Coordination, balance, distance and timing

These are the more ephemeral qualities that a fighter needs to develop, but need to develop them he does. It is actually a set of exercises that build attributes into the body.

Also add to these attributes the following:
agility, awareness, grace, reaction, rhythm, speed.

The following exercises should be used to develop these attributes.


Skipping is one of the primary exercises used by all boxers. Go to any boxing gym and you will find the serious fighters spending at least three rounds skipping.

This is part of the routine I follow and I recommend it to you as well.

When I was getting serious about my skipping, learning it, putting in my “skipping base”, I took my rope to all my training sessions, including the gym and dojo, and used a couple of minutes skipping as part of my warmup.

It is a neglected skill by many fighters. There are groans every time, in my kickboxing class, when I bring out the ropes and insist the class does a three minute round. I do this rarely, because it is their responsibility to set their own time aside for the development and use of skipping, not class time. Still few do. And few have good footwork.

Skipping is by far the best way to develop good footwork for a fighter, in fact, there is no way to get it right without regular rope work. A student can learn the fundamentals of footwork – the advance and retreat and side-step in 20 minutes and be doing it by the end of his first session. Yet he will never be able to perform it correctly without hours of practice, and hours of skipping. Coming back to class to be reshown the footwork will be futile without going away and skipping (a lot!) in between.

Also, skipping is good cardio work. It has been estimated that 20 minutes skipping is the equivalent of an hours run. So, if you are working on your stretching, a 20 minute skip followed by a 20 minutes stretch routine means you will have done more work than in a six mile one hour run, and improves both your leg flexibility and footwork!

Also, skipping helps perfect the coordination between eye, hand and foot, so vital as we stab forward with the lead step, banging in the jabs and crosses.

Get into skipping as soon as possible, either a ten minute straight session, or three rounds of three minutes.

Exercises for developing attributes

Reading a record label. For visual tracking skill, the best method is one from the old boxers, used first by the legendary Jack Dempsey. Basically set the record playing and read the label as it revolves. It’s harder than it seems but you will soon get used to it. Try it first on 33, then on 45. Dempsey himself could read labels revolving on 78! It will be a lot easier to follow punches and kicks aimed at you once you have developed this ability.

Practising in reverse, using your opposite side, will do wonders for brain coordination, and improves the reflexes. Try doing some rounds southpaw, with the right hand as lead, on the bags, and in sparring. Also try some “everyday” tasks on your “weak side”. If you are right-handed, use your left hand for activities such as dialing the phone, brushing your teeth. Even taking time to learning to write with your left hand will bring gains in this area. In Kali we use double stick drills called Sinawalli. According to Dan Inosanto these “develop the left hand by relating it to the movements of the right hand”. You could even try learning to juggle!

Cueing a technique is a good way to develop response. In my class I use a trick from JKD – I line the students up and tell them a pre-set move like a jab, then give them a simple cue, such as a quick clench of the fist to signal for them to make the move. We do this exercise for a few minutes. I then stand behind the line, out of sight, and use a clap as an auditory cue.
By changing the frequency of the cues, the students often miss the cue, or move too soon by anticipating it. As they learn to relax, they are ready for the cue but not tense and respond in good time. So when, in a fight, the cue is a punch aimed at the head, the student makes the appropriate response, namely the block. The secret to this is relaxation.

TV drill. This is how the student reproduces the drill on his own. Stand in stance while watching TV. Every time the scene changes, execute your preset technique, be it punch, kick or block.

Blindfold practice. Close your eyes or put on a blindfold to practice a sequence, shadow boxing, or even kata for the karateka. This will help you pay attention to what your body is telling you about it’s position and movements. At an advanced level of Wing Chun, a practitioner does the chi sao exercise blindfolded, so as to rely on the tactile senses not the eyes to interpret the partner’s attack.

Weighted punches. By holding small weights or wearing wrist weights when performing punches, combination and in shadow boxing, the techniques are “grooved” into the muscles by tensing them through the motion. This can also be done by wearing the weights on the ankles when performing kicks. Make sure to perform the kicks slower and not to snap them out with the extra weight at the end of the limb or damage could occur.

Hacky sack. In the guard position, hold the sack in your punching hand. Throw it up and catch it in the motion of the jab, returning to the guard postion. Do the same with the cross, hook and uppercut.

To add power in the legs, practice squat jumps. Bend down so the hands touch the floor, then jump up, straightening the body and arms to try to touch the ceiling.

Then try depth jumps. Jump from a chair to the ground then up to the ceiling.

Try squat kicks. Squat down and as you stand up, execute a front thrust kick. This is also an excellent warm-up for a workout involving kicks, or even your leg weight training workout.

For punch power, use press-ups on the knuckles, an old karate favourite. Then try explosive press-ups – push the hands away from the floor and clap between each rep. Then, in front of a step, push up to reach the step with your palms, then down to the floor again.

For balance, stand on one leg with the eyes closed and stay still as long as possible. The time will be brief at first, but will increase with practice.