Uppercuts are devastating strikes that can often catch your opponent off guard due to the angle of the attack. It’s a close quarters weapon that will usually knock your opponent's head back and change the momentum of a fight. The trick is mastering both the rear and lead uppercuts and working them into your arsenal.
First, we'll discuss some common features of both the rear and lead uppercuts. Perhaps more than any other punch, the uppercut uses the momentum generated from the ground to deliver a massive blow. What makes the uppercut different in its use of the ground for power generation since the energy generated from the ground is more direct. In other words, it goes in one direction which is straight up into the target rather than going up, rotating the hips, then going forward into a straight punch. The second thing to note about the uppercut is that it maximizes the use of the elbow drawn into the body. Thus little if any power is lost due to the extension of the arm. The uppercut uses the whole body to delivery power.
The lead uppercut can be thrown from nearly any type of fighting stance or movement. From a boxing stance, it works best if you can slightly lean or slip over to your lead side, this effectively acts to shift your body weight to your lead leg and lowers your shoulder under your target to maximize leverage in the shot. In this position, you square up slightly and align your rear shoulder toward your target. Essentially, you are loading up the punch, but how much you load up the punch is entirely up to you. If you're opening your attack with this, then you may not want to put a lot of wind up into it as it will make it easier for your opponent to read. Typically, the uppercut is thrown when you're already in a "loaded" position as the result of a slip or after throwing another punch and your body is already positioned to throw the uppercut. When just learning, it makes sense to start with an initial load up, work to minimize it, and ultimately work to blend it into your normal movements.
Once you've set your weight on your lead leg and aligned your rear shoulder to your target, essentially this looks like a slip to your lead side, now you're ready to throw your lead uppercut. When throwing the uppercut, try to keep your elbow locked into place. A lot of people throw the uppercut with their arm, allowing the elbow to move away from the body and delivering the upward movement of the punch only with the arm, no body behind it. There are times where you may want to do this such as when you need a quick shot and your opponent is too far away for a standard uppercut. However, generally, you want to push from the ground with the same leg as the hand punching.
So, in this case from your loaded position, push up and slightly forward from your lead leg, uncoil your hips, keep the elbow no more than two fists away from the body and use the upward movement of your body to delivery the blow. Essentially, your elbow is locked in place, your lead hip swings up and forward keeping everything tight toward your body for maximum force. Your rear hand should be up somewhere guarding your face. Some fighters keep it to their side, others move it somewhere to cover the front of their face. Remember, that the lead uppercut exposes your chin unlike any other punch. Because your lead hand is lowered and traveling upward, even your lead shoulder will not be in the optimal position to protect your chin from a counter. So, use this punch wisely when you know where your opponent’s hands are.
The rear uppercut is thrown in much of the same way, but reverse. Here, you load up on your rear leg, aligning your lead shoulder to the target, slipping toward your rear side. Like most rear punches, the rear uppercut is generally a stronger punch coming from the side furthest away from your opponent. Thus, it builds up speed and power as it travels forward. In the same manner as the lead uppercut, you push up from the same side leg as the punch being launched. The rear foot pushes up and forward from the ground, driving the punch in the same direction. Again, the elbow stays relatively close to the body. The fist should never extend past your head.
Typically, both uppercuts are thrown with your fist facing you, meaning the thumb and all four fingers are facing you with the back of your fist toward the opponent. The rear uppercut works well off a lead hook or a lead shoulder roll, but also other attacks as well. You'll need to experiment with it; especially in close quarters, it works well when you can create just enough space to get it off. When tied up, using your lead shoulder to push off, and throwing an uppercut from the rear is an effective strategy that works well in close. Or even from the clinch, uppercuts do well to neutralize an aggressive opponent.
In terms of footwork, uppercuts generally only work well with a single step to the opposite side as the punch being thrown. The caveat to this is the lead uppercut. Because the power is driven from the lead leg when delivering the lead uppercut, you don't want to step with the lead leg ideally. You can step with the lead leg as in a push step with a lead uppercut to gain distance, but you lose a lot in power. Instead you want to step with the rear leg to the opposite side. So, if you're southpaw and you've loaded up your lead hook, you can step to the left with your left foot as you push off from the lead right foot while simultaneously delivering the lead uppercut. This widens your base, but also moves your head off the line as you delivery the uppercut. Usually, your lead foot will come up on the ball when delivering the lead uppercut, but definitely with an outside step and wider base, coming up on the ball of the foot provides added stability and ease of movement.
The rear uppercut is the same in that the lead foot now steps to the outside. A southpaw will step his right foot to the right while pushing off with his left, uncoiling the hips, and lifting up the punch from the ground. A follow up to the rear uppercut with a step off to the side is to curve the back foot around while delivering a lead hook. So, it’s a rear uppercut with a step off to the lead side, followed by a lead hook circling the back foot so you’re back in your boxing stance (instead of the wide stance) but at an angle to the opponent. From a wide base, think of ways to follow up and use it to your advantage. A wide base is terrible for recovering back to your initial fighting position, but works great for angling. Consider pivoting and swinging your rear leg back after the outside step or even slide shuffle back and switch leads. As always, the recovery is just as important as the delivery.
This concludes this topic on the uppercut. Get in the gym and practice. That can teach you more than anything you can possible read, but hopefully this has proved insightful. And remember, to always believe in yourself regardless of the pressure around you, saying no to anything that is not in line with you yourself and your goals.
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