have a question for you…
So a guy bull rushes in with mad shots, or a really talented pressure fighter, slowly walks you down shot by shot creeping forward. I am a mmA guy doing boxing sparring, I’m not getting the same distance im used to, it’s frustrating as hell
Haha…get used to it. Make yourself at home on the inside…AND FIGHT! You’ll figure it out.
hi johnny i feel like i llove running more i like to run then stop throw a quick combo then keep running i dont like to trade is something wrong with that? and what should i work on more to embrace that style
Nothing wrong with being a stick and move fighter. That’s classic boxing advice.