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Shadowboxing is one of the oldest and most prevalent ways to train striking martial arts, for as long as people have been hitting each other, people have been pretending to hit each other.
Surprisingly, shadowboxing is a much deeper, much more nuanced form of training. If there is one thing that every single beginner and champion of striking arts have in common, its that they have all shadowboxed.
How old is Shadowboxing?
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According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica there is evidence that Boxing or something similar to Boxing has existed since 1350 BCE, so it can be taken with a fair assumption that shadowboxing has accompanied it in some way or another. However, shadowboxing as we currently train it and understand it, was developed and cultivated by George Dixon, pictured above, the first ever black boxing champion, in the 1800’s.
The Importance of Shadowboxing
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Shadow boxing ultimately helps you gain muscle memory that is related to striking, that’s really it, it just happens to be a great workout. Shadow boxing helps you build those neural pathways that will make throwing a strike as easy as you might walk or grab a glass, you wont think about it, you will be capable of subconsciously throwing strikes with no hesitation or thought needed.
It also has a level of superiority over similar conditioning work such as training on a heavy bag purely due to the fact that you can do it anywhere, it gives you so much variety, due to you being able to work on any aspect of your striking!
If you want to work footwork you can work footwork, if you want to work defence you can work defence. It really is a versatile tool in your arsenal,
it is also important to note that shadow boxing is one of the exercises that will build up your task dependent conditioning, which boils down essentially to, if you want to get better at running, then run. So it stands to reason that if you wanted to get better at punching, you should punch more. I’ll cover task dependant conditioning more comprehensively in another post.
How to Shadowbox 101
Shadowboxing is relatively simple to perform, you just need a bit of open space and then you’ll be good to start, a timer would also be very useful to time your rounds, but an app on your phone will suffice.
All you need to do is pick something you want to practice for 2-6 rounds. Practicing something that you have learnt in class is normally one of the best things to do, Then you HIT THE AIR!! make sure you focus on technique to really hammer home good habits.
Tony Jeffries, an Olympic medallist in boxing, explains how to shadowbox for Boxing below.
There are many different styles of striking and so there are many different styles of shadow boxing. Muay Thai, Kickboxing, Lethwei and even Karate use shadowboxing. so dont feel as though only Boxing uses shadowboxing, it just goes by different, cooler names. Like shadowboxing for Muay Thai is called fighting the wind. Way cooler.
Shadowboxing of course is not the be all and end all of striking, but it is such an important tool If you don’t add shadowboxing to your training repertoire then you really are missing out on a great way to train and expand your striking skills. Remember to stay civilized and i’ll see you again soon.