Athena School of Karate booked me for a third course this year. We decided to change from Kickboxing/Muay Thai to modern Boxing basics. Each week I will go through a technique, teach its variations and spotlight various fighters who best exemplified its use. This week was the jab, arguably the most important punch in modern Boxing, Muay and MMA. It is and should be the most regularly thrown punch in Boxing as it allows a fighter to control the fight by creating and maintaining range and setting up various other punches. We covered the following variations:
The Basic Jab/Step-Jab – Thrown off a near stationary position this is as basic as the jab can get. It maintains distance and allows for consistancy whilst conserving energy. It is neither the fastest nor the most powerful of jabs and it comes in at a predictable angle, but it is the easy in which it can be used from any position that makes it essential. This is the first punch all boxers should learn and is a a great weapon to get throw sparring. Riddick Bowe and Michael Moorer exemplified the use of this particular punch in their strategies, constantly wearing down their opponents, keeping them busy whilst setting up for more powerful punches. However, it was the great Joe Louis who elevated this basic punch into a vicious weapon that tenderised his opponents ready for his powerful straight rights/right crosses. The step-jab is a very close cousin and is pretty much the basic jab for Muay Thai due it being more powerful and covers more range.
Body Jab – Most types of jab can be thrown to the body, but the execution of a body jab has a clear purpose: to get your opponent to drop their guard. Sugar Ray Robinson is praised for so many different areas in boxing. In fact, he is often ranked as the best pound-for-pound fighter of all time. One of his signature moves was a stiff jab to the mid-section used to worry his opponents and sap their energy. Sugar Ray Leonard took this from his idol and used it with an L-step to draw his opponents forward and catch them on an angle whilst their guard was down.
Speed Jab – This technique allows a fighter to pick off multiple shots to the head, putting an opponent on the back foot or softening them up for more powerful techniques. It can also be used to simply surprise an opponent and often helps adjust their attitude early on. Muhammad Ali is often cited for having one of the fastest jabs in the business, especially in the heavyweight division, but there is some contention that one of his latter day opponents – the under-rated Larry Holmes – might have been even faster with this particular punch. He might not have had the Greatest’s footwork or combination work, but he had a lightning fast single jab.
Power/Stiff Jab – Although not usually considered a power technique but rather the weakest of all the basic punches, a jab can be used with a lot of force if done correctly. Bruce Lee, taking inspiration from his brother’s fencing, taught a strong-side forward approach to fighting and put a lot of force behind the lead hand. The power jab is really a misnomer or a contradiciton in terms as there is no jabbing action. It is properly best referred to as a lead straight. Its power comes from driving the entire body behind, something of a progression from the step jab. A pendulum shift can be particulary effective here. George Foreman famously had a powerful lead straight too that he put to good use in his later years, but I am always careful at citing Foreman for techniques as he had a tremendous biological advantage that made so many of his punches powerful too. Sonny Liston is probably the best fighter to spotlight for the use of this particular punch. A fearsome and nasty boxer, he was known to remove teeth with thsi particular punch.
Up Jab – This is a great technique to use against a taller opponent and against or for a southpaw. The up jab is thrown using the top of the knuckles and is used at different angles, coming off a different trajectory. It is a technique often used off the Philly Shell. Floyd Mayweather Jnr is a good example of an effective user of the up jab.
Pawing Jab/Flicker Jab – Both these techniques are different yet carry a similar strategy. The pawing jab is used to obscure an opponent’s vision and the flicker jab is thrown at an opponent’s gloves. Both are used to promote reactions in an opponent whilst the boxer sets up a power shot. The master of these two techniques was Thomas Hearns.
There are many other examples of jabs that I did not cover, including the pivot jab, the 45 degree jab, the posting jab and the uppercut jab. One might argue that the slap-down parry is also a type of jab. The principle of the jab carried over into self-defence can be seen in the use of the fence and to shove, reference and control with the lead arm.