The flinch reflex can be one of the hardest aspects for the fighter new to boxing to overcome. If you suffer from the flinch reflex it makes sparring very difficult for you. This is because if you are flinching, it causes you to look away or quickly shut your eyes can a punch is coming towards you. Not only does this mean you cannot see the next punch coming, but it also means you don’t see the punch coming and that is a recipe for pain because as we know, the punch which hurts the most isn’t always the hardest punch, it is the punch you don’t see coming.
One of the most effective ways to train out the flinch reflex is to slow things down and then gradually build up the tempo as you become better adjusted to the speed. Often the flinch reflex is caused because are rushed into sparring too soon so the pace is overwhelming for them or they are thrown in with someone more experienced than them which causes them to flinch because they cannot handle what is in front of them.
Slow sparring is a drill I use to help new fighters overcome flinching, the purpose of slow sparring is exactly what it says – you go very slow so you can both clearly see the punch coming and can easily react to the punch. What slow sparring does is it helps you to recognise punches and helps you to recognise punch lines. This means you can start drilling in correct technique against those punches, you can keep your eyes open and properly block the punches or use the proper head movement to slip or roll the punch. Once you have adjusted to the speed you can then either start gradually increasing the tempo so the punches are coming a little quicker at you or you can move on to technical drills for sparring such as body punches only or jabs only.
Have a watch of the video below which is an example of slow sparring and the sort of speed you want to be aiming at when first using slow sparring to train the flinch reflex.
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