When you spar, your lead side has a big impact on what you can do. If you put your better side forward, you’re typically quicker. Meanwhile, if you put your weaker side forward, you’re reserving your stronger side for power moves with weight-transfer. It’s clear there are trade offs either way. Another thing to consider is what side your opponent has forward. If they are in a right-lead stance and you are in a left-lead stance, a lot of attack angles are cut off. Today’s drills are all about trying the different combinations and seeing what options are available in each orientation.
Non-Dominant Hand Lead
For this drill, everyone spars with their non-dominant side forward. For most people, this means having your left side forward. This is a very traditional way to fight, especially in boxing. The mindset for this orientation is to have your weaker hand do your jabs and blocks while your stronger hand throws powerful reverse punches and crosses.
While this does work well for generating power on your big moves, there are a few downsides. First off, you use your front hand a lot more in sparring than you use your rear hand. Count how often you block and strike with your lead hand versus your rear hand and you’ll be shocked at the difference. By sparring this way you’re using your worse weapon most frequently. Secondly, consider which foot is better. For many people, right-handed means right-footed. In sparring, rear leg kicks score even less frequently than rear hand strikes, so the downside is even more noticeable here.
Dominant Hand Lead
Now have everyone spar with the dominant side forward. This is a very non-traditional approach to fighting (but one favored by none other than Bruce Lee). By having your best side forward, you better hand and foot are doing the majority of the fighting. This has tremendous advantages for blocking, speed moves, and starting combinations. Switching it up will also teach adaptability to different situations.
While this does allow more speed and better blocking, it does sacrifice power. My dominant hand can reverse punch a lot harder than my non-dominant hand. In point sparring, this is obviously not a factor, but remember – point sparring is just a drill, we must train with the mindset of protecting ourselves and others. Until you can throw power moves from this unorthodox position, do not use it in self-defense.
The next evolution in this drill series involves switching leads so that every possible combination is tried. Do this by dividing a timed sparring match up so that participants spar in the following ways:
Not only will this drill ensure that students are developing their sides evenly, but it also presents different target opportunities. Left to right is very different from left to left. Students will need to experiment striking to different targets and throwing different moves. It also forces participants to not switch back to a more comfortable orientation. I know I have trouble keeping my “bad” side forward, I always unconsciously switch back!
Remember, if participants struggle, point out what openings are available in all configurations to get them started!
We All Have a Better Side
Remember to be well rounded, but still develop expertise. It’s okay to have a better side, just make sure you don’t become one-sided! Practicing these drills are a great way to make sure you develop both sides evenly.