Ringcraft is undoubtedly one of the most under-taught, and underutilized skills in combat sports. It isn’t any one particular move, but a set of skills that can be used to manipulate an opponent within the ring or cage, and a way of dictating pacing and distance in a fight. Today, Evolve Daily takes a look at some of the key techniques necessary to become a master at controlling the ring.
Before you even start moving, you need to correct your stance. Lots of coaches will tell you lots of different ways to stand. If you’ve got one who knows what they’re doing, fundamentally these are all fairly similar with a few minor adjustments, none of which are “wrong”. Having a solid stance, and being unmovable in the face of your opponents attack, is the first step to understanding ringcraft.
A few points to remember are as follows. Your legs should be about shoulder width apart, with your strong leg back a step and hips facing your opponent. The best way to maintain stability when standing still or moving is to bend the knees slightly. Straight legs mean you can be knocked off balance quite easily. You’ll want to distribute your weight fairly evenly, but slightly heavier on the back leg. This has two functions. One, you can brace for impact a little more easily, and also, having a lighter lead leg makes it easier to bring up to block your opponent’s kicks, frame up for defense in the clinch, or teep them away. Keep your stomach sucked in to protect against body shots, and hands in front of the cheekbones to protect the head.
The idea here is to appear as solid as a wall, if your opponent can’t move you, they’ll move, which is the first part of controlling the ring effectively.
In your face
Once you’ve got the hang of your stance, it’s time to take control of the space around you. Advancing and retreating are both valid options, but let’s look at advancing. While maintaining your stance, step the lead leg towards the opponent incrementally, letting the rear leg follow naturally behind. When your opponent attacks, shell behind a tight guard and fire back longer range attacks like jabs and teeps. If the opponent attempts to crowd you, remember not to forget the option to clinch. Try your hardest not to back up.
Even with minimal attacks on your part, the aggressive nature of your presence and footwork along with consistent pressure and forward movement will force your opponent to retreat. Soon, each step will have them leaping back in order to make space between you. At this point, they may still run left and right, but generally, you’ll be forcing them back into the ropes, where they can’t escape. Think of it as threatening the attack simply by coming forwards. Your opponent will constantly worry about the punches that might come, not the ones that are.
Cutting off the ring
This one can be tricky to master at first, and requires a little forward thinking on your part. Cutting off the ring basically means to move in such a way that your opponent feels he cannot go in certain directions, and it’s done more or less entirely with footwork.
Let’s imagine you’re standing in an orthodox (right-handed) stance opposite your opponent in the center of the ring. Your right hand, in this case, is your power hand, and your left is the faster jabbing shot. Start by stepping diagonally forwards to your left, forty-five degrees from where you were standing. This cuts off a portion of the ring, you’ll be closer to your opponent, and he will have to both move backwards out of your way, and circle to your right side. Your opponent will feel like he can’t go to your left side at this point.
Next, your opponent will probably try and find some space, so give him a little. Step completely laterally when you move to the right, not towards him. This will open up more of the ring for him to move in, which he most likely will. Now, if they try and circle to your left again, repeat the first step, stepping towards him and diagonally to your left to cut him off, then give him a little more space to reset.
What you’re doing here is simple, but extremely effective. You completely cut off your opponent’s movement to his right, and only let him go backwards or left. Any time he moves to his right, you deny him by stepping in towards that direction. In this way, you can drive him all around the ring wherever you want. If you add in strikes to the equation, you can completely control your opponent’s position in the ring in relation to you and set him up for the trap.
In a classic boxing ring there are four corners, and therefore four places to trap your opponent. Once in the corner, it’s very difficult to get out and move fast enough to not get hit. Do your best to never put yourself in this position. It is, however, a brilliant place to put your opponent and there’s quite a simple way to get them there if you’ve mastered cutting off the ring with footwork.
Once you’ve cut them off all the way to the ropes, position yourself just to the right of your opponent, making sure to leave adequate space between you and your opponent to strike. Now advance towards them so that they have to retreat along the ropes. Use left hooks, left roundhouse kicks and certain clinch positions to ensure they don’t drift away from the ropes as they retreat. After a few steps and constant, controlled pressure, your opponent will be stuck in the corner. It’s important that you don’t stand directly in front of them here either. Again, position your opponent just to your right so that they are trapped, but you aren’t in the line of fire for their direct attacks.
When you first looking into ringcraft it may seem like a lot to take in, but there’s a lot more to moving around the ring than simply forwards and backwards. With time, patience and practice, you can implement these techniques and many more to great effect, positioning yourself far better to initiate effective attacks on future opponents.