Head Movement or Footwork?
So the other day I was updating my Instagram and I was browsing through the various boxing channels I follow(as you do). Now one of the guys I follow is a very big Mike Tyson and Cus D’Amato fan. Tyson was known for a lot of things and one of his talents as a young boxer was his head movement, which he would quickly follow up with explosive punching.
This post though, went into a rant aimed at trainers, saying you should be teaching head movement before you teach footwork and the reason most trainers don’t is because they don’t have a clue…I am pretty friendly with this guy so I wasn’t going to get into any debate with him over this statement but here is my view on the matter.
Footwork should always be taught before head movement, yes both are extremely important but your first line of defence is your footwork – to get out of the way of the punch instead of being in harms way and using your head movement to try and avoid the punch. It is far easier and safer to step back from a punch and make them miss because you increased distance between you and your opponent than it is to sit in the pocket and try to slip or roll under a punch. Once you have learnt the basics of footwork, by all means work on head movement but here’s the catch, if you don’t have good footwork or a solid foundation/stance – your head movement will suffer too due to poor balance, which means you will get caught with shots and potentially knocked down by punches that shouldn’t have put you down.
The easiest analogy is a building, when you build a house for example, you don’t build from the top down, you build from the ground up. Likewise you build from feet first, when you have a good base with good footwork, you can punch better, harder and move more efficiently which means you can slip and roll punches better without getting off balanced. It takes time to learn head movement, how to react to punches and how to recognise punch lines and which punches are coming, it is a far better option to learn footwork first and then gradually incorporate head movement into your boxing, which is something I do in my boxing classes. Head movement is great and you must have it, but to say it comes before footwork is just incorrect.
Footwork either gets you into trouble or it gets you out of trouble, make sure it is your first line of defence in the ring, proper footwork will also allow you to become a better judge of distance, which means you get hit a lot less. Becoming good at boxing involves a lot of things, footwork is one of them and so is head movement(I have previously written an article on the importance of head movement) but just like the jab is taught before the hook because it is the punch which is most versatile and the punch which is most used, your footwork should be learnt before head movement because it is your footwork which helps you move into range to throw your punches and then move out of range to avoid punches.