Boxing Tip #17 - Clamping Your Way to a Correct Guard Position
Hopefully you've learned how to correctly position your head and arms by now from the boxing basics lesson on the site. If you haven't, read that before continuing here, but to rehash - basically your chin is tucked into your lead arm shoulder, with elbows in close to your sides and gloves up protecting your face.
Seems simple enough right?
It is simple if you're standing still conciously thinking about keeping your head down looking up through your eyebrows, tucking your chin into your shoulder and keeping your elbows in nice and close. I'll bet though, that once you start moving around, throwing punches, you may quickly forget everything you've learned about guard positioning You probably won't even notice it, but your chin will eventually rise up and stick right out there, your elbows will leave your sides, and both of these will beg your opponent to plant a nice juicy fist right where you're going to feel it.
That immediate feedback from your opponent is usually enough to remind you to put your arms and head back in position, but by then it may be too late.
A lot of you are training without a partner or trainer, and without a trainer there to remind you and ensure you develop the habit, you may be in danger of developing a bad habit instead, letting your elbows drift away from their protective state and tilting your head up and even out.
So, what can you do to ensure your head and arms stay in the correct position without having someone watch you?
You need a system of feedback - something that tells you immediately when you aren't in the correct guard position. That could be a friend who smacks you in the ribs or face when not protected, but often you can't even find a good friend to smack you around. Here's a quick and simple method for ensuring you maintain the correct positioning while moving around and punching.
Clamping the Chin in Proper Position - Meet the Tennis Ball
Pick up one tennis ball and insert it into the hollow of your neck and then hold it in place by tilting your chin down, clamping it between your chin and neck. For much smaller people, you may need to use a golf ball in order to get your head down far enough. Now, from here, perform your drills ensuring the ball stays in place. Doing this will help you develop the habit of keeping your chin down and into your body, thus offering some protection.
Clamping to Keep Your Elbows in Position
Similar to clamping a tennis ball between your neck and body, you can train yourself to keep your elbows in by using your elbow to hold something - glove, rag, board, etc... between your elbow and bottom ribs. Pretty much anything works as long as it is long and flat.
You can build on this as well to ensure your fist stays up beside your chin, by clamping a golf ball (or something smaller if you are much smaller) between your bicep and forearm (where your elbow naturally bends.)
For the chin positioning: You can either shadowbox or hit the heavy bag while holding that ball under your chin. I wouldn't recommend sparring, as you'll probably do some damage if you are forced to clamp down harder by an incoming shot than required. Practice moving around and throwing your punches while keeping that ball in place. After a while when things start feeling comfortable, remove the ball and continue practicing until you notice your head lift. Then it's time to put it back in place. Eventually, drilling in this way, you'll naturally adopt the correct head positioning.
For your elbows: Obviously you aren't going to be able to throw any punches or everything you're clamping down on is going to hit the floor. Instead, practice moving around, slipping, ducking, etc... This is where a sparring partner can come in handy. Have him throw some light shots to the body and practice twisting your torso with everything in position.
Alternatively, you can clamp down on items one side at a time and throw punches with the other arm. For instance, to practice jabbing (orthodox) while maintaining correct positioning on your right arm, clamp your right arm in place and then practice away - shadowboxing, heavy bag, or technical sparring. Same goes for the right, just clamp the left arm in place.
Having the immediate feedback of the item you are clamping down on hitting the floor will initially cause you to conciously maintain the correct positioning. Eventually, it will become second nature and you'll develop the correct habit. In all of your training without a trainer it is important to try and work some type of feedback system into your routine so you have a failsafe that will tell you when you are in danger of developing bad habits. While not perfect, clamping down can set you up for success in the long run. Now go clamp your balls and learn proper positioning.