Shadow Boxing: The Art and Purpose of the Warm Up Ritual

Shadow Boxing: The Art and Purpose of the Warm Up Ritual

by Michael J. Sullivan

The warm up ritual is one of the most important parts of any martial arts training session. Without it, your body will not have enough time to fully prepare itself for actual combat. A good warm up routine helps you get into a relaxed state so that you are ready to go right from the start!

There are many different types of warm ups, but they all share some common features. They include: stretching, light jogging or walking around, and then some sort of physical activity such as weight lifting or running. These activities should be done at least 30 minutes before starting to train. You don’t want to overdo it though; too much exercise can actually make you tired and less alert.

Warm Up Routine #1: Stretching

Stretching is very important because it allows your body to become more flexible. Flexibility is essential for speed, strength, agility, balance and other athletic skills. If you do not stretch properly your joints may become stiff or even painful due to tightness in them. Stiffness is the last thing you want when you are preparing for a fight!

The best way to stretch is to reach towards your toes from a standing position. Never bounce; instead, hold the stretch for about 10-15 seconds then release. You should feel a pull or slight burn in your muscles, but never any pain in your joints (this would indicate that you are stretching too far and may injure yourself). Hold stretches for each part of your body; after stretching your legs, move on to your arms and then your back and finally your torso.

Some martial artists will swear by a certain method of stretching that they feel is superior to all others. Just remember, whatever method you use it should help you gain flexibility. If it doesn’t, there is no reason to do it!

Warm Up Routine #2: Jogging

Before starting your workout routine, you should jog lightly for 5-10 minutes. This will help to get your blood flowing and oxygenate your muscles. Don’t overdo it though; if you start to breathe hard you are jogging too intensely and should slow down a bit. This warm up will also help to increase your core body temperature.

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Warm Up Routine #3: Stations

This type of warm up is a bit more involved than the previous two and it can be altered to fit your needs. You will need to set up markers that you can jump from station to station. The number of stations you set up will depend on the number of skills that you want to practice during your warm up.

Choose a specific skill set such as punches, kicks, blocks, etc. You can set up any number of stations depending on how many skills you want to focus on during your warm up. For each skill, you will perform the following:

1. Jump to the first station and perform the skill 5 times.

2. Jump to the next station and perform the same skill 5 more times.

3. Keep going until you have completed all of the skills you selected.

4. Turn around and go back through the stations in the opposite order.

5. Continue until your heart rate has gone back down and you are no longer winded.

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6. Cool down and stretch as in the warm up routines above.

7. Get yourself mentally prepared for your training session.

Warm Up Routine #4: Shadowboxing

Shadowboxing is a great way to warm up before a heavy bag workout or even a sparring session. While the heavy punching bag may build up strength and coordination, shadowboxing can be used to work on accuracy and different defenses. Shadowboxing is also a great way to practice your footwork.

The key to shadowboxing is to visualize the bag as an opponent and to throw punches and kicks with speed, power, and accuracy. Many people believe that they look silly when they first start shadowboxing, but it is one of the most beneficial exercises to do.

Warm Up Routine #5: Bag Workout

Bag workouts can be one of the most beneficial types of training. They help to build stamina, accuracy, speed, and power. The heavier the bag, the more it will want to sway and move. This is why you need to make sure your footing is good at all times and that you are not over-powered by the sway of the bag.

The heavy bag also helps you learn how to bob and weave by forcing you to balance your body while throwing punches. Below are some bag workouts that you can try.

Workout #1 – Straight Lines and Circles:

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This is a good basic workout for people just starting out with the heavy bag. All you do is stand in front of the bag and throw punches at full force. After every combination, you pivot your feet so that you can line up for the next series of punches. This forms a pattern of straight lines.

Once you’ve got the bag covering the whole area in front of you, start doing circles. Move your feet in a circular fashion and continue to throw punches.

This routine works very well because it forces you to balance your body and it helps you to avoid telegraphing your punches (giving away your moves by tensing up your muscles before striking).

Workout #2 – The Square:

This is a great routine for people who have a basic understanding of how to hit a bag. It helps you to maintain balance and to give power to every punch. All you do is form a square with the heavy bag by starting in one of the corners and throwing punches at it. After every punch, pivot your feet so that you are facing a different corner.

The idea is to cover the whole bag.

This routine helps you to keep balanced and is great for developing power in your punches because you don’t just throw them, you rotate your body as well.

Workout #3 – The Triangle:

This routine is a bit more complicated than the previous two, but it really helps you to develop balance and accuracy.

Sources & references used in this article:

Camilo Gallardo Jungian Analyst by EC Stevens – Stevens (Coach).- Colorado Springs, 2013

Kafka and Pinter: Shadow-Boxing by S Boxing, W Masculinity, ZJ Campbell, S Solis, J Tarot… –

Tao of Heaven, Tao of Earth, Tao of Man: Secrets of Ancient Shadowboxing by R Armstrong, GA Plunka – 1999 – Springer

Ritual magic by S Keven-San, K Hampton – 2001 –

Art-making as ritual: an exploration and development of a personal iconography by EM Butler – 1979 –

Faces of your soul: Rituals in art, maskmaking, and guided imagery with ancestors, spirit guides, and totem animals by C Winter – 2017 –

The art and aesthetics of boxing by ED Ching, K Ching – 2006 –

The Punching Factory: Boxers and Daily Life by DHT Scott – 2008 –