7 Boxing Footwork Tips to Avoid

by Fran on June 20, 2015

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Introduction

In this video and article I am going talk you through a range of boxing footwork ‘tips’ that I found on YouTube.  I will identify the top 7 of these ‘tips’ that I consider to be either of very limited use or just downright dangerous.  I will also describe some alternatives that are much more likely to give you a positive outcome.

Regardless of whether you actually compete or are simply a boxing keep fit fanatic, I believe that this video and article is something you should take the time to watch.  Here is the video and then below is a description of each boxing footwork tip that I have selected.

Boxing Techniques and the Information Age

The Internet and YouTube are incredibly useful and amazingly powerful sources of information.  There is an breathtaking amount of advice, guidance and opinions across an infinite number of topics.  I provide information on boxing training, boxing skills and boxing techniques.  I am not unique in this respect, many others offer a similar kind of service.

I have spent quite some time over the years surfing the Web and YouTube focusing on boxing tuition videos.  Some of the stuff I have found is really quite good.  However, I am often taken aback by some of the ‘guidance’ that I come across, some of which I would define as pointless, some of which I would describe as incredibly reckless.

So what is the problem?  What is the harm of this pointless or dangerous advice when it comes to boxing?  Well, I tend to have a very simple outlook on this.  If bad tuition or advice is issued other sports then there are obviously negative consequences.  In golf your handicap would be affected.  In tennis you may lose more than your fair share of games.  In boxing, bad tuition, bad advice, leads to people getting hurt.  It is really that simple.  As a boxing coach that makes me extremely nervous.

My Background and Authority

“Well hang on Fran” you might say, “Who’s to say that your advice isn’t useless or dangerous?”  That would be an entirely reasonable question.  My answer would be simple.  I am a boxing coach who has enough basic technical capability to make videos, build a website and put the material I produce out there.  I am not a technical person who may have some background in boxing training, however limited that background might be.

In terms of a very short biography of me.  I first stepped inside a boxing club (the one in which I film the videos) when I was 6, that was in 1978.  Over the next 15 years or so I competed at boxing.  I took part in 60 contests, won regional titles, challenged for national titles and represented my country at U-19 level.

After hanging up my gloves I went into coaching and have been training boxers for the best part of 20 years, again in the boxing club that you see on the video.  In that time I have worked with 100s of boxers, from absolute raw novices all the way through to competing professionals.  I have also worked alongside dozens of boxing trainers and coaches and continue to do so.

In fact, many of my fellow coaches visit my website, encourage their boxers to read the articles and watch the videos…boxing homework if you like.  This is not to say that I am right and that I am the only source of good boxing coaching advice on the Web.  But I do believe that it allows me to bring my experience of really teaching people to box to a wider audience.  I no longer ‘DO’ boxing, I ‘TEACH’ boxing.  The two things are very different.

Right, onto the boxing footwork tips that you should avoid.

Boxing Footwork Tip #1 - The Shuffle Step

This first boxing footwork tip is interesting, because any coach (like me for instance) would call a boxer out on this one as a fault.  In fact, it’s one of the common faults that I identify in my boxing footwork – Movement In and Out video.

This is the action where as you move forward the feet come together, almost meeting directly under your body.  From a certain viewpoint it actually looks quite good, rhythmic almost.  However, it is a real vulnerability, exposing you to quite a bit of risk.

When your feet are together (in what I consider to be the most serious boxing footwork fault) you are unable to launch an attack or to effectively defend yourself.  You are not fight effective.  You should always seek to maintain your boxing stance.

Boxing Footwork Tip #2 - The Extended Step

This boxing footwork tip should be avoided simply because it encourages you to try to cover too much ground in one movement.  It is the approach where when launching an attack you might be encouraged to cover a much larger distance than is actually required.  So, rather than seeking to move 6 inches or so you may try to cover 18 inches.

This is about first and foremost safety.  By trying to cover that ground you are in danger of enabling your opponent to ‘time’ your arrival just in time to land a bomb and render you unconscious.  It’s also though about efficiency and precision.

The more efficient you are in moving from the edge of range into range the better, faster and more powerfully you can deliver your attack.  Move inches…not feet!

Boxing Footwork Tip #3 - The Silly Side Step

I made up the title ‘Silly Side Step’, but I believe it describes perfectly this boxing footwork tip.  Rather than performing a properly executed side step you are encouraged to go entirely square on and simply dance side to side.  In doing this you are bringing your feet together and open up your full body to attack.

I think that the principle of putting this tip out there is for those moments where you do not want to engage with the opponent.  I think this is assumed from watching professional bouts where there are times when a boxer will disengage to take the pressure out of a situation.  Some might call it ‘running.’

In a short duration bout, that is an intense 3 or 4 rounder, you must be fight effective at all times.  You must be able to put pressure on the opponent.  If you are backing away and not delivering effective punches, you are losing the contest…it is really that simple.

When moving side to side, aim to do it under control and whilst remaining fight effective.

Boxing Footwork Tip #4 - The Back Pedal

Muhammad Ali was easily one of my all-time boxing favourites, no question.  However, the back pedal is a legacy of the Great Man that we could do without!  It is the action of ‘going on a bicycle’ and backing away from the opponent.  Looks good, but it adds nothing to the ultimate aim of winning the boxing match.

Rather than helping you win the fight, back-pedalling  is more likely to alienate judges and discourage them from giving you a decision.  Similar to the silly side step, you should remain fight effective and if you need to back away from an opponent (which is absolutely fine), back away under control and ideally delivering shots on your way out.  Not a problem giving ground, just ‘take a payment’ for it!

Boxing Footwork Tip #5 - The Switch Step

The Switch Step is an interesting boxing footwork tip.  Many boxers incorporate it into their style, but they are not very likely to be coached in it.  It’s something that they do as a sort of ‘cheat’ in order to open new angles on their less favoured side for movement (that is moving away from the lead foot, so for an orthodox boxer moving to their right side).

The move actually involves pulling the front foot backwards and stepping off to one side.  Other ways to do this would be a sort of angled side step or even a move away and pivot.  I also describe another Ali technique in the video as an alternative.

If you do use this tip, a couple of bits of guidance:

  • Don’t let it become a habit.
  • Do it when you are out of range
  • Don’t pull the front foot back too far…you are not fight-effective when in that position.

Now for the final two boxing footwork ‘tips’, and these simply frighten me and I am overcome with a sense of dread that people might actually try this stuff.

Boxing Footwork Tip #6 - Learn to Walk

This tip involves, when in full fight mode with an opponent, simply walking away.  Backing away with steps as opposed to the controlled way we would expect of competent boxers.  This is the ultimate in not remaining fight effective and is likely to result in at least a visit to the canvas due to a loss of balance, or maybe a visit to the canvas due to a loss of consciousness.

If you want to back away, please, please do so under control and defending yourself.  It’s not rocket science!

Boxing Footwork Tip #7 - Lower Your Hands

Speaking of defending yourself, this one is easily the most ridiculous of all of our boxing footwork tips and should be totally avoided.

This tip suggests that you should simply lower your hands, I suppose in the way that a tightrope walker uses a pole to improve balance.  The suggestion is that this in some way improves your boxing footwork and balance.  Utter garbage.

When I coach boxers, I can guarantee you that regardless of whether their hands are up or down, their balance is not affected.  Good balance and footwork is simply not related to arm position, which is why the boxing stance  has the back foot offset slightly from the front foot – it enables a solid base and therefore effective balance.

Let me switch off my common sense just for one moment.  Let us assume that this BS principle of arm position affecting boxing footwork and balance is accurate.  Any benefit that you achieve in terms of balance is surely outweighed by the risk of getting knocked out cold when moving toward your opponent and into range with your hands down.

The whole concept is ridiculous, but worse, if applied by a novice boxer who might know no better it could get them seriously hurt.  I now need to let my anger subside!

Boxing Footwork Tips – A Final Word

So there we have our 7 footwork tips to avoid.  The principle of keeping it simple works for boxers, it always has done and it always will do.  Remain fight effective.  Think about things.  If it seems like it will get you into trouble then it most likely will.

I am very happy to address any comments or questions below so feel free to post them.  I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Cheers

Fran

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Johnny Woods April 30, 2016 at 7:18 am

Great video Fran. Some of these new age, internet coaches have a lot to answer for. Quality online coaching is hard to come across and I am glad I have found your site. Picked up loads of tips, advice and just simple words and phrases that help my boxers understand the objective in a more functional manner.

Thanks for your time uploading and sharing. Your site has brought my coaching skills on a load. Never stop learning as they say!!!

Thanks
Johnny
Level 2 Coach @ North Road Gym, County Durham

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Fran May 5, 2016 at 7:54 pm

Wow, a fellow coach. Always gives me a massive lift when a colleague likes the stuff. I learn lots of my fellow coaches Johnny, always have done, and I think that boxers benefit massively from the input of many coaches. By the time I’d finished boxing myself I reckon that with the squad system I must have been advised by as many as 30 coaches, maybe more. So, it’s really nice to think that the stuff I’m putting together is of a quality that you think it worthy to work with your boxers on.

Well happy 🙂

Cheers Johnny

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James June 24, 2015 at 4:28 pm

As always Fran, great work. Just wanted to comment on that first one. That shuffle step, to my knowledge, is from Jeet Kune Do. Not sure of its application in boxing. One of the things about kicking is that it’s much more difficult to be mobile while kicking than it is while punching, especially with high power kicks like you see in MMA. Bruce Lee’s sort of solution to this was to use the shuffle step to close the gap into a long range side kick. As performed in that system, the back foot lands either slightly behind or before the lead foot as the lead foot is picking up and the hips are tilting to execute the kick, so there is no moment when both feet are touching the ground. It’s still somewhat risky if you’re facing an opponent with good timing who can cut you off with a front kick, but not AS risky. I’m not sure why someone would use that technique in boxing… doesn’t seem to offer any advantage other than quickly closing – which I’m sure you and I would agree is not actually an advantage, as quick half steps are more mobile and leave you less committed to the movement. Close like that and they’re likely to simply pivot out and throw a nice check hook. And you can only strike after you complete the full motion. Seems like bunk. But it does have an application in MMA or kickboxing, if not perhaps a bread and butter one.

Regards
James

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Fran June 27, 2015 at 8:41 pm

Thanks James

Not in the context that you describe that makes sense i.e. used in an offensive setting when using kicks. The risk/benefit mix is obviously very different. Like you I see no benefit in using this in a boxing context.

It’s an excellent insight James, very much appreciated.

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mark June 22, 2015 at 8:38 pm

Hi Fran, thanks for the video , i think any one who has trained boxers from complete novices will have come across the shuffle step and how important it is to stop this movement as early as possible,also you pointed out about over stepping ( The Extended Step ) i think its really good that you have included this in this article because you see alot of seasoned boxers who make this mistake as well as novices and as you say its so important to know your distances and take small effiecent steps with good balance and posture. keep the videos coming mate they are really good and look forward to the IN FIGHTING article
Mark

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Fran June 27, 2015 at 8:10 pm

Thanks for taking the time to comment Mark, really appreciated 🙂

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Dave Waterman June 22, 2015 at 4:58 pm

Hi Fran,

You and I have discussed the main exponent of this type of advice before. A quick look at the comments below the videos in question shows that he is influencing some viewers with his dangerous recommendations. If it wasn’t so dangerous it would be hilarious. The video entitled ‘How to Take a Punch’ is pure comedy.

Dave

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Fran June 22, 2015 at 8:20 pm

Hahaha

Yes we have Dave. The interesting thing is that the guy in question is very unlikely to have ever taken a punch, not even sure that he has been involved in a competitive spar. Yes, definitely no plans to talk ‘how to take a punch’ with my boxers other than ‘Avoid them.’ 🙂

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James June 24, 2015 at 5:16 pm

I think number seven is a common misconception, because people notice that when you swing your arms while running it adds to your balance. As you said, that actually has not much to do with your arms; it’s the torque on your spine that balances your legs (through your pelvis) and when running, balancing the lower torque with upper torque allows greater balance and power generation, too, since your whole spine is mobile. Obviously though this really is happening in your shoulders and happens equally well when your hands are in front of your chin, nevermind the difference between walking mechanics and boxing mechanics, which I’m sure you could extrapolate on better than I.

Regards again, and great work!
James

(PS -your comments on number 5 are extremely interesting. I started doing that move naturally while practicing my footwork as a beginner, and was vaguely aware of the mechanical side of it that you explained, just from the feeling of it. Seeing pro boxers do it obviously reinforced to me that it was okay, but it does seem like it needs to be actually trained so that the back foot does not end up in a bad position. I will work on that, for sure. Thanks.)

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alexander June 22, 2015 at 10:06 am

Hi Fran, luved that. U gettin angry, don’t believe it UR 2 cool. Just get even, that’s boxing.

As a senior citizen, the biggest appeal for me in boxing now, is footwork. If I played football I would be sprinting in short bursts all over the place, bursting my heart. But with boxing, I can shuffle around, slipping and sliding, well within my cardiovascular range.

Never tripped off a pavement for a long time. Great health benefits, to balance, joints, heart and mind. And I just hope no one trys to jump me in the dark. As I can punch well, off my back foot, either hand, and quickly shuffle away. All thanks to years of boxing work.

I also have to say, that in the Glasgow CW Games opening and closing ceremonies, 1914, I shuffled around, like a boxer, with all the other dancers, centre stage, for over a half hour, in front of a massive TV audience. And never lost my breath.

So keep promoting boxing footwork, as a coach its UR duty, and it might save some of us, boxers or otherwise, from getting a ‘sore face’. Ha, ha, and Cheers Fran

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Fran June 22, 2015 at 8:15 pm

Haha. Thanks Alexander.

I just get a little exercised by bad advice in our Game, it’s just not fair on the combatants and they deserve better.

Great footwork is what it’s all about and that rhythmic, slick movement is something you can really lose yourself in. We all like that movement. Saw a great video just recently of Ken Buchanan shadow boxing (only take a few months ago I believe). He was a joy to watch, everything so natural and smooth.

Not that I have to say this, but keep on enjoying you skills twinkle toes 🙂

Thanks for the comment pal.

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alexander June 23, 2015 at 11:14 pm

Hi Fran again, UR too kind, took years too mould these ‘twinkle toes’. ha, ha. And yeah, Ken B is amazing, that ‘shadow boxing clip’ was only a few weeks back. I just loved watching him rolling on and countering off the ropes. Don’t get too much of that these days. Not many old champs in as good a condition, gym wise, as Ken. Just think he fought more than once, heading the bill, at Madison Square Gardens, New York, in its hayday. Even with a young and up and coming Cassius, aka Muhammad Ali on his undercard. How about that. Nice U mentiong him, alexander.

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Justin June 21, 2015 at 5:58 am

Another great video Fran the importance of footwork is sometimes forgotten by those on the pads. Throwing these shots are useless if the footwork is not correct. Cheers Fran

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Fran June 21, 2015 at 5:44 pm

Thanks Justin.

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Eddie Guzman June 20, 2015 at 11:33 pm

This is actually perfect advise, I love your work coach!

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Fran June 21, 2015 at 5:44 pm

Thanks Eddie, rally appreciate that.

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James June 20, 2015 at 9:27 pm

Yup, excellent advice.

Footwork for me is everything. I actually spend more time on it than anything and it’s becoming a perfectionism thing for me. A bout can be skillfully one and lost all on the footwork.
I look at my skills and see if I’m out of balance. Shadow boxing blindfolded also helps with weight distribution and staying and feeling in stance. Human anatomy and normal walking around teaches us to cross our feet, and to use oir shoulders instead of hips for pivoting which all kills balance.

I’m no trainer but I imagine it is frustrating watching certain ideas being taught but if people really want to learn, then they need to spar and see what really works. Quickly, they’ll find out which trainers to trust.

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Fran June 21, 2015 at 5:44 pm

Some good observations there James. Might try the blindfolded shadow boxing with one of the boxers tomorrow, we’ll see (no pun intended). And yes, frustration is definitely part of it! Thanks for taking the time to comment

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