There are commonalities to every boxing school. A ring or two where trainers might hold mitts for boxers or where some sparring may occur, heavy bags that have felt the force of thousands of punches from hundreds of different faces, then there’s the various other implements like speed bags, weights and skip ropes. Then there’s that spot in the gym where nothing hangs, just a space over a well-worn floor and a vacant wall. This seemingly benign piece of real estate like other spots in the gym has seen thousands upon thousands of action, where boxers and fighters face an unbeatable foe.
When a boxer steps up to this area they know that what they will be squaring off against is not just another fighter. It is perhaps the most difficult fight or round of their training day, and they won’t even be able to inflict a scratch let alone land a punch. For their opponent is this area is intangible, it is them and not them, it is their shadow. Using shadowboxing a boxer can hone their reaction time, their footwork and even angles of attack. The best thing is that it is a practice that can be taken out of the gym, for it needs no special equipment or setup, just the ground, a wall and a bit of light to create a shadow.
There are those within the community that scoff at the almost ancient practice of shadowboxing. “Unrealistic” some say, while some outright mock the idea, considering it an “oldschool” mentality. They are not totally wrong in their line of thinking. Boxing is a striking art, and hence you should be striking something when practicing boxing. Heavy bag, speed bag, mitts and belly pads are all great to exercise the contact portion of the Sweet Science. However, should these naysayers take a couple of steps back and take a look at shadowboxing from a different perspective, they may be able to see why it is a practice that has stood the test of time.
Shadowboxing is not about hitting, which is a bit contrarian since the boxer is throwing their fists while practicing it. What it does develop, however, is a boxer’s ability to react. This exercise makes them face something that will do the exact same movements as them, therefore the moment they throw a punch, then their shadow does the same, and so they must react to their shadow and avoid the phantom blow. And so the cycle goes. Attack, react, defend, react, attack, react, defend, and on and on and on. Hand actions are one thing, but shadow boxing will also get a boxer’s feet moving, because after a couple of punches and dodges they will want to naturally move around to attack at their shadow from different angles or evade their shadow’s attacks by sidestepping or shuffling sideways.
Shadowboxing is here to stay, not just because it is one of those things that is part of the way things are, but also because it is highly effective at developing certain traits of boxing that a fighter would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.