5 Ways to Prepare for a Fight By Yourself
No Partner? Here's 5 Solo Drills to Get Fight-Ready.
Sure it takes two to tango, but every top level fighter puts in endless hours into training by themselves. I always picture the great Sugar Ray Robinson doing his roadwork from the old highlight footage they have of him, running in his overalls through a wooded path.
But, I’m not just talking about conditioning (like running, calisthenics, and weight-training); I’m talking about the solo practice that is done similar to legendary guitarist Eddie Van Halen, who has said to have kept his guitar strapped to him for hours throughout the day as he’d walk practicing about the house.
Now I know what you’re thinking: the equivalent to the above metaphor for a fighter is shadowboxing! And you’re right, in fact that’s number 4 on this list, but it get’s deeper than that…
Let’s take a look at 5 solo training drills that will help get you ready for sparring and for a real fight.
Any performance or mind coach will have you do some form of visualization. The same way musicians imagine themselves on the big stage performing in front of an audience of thousands of fans, you must prepare yourself by visualizing yourself fighting or sparring in the exact setting you expect to fight in.
A common practice that a coach will have their fighter do is sit down with their eyes closed and relax. Now picture yourself sitting at the dinner table with your family, celebrating your victory from yesterday. Imagine the conversations that you’re having, the smiles on your loved ones faces, the food you’re eating, how it smells — see it, smell it, taste it.
Now rewind to the night before. Imagine yourself in the center of the ring getting your hand raised by the referee. You just won your fight. Imagine that elated feeling of relief, and visualize the crowd cheering for you.
And now rewind to the fight itself. Don’t get to specific with how the fight goes, but see yourself always being one step ahead of your opponent. Your jab lands clean and pops their head back. Your head movement is too quick for them to catch you. You pick them apart from beginning-to-end and make them fight your fight.
Rewind even more, walking out to the ring and even back to the locker with your team. What is your pre-fight ritual? What is your preferred warmup routine? Visualize it. Imagine hearing your name being announced from outside, and recreate those butterflies that you know you’ll feel.
Finally, rewind to the present moment. Sitting here reading this blog post. You know how it all plays out, you just need to connect the dots and put in the work. Let’s move on to exercise #2.
If you’ve never been punched before, let me prepare you for something: you’re going to flinch. Your natural reaction to any threat flying towards your face will be:
- Eyes closing
- Hands and arms shooting up and out
- Turning head away
So you need to reduce your flinch by doing reactive drills. Besides sparring and partner flow drills (100’s of these specific partner drills are laid out on Fighttips.com), there are some solo tools to recreate the same feeling of a punch coming at you.
The number 1 tool I recommend is the double-end bag, specifically with loose elastic bands. The harder you hit it, the harder it comes flying back at you, so you better not flinch! You can purchase our double-end bag, which comes with bands and access to our exclusive course on how to master it here on www.fighttipsgear.com.
If you already have a double-end or “floor-to-ceiling bag”, or aren’t ready to commit, another option is to use a tennis ball. Stand about 6 feet away from the wall, and bounce the ball against the wall, aiming to hit yourself in the face with it. Then use the same or opposite hand to catch it — similar to catching or parrying a punch! Once you get comfortable with it, then stand a little closer to the wall, or throw the ball faster, really trying to peg yourself in the face… but be careful!
We talked about the GOAT earlier in this blog — Sugar Ray Robinson. I personally love watching his highlight videos and old matches against Jake Lamotta, studying how loose and accurate he was with his punches, his swift ability to fight while moving backwards, and his understanding of controlling the range.
Those fights were 70 years ago. There’s more footage of fights than anyone could ever watch now, which means plenty of studying material for you! Learn from the greats — not just what they do well, but their ability to shut down their opponent’s strengths. Take note of their demeanor, the way they carry themselves, their style and finesse.
And just like an artist, take inspiration from those around you, and add your own special sauce. Be unique, be creative, be confident.
I told you we’d be shadowboxing! It is the equivalent of practicing the guitar or piano; it’s your time to get the 10,000 reps in. And remember it’s not just a time to practice offense, you should also practice your defense… and also work on your mindset and visualization.
If you’re a seasoned fighter, you probably dedicate entire rounds to just footwork and defense, without throwing a single punch. However, if you’re just getting started, you tend to forget about blocks, head movement, exits, and crashing the range. So here’s a simple but effective drill to force you to defend-and-counter:
- Parry + Jab
- Pull (Lean Back) + Cross
- Block (with Rear Hand) + Hook (with Lead Hand)
- Block (with Lead Hand) + Hook (with Rear Hand)
- Slip (to your Lead Side) + Lead Uppercut
- Slip (to your Rear Side) + Rear Uppercut
Once you feel comfortable with each individual movement, now you can start moving around like you would in a fight. Mix them up out of order, double/triple up on the jab, combine a few defenses in a row imagining your opponent is throwing a combination… and then counter!
Most people have trouble with footwork, so I developed a program on Fighttips.com that breaks down steps similar to the way dance is taught. You will learn 4 progressive steps at a time, eventually combining them together so that you can master the movements and then flow on your own accord!
If you’re not the best at visualizing an opponent in front of you when you’re shadowboxing, you’re going to love virtual sparring. It’s the closest thing to a virtual reality fighting game. I’ve recorded myself in front of a camera throwing punches at “you,” so you have a visual cue of how to defend.
When you see openings on me — take ‘em! And don’t just throw single punches; make sure you let those hands go!
So if you don’t have a gym or partner to train with, don’t make excuses — make opportunities. The more time you spend on any one thing, the better you will get at it.
Oh, and one more FIGHT TIP: record yourself when you’re doing these solo drills, so you can coach yourself! Notice what you’re doing well and continue honing those skills, but also figure out where you could improve upon certain areas. Are your hands low? Are you lifting your chin when you punch? Are you keeping too much weight in your front leg? A camera will give you an angle that your eyes and a mirror cannot.
Be both the student AND the coach,