Can you throw a punch?
I mean a real punch. If some punk started a fight with you on the street, could you throw a punch with enough power and accuracy to turn the lights off for that soon-to-be-sorry-punk-bitch?
I’m talking about a real man’s punch. Not a feeble, half-hearted slap, or running at your attacker with arms circulating like a windmill.
Well, could you?
If you’ve got fists clenched and you’re thumping your chest right now shouting “Fuck Yeah”, then good for you. You’ve passed punching 101.
However, most people aren’t that confident and thoughts of self-doubt would shadow over their ability to defend themselves. If this is you, don’t worry. With enough practice, you can learn how to throw a knockout punch.
It’s Not All About Strength
Contrary to popular belief, the force from your punch is not determined by your size, or strength, or what size of biceps you have.
It’s all to do with technique.
I’m not trying to convince you of some Kung Fooey bullshit. And yes, all things being equal, a hulking, steroid-popping 120kg bodybuilder is going to have more venom behind his shots than a skinny pot-smoking gamer.
But if that gamer was to immerse himself in boxing, within a year, he would be able to land one on the chin of the iron-pumping colossus packed with enough power and ferocity to surprise in true David and Goliath fashion.
Before the big brute’s world faded to black, the last thing he would remember feeling would be a confused mixture of shock, embarrassment, and admiration.
Proper punching technique allows you maximise the power you do have.
The power comes from the rotation of the hips and shoulders and not the arms. Putting your weight behind your punch gives it that extra OOMPH. Combine this with a snappy punch that connects at full extension and with the two knuckles nearest the thumb, and you’re your fists become lethal weapons.
But don’t focus on The Haymaker from the outset. Learning boxing takes time, and you will develop power in time. But, be patient.
Focus on learning proper technique. Once you’ve got the basic movement down, gradually increase the speed and power.
Four Basic Boxing Punches
There are only four basic boxing punches that make up the striking game in boxing; the Jab, Cross, Hook, and Uppercut.
Forget about the crazy spinning back fists, overhand rights, and superman punches you see on UFC. That shit stays in the Octagon. Well, for now at least.
The punches go by different names and numbers and are performed in many different styles. But all variations and combinations stem from the four basic boxing punches.
Master them before you try anything else!
You don’t need fancy technique to win a fight. You only need to perform the basics well. Having a solid jab cross (the simplest and easiest of boxing combinations) will win a fight in the ring, or in the street.
If you want to be a boxer, you must know the difference between each punch, their purpose, and how to properly execute them.
And if you’ve made it this far through this post, I’m taking it that you’re serious about learning how to box?
Good, now take out your pen and take note of these four basic boxing punches. Or better yet, stand up and perform the technique as you read.
The jab has multiple functions. It’s used for both for offense and defence, to gauge distance, and to set up other punches in a combination.
It should be performed quickly and with enough sting on the end of it to pop your opponent's head back.
Just as quickly as it’s thrown, your hand should return to your chin.
Liken the jab to a small calibre machine gun that maims instead of kills. It pops off hundreds of rounds a minute that weakens and wears down your opponent while keeping them outside your guard. It also has the added functionalities of firing tracer rounds that gauge distance, and firing shots that expose weaknesses and open the guard for the big, bazooka punch.
Sorry, I got carried away with the gun analogy.
The jab should be thrown with lightning speed and pinpoint accuracy, sometimes with two, three or four jabs thrown in quick succession.
The Offensive Jab
Many combinations, especially beginner ones, start off with the jab.
The jab isn’t a big power shot. It’s rare to knock your opponent out using the jab. It’s used more of a lead-in punch that allows you to follow up with harder-hitting punches.
It’s also quick as it’s thrown with the hand closest to your opponent, and allows you to check what they’re going to do when you throw; slip, parry, cover up, counter, etc.
You then follow up with a combination that picks apart their guard and exploits their weaknesses e.g. If your opponent covers up when you jab, follow up with a barrage of attacks to the body.
The Defensive Jab
Mastering the jab can save you in a fight.
When you have a relentless opponent that just won’t stop attacking, the jab can keep distance by keeping them outside punching range and stop the onslaught by interrupting their combinations.
A quick defensive jab allows you to keep scoring points while looking for an opening to release a combination.
The alternative is to keep backing away or ducking from your attacker, which makes you look like a biatch if you’re not coming back with solid counter punches. Covering up will only make it easier as you let your opponent pick n’ mix their shots (while also making you look like a biatch).
How to Throw a Jab
- Starting in your guard, have your fists loosely clenched ready to throw a punch.
- Extend your lead arm while rotating your hand. Through the complete motion of the jab, your hand should rotate 90° and go from thumb pointing upwards, to knuckles facing up.
- While extending your arm, lean forwards slightly and transfer the weight to your front foot.
- At the point of impact, your arm should be fully extended – your elbow should not be bent at all.
- Quickly withdraw your hand back to your guard.
- All the above steps should be performed in one fluid motion that is quick and snappy, yet powerful.
Note: If you are slightly outside striking range, you may need to take a small step forward as you punch to close the distance.
The cross, sometimes referred to as the straight, is your big power shot.
It’s the punch seen in movies. You know, the single punch the hero throws that knocks the villain clean off his feet. That bad boy, is the famous cross.
As the cross is thrown with your rear hand, it has a longer trajectory until it reaches its target, giving it time to build momentum. You also get more of an angle of rotation with the shoulders when throwing the cross, and you can push off the back foot for added force.
In essence, it’s the perfect mixture for a debilitating punch.
Beginners love to throw a cross as it feels more natural and it’s easy to put power behind it. Hearing the big THUD when connecting with the mitts or bag makes them feel like a badass.
But there’s a lot more than power that goes into a cross if you want it to be effective and not just for show. In fact, you’d be better off working on your speed before focusing on power.
Beginners also make the mistake of telegraphing the cross, chicken winging, leaving their arm outstretched afterwards (exposing them to counters), or lifting the back foot as they punch.
All of the mistakes usually result from a sole focus on power. So, ditch the macho shit in the beginning, and learn the correct way to throw a cross.
How to Throw a Cross
- Start in your guard position. The cross is performed with your strong hand which should be at the back. If your stance is regular, the cross is thrown with the right.
- Extend your arm while turning your wrist at the same time. As with the jab, the hand will rotate 90° and go from the thumb being on top, to the knuckles facing upwards.
- As you throw the punch, simultaneously rise onto the ball of your back foot while rotating your hips and shoulders. DO NOT RAISE THE BACK FOOT OFF THE GROUND! – Always have two points of contact in case you get tagged with a counter punch.
- The rotation of the hips and shoulders and pushing off the back foot is where the power comes from. Really focus on the shoulder rotation and transferring your weight through the shoulder and through the arm.
- On impact, your arm should be fully extended. I.e. your elbow should be locked.
- Quickly return your hand to the side of your temple and maintain guard.
Tip: For devastating power, aim for the back of your opponent’s skull. Throw the cross so that your arm is fully extended when it smashes into their face, but ‘drive the punch home’, so their face leaves an impression on the back of their skull.
Only throwing straight punches makes you predictable. You need to mix up your game with punches coming in at every angle. Here’s where the hook comes into play.
The twisting of the body when throwing a hook makes for a devastating punch.
Delivering a clean hook to the temple or chin has serious knockout potential, or at the very least, whacks your opponent off-balance causing disorientation and allowing you to continue the attack at different angles.
Getting power behind any punch involves rotation of the shoulders and hips. This is especially true for the hook.
Try getting power behind a hook without turning your shoulders and you’ll see what I mean. The most you could hope for is to piss your opponent off with a happy slap.
Hooks can be used at both long and short distances and can target the body or head.
Short Range Hooks
Short range hooks are easier to learn. Your arm is bent 90°-120° so that it looks like the letter L. It’s kept rigidly in that position and thrown horizontally at chin level.
All the power comes from rotating your hips and shoulders and spinning on the ball of your front foot.
Long Range Hooks
Adding long range hooks to your punching arsenal will create new openings.
Long range hooks are similar to throwing a jab or cross, however, you will come in ever so slightly from the side, and your hand will be rotated so that your thumb is facing up.
The angle in between forearm and bicep should be around 150°.
Body hooks should target the ribs, sternum, stomach, and liver for maximum effect. The aim is to knock the wind out of your opponent, break a rib, or cause internal bleeding or bruising so that he’s unable to continue the fight.
If this sounds inhumane, know that your opponent is trying to do the same thing to you.
It’s kill or be killed.
Good fighters throw combinations that change levels.
For example, throwing a jab causes your opponent to block which leaves his stomach exposed for a body hook. You deliver the punch with sickening power that knocks the wind out of your opponent who instinctively drops his guard to cradle his pain-stricken torso. You finish your combination with a cross to his unguarded chin.
Lights out. Show’s over. Everyone go home.
How to Throw a Hook
The steps below are for a short range hook to the head. Long range hooks are similar, but the angle between bicep and forearm is more obtuse.
- While in close combat range, drop your hooking arm very slightly and lean into to that side so that your weight is on the side you are going to throw the punch with.
- Bend your arm so that it is at 90° at the elbow. Keep your arm locked in this position throughout the punch. The wrist should be straight.
- Rotate your shoulders and hips while keeping your arm in the hook position. You should be on the ball of your foot on the same side the punch is thrown as you spin i.e. if you throw a right hook, you should be on the ball of your back foot.
- Put some weight behind your shot by leaning onto your lead foot slightly. You should have about 70% of your body weight on the front foot that is pivoting (for left hooks).
- If you’re throwing a hook to the head, keep your arm in line with your chin while moving through the same horizontal plane. Hooks to the body are slightly different and are almost a combination of a hook and an uppercut.
- Return your arm back to guard as soon as you’ve executed the punch.
Uppercuts add another dimension to your punching game and allow you to work different angles that surprise your opponent. Not in a nice way, but in a that-will-teach-you-to-duck-your-head kinda way.
Similar to hooks, uppercuts can be thrown from both short and long range and can target both the head and body.
Short uppercuts to the head are the easiest to learn. If you’re new to boxing, then definitely start with these.
Close range hooks and uppercuts are ideal when you’re in close proximity and can’t pop off with a jab or cross. They easily slip through your opponents guard, and unless they have excellent fighting reflexes, they won’t see the punch coming.
Uppercuts should be aimed at the chin and drive your opponent’s chin to the back of the skull. Uppercuts to the body should be delivered right below the rib cage and push the bone in and up.
Longer range hooks are harder to master but are extremely effective. At long ranges, your opponent is likely to suspect the jab or cross, however, if you maintain distance but mix up your combinations with long-range hooks and uppercuts, you will catch your opponent off-guard. Long range hooks usually target the head.
How to Throw an Uppercut
- Start off in your guard in close quarters with your opponent.
- Perform a tiny squat that transfers your weight to the side where the uppercut will be thrown while slightly lowering your arm that is delivering the uppercut. DO NOT DROP YOUR ARM TO YOUR WAIST! Always remain in guard.
Note: The squat is a very subtle movement that you will not even notice when the uppercut is thrown fast. The crouching motion is 1/25th of a full squat and helps you load up to put power in the uppercut.
- Throw your punch in an upward direction targeting the chin or the upper abdomen while pushing through your legs at the same time. There should also be some rotation in your hips and shoulders. Keep your elbow tucked in close to your body.
- Quickly return to the original position and anticipate for a counter punch or continue throwing punches in a combination.