The jab is the most basic punch and in many ways, it is the foundation of all offensive maneuvers. The best boxers often work off of the jab and utilize the jab in a variety of ways. Here, we'll talk about the different types of jabs, how to perform then, and their uses.
The first type of jab we'll discuss is the basic jab. This type of jab is the standard jab with medium power and speed. It is not the fastest or the slowest, nor does it carry the most power, but it is effective in setting up your other offensive techniques. The basic jab is performed by extending your fist and wrist forward as one unit from your fighting stance. It is important to remember that the fist should be consciously in tune with the wrist.
This means that you have awareness of the fist and the wrist as one unit vice two in order to prevent the wrist from bending upon impact. By doing this you consciously anticipate impact to the wrist so it is no surprise when impact happens and your wrist is prepared to receive it without folding. This is critically important and applies to all jabs.
The next element of the jab is the extension of the elbow. The elbow should remain down during the execution of the punch. At the end you may turn the punch over so your fist is horizontal if you chose. This will also turn the elbow out as well, but at this stage of the punch, your elbow should be aligned with your wrist and shoulder so it will not drain power from the punch. Turning your jab at the end will also generally turn the shoulder so it’s slightly higher providing more cover for your chin. However, just remember jabbing with the elbow out drains power from the jab.
There are times where you may want to do this such as performing a flicker jab or if your elbow is already out for some reason and you still want to jab, but just be mindful that it does drain power from the punch. Generally, the extension of the elbow should be straight forward. The focus here should be as if there is a string attached to your wrist pulling your wrist to the target. Imagining this helps train your jab to not pull back first or simply extend the elbow without forward intent.
Some common mistakes when people jab is they tend to telegraph the punch by slightly pulling their elbow or wrist back to generate more power. Don't do that. Instead punch from wherever your hand is without the slightest backward movement. An easy way to train this is to practice the jab with a bend in your elbow greater than 90 degrees. This means your hand is already about halfway to its target. Punch from there. It is harder to pull the punch back as it is already closer to the target than to your body. This will train speed and remove the pulling back telegraph.
It's also important to understand the force extending the elbow is forward and not up, down, or any other direction. Punching with a downward movement would make your jab look like you're using a hammer and that's a different punch altogether. Punching with an upward movement would be locking your arm out without any added power. Imagine a string attached to your inner elbow and pulling it straight up to extend your arm. Thus, the power goes up vice forward into the target.
A natural consequence of the basic jab is the use of the shoulder. While the shoulder does not initiate the punch, it does add distance and power. It is the natural consequence of allowing the target to pull your punch toward it. When the pull is strong enough, it wants to pull your entire body. Thus, you put your entire body into the punch. Now, while the pull engages your entire body, this does not mean your entire body is engaged for purposes of power. No, some elements of your body are for balance, others for speed, others for power, and others for accuracy. It is a balance of the elements that generates the perfect jab. The jab is not about any one element, whether speed, power, or anything. It's a balanced punch used to deal moderate damage or feel out your opponent's reactions and responses. Therefore, typically, when throwing a basic jab, the shoulder will come forward slightly.
Your balance may shift forward so more weight is on your lead foot, your hips may turn slightly into the punch, but again all of this is a by product of the extension of the punch and not the genesis of the jab. Depending on how much power you put into the punch will determine how the rest of your body responds to the extension of your jab. However, train this punch, so your response is controlled. Often beginners train their jab, but not in connection with the rest of their body, so their back foot comes off the ground, they lose balance, or drop their guarding hand.
With all jabs, it's important to train your distance and energy to avoid hyper extending your elbow. If you attempt to punch too far beyond your reach, you can injure your elbow. If you use too much upward energy when punching, you'll lock out your elbow and also risk damaging it. So, it's important to execute the punch smoothly, even slow in the beginning until you get more comfortable with it. Just as important as the execution of the punch is the recovery. When first learning, many students tend to drop their hands slightly on the recovery. Focus on keeping both of your hands high to defend against any counter attack. So, upon recovery of your punch, recover on the high line and keep your wrist high on the way back in remembering the elbow should also be down.
Now obviously, the jab can be combined with all kinds of footwork. It works best with the forward single step (stepping with the front leg only), the push step (pushing off the rear foot and moving both feet forward), and the outside line curve step (push step, but the movement circles to your lead side instead of straight). The single step off the lead leg adds distance to the punch and allows you to reach a bit further, but still recover to your original position as the back foot doesn't move. This step can be taken at various angles, left, right, or straight ahead and can be combined with a slip or other head movement. In a later article, we'll discuss slips, footwork, and the various types of attacks from their uses. For now, just understand that the basic jab is best used when combined with the proper footwork or a slip depending on the situation.
Obviously, if you need to add moderate distance to your punch, use the single forward step, if you need more distance, the push shuffle should work. To cut an angle on your opponent, use the outside curve step with the punch. If your opponent is attacking, combine your jab with a slip, parry, block, or other defensive maneuver. When using the jab with footwork, remember your punch should land slightly before your lead foot. This ensures your maximum body weight is delivered with the punch.
The basic jab is used for a variety of purposes. All punches should generally be used to deal some type of damage even if only a little. However, in the process of dealing out damage, secondary and tertiary missions are sometimes helpful. For example, the speed jab can be used to temporarily blind the opponent.
By doubling up on the jab, it can make it difficult for your opponent to see the next attack coming because there is a punch in his face. When using the jab to blind your opponent temporarily, aim for his eyes then ensure your follow up attack is swift, strong, and effective. In addition, the jab can also be used to gauge the distance between you and your opponent. It is threatening enough that your opponent will want to block, but it's not strong enough to solicit much more than that. The jab is useful for feeling your opponent out and determining his responses to your offense without showing him your full hand. Use it for this. If the punch connects great, if it doesn't at least you gain a better understanding of your distance and your opponent’s reaction.
Work the jab often and make it a part of your arsenal. It should be one of the mainstays of your offense. Perfect it and learn to use it in a variety of ways from multiple angles, footwork combinations, and other movements and strategies. It will serve you well. And remember to always believe in you and say no to that which is not aligned with who you are.
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