Fighting Ghosts! The art of hitting and not getting hit!
In combat sports (boxing, kickboxing, mma etc.) where striking is a key component, if you stand in front of someone toe to toe, sooner or later you're going to get hit. It doesn't matter how slick your Mayweather like body movement is, if you're flat footed and rooted to the spot will end in you catching a punch in the face. The challenge is then where do we draw the line between evasive movement and meaningful attack...
Being an elusive target is always the best idea. The longevity of this approaching to combat sports is clear to see, ultimately you are going to take less damage and therefore stay in the game longer. The determination here though is that being elusive, not getting hit often means that you're not in any sort of position to hit back. Running away is a strategy for sure, but the referee and judges may at be less accommodating of this. It's fundamental then that you combine your 'elusiveness' with meaningful offense.
Let's start at the absolute basic here. Everything comes from your feet. Power in striking and speed in movement rely on you positioning and moving your feet appropriately. Development in your upper body (if your focus is on hand striking) is important but no where near a fundamental as ensuring your lower body is coordinated and conditioned to provide the drive you need. Simple conditioning drills such as running, jump rope and cycling are great for both expanding your gas tank and providing the underlying conditioning you require from your lower body.
However, our games are those of specific movement and position. The principle of specificity dictates that we develop based on the imposed demands we place on our body. Put another way, if you run you'll become a better runner, if you perform footwork drills... guess what? That's right, the chances are your footwork will get slicker and more developed. Now our focus becomes zoned in on drills using equipment such as agility cones, ladders and plyometric drills. Effectively with these we can start to more closely mimic the demands of the game we're engaged in and develop some meaningful fast twitch based results.
So....this provides us the foundation. We have the conditioning and coordination sorted. Although this is by no means all we need to become both elusive and destructive. Next we need to make a fundamental shift in our thought processes around the fight. The shift is away from the 'caveman' approach which dictates that I need to take damage to inflict damage. The shift is towards an approach which embraces the idea of continual movement, to hitting from less conventional angles/positions and using the aggressive forward pressure of our opponent to our advantage.
Continual movement as a strategy is a high energy approach, fast fluid movement needs that base conditioning of fitness if its too be successful. Whilst it will in itself build and develop fitness, the best place to start is with a fairly healthy gas tank.
Also, the idea of continual movement does not mean running away, always moving backwards. The principle of continual movement more on a circular pattern, than it does straight lines. If we simply move backwards in the face of the charging bull, pretty soon we will get run over and trampled. The alternatives, to move off to the side, retreat on a 45 degree angle or even slip, roll and find that space in which you can safely advance, means the bull will now charge past you as watch it go. Against aggressive, come forward fighters, lateral and circular movement is the most sensible way to go.
We now find that you're moving out of the way, forcing your opponent to stop, change direction and over commit to their attacks. Tick the box for elusive! You got them punching fresh air, well done. However, this is only half the game.
The conceptual shift to continual movement, comes with a need for a second equally fundamental shift in approach, namely that you don't always need to hit with full power. As we have discussed in previous posts, lightening up your strikes will mean that you can throw these from less conventional positions. Whilst this is contrary to the traditional view held by many boxing coaches, look at the success Naseem Hamed gained in his career, using a style of boxing which embraced unpredictability and continual movement.
Load in striking is not a one way street. The generation of force/power by the striker is only one side of this equation. Admittedly, it is a key component but so is the momentum of the opponent. Using the bull analogy from before, if we move off the line on which that bull is charging and can meet their advance with a well timed strike, the resulting impact forces are an combination of the force we generate in the strike, exponentially multiplied by the oncoming momentum of the target. Our goal is now to be elusive, move to a position of relative safety, and simultaneously hit our opponent whilst they move forward.