Skip to main content

Hacking Balanced Speed, Joe Louis Style by Mark Hatmaker

[The following is a preview from our upcoming book Boxing Like the Champs, Round Two. I have removed the second and third drill sets at the request of my publisher. For that information, see the book when it comes out or join the RAWSubscription Service for more historical tips and drills.]

Joe “The Brown Bomber” Louis is often rated as one of the heaviest punchers in boxing history

We know that he augmented his natural power, thanks to Jack Blackburn’s schooling on his step-and-punch method.

Louis also had speed. For a big man he put some quick movement together.

Speed is often an inborn attribute. It can be helped along by smooth efficient drilling but, for the most part, speed is a God-given gift.

But…there is an attribute of speed that can be hacked and developed, that speedy-attribute is balance.

Let’s have a listen to trainer Walter Smith and what he saw as Jack Blackburn’s biggest assist to Joe Louis.

He taught him balance…As long as a man keeps himself on balance when throwing punches—that is one of the basic things of boxing. If you don’t have good balance, your punches are not going to be effective.”

But let’s not take Smith’s word on Blackburn’s insistence on balance, this is the Brown Bomber himself on what he felt was Blackburn’s greatest advice.

You ask me what one great thing he taught me stands out in my mind? It was the trick of balance, balance in setting to hit, balance in delivering a punch, balance after I landed, but most important, balance if I missed. Balance in action was his god.”

Are you hearing that? “Balance in action was his god.”

Which, in turn, became one of Louis’ self-admitted vital tools.

So, how do we make balance an important part of our own game?


A heavy bag is a staple of boxing training, there is nothing like it to develop power. The bigger the bag that you can manhandle, the better.

But to develop balance in delivering heavy hands, it is wise to spend time on bags waaaaay lighter than you would usually consider.

For instance, if you commonly work a 90-100-pound bag, spend a like amount of time on say a 40-pound bag.

Ideally, you will throw just as hard as you did on the bigger bag and not adjust for the lightness.

Resolving to throw heavy despite the smaller size will give us more sway and create more chaotic angles allowing us to “find our balance” in the midst of misses, near-misses, and bag-grazes.

Use the following bag rotation to keep a good balance of speed and power.


Round 1-Bang the big bag HARD & FAST.

Round 2-Bang the light bag HARD & FAST. Strive to make no let-off in speed or power. There will be more misses and/or awkward moments initially, that’s OK, that’s part of the balance learning process.

Rounds 3-6-Alternate this for two more cycles.

The goal is to teach the fighter to always find balance and good recovery when throwing hands.

To never feel off-balance. Often fighters only miss in the ring where being out of balance matters greatly.

Programming your gym training for misses with bag work and mitt-work allows you to get a bit closer to reality and start making balance in action one of your own demigods.


Popular posts from this blog

Warrior Awareness Drills by Mark Hatmaker

THE Primary Factor in self-protection/self-defense is situational awareness. Keeping in mind that crime is, more often than not, a product of opportunity, if we take steps to reduce opportunity to as close to nil as we can manage we have gone a long way to rendering our physical tactical training needless [that’s a good thing.]
Yes, having defensive tactical skills in the back-pocket is a great ace to carry day-to-day but all the more useful to saving your life or the lives of loved ones is a honed awareness, a ready alertness to what is occurring around you every single day.
Here’s the problem, maintaining such awareness is a Tough job with a capital T as most of our daily lives are safe and mundane [also a good thing] and this very safety allows us to backslide in good awareness practices. Without daily danger-stressors we easily fall into default comfort mode.
A useful practice to return awareness/alertness to the fore is to gamify your awareness, that is, to use a series of specific…

Apache Running by Mark Hatmaker

Of the many Native American tribes of the southwest United States and Mexico the various bands of Apache carry a reputation for fierceness, resourcefulness, and an almost superhuman stamina. The name “Apache” is perhaps a misnomer as it refers to several different tribes that are loosely and collectively referred to as Apache, which is actually a variant of a Zuni word Apachu that this pueblo tribe applied to the collective bands. Apachu in Zuni translates roughly to “enemy” which is a telling detail that shines a light on the warrior nature of these collective tribes.
Among the various Apache tribes you will find the Kiowa, Mescalero, Jicarilla, Chiricahua (or “Cherry-Cows” as early Texas settlers called them), and the Lipan. These bands sustained themselves by conducting raids on the various settled pueblo tribes, Mexican villages, and the encroaching American settlers. These American settlers were often immigrants of all nationalities with a strong contingent of German, Polish, and …

Awareness Drill: The Top-Down Scan by Mark Hatmaker

American Indians, scouts, and indigenous trackers the world over have been observed to survey terrain/territory in the following manner.
A scan of the sky overhead, then towards the horizon, and then finally moving slowly towards the ground.
The reason being that outdoors, what is overhead-the clouds, flying birds, monkeys in trees, the perched jaguar—these overhead conditions change more rapidly than what is at ground level.
It has been observed by sociologists that Western man whether on a hike outdoors or in an urban environment seldom looks up from the ground or above eye-level. [I would wager that today, he seldom looks up from his phone.]
For the next week I suggest, whether indoors or out, we adopt this native tracker habit. As you step into each new environment [or familiar ones for that matter] scan from the top down.
I find that this grounds me in the awareness mindset. For example, I step into my local Wal-Mart [or an unfamiliar box store while travelling] starting at the top, t…