Beginner boxers often flinch, move their heads back, or close their eyes when punches come their way while sparring or competing. It’s an issue you should look to resolve as quickly as possible since it impacts your ability to avoid, block, and counter incoming attacks.
You’ve probably watched defensive masters like Floyd Mayweather use their footwork, head movement, and shoulder rolls to avoid punches and wondered how they ever became that good at defense. It starts with seeing the punches coming at you, which requires your eyes to be open even when getting hit.
Getting Past Flinching And Closing Your Eyes As A Boxer
It’s perfectly normal to flinch whenever something moves toward your eyes. It’s a biological defense mechanism that minimizes the damage from physical force or projectiles coming your way. You’d have potentially dangerous objects like insects getting stuck in your eye a lot more often if you didn’t naturally flinch, blink, or close your eyes when anything moved toward your face.
However, your naturally flinching instincts don’t do you any favors inside the boxing ring. It increases the odds of your opponent landing hard blows on you since you don’t see them coming. Punches you don’t see coming also do more damage than those you see.
Many of the most brutal knockouts in boxing occur when a fighter gets hit with a hard punch they never saw coming. This is because your body automatically tenses whenever you see an impact coming, improving your ability to absorb the blow. When you don’t see a punch coming, you don’t get to tighten your jaw, neck, and teeth, increasing the damage done by the blow. Countless videos of people getting “sucker punched” online show this theory in everyday settings. Even punches thrown with poor technique can knock out someone who doesn’t see the punch coming.
Besides making you more vulnerable to punches, flinching also reduces your ability to counter punches since it reduces how much time you have to react to your opponent’s attacks. Boxing is a sport where milliseconds can be the difference between landing your counter or getting caught.
The more you flinch during a fight, the less time you have to mount your offense, defend, and counter. In other words, flinching uncontrollably affects every aspect of your boxing game.
Now that we’ve gone over how flinching can hinder your progression and success as a boxer, let’s take a look at some of the simple things you can do to get past it:
1) Mental Training
One of the first things you should do to get past flinching as a boxer is to come to terms with the fact you have the power to change it despite it being a natural reflex action. You’ll need to train your brain to accept truths like punches hurt the same even if you close your eyes and hurt a lot more when you don’t see them coming.
Some would say flinching inside a boxing ring is your brain’s way of trying to hide from a “scary” punch. Understanding that hiding from a punch only makes things worse for you inside the boxing ring is one of the first steps you can take to get past flinching.
You’ll also need to train your brain to overcome the fear of getting hit when boxing. Tell yourself you’ll be okay before your sparring sessions or bouts, and try not to focus on pain whenever you get hit. Sparring regularly is one of the most effective ways to get past the fear of feeling pain when you absorb a punch.
Most people worry about the pain a hard punch can cause when they first start boxing, but they learn to enjoy the sensation over time. It’s a mentality issue that experience inside a boxing ring fixes.
2) Reflex Ball Exercises
Reflex ball exercises are an effective way to get past flinching. They also improve your rhythm, timing, and hand-eye coordination. Exercising with a reflex ball means constantly dealing with a ball coming at your face, helping to train your brain not to flinch when something comes toward your face.
The way reflex balls work is that you’ll get hit by it if you don’t hit the ball, which is excellent for overcoming your flinch reflex. The exercise teaches you to keep your eyes open as something fast moves toward your face and punishes you whenever you fail to strike the ball. Aim to exercise with a reflex ball a few times per week to teach yourself to keep your eyes open as punches move toward you.
3) Water Splashing Exercise
Water splashing is an unconventional exercise that can help to overcome the flinching reflex. It’s the same water splashing you probably did as a kid growing up. It involves a coach or training partner splashing water at your eyes in a pool while you try not to blink.
There’s also a dryer alternative if you don’t have access to a pool or would rather not get wet. Have a training partner feint and throw light punches at your face while you try not to flinch or close your eyes. Mixing up feints with light punches ups the effectiveness of the exercise.
Both exercises help you to control your flinch reflex, but water splashing is a bit more effective since it also mimics sweat from your opponent flying towards your eyes, which often happens in real fights. Sweat or blood flying toward your face can also lead to flinching if you haven’t trained your brain to ignore it.
4) Attack-Defense Drill
This is one of the drills that help beginner boxers to prepare for sparring or bouts. You’ll need to grab a training partner to perform this exercise. It involves throwing pre-agreed combinations at your training partner while they play defense. Your training partner then throws the same combinations while you play defense. Repeat the process for as long as you wish. Make it a point to keep your eyes open and control your flinch reflex when performing this exercise.
The attack-defense drill is an effective way to get boxers accustomed to getting hit and hitting a person instead of a bag. It simplifies the fighting process since you know what to expect whenever your opponent throws a punch.
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