I believe that shadowboxing is a whole art in itself and the importance of this crucial part of training is often taken for granted.
At first most feel uncomfortable and awkward during shadowboxing, especially if one has never been in a fight or participated in any kind of sparring. Shadowboxing can only enhance all your other aspects of training and learning to move fluidly with balance, control, body awareness, and grace is something that needs to be practiced on a daily basis. Shadowboxing is also the safest way for you to engage in a full on fight without worrying about actual contact, you can focus on being calm and relaxed during your offensive and defensive transitions.
Shadowboxing is a great way to warm up and prepare your body for training, more importantly it’s an opportunity to choose different opponents in your head and simulate all kinds of fighting scenarios. Visualizing the fight, or training at hand will benefit the rest of your training puzzle. Key fundamentals will be sharpened during proper shadowboxing i.e.: stance and footwork. All of your attributes needed to become skillful will also be enhanced: agility, balance, endurance, flexibility, power, speed, stability and strength…aka the “Core 8”.
Think of shadowboxing as the “art of movement” or what I also consider “dynamic meditation”. The beauty of shadowboxing is that you don’t need any equipment and it can be done anywhere, at any time. All you need is a vivd imagination to envision a new scenario for each shadowboxing session. Sometimes I will visualize a taller opponent where I am looking to attack the body and legs to chop him down at a level that is more with in my reach. Even though I’m taking a couple of shots to get in close I am keeping my hands up high so that those strikes are just partially grazing my guard. I then start to visualize closing the distance with quick and sharp footwork, landing a stiff jab to the center of his chest. He happens to fire a switch knee towards my body as my jab lands, but I see it coming and take the knee strong. My jab knocks him off balance enough to take some steam off the knee that he attempted to deliver towards my spleen, but I stay on the offensive. I follow the jab with a straight right towards the belly button that is partially hidden by his waistband on his shorts, but it still lands on target. Even before I threw my jab, the rear leg low kick is my initial thought, so as my cross leaves his gut, my hip is loaded and whips a leg kick that lands just as his switch knee is returning to his stance. There is no sound of instep slapping on skin, just a thud of mid shin driving through an unflexed thigh muscle and colliding in to a femur not ready for impact.
Does your shadowboxing go down like this in your head? Visualization and your imagination are the key elements to artful shadowboxing where you can work in a free flowing manner and express yourself in controlled aggression. What I stress to my students is, “slow is smooth, smooth is fast”. Take your time to make this overlooked and underestimated piece of training the basis of your Muay Thai journey.