Many of the best boxers worldwide have excellent balance and footwork. Footwork generally refers to your ability to move around the ring while maintaining your balance. Both things need to be present to evade attacks and create openings for you to attack effectively.
Moving side to side in boxing is known as sidestepping. It is an essential part of footwork to master since it greatly affects your ability to evade attacks and set up offensive actions. Sidestepping is an effective way to cut off the ring, forcing your opponent to engage with you. Inexperienced boxers often make the mistake of chasing evading opponents with forward movement, which only creates openings for them to circle out.
Side-stepping also creates new angles to attack from. It can be combined with other defensive actions like slipping and ducking to put you in a position to land devastating combinations.
Mastering The Sidestep
Your movement inside a boxing ring determines how well you can control your opponent inside the ring and dominate the space. Aim to drill the sidestep to the point that it becomes part of your muscle memory.
Let’s take a look at the proper mechanics for performing a side step in either direction from the orthodox stance:
1) Side-Stepping To The Right
Start in your boxing stance and keep your hands in the proper defensive position protecting your head. Here’s how:
- Push sharply off your front foot. The push should be strong enough to thrust your body towards your right side.
- Now, slightly lift your rear foot off the ground, so the momentum generated by your front foot pushes your body to the right in a straight line. You shouldn’t actually take a step with your back foot; it should just glide on the floor. Make sure you don’t cross your legs at any point while sidestepping.
- Allow your front foot to be moved by the momentum generated, restoring your stance as it catches up with your back foot.
2) Side-Stepping To The Left
The sidestep to the left is the reverse of the above technique. Here’s what it looks like:
- From the orthodox stance, push off your back foot towards your left. The push gives you the thrust needed to drive your body.
- Slightly lift your front foot off the ground as your body moves to the left in a straight line. It should glide across the ground just like your rear foot did when moving to your right.
- Allow your lead foot to be moved by the push as it catches up with your front foot and restores your stance.
Sidestepping in either direction is easier said than done. Some of the challenges people new to sidestepping often run into include:
- Stepping And Dragging Your Feet Instead Of Pushing And Gliding: Some people instinctively take a step to the right before dragging their front foot along when sidestepping to the right. While this works to an extent, the movement is not as fast as pushing off your front foot and sliding your rear foot to the right. The faster your side steps are, the higher the odds of you being able to evade attacks with them.
- Staying Flat-Footed When Sidestepping: This can make the movement stiff and robotic. It’s better to remain on the balls of your feet to increase the fluidity and speed of the step.
- Crossing your legs: This rule holds for sidestepping in boxing or any other sport where lateral movement is used. Never allow your legs to cross when moving laterally. It ruins your balance, opening you up to your opponent’s attacks.
- Not Putting In The Work: Your movement won’t be fluid if you don’t practice often. There are no excuses to neglect your footwork since you don’t need any equipment to work on it. You just need a space that’s big enough to move around. While you’re at it, add some shadow boxing. Throwing punches with your movement helps to improve your balance and makes it more obvious when you’re not moving correctly. Throwing a punch when you’re unbalanced always feels awkward.
Simple Drills To Improve Your Sidestepping
Here are a few drills that will help to improve your sidestepping ability:
1) Sidestep Across The Room
This is one of the first footwork drills boxers learn. Once you get down the mechanics of the side steps, start covering the length of your training area by sidestepping. Sidestep to one end of the room before switching directions and moving towards the opposite side of the room.
Don’t worry about speed when you first start drilling the sidestep. Instead, make sure you are performing the movement correctly before speeding things up.
2) One-Two Sidestep Drill
Here’s an effective way to make sidestepping a natural movement for you inside the ring. It’s a simple drill to master; you simply throw one-two combinations while sidestepping in both directions. For example, you can throw a jab-cross combination before stepping to your right. Do that about ten times, then sidestep to your left ten times.
Once the drill starts feeling like a natural movement for you, try throwing a punch as you’re sidestepping in either direction.
3) Angle Creation Drill
You can start incorporating this drill into your training once you’ve gotten the sidestep down. This drill teaches you how to create angles with your side steps, but the movement is a bit more complicated than a simple sidestep.
To perform the drill, get into your fighting stance and sidestep diagonally instead of laterally. The mechanics of the movement remains the same; you simply aim to push your body diagonally. This creates an angle that makes landing shots on your opponent easier.
Take a diagonal sidestep and throw a left and right hook combo at your opponent. Take a diagonal sidestep in the opposite direction and repeat the combination. Starting with moving forward when performing this drill since moving backward diagonally is considerably more challenging. Start working on your backward diagonal movement once you have the forward movement down.
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