Head movement is an integral part of boxing. Used both in offense and defense, head movement is used to avoid punches instead of blocking or parrying them, and it’s among the most fascinating techniques in boxing.
There is just something magical watching a boxer smoothly dodge flurries of deadly punches just inches from their head. Just remember timeless moments like Muhammad Ali’s rope a dope.
While there are many head movement techniques like bobbing and weaving, rolling, ducking, pulling, first and foremost, you need to learn how to slip a punch. While slipping as a technique is extremely simple, doing it against a real opponent is another story.
Slipping a punch means moving your head to the outside (and in some rare cases to the inside) of an incoming punch, avoiding it just slightly. This way, you don’t receive any damage at all, and both your hands are free to deliver a devastating counter shot.
Slipping a punch heavily depends on your reflexes and ability to predict incoming attacks. But before you move to practical use in the ring, you must drill into your muscles the correct technique that allows for the most efficient execution. And you can very well start and improve your boxing slips at home.
- Bend your knees and rotate your body to the left. The slip comes from the legs, not the back.
- Slightly move your head to the left. Don’t overdo it. The punch needs to miss your head barely.
That’s it. As I said, the technique is dead easy, but it’s tough to master and use effectively. The slip to the left is predominantly used to go to the outside of a right straight. It can also be utilized to slip inside a jab to land a strong counter, but it’s much more dangerous because you may slip right into an incoming cross.
You can do the slip without moving your feet, or you can step your front foot forward and left simultaneously as you slip. This will position you in closer range to the opponent and open up an even better counterattack window.
After a successful slip to the left, the best counter strike is either a left uppercut or a left hook to the head or body. The liver shot especially is devastating and can shut down the body instantly. If you are quick enough, the opponent will have a tough time returning the right hand you slipped in time to protect his wide-open liver.
The slip to the right is done with the same technique but in reverse. Bend the knees, rotate your body to the right and move your head off the center. The jab that this slip is mainly used against is a quicker weapon than the cross, so it’s harder to pull off. After a right slip, return fire with a right uppercut or an overhand, and your opponent will think twice before throwing lazy shots at you.
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Slipping is dangerous. There is a good chance you are not fast enough, and the shot lands. Be sure to keep your hands high when slipping. Your rear hand should always be glued to your face in these situations.
The boxing roll puts you under the incoming punch instead of the side of it. Rolling is most useful against hooks. Again, the point is to position yourself to the outside of an incoming punch. The roll requires a bit more energy as you need to duck down.
The slip and roll combine very beautifully. The slip-slip-roll is commonly used to defend against the jab-cross-hook combination. Slip outside the jab, then outside the cross, and finally, roll under the hook. The movements flow into each other organically.
The best way to practice slipping is with a partner, but there are a couple of drills that you can do at home. First, you start training your head movement as a separate drill. Start slow and make sure you are using the proper technique. An excellent way to be sure is to do it in front of a mirror.
When you get comfortable with it, incorporate slipping in your shadowboxing routines—many fighters credit visualization as a critical part of their success. Imagine an opponent in front of you when you shadowbox, visualize him throwing punches at you, and slip them. You will be surprised at the profound effect this will have in your slips against real punches.
1. On the slip line, move forward and alternate slipping between two sides. This simulates moving towards the opponent who is firing back at you while moving backward. You can flip the drill and assume the role of the pressured fighter. Add a counter-strike after each slip when you feel you get the hang of it.
2. Tie your keys or a tennis ball on a hand wrap and tie the other end somewhere higher. The ball or keys (or whatever you tied to the wrap) should be at your head level. Swing the ball and practice slipping both sides.
3. The third drill doesn’t require equipment and will teach you to slip after you punch to avoid incoming counters. Throw a jab-cross combo, then slip to the right. Throw a right cross left straight as you return and immediately slip left.
The key to a fast and efficient slipping is in small movements. While a wide slip or duck is also good as it manages to avoid the punch, it’s slower, spends more energy, and leaves more time for the opponent to recover after he misses.
Always bend from the legs, not the waist. Too often, boxers weave from the waist, but this leaves you out of balance, and it is slower. Build up the strength in your legs and practice the proper technique tirelessly during shadowboxing. The drills we outlined and your slips will become lightning fast.
It’s hard to think of a world-class boxer who doesn’t use head movement. Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather, Canelo Alvarez, and countless others mesmerize us with their seemingly superhuman ability to get out of the way of punches and deliver devastating counterattacks.
Learning how to slip a punch should be very high in your training priorities. Dedicating the time to master head movement and make your opponents crazy by being impossible to hit.