One of the most iconic phrases in boxing is “make them miss, make them pay.” Slipping punches, the art of dodging attacks, is one of the most important and fundamental skills to learn in order to have a grasp of what boxing is all about: hitting without getting hit. The slick head movement was one of the things that drew me into the sport, so here I’ll give a quick outline of what a slip is and how this boxing technique is most often used by competitive fighters.
What Is a Slip?
My coach always told me that the best defense in a fight is to not get hit, and I took it to heart. A slip at its most basic is a dodging motion that allows you to avoid a punch while still being in a position to deliver sharp, damaging punches in return. It's a useful tool both for pure defense on the back foot and for aggressively pressuring your opponent if they’re trying to keep you at bay with a jab.
How To Slip In Boxing
Performing a slip is actually relatively simple. Whichever way you want to slip, lean on that leg and twist your hips in that direction, only leaning enough to take your head off the ‘punching line’ (a fancy term for straight in front of the opponent). When you do it correctly, you should still feel balanced, and your body should naturally return to its starting position when you stand back up.
How To Improve Your Slips In Boxing
Once you’ve got the basic movement down, here are some of the best tips I’ve received from my coach and fellow fighters on how to improve your slips.
Use Your Legs
Slipping starts in the legs. If you want to slip left, bend your hips and lean on your left leg. The same is true for slipping right: lean on your right leg. Using your legs to slip allows you to both slip faster and helps you stay in a position to punch while getting your head off the line.
Don’t Bow Your Back
This can be an easy habit to fall into, but the reason it's bad to bow your back when slipping isn’t what you think. By bowing your back when slipping, you compromise your centerline, which makes it harder to keep your balance when throwing punches and leaning. All of the bends and twists in a slip should come from your hips and your legs. Your shoulders and back should remain straight but relaxed.
Follow the Chin-Knee Rule
This is a really important one. When you execute a slip, never let your chin get past or extend out beyond your knee. The reason is again, balance. Leaning over that far greatly compromises your balance and makes it near impossible to throw any punches, effectively sacrificing your threat potential and allowing your opponent to continue attacking safely until you reset to a neutral position.
Slip Outside, Not In
This is actually a rule that can occasionally be broken, but in general, you want to slip to the outside of whatever punch is being thrown at you. In that position, you are safe from the hand that hasn’t been thrown yet, whereas if you slip to the inside, you are liable to get caught. Occasionally you can slip inside to mix it up and catch your opponent off guard, but it shouldn’t be your default.
When Should You Slip In Boxing?
A slip is a move that should be used when you are relatively certain it will work, usually as a ‘read’ or prediction rather than a reflex. While dodging on reflex is certainly possible and an important skill to cultivate in boxing, it can be dangerous. Slipping a punch incorrectly and getting caught is far riskier than simply blocking a punch, which is also easier to do on reaction. Competitively, slipping is best saved for the middle distance and long-distance in fights, as it’s easier to see punches coming from those ranges. Generally, I prefer to slip jabs and straight punches, and either block or shoulder roll hooks and uppercuts.
Slipping is a great tool to have in your boxing repertoire, and let's be honest: it looks really cool. I suggest practicing slipping slowly and getting your legs used to doing the work in front of a mirror. A slip rope drill is a great way to practice as well! Just remember, it’s about quality of practice, not quantity.