learn to box

Today I’m really excited to have the first of many boxing tutorials for you.

Boxing is one of my favorite sports and activities of all time and not only is it an awesome way to burn a crapload of calories and get rid of any stress and anger you have, it’s also just plain fun.

There are so many things to cover when first learning to box, but you’ve got to get the fundamentals down first. We’re going to focus today on boxing stance, hand placement, and then end with the two basic punches, a jab and a cross.

Oh, and we’re going to do this all without a punching bag—because shadow boxing is a really legitimate way to learn to box.

Watch the video tutorial to see me being a total dork showing you how to box in my garage:

Boxing stance and hand placement

Learning a proper boxing stance is really important because without good foot positioning you’re going to be off balance and move really inefficiently. You want to be able to move effortlessly so that if you’re fighting an opponent or even just shadow boxing, you can move really efficiently in any direction.

So, if you’re right handed like I am, you’re going to stand with your left foot forward, and if you’re left handed, you’ll have your right foot forward. To get into a boxing stance, first stand with your feet shoulder width apart, then just step back with the appropriate foot so that it’s at a 45 degree angle behind the other one. Bend your knees slightly and move your weight to the balls of your feet.

Next, you’ll want to hold your elbows close to your body and put your hands to your face. My crazy awesome boxing coach back in New York City told me to pretend that my hands were glued to my cheek—because the second my hands left my face, my opponent would have an easy shot.

So keep your hands at your face at all times!

How to move

Now that you’ve got the stance down, you need to know how to move while in the stance. The key here is to never let your feet cross.

So, if you’re moving backward, you’ll step with your right foot, then your left. If you’re moving left, you’ll step with your left foot, then your right. Obviously it gets more complicated than this, but we’ve got to start somewhere.

Also, a lot of people think that you’re supposed to bounce a lot when you’re in a boxing stance, but real boxers don’t do this because it’s inefficient and wastes energy. Keep agile and ready to move, but don’t hop around.

Now all you’ve got to do is to practice. I know it feels silly at first, but if you can handle it, try and practice just moving in this stance for a few minutes at a time. Even if you’re not looking to fight and just want to learn to box for conditioning reasons, this stance will help you stay balanced and light on your feet.

Learning to punch: The jab

The jab is an incredibly important punch because it serves as a way to measure how far your opponent is from you and is a constant in punch combinations.

To do it, you’ll first want to get in your fighting stance with your hands on or by your cheeks and your elbows protecting your ribs. Keep your chin and your eyes forward, then coming straight off the chin, extend your left fist forward (if you’re right handed) with a snapping motion and bring it back quickly.

What you don’t want to do here is to push forward. It’s not a pushing motion—it’s a snapping. It should be quick and seamless.

You can see more about the jab at around the 3:50 point in the video above.

Learning to punch: The cross

The next basic punch you need to learn is the cross. The cross is one of the main power punches used in boxing so you’ll want to get really good at it.

So, get in your boxing stance, making sure both hands are at your cheeks. Start in slow motion at first by extending your right arm and squaring your hips slightly. Your back right foot should turn slightly here to follow the punch. You should also make sure to keep your knuckles straight, rather than twisted.

Once you’ve done it slow a couple of times, try speeding up the punch. Just like the jab, you want to snap this punch, rather than push into it. The entire motion should be smooth and quick.

You can see more about the cross at around 4:30 in the video.

Try it: Shadow boxing

Learning to box takes time, and one of the best ways to practice is to shadow box. I know it feels a little ridiculous at first, but trust me, even the pros put in their shadow boxing time. Try just moving around the room at first, then add in your punches. When combining jabs and crosses, remember that in combinations, the jab (almost) always comes first.

All right, now that you’ve got the very basics of boxing down, go and practice!

Oh, and if you want to get in shape like a boxer, here are 10 exercises to get you in fighting shape. Go #punchsomething!