Here is part 1 of a monster blog of perfecting your punch technique. It looks at fitness levels, style of punch, safety, speed, focus, power and strength. Everything you need to enhance your training in this specific area and make sure you are punching to the best of your potential. Part 2 will follow next week.To jump to specific areas of the blog just use the links below in the contents section. To practice your punching you can implement most of the techniques and training discussed at our boxing circuit classes run Mon, Wed and Fri at 6pm.
1 – Forming a fist properly and keeping it safe during repetitive training
2 – The mental aspect of breaking through barriers and attaining a higher level of ability
Footwork for a 1/2, or jab/cross, or left/right punch
From the waist
Go through the target
The perfect punch comes from a passion to get it right. I enjoy the execution of it, the rigorous training that goes into it and the sharp slap on the pad that tells you that the speed and power were spot on. This happens when the technique becomes natural and all the fitness, strength training and speed drills you have done begin to show. This is what this book aims to deliver, the ability to execute consistently strong and fast punches that are on target.
It can be used as an excellent assist to self-defence or by martial artists who wish to refine one element of their attack until they have reached precision. The punch is such a staple in martial arts that to overlook it would be futile. Any combinations taught usually finish with a punch where you have opened up your opponent and are in a position to get a point with a strike to the body, or the head. Boxers also need the skills outlined in this book and it would provide an excellent starting point for anyone wanting to get serious about a career in the ring.
I mentioned self-defence and this is an area I am heavily involved in. The perfect punch injects the practitioner with confidence, making them feel more powerful and more capable of defending themselves. A punch should only ever be used to defend yourself or within the regulated confines of sport, but knowing you have that capability can lift your head, pull your shoulders back and make you go and get what you want from life. The training you need is extensive so you earn that boost to your self-esteem and feel more assertive because of the challenges you have conquered.
By perfecting your ability to punch you will set a precedent in how you approach all aspects of your life. This is a chance to introduce a focused training regime and feel the physical and mental benefits of it. By the end of this book, if you practice everything I tell you to do, you will achieve punching perfection. The best of luck with your training and remember not to let anything come between you and your goals.
The main types of punches are:
- Straight punch – a traditional punch executed from the waist with twist of the wrist right before impact
- Jab – a quick punch off the lead hand and almost exclusively delivered to head height
- Cross – a back hand punch to the head or solar plexus that can follow the jab for a one-two combination
- Hook punch – Coming in from the side to strike the jaw or the ribs/side/kidneys
- Uppercut punch – Upward strike to the chin, delivered once you have opened up your opponent
- Circular punch- This is the heel of the punch or little finger and area below – the fist is brought down onto the top of the nose
Now you know what you are working on you need to make sure you are prepared for the intensive training. Don’t worry I am not going to tell you to go off and meditate for days. There are two areas I want to cover before we get down to business:
The second requirement is bandages for both hands. You wrap either a basic crepe bandage or a cotton boxing wrap around the hands. Go between the fingers to prevent tearing of the skin and then wrap around the knuckles to provide cushioning and around the wrist to give support. These prevent unnecessary wearing and inflammation of the knuckles as your training progresses and also reduce the chances of repetitive strain developing in the wrists.
There are lots of ways you can practise your punching technique and challenge yourself. You may fancy sparring, going to competitions or perhaps you want to push yourself through pad work and reaction training. Schedule training sessions and goals from the outset so you stay motivated and eager to push through mental barriers. Some training sessions will make you feel sluggish and unskilled – this is normal and usually a sign that you need a rest day. There are tons of motivational goals you can choose and the only thing you need to do is tailor them to you. What have you always wanted to do? These were mine – take some inspiration from them but don’t just copy them or you won’t be able to push yourself through low patches when they come. I aimed to achieve:
- 2 sets of 25 full press-ups – I could only do 10 at the time and now I do two sets of 40
- 2 minute bag rounds – proper bag rounds that string together combinations, lots of footwork and plenty of speed and power
- 10 chin ups – I could do three and I now do 20 as my goals increased and keep increasing
- 40 sit ups in a minute – put your feet against the wall and go hard and fast, I can do 48 now and still trying to reach 50 and then 60
- Six training sessions a week – I do 5-6 depending on work commitments
- Stronger jab – I did 50 jabs three times a day until it was as good as my right arm
- Half marathon – I try and do one a year just to test my mental stamina
A punch is not about the strength of the arm acting on its own. The power and speed of the punch comes from the way you move your body in a fluid motion. Your footwork is just as important as the punch you throw out. Let’s look at each aspect of the perfect punch. It might seem daunting but once each of these elements has been mastered you will deliver the fastest and most powerful punch you are capable of delivering.
This stance means you are strong against anyone pushing you and ready to go into any given combination at a moment’s notice. You also stand sideways on so you are showing your opponent the least surface area for them to target. If they want to reach the softer or point scoring areas (solar plexus, abdomen, sides, chest) they have to open you up first.
As your right fist comes through your right leg will bend, the foot will come up onto its ball, driving every bit of weight you have behind it. Your left and right feet will each end up facing forwards (facing towards your opponent) or slightly to the left. The final position as the right punch lands will be balanced on the ball of your back foot with knee bent low to the ground. The sole of your left foot will be flush to the floor and that knee will also be bent slightly to keep the joint soft and absorb the majority of the weight you have thrust forward behind the punch.
Once both punches have been executed you will quickly push off, straightening your left knee initially and then driving yourself out and away from the target with your right leg. This is why they remain bent so that you are ready for a quick exit. A punch has not finished until you are out of your opponent’s reach whether you angle your move out to the right or left by pivoting on the front foot or simply pull straight back to your starting point.
Practice the footwork as much as you practice the arm movements. It is no good being able to punch if you cannot reach your target. Use the width of a room to get used to moving in fighting stance. Cover short and long distances by jumping in, stepping in or using a double step. At first it will feel clumsy and unnatural but in time you will start to understand what you are doing, why you are doing it, and how you can improve your footwork to decrease the time it takes you to get into an opponent and straight out again.
If you link arms with someone else and go into stance with your lower body. Keep the arms at waist height and then twist pulling your colleagues arms and pushing them simultaneously like you would when punching. You will see how involved the waist can be and what you are aiming for. To make it more intense, come up onto the ball of the feet and put a little jump in so you are pulsing the movement. This is a great way to warm up the waist and prepare to punch.
It is much better to practise on targets that can absorb all the power and speed you throw at them. That way you can fully extend your arm (keeping a small bend in the elbow so as not to jar it) and get the full weight of your shoulders behind the final. As your body moves to the left or right your lower body stays fixed in position. Your waist moves with the punch and your shoulders end up practically in line along the axis of the punch. Your upper body faces right when you punch with your left and it faces left when you punch with your right. Imagine a steel pole going through your head and straight down to the bottom of your spine. This area remains upright, firm and revolves around that pole. You do not lean in towards your opponent of away from them. You get your reach by twisting and opening up your shoulders so the full length of the arm is used in the punch. If you fall short or get too close when punching then you either need to amend your footwork so your foot is positioned next to your opponents or you need to twist through more and open up your shoulders. If your shoulders stay square rather than ending up in line along the axis of the punch you are too stiff and too controlled in the manoeuvre.
- Hitting your target
- One mind, one thought
One mind, one thought is much harder than four words can capture. Your thought at the time of punching needs to be about that punch. If you are obsessing about your footwork, whether you are turning your waist far enough, if you have been quick enough off the mark, or if you are the right distance away from your target, then you are not focused. All of that should come naturally when you have the necessary focus to not have to think about the separate components that go into it. Once your focus is on your target and not on the mechanics of the punch, you are where you need to be, your mind will be occupied with one thought alone. Just imagine when you first started to drive and you were conscious of your mirrors, your gear changes, every junction you came to and of course where you were going. Now, you probably are focused on where you are going and what is happening on the roads in front of you. That is because you can focus on driving rather than focus on how to operate the car. The same thing applies here and as always practice makes perfect.
When you achieve that level of focus your mind will be free to look for openings and chances to land your punch against your opponent. You will be far more likely to get your perfect punch on target because you will execute it at the perfect moment. This all takes a lot of practice. You need to be aware of the actions of your opponent: what their body language is telling you, where they are looking and if they exhibit any tell-tale signs that they are about to attack. So, once the mechanics of your punch are not buzzing around your brain you need to shift your attention entirely onto where you wish to land your punch. Someone who can read opponents and stay one step ahead of them is called a ‘champion’.
Once your awareness is keen you will need to find your target. At the elite level of the sport you will not get many chances so the perfect punch will have to land where it is intended every time. You cannot waste energy on something that does not score or misses entirely. This is where drills come in. Lots of pad work, bag work and sparring practice is needed to increase the accuracy of your punch. See where you want to land it so that you know when it is slightly off target. Make sure you practise while you are full of energy and at the end of fitness sessions when your muscles are fatigued. This will get you used to landing a punch when you have to summon your gut determination and fighting spirit to do it.
As you start to test your ability to punch straight, make sure you can track your progress. Start with a large circular target and then reduce it as your punch becomes more precise. Eventually you should be aiming for a dot and hitting it every time. The pad should flash up and give you less than a second to hit your target because that could be all you get. Constant movement during these exercises is crucial because targets do not stand still – they often move as fast and with as much intelligence and agility as you do!
Whilst you are perfecting all of that you will need to be fine tuning your reactions so that you can react to an opening with lightning speed. There are some good games you can play to increase your reaction times. Stand with your back to someone and when they shout your name, turn and catch the ball they throw to you. This gives you very little time to react and you can increase the speed of the throw as your reactions improve. The next skill test is to stand with your back against a wall and get your opponent to try and hit you. Make sure you wear gloves and then block the shots as they are thrown. It is important that your opponent does not become repetitive and leaves gaps between each punch so you are testing your reactions to the utmost. Finally, target practice can be done with mobile targets (random pad holding is good for this). So you take away the power from your punches and just go for speed. Your opponent will place the pads out at various angles and your mission is to tap them as fast as you can. Do at least one of these every day and your reactions will soon be up to the task at hand.
To be continued…