I'm pretty decent at sparring, but I consistently struggle against power offensive fighters.

Specifically, I mean people who don't respect my punch, have natural powerful punches, and throw a barrage of punches.

When I say they don't respect my punch, I mean that they have a naturally higher pain threshold and can walk through my punches. One fix, I think, is to throw more powerful strikes. When a strike is powerful enough to get them to back up, that usually invites them to throw harder. Since they have naturally powerful punches, this ends up becoming a slugfest, and not a sparring match.

Myself, I prefer to counter punch, slipping and bobbing punches, which isn't necessarily the best approach against people who throw a lot of punches in a row. When I spar them, I throw strikes on the way in, and cover up to get out.

What are other techniques I can employ when sparring offensive fighters?

  • 2
    Too bad this is limited to boxing, usually I use my legs against the stronger heavier opponent.
    – Reno
    Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 8:29
  • @Reno i would too when kicks are allowed. Not many people have muscular back-of-knees. Alan it is always better to fight someone stronger than you!
    – アキオ
    Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 10:25
  • Yep, this is specific to "hands only sparring." Kicking is probably the best part of my striking game, but when it's not a allowed, I need to come up with other viable techniques.
    – Alan
    Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 15:20

8 Answers 8


Try talking to them; You're sparring so they working on their toughness is dumb; toughness is not a skill that increases with practice*; it's a deteriorating factor.

Being tough is a good quality to have, but it should never be someone's primary way to win. It's a backup. During sparring, where you are trying to improve, you should be working on (placing) winning techniques, so you can K.O your opponent.

Try explaining to them that you can't 'win' in a sparring match; you can't K.O your partner, he won't be able to spar more that day, or maybe tomorrow, or he might even quit. Pretty soon, you'll have no one to spar with.

Regardless, you need to move after you stick them; from what I understand in the situation, they come in throwing punches, but eating one or two on the way in, but then they unload when they're close. Correct? You have a reach advantage on them? (e.g. you're taller?)

Throw your punches and then step to the side. You're likely backing up too straight. It's harder for him to follow you when you keep moving to the side (you'll also not run out of ring/cage/"street"). I do MMA and Kickboxing, but I like the right uppercut and left hook versus a shot or a charging opponent. I spin out of the way when I throw the hook.

  • Depending on your skill and training goals; sometimes you do fight harder during training. But you should know what to do in this case before you get ready for a fight or the like, since this is a pretty common situation to encounter, I didn't figure you were.
  • Thanks! I'll try to work on sticking and moving, and try the uppercut, hook to circle out.
    – Alan
    Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 15:22
  • @Thonams Denmark Uylenbr, I have never seen a "I spin out of the way when I throw the hook.", could you describe in a few words what it is or provide a video link? thanks
    – Vass
    Commented Jan 28, 2014 at 9:03
  • 1
    @Vass Basically, when someone shoots in for a double or single, you throw an uppercut and then the hook you follow with is kind of like a push, helping you turn the angle. Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 6:15

It sounds like you are fighting people tougher than you, a lot of the time this means you can be faster. Every time they throw a punch, do a quick strike to spots like the side of their arm, in between the tricep and bicep. Strike to their armpits. Strike upwards to their lats and if you can, down on their trapezius muscle. Also try striking the inside of their wrist/forearm. Cycle through hitting in places like this your opponent will lose their punching power and speed. Hitting the upper arm and lats will make their punches slower, the trapezius and armpits will take away some lifting power and the forearm will make their grip, and therefore their fists, weaker. Do not even bother wasting energy on a powerful strike if they can ignore it.

I commonly use this fighting style when sparring with my MMA friends, most of whom are noticeably stronger than me. To start with you may want to practice with a friend slowly until you hit the correct points, speed it up until you can do this at fighting pace. This will not work so well with 10oz gloves as you need your knuckles to stab at their muscles, but it will still work with hand wraps or light, fingered gloves.

  • Interesting, I'll look at striking to non-conventional targets. That said, this is with 14oz boxing gloves, so there isn't a lot of bone on bone contact.
    – Alan
    Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 15:13
  • Well you could still do it, but it will take a bit longer and bit harder to get the target. Cant you throw in some elbow strikes?
    – アキオ
    Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 23:54
  • 1
    Hah. Unfortunately not. While we learn quite a bit of elbow strikes, and headbutts, we don't do them in sparring, because the risk of injury is too high.
    – Alan
    Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 0:59

Circle them in the direction of their weaker hand. So if they're right-handed, circle counter-clockwise. This makes it very difficult for them to go toe-to-toe with you and they'll have to concentrate on more technical boxing. Think Mohamed Ali versus Mike Tyson.

Also, the old chestnut about float like a butterfly, sting like a bee applies: close the gap, do your business and get out as quick as possible. He can't hit you if you're not there anymore.


It all depends on your meaning of offensive fighter.

  1. He is offensive and physically much stronger / much more experienced than you.
  2. Same level physically / experience wise but offensive

If it's the first one, then you are out of luck. You have got to train more as there is nothing much you can do. You can land a lucky shot occasionally but that would only make them mad.

If it's the 2nd one, then you are in luck. Fighters who are aggressive tend to tire out much faster. Keep your posture and cool, everytime he tries to land a furry of blows, move back or side. When he gets tired and when he slacks in his defence, strike.

I noticed that the offensive fighters that I faced tend to lean forward when striking and when they are tired. A hit on the jaw would do nicely when they do.


I know one thing intercept the punch if you can't block it. Cut them off don't let them full force punch you by standing there. Also,foot foot foot footwork! Front, back, sideways and circle left or right. Footwork footwork footwork that's like everything. Also try push hands for dodging strikes.


have you thought about cross-training? Meeting force with force is not always the best way; it might be useful to check what other martial arts have in their arsenal. Try to take a few aikido classes (just for fun), it could change the way you box with some opponents (even if you can't use the actual aikido moves while boxing, your mind will be changed already ...)


I like Juann's advice to circle towards their weaker hand, and it sounds like you're already closing then disengaging. I'd add: don't get fixated on the punches. I often have to remind myself of this as I'm a heavy hitter and a perfectionist and don't like to concede anything, and I train mainly kyokushin these days which easily degenerates into a slug fest as we're not punching to the head, but often the smart move is not to match punch for punch. Even when you are stronger, faster, tougher and overall capable of dominating, once you're overly focused on proving that and making it work for you, you may get taken by surprise by a sudden change up from your opponent. Instead, be the one doing the change up - after you hit them as you close distance, if you find they're looking to assert themselves and power through punching at you, just pick up your front leg for a front kick and work their front-side floating rib under the arm they're looking to attack with. Instead of taking it for granted that they can plow forwards to get a "revenge" strike in, claim "territory" so to speak and generally assert their authority, they'll realise they have to prioritorise their defence and earn their opportunities; as your leg has more reach and strength and needs minimal telegraphing this can be very effective. If you find they're anticipating your front kick and looking to keep their front elbow down until they're at close quarters then switch to punching, try mixing in low mawashi-geri/turning/roundhouse to the thigh or as a sweep, picking at the thigh with your heel, a quick switching for back-leg knee or front-kick from a slightly different angle, a front soto-geri/slapping kick, a twisting kick, an axe kick, a jumping back leg spinning back kick etc.. Keep varying the threat, distancing and timing and make them work to close on you.

Also - learn to "trap" with your arms. When you're circling, or block moving for a blind side advantage, learn to keep your arms across the back of their upper arms so they can't orient their arms towards you to attack. If your back hand is free you can swing in hooks to their front with your free hand; whichever hand's free there's plenty of opportunity for punches under their front arm and into their back (dojo etiquette allowing).


sounds like you need to throw more jabs, I know when I have an overly aggressive opponent my jab shuts down his combo everytime. when he throws a combo , throw one back and make him pay for it

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