When first starting to learn Boxing, it can be a bit too intimidating for a beginner to jump into even a light sparring session with other people.
Getting punched in the face and coping with it is learned over time. And until you are ready for that, you can learn fundamental parts of sparring with much less risk of a black eye!
This is where Tag Boxing comes in. In short, what is tag Boxing?
Tag Boxing is a Boxing partner drill that imitates many of the characteristics of live sparring but without the same danger. Each student tries to tag their opponent by tapping them on their shoulder or thigh to earn a point, and both learn better footwork and feints for sparring.
I’ve done this drill with my training partners in the gym for a few years now, as my head coach always promoted it. So I know how useful it is! If you want to learn more about the benefits of this drill, then keep reading.
How To Do The Tag Boxing Sparring Drill
Tag Boxing is a simple drill that needs two sparring partners to try and tag each other on the shoulders or the thigh, above the knee. Each time one person gets tagged, they do a couple of jumping jacks, and the drill immediately continues.
Usually, you can grab a sparring partner and do this drill right before your main session with your hand wraps on or off.
The point of this sparring drill is to help you improve parts of your Boxing skills and technique without having to worry so much about getting punched in the face.
Note: Playing the shoulder tag can sometimes result in an eye poke. I know because I’ve done it! So be careful and keep your fingers tucked in when playing.
There are other ways to drill tag Boxing, such as counting the points each player accumulates and seeing who comes out as the winner. You can add on a forfeit for losing, like doing ten sit-ups and ten push-ups at the end.
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But for the usual way I’ve participated in this drill, it has been to do two jumping jacks or two burpees as soon as you get tagged and then continue playing.
Anyone can play this drill as a fun game! You can even do it at parties or play it with your kids.
It’s plenty of fun and usually ends up with many laughs. It’s a great way to warm up the body and get your nervous system firing and reactions ready before starting your main session.
Benefits Of Tag Boxing
Tag Boxing helps you develop many of the same skills that you could in regular sparring, as it still requires each fighter to practice their movement with footwork and awareness. They also get to practice their feints, slips, rolls, and counter strikes in a (typically) safer way.
While real fight sparring is a great way to apply your Boxing skills and learn how to face off against an opponent, tag Boxing can also develop many of these skills.
Tag Boxing will help you to improve:
- Hand-eye coordination
- Head movement
- Range management
- Footwork / Movement and foot placement
- Reaction time
- Feinting / Throwing “fakes”
- Slipping to avoid strikes
- Using both high and low strikes for variety
- Throwing combinations (example: fake low, fake high, slip and tag low on the thigh)
- Generally getting comfortable with strikes thrown at you
This Boxing partner drill helps beginners develop all of these, but it isn’t just a beginner tool. Many intermediate, advanced, and even professionals will continue to use this as a tool to keep themselves sharp or to warm up their awareness before a full-contact sparring session.
Tips To Get Better At Tag Boxing
To get better at Tag Boxing, focus on the center of the upper chest of your opponent and let your senses and peripheral vision improve your awareness of their movement. By understanding their movement, you can see their intent and avoid or counter it.
Most beginners and even intermediates will look at their opponent’s eyes, or generally in their head area. But the eyes show lies in Boxing. This is generally an excellent tip for sparring, not just tag Boxing.
Your opponent’s eyes are looking you up and down to find your weak spots, but the actions they take rarely follow from their eyes. What is more likely is that their eyes and head movements are used to try and convince you of something that isn’t happening at all, like turning one way or throwing a particular punch at you.
The center chest of your opponent shows precisely where they will move and what they will do.
This is because your opponent’s movement has to come from the center of their body. Every punch and movement originates from their center, not from their limbs. The movement of the chest shows the direction they are moving, the twists they are turning, and their overall truthful intent.
By just learning to observe their body movements from their center, you can develop a strong ability to see strikes coming before they even get a chance.
Always remember: eyes lie, but the body never does.
While you are participating in partner Boxing drills like tag Boxing, it’s always another excellent opportunity to work on your footwork which is just so critical to becoming an efficient and effective Boxer.
Now you should know exactly what is tag Boxing, how to perform it with a partner, and get the most out of it! If you’re not yet performing this drill at your gym or personal sessions at home, grab a partner and start immediately, as you will soon find out just how valuable this drill can be in developing your Boxing prowess.
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Joe Bloom is the lead author and editor of MMA Hive. Joe has been a passionate mixed martial artist in training since 2019, having studied Boxing and Muay Thai at BaliMMA and Soma Fight Club, as well as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with RitualsJJ.