Secrets of the Jab – #3 of 3


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Throwing a jab with poor lower body mechanics will lessen your power, mess with your balance and make it nearly impossible to follow up with anything that threatens your opponent’s consciousness.

That’s not good.

A jab thrown without optimal upper body positioning behind it will often fall short of its target and can be countered very easily by an opponent skilled at striking.

That’s even worse.

Throw you jab without using solid arm positioning details and you’re going to wake up wondering why these two guys – the referee and your opponent – are standing in your bedroom. Many seconds later you’ll begin to realize that you were in a fight and someone ended up getting knocked out cold. Slowly you walk, with some assistance from your corner men, to you dressing room with no clue as to how your opponent had caught you, no idea as to what kind of strike he had hit you with. You faintly remember trying to work your jab, but that’s about it…

Now that’s a nightmare!

A high percentage of mixed martial artist are unknowingly a split second away, during many of their fights, from experiencing the above situation.  However, in many cases they may go through their careers, training and fighting, never noticing the vulnerability that their jabbing style, or more specifically their improper arm positioning while throwing the jab, has left them with.

They do often manage and occasionally even excel during punching exchanges either because their opponent’s –or sparring partners– lack the striking ability to take exploit that weakness, or because their faces, skulls, and brains can endure an enormous amount of punishment.

Personally I’d rather land my jab solidly and not get my head smashed in the process.

Here are some tips to help you do just that:

Start (and finish) positioning of the arms

The way you carry your hands to guard yourself will help dictate which punch the opponent will throw first. The main goal is to keep yourself guarded and well protected from their power hand, so well in fact that they will be forced to jab before even attempting to land a straight –or overhand–   right. That is assuming they are right handed and standing in an orthodox –left foot in front—stance. The danger lies when the opponent can freely fire off their right hand directly at your head with no obstacles in its way. Attaining a solid guard can is a little more complex than simply keeping your hands up high.

Let’s work on it. Standing in your fighting stance, raise both of your hands up to protect your face. Position your power hand up high on the side of your face, nearly as high as your temple so that its thumb rests up against your cheekbone on that side. That is pretty much the standard position for your rear side hand.

Now, raise your lead hand up to the same height as your rear hand and rest it against your temple/cheekbone area on the other side –lead leg side– of your face.

Be mindful to perfect this next step. Slowly start to move your lead hand away from your cheekbone, directly forward until your arm assumes a 90 degree bend at the elbow. Avoiding the urge to move the extending arm in front of your face keep it in line with your lead side ear instead. This is proving to be much harder to put into words than I had thought.  I think we’re on track though.

Lastly allow your lead side elbow to move slightly forward and upwards so that the space between your tricep and ribcage is about the size of your clenched fist.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot one of the most important details necessary for both defensive and offensive effectiveness. Pinch both of your elbows inwards so that each of your forearms is positioned completely vertical. Looking down at your right elbow, you should notice that it’s tightly pressed up against your ribcage.

If you’ve successfully followed each of the details explained above, you’re now standing in a strong fighting stance with your hands in optimal jabbing position. Next, I’ll explain how we can hit our opponent without ourselves being hit in the process.

The 90% Rule

Initiate your jab by extending your arm towards your opponent’s face, the coach’s hand mitt, the heavy bag, the gigantic slab of beef in the industrial freezer or whatever you happen to be aiming it at. As you extend it, keep the fist of that arm positioned with the thumb pointing upwards –but not sticking up– until your elbow is at 90% of its full extension. Once it reaches that point snap your fist over into a palm down position, milliseconds before strikes its mark. After impact or full extension — in the case that it misses– immediately snap the punching arms fist back into thumb upward alignment and retract the arm as fast as possible returning it to the start position.

By keeping the rotation of your arm confined to the final 10% of extension you maximize your leverage power and speed by keeping your elbows in line with your torso but more importantly you leave little opportunity for your opponent to counter your jab by punching over your lead arm as you jab.

Jab High and Straight

If I had to pick one detail, of the many I covered in this article series, that I thought would help you improve your jabbing ability the most this would be it.

When you jab, extend your arm high, punching at a slightly upward angle. Also, fire your punch straight ahead. I’ll say them both again; punch high and straight because it’s that important to do so. Firing the punch, precisely forward from the position your lead hand starts in and jabbing up high will make it virtually impossible for your opponent to catch you with a straight right hand as you jab. The shoulder of you lead arm will automatically protect your jaw from attack – if you chin is down like it should be—and the tricep of your punching arm will shield your temple while you punch. You jab will act both offensively and defensively simultaneously.

Sounds easy but believe me when I say it takes a lot of focus and steady practice to master these two vital details.  Make sure you do, because I promise that they will drastically improve your jab.

Like a Piston

Okay, so you’ve mastered all of the details from the entire Secrets of the Jab series and are wondering what’s next?

You can now start doubling, tripling and quadrupling up on your jab by throwing it multiple times one after another while you move forward, backwards or sideways. Keep in mind that each time you retract your jabbing arm you must bring it back to its start position completely before your fire it out again. Like a piston in a car engine, your jab, thrown with the proper mechanics and details I’ve given you in this series, will strike fast and strong wreaking havoc on your sparring partners and opponents alike.

That’s it! The Secrets of the Jab are no longer a secret. You now have all of the details you’ll need to sharpen one of the most useful attacks in MMA. Take the time to master them all and I guarantee you’ll hit harder while using less effort and strike faster with greater accuracy. Best of all, your jab will become a protective shell, enabling you to work your way inside your opponent’s defences where you can easily execute your punch, kick, and takedown follow up attacks.

Train hard, train smart and most importantly have fun!

Jeff “The Inferno” Joslin

Here are the two other articles in the Secrets of the Jab series:

#1 – Lower Body Positioning for the Jab

#2 – Upper Body Positioning for the Jab

Categories : MMA Training Tips

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  1. jason says:

    Jeff I was wondering you say to jab straight and at a slight upward angle but I have a little problem I am 6’7 and between 160 to 170 so if I jab upward I will punch over everyone’s head how will this effect my power

    • Jeff Joslin says:

      When punching downward make sure to keep your chin tucked in. Your range will be your best defense. Keep your opponent at a range where you can reach them and they cannot reach your by using footwork (often backwards while you attack) and crisp punching.

  2. matt says:

    the twist at the end is one of the most important parts of a good jab

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