You MUST learn how to survive when you’re hurt.
Advanced fighters are especially good at minimizing damage and buying themselves precious time to recover. They know how to keep moving, how to stall and hold and shake off aggressive opponents. They know how to protect themselves when they’re unable to fight back.
You might be hurt, or injured, or tired, or have something caught in your eye. Or maybe you’re ahead on points and don’t have the energy to maintain the pace. Knowing how to survive can keep you from getting knocked out.
Here are some fight survival tactics that have kept me up until the final bell:
How to Survive When You’re Hurt
1. Move AROUND your opponent
You need time to recover. Keep moving. Either move your head or move your feet but keep yourself moving to minimize the number of consecutive shots he can land on you. When you move, try to move in different directions around your opponent. Don’t just run straight away. Try to go around him, then under him, then through him, then away from him, then over him. This will make it hard for him to chase you down. He’ll be throwing wildly but many of those will not be the crucial shot.
Change directions and change your levels. Up or down. Left or right. Near or far. You don’t have to be fast as long as you keep changing directions. The worse thing you can do is to keep running away from him as you will only get tired and he will easily save energy by walking calmly to you.
2. Make contact
Grab his arms, or his shoulder, or his head. It’s not legal to literally grab your opponent but maybe you can pinch his head or his arm between your elbow and your waist. Or you can push him down with your chest if he rolls under you. You don’t have to grab both arms. You can reach around him on one side and use that to off-balance him.
The only time I can think of when it’s not good to make contact is when your opponent is so much bigger than you that he can throw you off balance easily.
3. Look for the obvious counters
Throw a counter right over his jab. Or slip outside his right hand and throw a left hook. Or trade right hands or trade left hooks with him. Look for that one punch that you know and trust very well and put 100% of your power into it. I’m not asking you throw a full power combination. But at least have one good punch you can rely on. Hitting your opponent HARD is the only way to make him back off.
4. Slow the fight down
Once you’ve fully recovered, slow the fight down! The best way to keep the fight from becoming a gunfight is to make it a moving fight so both guys are busy moving rather than punching. Moving less or standing still is only going to slow you down; what you need to do is slow down YOUR OPPONENT.
How to Stall a Fight
Stalling on the OUTSIDE vs Stalling on the INSIDE
This is an interesting debate. There are many schools of thought when it comes to stalling a fight. Some guys like to stall a fight by just flat out running away. Your opponent can’t do anything to you if he can’t reach you. It makes a lot of sense and works well especially if you have a range advantage or more energy or more mobility. The harder you try to chase the runners, the more careless you get and the more likely they land a wild potshot on you.
On the other hand, some guys like to stall a fight by coming inside. They’ll lean on you, clinch, grab your arms, head butt you, step on your foot, push you off balance and do all sorts of dirty things on the inside. Every now and then, they’ll swing a haymaker over the top to keep you cautious and you’ll feel like you have to keep backing up to make space for your shots.
I personally like to go inside. Staying inside requires much less energy so it’s easier to do this over an entire round whereas running away from your opponent is hard to do for an entire round. Staying inside also requires more skills as you’re in close range with a powerful opponent. I like being close because it allows me to use my whole body (chest, shoulders, arms) to put pressure on my opponent from all angles. Over the years, I’ve learned many tricks to control opponents on the inside and wear them down without having to use much energy.
What punches to throw
Some guys will throw constant jabs and occasional power shots. Some guys throw pure potshots. Some guys will stay quiet for a minute and then respond with a quick flurry before running again. Some guys will wait for the KO shot and throw it with 100% force if they see the opportunity. It depends on your body’s natural rhythm and how much energy you have left. Throw what you can.
Changing the distance
Playing with the distance is a great way to control a fight but there is one problem, you have to actually throw punches. Otherwise, your opponent will walk in on you and take whatever distance he likes best. You have to at least make your opponent cautious of your punches if you want to play with the range. Learn how to bait with long jabs. Stick your head in sometimes and pull it back other times.
Changing the angles
I love changing angles because it’s so much fun and very easy to do. It’s more effective at close range as head movements will result in bigger angles when you’re closer to your opponent. From far range, you feel like all head movements still leave you in front of your opponent. From close range, you feel like you can almost get behind an opponent with the same amount of head movement.
How to Stall a Fight from the Outside
Running takes lot of energy so you’ll have to be clever about it. Put your arms down and shuffle away from your opponent. Rest your arms and breathe and keep moving around. When he gets close, you can go back into your defensive stance but otherwise, just break your stance and dance away. Twist and turn your body anyway you want to help you move easily. You’re in running mode, not fighting mode.
Take a few steps to the right and just as he’s about to load up a punch for that side, you go the other way. Then turn back, then turn back again, maybe fake a punch and change directions yet again. The tip is to change directions when you think he’s about to punch. Otherwise, you’re just wearing out your legs for no reason.
2. Bait and escape
Give him one shot. For example, leave your front arm down to bait for his right hand. You can help it by throwing lazy jabs on purpose or just leaving your left hand far out there to push his head away. The moment you see his right hand, duck under and escape through his armpit.
Likewise, you can also bait for his left hook and then roll under and out of range again when he goes for it. Bait for a punch and escape it. Easy as that.
Assuming you’ve been running around with your hands down. You can definitely land a few surprise shots in there if he’s not expecting you to punch. Try a tricky left hook or a lead right every now and then to keep him cautious. It helps to throw some flurries or fast combinations to keep him on his toes. You can also fake a punch every now and then before throwing a real one.
4. Walk and block
Another way to run is to hold a guard and to keep walking away from him. You don’t have to jump or skip—just walk calmly. As long as you’re constantly in motion, it’ll be hard for him to set his feet for power shots. The big mistake is to jump or to run—this leaves you with tired legs which allows him to eventually catch up to you. Remember, it’s harder to punch while moving than it is to defend while moving. Keep the fight moving!
How to Stall a Fight from the Inside
1. Keep turning your opponent
The best way to stall a fight is to keep it moving. It’s too much energy to keep running so the best thing you can do is to keep turning your opponent. Either he runs into you and you pivot to deflect his energy away. Or you can walk into his shoulder (either shoulder) to force him to turn. Of course, you’re not pushing with your hands, you’re using your chest and your body to walk into his body as you fight him on the inside. Even the act of standing at an angle from him will force him to adjust his position in order to hit you.
Keep turning him and he’ll have to keep resetting his stance in order to hit you. The easiest way to turn to somebody is when you’re in close range. This way, one step can greatly offset your body angles. If you’re far away, you can run all you want and you’ll still be in front in of him.
2. Shoulder roll
The easiest way to defend against punches on the inside is to keep rolling his punches. Most guys throw with a constant LEFT-RIGHT-LEFT-RIGHT rhythm. Once you know his rhythm, you can stand in front of him and keep rolling off his shots.
3. Move your head (near, far, and under)
Bring your head right in front of his and then pull it away when he attacks. You can also place it far away and then roll it under when he attacks. Or place your head low and then lift it up when he attacks. Keeping your head moving on the inside is a great way to make him miss.
4. Keep touching him
Nobody likes to be touched. Even just laying my glove on an opponent’s shoulder will make him uncomfortable. You can also place your glove on his head, or maybe his glove, or keep it touching his chest or his face. It’ll make him cautious and tense and uneasy because he feels like something is threatening him. Or he’ll be irritated by the contact and will want to get you off him immediately. This is a great way to make an opponent throw a wild counter in frustration.
Constantly touching an opponent is a great way to wear out a heavily muscled opponent. Muscular opponents will activate their muscles whether it’s an explosive movement or not. So my trick is to make them activate their muscles as much as possible and I do this by constantly pushing him around on the inside. I keep a constant point of contact on his body and watch him wear him out. Sometimes my hand is on his chest, other times on his shoulder, or his neck or even just on top of his head and it’s amazing to see how uncomfortable he is.
5. Push from an angle
Keep pushing him around from different directions. Use your body contact to apply pressure at an angle to off-balance him and/or force him to readjust his stance. Never push straight on, this is a waste of energy and also allows him to direct your energy elsewhere. The trick is to keep projecting your energy in a circle around him. Always direct your force into one side of his body, not the center (this makes it harder for him to push back). Your goal is to turn him, not to move him. You want him to waste his own energy moving himself.
Anytime your opponent ducks under you for some reason, lean on him with your chest and wear out his back. This will buy you some time until the ref breaks you guys again.
6. Pull from an angle
In moments that you can’t push him because he’s leaning on you or because you’re falling backwards. You can also latch yourself onto one side of his body (the shoulder or arm or waist) and let your falling momentum spin him around you. (I’ll have to demonstrate this in a video later.) It’s especially easy to pull someone if you’re both spinning around each other at close range. You can also try pulling him a little to make him resist the pull then switch directions and push him back. And then punch him! Constantly pushing and pulling a guy on the inside will wear him out quickly!
Use your head and arms to control his body. Hang on him or push him around to wear him out. You can also use an under clinch to swing him around you (or take him with you if you fall). Under clinches are great for spinning and also looks good in competition because it doesn’t look as obvious to judges.
8. Change your stance
Inside fighting is a very messy way of fighting. You’ll have to keep readjusting your position and it’s important to know that you have to switch stances often. Place your feet wherever they need to be in order for you to feel comfortable and fight from that position. You’ll end up more square and even southpaw very often.
9. Take punches on the top of your head
Keep your chin down during wild exchanges so that his punches can land on the top of your head (which does less damage). Any time that you miss a punch and feel like you can’t avoid his counter in time, duck your head down into the punch (using your neck preferably over your waist) so his punches lands on the top of your head.
10. Make contact when you miss your punches
Anytime that you swing and miss, let your momentum throw you on top of him. Your body weight can smother him and block him from throwing a counter. You can also use this opportunity to clinch. When I’m completely tired, I like to swing haymakers into my opponent. If it lands, great. If he blocks it, I still get to make contact and clinch him for a bit.
Keep Your Opponent Moving
The best way to stall the fight is to keep the fight moving. Now you can move yourself, which would tire you out, or you can make your opponent move which can be done through clever use of head movement and body contact. Mix in some slick defense with a few clinches and you’ll be able to slide your way out of danger.
What I like to do is change directions and throw potshots at long range. Once he comes close, then I come in as well and use my body contact to push him and turn him and create angles for him to miss. He can throw all he wants but he’ll never hit me if I don’t set myself in front of him and don’t let him set himself in front of me.
The more your opponent has to move,
the less he can focus on hitting you.
Slow your opponent down early in the fight.
The best time to slow down the fight
is BEFORE you get tired.
This is why the experienced guys take it easy early in the fight. They use all sorts of tactics to slow the fight down and take their time. In the meanwhile, their opponent is wasting energy, they’re figuring out their opponent’s fighting style and fighting rhythm without being risky.
And then once you feel comfortable and you’ve got him figured out, then you can go lay some bombs on him. The beginners on the other hand are always rushing in with bombs before figuring out their opponents and that’s how they get hurt.