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Techniques>Punches>Jab punch

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Jab punch

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The jab is the most commonly used punch. It’s used to harass the opponent by constantly flicking the fist at his or her face and to set up a more powerful follow-up punch. Although it’s not as powerful as other punches, it’s fast, easy to throw, and an accumulation of connecting jabs can gradually do as much damage as a few of the more powerful punches.

How to perform a leading arm jab

A jab is a short, quick, lead hand, straight punch used from the guard position.
  • Begin in a fighting stance with the knees slightly bent, chin down, and with the hands in a guard and raised by the sides of your face with the palms facing inward with the elbows tight to your ribs.
  • Push off your back foot and snap the jab out quickly while snapping the hip into the punch. The lead foot can slide forward slightly as the punch is thrown. 
  • Twist the punch as in the straight punch while rotating fist a quarter turn so palm is facing downward at impact. Immediately re-chamber the fist to the guard position.
  • Don’t poke the jab or paw it like a cat; fire it out and back like a snake striking.
  • The fist travels straight to the target and straight back with no extraneous movements. 
  • As the arm returns to its starting position, it also acts as a block. 
  • Focus on technique, speed, and accuracy, and using hip snap to add power.
Since you should be constantly moving while sparring, you should practice using the jab while moving, not from a stationary stance. Learn to jab while moving forward (to set up a combination) and backward (as a defense) or sideways (as a counter). Practice using two quick jabs with one or no body movement and using two quick jabs with a body movement (such as two quick side steps forward with a jab on each slide).

Uses for the Jab

  • Ruin the opponent's timing. When an opponent gets hit by or sees the jab, his or her timing and mindset are upset.
  • Keep up the pressure. Constant jabbing keeps the opponent on the defensive.
  • Set up combinations. The flash of a jab in the eyes immediately puts the opponent on the defensive, which set him or her up for further attacks. Thomas Hearns jabbed at the forehead to lift his opponent's chin for the knockout right cross. Jab to the stomach to lower the guard, then right cross to the chin, followed by a left hook to the liver, doubling up to the head, ending with a jab.
  • Interrupt the attack. When the opponent attacks with a combination, a quick jab to the nose will disrupt the planned combination and leave the opponent vulnerable for a moment.
  • Establish dominance. Continuous jabs help establish you as the aggressor. The opponent must either back off or step up and challenge your superiority.
  • Counter opponent's jab. Stay one tactic ahead by quickly countering a jab. When the opponent attempts to engage, keep one step ahead by working off his or her jab.
  • When the jab comes, slip to the left and shoot an inside left hook.
  • For a jab to the body, slip to the right and come back with an overhead right to catch a lazy left hand.
  • Slap down the jab down with the left hand and fire a right cross while moving forward to offset your opponent. This is why you can’t be lazy in re-chambering your jab; a right cross could be following.
  • Force your opponent to attack, then counter. Jack Johnson said that being a counter-puncher, he would use his jab to force his opponent to attack, from which he could counter.
  • Safety. Beginning and ending combinations with the jab helps keep you safe and protected. It allows you to end a combination and re-group. Exiting the danger zone with a good jab helps extinguish the opponent's counter-offensive.
  • Energy. Since a jab uses the least amount of energy of the punches, it may be used many times more than other punches. It can be used to keep the opponent away and occupied while you rest for a moment.
  • Finesse. You can out finesse your opponent with the jab. You can change the timing, double up, punch high and then low, or punch low and then high. Adding finesse to the jab is necessary for, if your jab is robotic or predictable, a smart opponent will time it and launch an attack around it. Being shrewd and unpredictable helps befuddle the opponent.
  • Mobility. The jab is the only punch that does not commit the body in some way. You have full control of your lateral movement at the blink of the eye. Any other punch commits the body far more, temporarily depriving you of your mobility.
  • Balance. The jab may be used to break an opponent's balance since it causes the opponent to shift his or her weight to the heels and thus weakens any counterattack.

Defenses against the jab

Jabs are quick, so any defense must be equally quick with little movement. Basic defenses for the jab are the slip, brush, and elbow.
  • Slip. As the jab fires at you, quickly bend the knees slightly and bend the waist slightly to the side the jab is coming from. Then quickly assume the guard position again. This movement lets the jab slip by your head to the inside and allows you to counter punch.
  • Brush. As the jab fires at you, snap your trailing wrist inward to trap the jab and redirect it downward. Don’t reach for the jab, let it come to you and brush it away at the last moment. Reaching opens you to a combination.
  • Elbow. As the jab fires at you, lift the lead arm, pointing the elbow at the jab so the jab will hit your elbow. Make this a quick movement so you don’ leave your ribs exposed. 
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