The first few times you spar can be pretty ugly.
Not only does a lot of your technique crumble to pieces in your first few experiences, but when you first start sparring you underestimate your body’s natural response to a punch: flinching.
What is Flinching?
Flinching is a natural body response to expected pain, shock, or displeasure. When you flinch you typically withdraw/back away, tense muscles, and close your eyes.
Clearly this can be extremely detrimental to your boxing. If your eyes are closed, you can’t see and prepare for the punch that is coming, tensing your muscled is not always ideal, and backing up suddenly can throw you off balance.
Learn more about the 7 keys to properly taking a punch.
Sparring with Jabs to Stop the Flinch Reflex
To stop the flinch reflex in boxing you need to practice taking punches. A lot of them.
But you also don’t want to do this is a brute-like fashion. By sparring with jabs only, you can ensure that you will take punches, but in a semi-controlled manner that will not be too painful.
Engage in aggressive, jab-only sparring sessions in which you focus on never closing your eyes, and never moving away from your opponent. A jab isn’t going to hurt, so stay loose, and keep moving.
Overtime, increase the power you and your partner throw jabs with. If you are ready for in, you can add in straight right hands also. This will remain something easy to see, but will be sting a little more.
If your having trouble keeping your eyes open, spar with the intention of counterpunching your opponent. You will quickly realize that you can’t counterpunch if you close your eyes.
Feints are another twist you can add to this sparring. Mix in feints with jabs, and feints and jabs to the body and head. Learn more about feints here.
Measuring your Progress
After a day of focusing on flinching, spar a round regularly and see how you do. If there is still room for improvement, continue to work on jab-sparring or 1-2 sparring again the next day, and assess again via full sparring.
Making Your Opponent Flinch
If you want to be the one making your opponent flinch, falter, and ultimately lose, check out our guide to 12 Techniques that Win Fights below.