Everything starts with the jab. It’s the most important weapon in a boxer’s arsenal. The jab helps to set up your other punches, and can also be used to distract your opponent, find your range and keep your opponent off you. If you observe the best ring technicians in action, they all have good solid jabs.
There are many variations of the jab for any give style, but even the most experienced boxers throws the jab incorrectly which often leaves them open for counters. If you want to become a better boxer, you must get the fundamentals right and know how to throw a jab the correct way.
The Fundamentals of a Jab
- Keep Your Guard Up (1): Many boxers fall into the habit of dropping their guard when throwing punches. When you throw the jab, always make sure that your back hand is up high guarding your chin. If it’s not, then you can expect to get caught by a hook.
- Extend Your Arm (2): In order to get the most power of your jab, your jab should be thrown quick with your arm fully extended. It adds authority on your punches and will help to keep a pressure fighter off you.
- Rotate Your Arm (3): Another method to increase the power of your jab is to rotate your arm mid-way through throwing it. You should start with your palm facing inwards towards your face and once the jab is thrown, rotate your arm so that your elbow is pointing outside and your fist rotates also, so your palm ends up facing downwards.
- Keep Your Chin Down: This is a habit that must be drilled into you. Even if you get hit, as long as you have your chin down it will minimize the impact of the punch. If you have your chin tucked in, then your shoulder will automatically protect it as you throw the jab.
- Bring Your Arm Back: Whether you hit or miss the target with your jab, always bring it back so its original position. You’ll then be in the right position to defend or attack again. Never leave your jab out or drop it after you’ve thrown it.
- Snap the Jab: The jab must be thrown quick and snappy to catch your opponent off guard. Don’t push with the jab because not only is it slower, but it also doesn’t produce as much power.
- Be Relaxed: Before throwing the jab, keep relaxed with your body loose to reserve energy. This will allow you to fire off punches much more smoother, faster and more frequently. Only tighten your fist close to impact.
- Drop Your Guard (1): This is a terrible habit that you shouldn’t pick up. Too often, fighters get hurt or knocked out by hooks because they dropped their guard momentarily. You may get away with it now and then, but there will come a time when someone with good power will take advantage of that flaw. Never drop your guard.
- Reach / Lunge (2): If your opponent is out of range, then don’t reach with your jab, even if you think you can hit the target. If you do, then you can end up damaging your arm, being off balance (legs being too far apart as shown above) or getting caught by a counter. A good rule is that your head should always be behind your front foot.
- Backhand: This is an illegal punch in boxing. Some fighters do it and get away with it from time to time, but it’s rather ineffective. It doesn’t carry much power and you’ll be completely wide open if you miss.
- Leave the Jab Out: When you’ve thrown your jab, always bring it back. If you don’t, then you’ll be open for counter punches or your opponent can grab your arm, which can cause it damage.
- Stand Straight Up: Your knees should be bent every time you throw a punch, especially a jab. If you stand straight up, you’re more liable to get caught with a punch and you’ll also produce less power.
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Types of Jabs
If your opponent is out of range, instead of lunging in and reaching, then you must take a step forward and jab at the same time. It increases power through added motion and allows you to get in range safely.
Make sure that your steps are small (covering only a few inches with each step) and not far. If you step too far then your legs will be too far apart therefore causing you to be off balance.
Side Step Jab
This is the same as the step jab, but instead of coming forward with the jab, you’re stepping to the side. Ensure that you always step to the outside of your lead foot, which will allow you to circle your opponent effectively.
This is great for controlling the center of the ring and keeping a pressure fighter off you because movement will usually disrupt their rhythm and balance.
The jab to the body is extremely effective if utilized correctly. It must be thrown quickly from your normal stance and you must resume back to your position just as quick.
Essentially, you’re taking a step forward, crouching down and shooting the jab all at the same time. Only crouch down low enough to avoid incoming punches.
The body jab can also be used to distract your opponent downstairs to set up punches to the head. Floyd Mayweather Jr executes the body jab and straight right very well.
The ‘up jab’ is an unconventional way of throwing the jab from around the waist area. It has exactly the same characteristics as a normal jab, but it’s just thrown from below.
The advantage of this is that your lead hand will be out of your opponent’s eyesight therefore, he usually won’t expect it or see it coming. It’s a lot riskier than all the other types of jabs so you need to be quick and accurate with it. Sergio Martinez utilizes the up jab a lot.
Using your jab as a range finder is excellent for measuring distance and distracting your opponent. It’s not intended to catch your opponent off guard, hurt or even hit him.
You simply just put your lead arm out, but not fully extended and in your opponent’s line of vision to distract him, which will allow you to fire the straight once you’re in position.
A feint is a move that’s designed to force your opponent into thinking that a certain action will take place thus causing him to make a move.
Using the jab as a feint is excellent for setting up your straight punch, especially if your opponent often slips your jabs.
The clip on the right shows James Toney putting his jab out as a feint, causing his opponent to dip his head. Toney knew that this would happen and is quick to react by firing his straight right.
Mastering the Jab
When you first enter the boxing gym, one of the first things that a good trainer will drill into you is to work on your jab. That tells you the importance of having an effective jab, so you must work on this everyday.
The double end bag will help you with the timing and accuracy of your jab, so it’s beneficial if you have access to one. You can check out 5 of the best rated double end bags here.
No matter what kind of style you have, it’s essential to come forward with a jab and if you’re fighting on the back foot against a pressure fighter, a decent jab is vital. Make all the fundamentals of the jab a habit and you’ll become a much better boxer because of it.
To get the most out of your training, I highly recommend the following articles:
► How to Increase Punching Power
► 10 Tips to Improve Boxing Footwork
► Boxing Basics
► Top 10 Best Heavy Punching Bags
► Top 10 Best Boxing Gloves