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Boxing like any other fighting art has a series of techniques that help to define and distinguish it from other arts. Some forms have completely different techniques and or tools, some tend to borrow from each other but may have put a slightly different spin on things. Today I want to talk about the first punch taught in many schools of Boxing, it is called “The Jab”. You are likely to find a few different approaches to this punch and maybe a few different explanations as to why it is such an important tool in the ‘tool chest’ of boxing techniques. Before I get into my own thoughts here, I want to first say that anything written about Boxing by me, is information simply being passed on. Information that I have learned along the way but by no means do I claim to be an authority on. People have been doing this since way before I was born, and I’m positive will be doing it for many years to come. History has proven that. Many of my favorite fighters of all time are known for the effective use of their jabs. Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, and Sugar Ray Leonard, are only a few but they all have so much in common an entire book could be written about these three. Three different generations of world champion boxers and all three of them were known for their incredible use of the jab, and how they followed up that jab with lighting fast combinations and slick defensive moves. They all had knockout power in both hands. Undeniably three of the greatest fighters and world champions of all time.
The leader of the pack!!
I would like to refer to the jab as the leader of the pack. In most cases the jab is the punch that sets up other punches, it leads the way per se. On an anatomical and positioning level, the Jab is the lead punch because it comes from the lead side of the body. The lead side of the body is the side of the body that is closest to your target, the side of the body that is placed in front of your target / opponent. The Jab is often called the range finder because it will let you know if you are close enough to follow it up with the second punch which in most cases will be a rear cross or a lead hook or even a second jab. Many combinations of punches can thrown behind the jab. Once you have the fundamental understanding of how to use it, you can bring your own style to the jab. As an old boxing adage goes "Styles make fights".
The jab can be used offensively to set up combinations as well it can be used defensively to keep an opponent away from you by creating distance. You can use the jab to create different attacking angles, to hit different parts of the body, you can use it to deceive your opponent as to what may be coming next, the list goes on. You can double jab, even triple jab. You can use it while on the move, or in a stationary position. In short the jab has a multitude of uses. I could go into the techniques I use of executing it, but when it comes to that I can show you better than I can tell you and there's still so much I have to learn.
To simplify matters just know that in most cases a coach/trainer who teaches boxing will show a new practitioner the jab before any other punch. I myself tend to emphasize the jab a lot with my members. One of the things that make it difficult in the beginning is that for people who are right handed the jab will be thrown with the left hand. This can create a series of challenges more so on a neuromuscular level than anything thing else, but it can also create a series of challenges on a muscular endurance level as well. Traditionally the boxing stance for a right handed fighter will be to place the left side in front, for a left handed fighter the right side will be placed in front. This scenario will have that persons ‘power side’ be it right or left placed behind them. There are many reasons for this, but what I want to talk a bit about are a few of the benefits of learning how to use your non dominant side. A new practitioner will often say " How do I get more power from my jab? I'm right handed and using my right hand first feels more comfortable to me. Can I put my right side in front instead of my left, this feels weird." The answer to that will vary depending on who you talk to, but I often say " Let's learn it this way first, and once we get that down then we can play with switching up your lead side." Many great fighters have done so quite effectively so this is not out entirely out of the question. Yet again different coaches will do things differently.
On a functional level learning how to use your non-dominant side can help to create balance, and stability as well as learning how to transmit force equally in your body. As I stated in a previous blog, the legs and the stance have a very important role in establishing stability and force production. The core muscles of the abdominal unit actually have the most important role in creating stability and force production from the hips through the extremities. There is always more going inside the body than the naked eye can see when it comes to performing even the simplest of physical tasks. The same holds true for a good boxing match or sparring session. So although a jab might seem like a simple punch it has myriad of benefits for not only the fighter but as well for the exercise enthusiast who may choose to use boxing as a way of getting in better shape. Over time and dedicated practice that jab will start to feel more natural, it will get faster and stronger. The more you practice it the better it will get, and the more you will understand why it is so important to the "sweet science" that is known as Boxing.
Learn to use your jab, and learn it well.
Coach Djinji Brown.
"THE SPECIAL TECHNIQUE OF SHADOW BOXING"
Most people who join a boxing gym for fitness purposes want to come to get a good work out and that includes hitting the heavy bag. Relieving stress by hitting a heavy bag is one of the most inviting factors to joining a boxing gym.
Hitting the heavy bag to a beginner looks like a very easy activity that will yield the results of a good workout. “Just put on a pair of gloves and hit the bag, it’s that easy”, well in theory yes, but in practical reality it’s not that simple. Hitting the heavy bag without proper punching mechanics and without a specific warm up routine is a sure way to 1. Learn bad technique, and 2. Expose yourself to a variety of injuries. As far injuries go, hurting your hands, wrist, and shoulders, even knees can be a result of bad punching techniques.
One way to avoid both of these issues is to learn how to punch, move and warm up properly by shadowboxing.
STICK AND MOVE
Shadow boxing is the practice of throwing your punches, using your footwork and practicing your defensive movements but without hitting anything or anyone hitting you. Literally you are punching the air, or in the best case scenario an imaginary opponent. You practice the mechanics of throwing your punches properly, of developing muscle memory for combinations. You practice using your waist to move your head for defensive purposes, of using your footwork, of remaining in balance while you are moving around the ring or training floor, and you are putting all of your tools together against your own body weight. While hitting a bag is a form of resistance training, shadowboxing is a form of calisthenics. It is also the primary way to warm up your muscles before you actually go into the resistance part of your boxing session. The heavy bag, the focus mitts, the double end bag, the speed bag, and sparring partners are all forms of resistance training during a boxing workout. Sparring being the most challenging resistance training of them all because they hit back. One way I look at shadow boxing is like this: It is the equivalent of practicing forms in Tai Chi or Kata in Karate. In Martial Art training a student will practice and aim to master the ‘forms’ of the movements used in that system, with and without a training partner. This is also true in boxing, and you can practice shadowboxing anywhere, you don’t have to be in the gym to do so. Yet being in the atmosphere of a boxing gym will definitely inspire your shadowboxing, plus when you see others doing it that helps the beginner learn as well. Shadowboxing is where you begin to learn how to "Stick and Move" another one of the fundamental principles used in Boxing.
For the dedicated boxer be it a competitor or fitness enthusiast, shadow boxing is never overlooked. I would say it is of utmost importance and it gives the practitioner time to get into the “zone” and build up a good sweat before hitting anything. Warm muscles will always react better during any physical activity. From a ballerina to a boxer, warming up properly is key to a successful performance or practice session. To the beginner shadowboxing can seem boring or frustrating. Finding their own balance is not as easy as it looks. It’s like learning how to walk all over again. I’ve seen many beginners question why so much shadowboxing, and if left to their own devices will chose to skip shadowing all together and just go straight to the bags looking to execute their power. My suggestion is to SLOW DOWN, and learn to walk before you run.
All of this being said and I could go on, I encourage anyone who is in a boxing program regardless of your level of experience to pay attention to the shadowboxing portion of the training. Listen to your trainer or coach and learn how to make the adjustments prescribed to you. No matter how long it takes, learn the proper way to do these things and it will pay off in the long run.
Shadowboxing is one of the key ways in developing a good foundation in boxing. So no matter why you choose boxing, for fighting, fitness or just fun, this part of your training will take you a long way in the gym, and in the ring. If you think shadowboxing is easy, try a few rounds before and after your bag work and certainly you will notice the difference.
Yours Truly - Coach Djinji Brown
The Legs and why the stance is so important:
Boxing is like any other skill set, in order to learn how to execute it properly you need a good understanding of it’s fundamental principles. Most people when they look at boxing see a fighter with an incredible physique. The majority of our attention is drawn to that washboard like midsection, broad shoulders and arms that hit like hammers. We see fast moving hands delivering those powerful punches in rapid succession. To the untrained eye it would seem like boxing is a sport, activity or exercise that is dominated by upper body strength and movement.
What most people don’t understand is how important the legs are to boxing. Sure many a boxing enthusiast has seen a fighter with fancy footwork and noticed his ability to not get hit by using his feet. In Muhammad Ali’s prime his footwork and leg speed is one of the things that set him apart from all the rest. Then in the 80’s we saw one of the most vicious and exciting fighters of all time Mike Tyson come into his own greatness. Well one of things that both Ali, and Iron Mike had in common was a firm foundation. Although both used different styles, and Ali known for his ‘prettiness’ when fighting and Tyson known for his viciousness when fighting, both fighters had extremely strong legs. Their legs were the foundation for their speed, agility, power and defense.
In any dedicated boxing program a coach or trainer will not only teach you how to stand properly but how to use your footwork to establish:
For the fitness enthusiast who wishes to learn boxing purely as means of getting in shape, learning the proper stance and footwork fundamentals will enhance your exercise experience in boxing. The more your legs work, the harder your heart works.
Learning how to skip rope rather than jump rope will help you become lighter on your feet and teach you how to begin to move rhythmically while developing cardio vascular conditioning. Although this sounds quite easy reading it, executing proper footwork is one of the main fundamental principles that is easier said than done. Look at it like this, imagine building a house without a firm foundation and building it on unstable land. How safe would you feel in that house? Probably not so safe especially when Mother Nature pays you a visit in one of her various forms. I see boxing in a similar fashion, plus I follow the school of thought that emphasizes teaching the basic fundamentals over fancier movements.
Most people who want to get in shape through boxing may not think it’s important to have good technique and pay so much attention to their stance and footwork. In all honesty they just want to come to a gym and hit a heavy bag to release stress. There is nothing wrong with that but it could lead to injury and it will for sure lead people to throwing bad punches just in favor of throwing lots of them for the cardio vascular benefits of the exercise. I will get into the basic punches in my next post, but for now just remember this, build a strong foundation in your exercise program. Be it for fighting, fitness or fun, strong legs and proper footwork will take your boxing training to the next level.
Yours Truly - Coach Djinji Brown
We would like to invite you to a special once a month workshop we are having starting Friday, Aug 1st 2014 here at SolBox Fitness Club: