Advanced Boxing Head Movement (PART 1) – The Evasion Dance
Tricky slipping patterns for all you slick-flashy fighters!
I’m sure you’ve seen it before…Muhammad Ali, Nicolino Locche, Pernell Whitaker, Prince Naseem, Vasily Lomachenko, and more.
They just got that super slick flashy head movement that lets them dance around RIGHT IN FRONT of their opponents without getting hit. Sometimes they do it to escape from the corner. Others times they do it make their opponent look silly. Or also when they’re hurt from body shots and trying to survive. There are many reasons why you might want this skill!
Let’s be real…nobody reading this site is good enough to copy them (that includes me), but in the spirit of artistic appreciation…let’s make our best attempt!
FIRST LEVEL of Head Movement: Defense
Moving your head to avoid getting hit is a natural defense instinct every fighter has. You’ve probably done it before as a beginner without any instruction; jerking your head around nervously to avoid punches. I’m sure you’ve seen street fights where both guys duck their heads straight down or pulled it straight back to get out of range.
You may have also seen beginners being yelled at in their amateur fights to “move your head more” and so they start bobbing their head side-to-side automatically without any punches being thrown. This is a perfect example of beginner-level head movement, where it’s only used for defense and nothing else.
As I write the 2nd and 3rd parts of this series, we’ll go over head movement WITH counter-punching. For today we’ll go over only fancy evasion tactics and nothing else!
For those needing a more basic head movement guide, please check these out:
Boxing Head Movement
How to Slip Punches
Core Head Movement Maneuvers
Some basic head movements you should know before putting together your evasion dance. Aside from defense, head movement should help you find your defense rhythm!
Head movement should help you find your defense rhythm!
An essential core skill for many fancy head movements. Not all, but most head movements are best done from a planted-feet position. You don’t have to actually “squat” your butt all the way to the floor, but try to feel as if you had the same stability. This is the same as “sit down on your punches” that you hear for punching harder.
Plant both feet and bend your knees slightly. Some movements are better with both heels planted. Some are better with one heel up (usually the back one). Big tip: try to feel some weight in your feet and not all in your knees; you’ll have to experiment to get the best results.
The best fighters can quickly plant and un-plant (to move again). The idea is to be able to “plant” with as little knee bend as possible. Otherwise, you use so much energy and time to set and un-set your position.
GREAT FOR ESTABLISHING BALANCE AND POWER.
Just like the squat-plant but the extreme version. Bend deep into your knees to get under punches.
At first, you go straight down and later you can angle your body off to one side or the other. You can see Pernell Whitaker and Mike Tyson doing this a lot. Miguel Cotto does it as well!
GREAT FOR GETTING UNDER PUNCHES AND GETTING YOUR BODY OUT OF THE WAY.
Really simple basic skill. Just dart your head in and out as you tempt him to punch at you. Your head goes slightly into range (or appears like it) and then you pull your head back out of range.
Instead of pulling your head straight back, you can angle it to the back-left or back-right. You can also mix in tiny footwork steps as well. Manny Pacquiao is known for this kind of back-and-forth movement a lot.
Mix up all three directions, forward and back, forward and back-left, forward and back-right.
It’s common for beginners to do this with their weight over their back leg (leaning off balance) but I recommend you do this with your weight more over the front-leg. Also, try to move your head with as little distance as possible (make him miss by an inch, not a mile).
GREAT FOR BAITING PUNCHES AND ESTABLISHING RHYTHM.
The Neck Pull
Similar to “Back-and-Forth” but you pull your head back without moving your torso. Imagine like you’re pulling your chin into your neck.
Clever tactic that avoids a punch without setting your body movement in any direction. You can do it from any position…neutral or leaned to one side or even while you’re punching and need to avoid one of his counters immediately.
You can also tilt your head/neck to one side instead of just straight back. The great Nicolino Locche did a lot of this!
GREAT FOR SUBTLE SLIPPING AND RHYTHM-INTERRUPTION.
The Torso Tilt
Probably the most crucial head movement skill ever. Same idea as the back-and-forth darting with your head except your head and torso moves in all directions (forward, backward, side, all 360 degrees).
AND you have emphasis on tilting/dipping your torso. Some head movements have an emphasis on the head moving in and out. For the torso tilt, you have more emphasis on the entire torso dipping.
How far can you tilt? Fighters with shorter upper bodies can tilt a lot without losing balance. Fighters with longer upper bodies might lose balance a bit but their extra torso length helps them lean completely out of the way.
Try a rhythmic jerky motion; this is not a smooth type of motion but it should still be as effortless as you can. You have to establish a nice slipping rhythm that fits your body for this to work. (Perfect example of powerful torso tilts is Mike Tyson.)
GREAT FOR ESTABLISHING RHYTHM AND STILL BEING ABLE TO ATTACK.
The Arm Balance
Reach your arm out as a counter-balance and notice how it allows you to lean your torso and head further back. And as your head leans back, you can then wave in circular motion to one side (like a joystick).
Can be done in very jerky style like you see with tall fighters like Wladimir or Vitali Klitschko. You can even use your arms to push shorter opponents away while you do this (VERY hard for them to get around this). Or also lay one hand on their shoulder or somewhere on their body (very effective/frustrating for opponents).
Can also be done in a casual looping (drunken style) that you see with many long-armed fighters like Prince Naseem, Pernell Whitaker, Floyd Mayweather. They kind of wave their head and arms around in a circular style. Sometimes they use their hips to counter-balance as well…which is the next tactic coming up.
GREAT FOR SLIPPING IN RELAX MANNER WHILE BACKING UP.
The Hip Balance
Similar mentality to counter-balancing your torso movements with your arms but this time with your hips. You can actually move very fast this way and find all sorts of fun angles.
Unlike the “arm balance” where your arms move all over the place, here you can have your arms at home close to your face while your hips do all the counter-balancing work. Only issue is it’s hard to move away from your position (footwork) when your hips aren’t under you.
GREAT FOR FINDING MANY NEW DEFENSIVE ANGLES.
Very much like the “hip balance” maneuver but you bend straight over almost like you’re bending down to tie your shoes. Yes, it’s a little scary because you’re somewhat blind and opponents can run behind you but it’s incredibly effective for avoiding shots. Rigondeaux uses that a lot against all opponents (especially Lomachenko).
Use jerky bug-like rhythms to really disturb opponents attack rhythm. I like to just freeze in this position and WAIT until I feelmy opponents swinging their shots in, and that’swhen I duck! A great bug-like rhythm example again is Guillermo Rigondeaux.
Works well against any punch, preferably bigger power punches. Just keep going up and down until you get up. The move works itself out. Either they keep swinging and getting tired, or the ref makes you get up. Either way, this move buys you the opportunity to get up.
GREAT FOR EVADING BIG PUNCHES IN CLOSE RANGE.
Opposite move of the bend-over. You straighten out your body and lean back, pulling your head straight up. I also thought of calling it the “stand back” as many fighters stand straight up when doing this.
This is somewhat similar to the arm balance but your arms stay close to you (some fighters even have their arms straight down.) It’s also similar to the hip balance in your hips can help counter balance.
This move is especially useful for when you want to get away, as it transitions perfectly into back steps.
GREAT FOR EVADING PUNCHES IN CLOSE RANGE AND ESCAPING.
The Blade Turn
Simply turning your upper body like a blade from one side to the other. Of course, don’t be so predictable. Sometimes you go all the way from one side to the other. Other times, you go all the way to one, then only halfway back. Or maybe you roll under, then roll over. Etc and etc.
You might also roll and THEN tilt, or tilt your torso first and then blade turn. Some guys even blade turn so much their upper body is almost in the opposite stance.
This move is more relaxing. You can chill and take it easy since you’re showing your opponent only a very small sideways slice of your body. The move is done IN rhythm instead of off-rhythm like other maneuvers.
GREAT FOR RELAXED SHOULDER ROLL DEFENSE.
The Hand Shift
Something between the “arm balance” and the “blade turn”. You may have seen many slick old-school fighters do this. They turn their upper bodies side to side while shifting their hands around from one side of their face to another.
Many tall guys like Paul Williams do this (watch his shadowboxing)…or even short stocky guys like Miguel Cotto. It has a nice slick vibe to it that allows you to move smoothly and relax while defending.
GREAT FOR SLICKNESS AND RELAXING.
The Roll Under
Just like what it says. Roll your head under punches. Imagine your head drawing a “U” as you dip your head under and come back up.
This move has a few drawbacks like requiring a lot of energy, taking your eyes off opponent, and can be hard to come back with a counter…but it does a fantastic job of throwing opponents off balance or tiring them out when they miss.
GREAT FOR WEARING OUT OPPONENTS.
Exactly what it sounds like. You use pivots or other sharp movements with your footwork to mix in with your head movements. Combining head movement with footwork makes you so much more elusive. The hard part doing it in a RELAXED MANNER!
Some guys prefer sharp, high energy pivots…like Manny Pacquiao or Vasily Lomachenko. Others prefer a more relaxed slick pivot like Miguel Cotto, Roberto Duran.
On the inside, it’s great if you can mix in a push AND pivot. Simply bump your opponent or make some contact and then as he tries to push back, you pivot out of the way to make him lose balance momentarily.
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