The stereotypical image of a boxer is a wiry fighter springing around the ring with fancy footwork while delivering lightning punches. Flashy shorts and images aside, footwork is a fundamental skill of boxing, and staying on your toes is key to successful footwork. Stay on your toes down to the last second of the last round, whether standing, punching, blocking or moving.
The phrase “stay on your toes” is often thrown out from the corner in a match, and the directive actually implies staying on balls of the feet. Proper stance puts one foot forward of the other with the body slightly hunched over the forward foot. Despite the leaning forward in fighting stance, weight should remain on the balls of the feet for balance. Staying on the balls of the feet keeps your energy chambered, to spring in any direction for any reason, in addition to making sure you can compensate for any blows threatening to knock you off balance.
Knockout power in a punch comes from the whole body, not just the arm, and the wind-up starts all the way down at the feet. Unlike the Looney Toons wind-up that involves whipping one arm around like a windmill, a true wind-up starts with weight transfer at the feet. For the jab, the weight transfers from the back foot to the front foot. Your knockout right hand begins by when you pivot on the rear foot to uncoil all the power starting at the feet, up through the hip and core and out through the arm. Though weight shifts from foot to foot, you’re on the balls of your feet the whole time. Pushing off the ball of the back foot allows the pop in your jab, and the pivot that initiates the right hand cannot happen without being on the balls of your feet.
Slips, weaves and rolls go a long way in getting you out of the line of fire, but if you find yourself about to eat a punch, effective blocking can still save the day. Even blocks start at the feet and use the whole body. Blocking a jab starts with a push off the back foot to turn the body counterclockwise and get the right glove up to deflect the oncoming punch. The push off the back foot only works if you’re already on the ball of that foot. Similarly, blocking the right begins at the feet. The forward foot pivots, turning the body clockwise while the knees bend to absorb the impact of the blow. Of course, don’t forget to get the glove up and glued to your brow to block the punch, but, like the jab, the motion is only effective if you’re already on the balls of your feet. If you try to block a punch flat-footed, chances are you can be tipped over like a cardboard standup figure.
Being able to get in and get out to deliver a punch combination can only happen on the balls of your feet. Clomping in toward your opponent flat-footed leaves you completely off balance, as well as slowing you down. Speed in any direction can only happen on the balls of your feet. Plant your feet when you’re ready to deliver your flurry of punches, but stay on the balls of your feet even when they’re planted. The balls of the feet are the springs that allow you to attack and defend with speed and efficiency.
Jullie Chung writes regularly for various websites. She is a nationally certified fitness trainer and performance enhancement specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and trains regularly in yoga, flatwater kayaking, boxing and mixed martial arts. An avid outdoor fan, she regularly hikes, climbs and trail runs.