Saturday morning brought my client up to the seventh hour of his stand-up striking course. Having worked primarily on revising guard positions, we moved onto the tactics of the southpaw. My client is right-handed and always been trained in the orthodox fashion, occasionally switching to southpaw to balance things out. However, now we have decided to look at the specific advantages of using a southpaw stance against an orthodox stance. This is not only a great way to change the game, but it also lends itself well to cross-training i.e. when grappling from a stand-up position the fighter typically comes with their dominant side forward. A rather stylised interpretation of Jeet Kune Do also teaches having the dominant foot forward, but this is closer to the way a fencer fights and can leave that lead leg particularly vulnerable to Muay Thai round kicks.
We warmed up with some agility drills. Although I have regularly used markers the new ladders and cones are great new training equipment for me and I have long wanted to make them a regular feature of my lessons. They will certainly be a part of my upcoming workshops. Physical and mental agility are fundamental abilities for the fighter. They should be distinguished from stamina and even sprint work, which are often best left towards the end of training sessions. Agility and coordination work are best delivered as part of a fighter’s warm-up when their minds are fresh and not encumbered by fatigue and stress hormones. This makes it easier to develop neural pathways and get the most out of synaptic transmission. From this base we can develop better techniques and better habits. The ladder and cone drills were the same as those described in Wednesday’s lesson.
With the warmups out of the way we did two light two-minute rounds of sparring. Here I fought in southpaw to help illustrate certain basic tactics and techniques we would be using. We then broke this down into mirror footwork with my client taking the southpaw stance versus my orthodox position. The basis for most of the southpaw strategy is to angle off on the outside. In fact, boxing southpaw is a huge justification for my bias towards making angles a fundamental part of fighting. A good guide for this is to put the leading right foot on the outside of an opponent’s leading left foot and use appropriate techniques from this position.
According to the fictional boxing coach Mickey Goldmill in the action sports drama sequel “Rocky II”, southpaws lead with their head. There is truth in this statement. Therefore slipping the head is a vital component of the southpaw’s strategy. This should be coupled with the footwork of angling off to the outside of the lead foot.
The first technique we looked at was the up-jab. This particular jab lends itself very well to the southpaw stance. I find it interesting that there is nothing readily at hand to make a clear distinction between the up-jab and the jabbing uppercut. I was taught the two differently. The jabbing uppercut shoots out like any other jab until the last moment of contact where the fighter turns the hand into the uppercut position. The up-jab is a jab delivered upwards with the body crouched low. It works in a similar way that the overhand works when slipping forty-five degrees off a fight line.
Throwing the cross like a jab is another technique that is nicely facilitated by the southpaw approach. The positioning lines the cross up very well. However, the technique is not delivered like a full-blooded cross. Instead it is a speed version of the cross. Speed is a very important factor with the southpaw approach. This is why I later had a round of my client simply working speed combinations against me as a moving target.
Before introducing kickboxing variations on these techniques – which included lining up the rear round kick like the jabbing cross and using a fast outside low round kick to the lead leg – I brought in the lean-back. This can be a dangerous manoeuvre in martial arts outside of Western Boxing and semi-contact fighting if the fighter leans back very far. It leaves the lead leg exposed to low kicks. However, if done at speed and with a modified lead it can serve as a good way for the southpaw to move back onto the inside.
The lesson finished with a round of Western Boxing sparring.