How To Stop Flinching And Closing Your Eyes When Getting Punched In Fights

Has it ever happened to you that you watch a fight and you see someone getting punched in the face then you get that impression “Why didn’t he see that punch coming, if I were him I would have seen it coming miles away”?
Seeing a punch coming your way is actually not enough to avoid getting lit up, you have to learn a whole bunch of skills of how to react effectively in a short period of time and dodge the punch.

Avoid flinch reflexes

My coach always said “If you close your eyes the monster will never go away”. People who are not used to sparring and getting punched in the face have a flinch reflex everytime they see a punch coming their way. This instinctive reaction can be deadly in a real fight where you are risking dire consequences if you get hit on the chin with a powerhouse shot. So the first step towards learning to dodge is to stop flinching and keep your eyes open so you can see the direction of the punch and where it is aiming.

Build your pre-programmed neurological response

Our neurological network is wired to produce squinting, blinking, withdrawal or jumping when our brain perceives a threat coming. So to clarify that let’s say I have a basketball and I throw it at a basketball player’s face. his pre-programmed neurological response would be to bring his hands up and catch up the ball. Maybe I could expect a similar reaction if I want to throw a punch at the same guy, he probably would bring his hands up and try to block the punch or catch the punch so to speak as if it was moving towards his face. That’s his pre-programmed neurological response.
Now if you play a lot of basketball you might train your brain to do the same thing when it sees a ball coming at your face. But if you don’t play any sports with objects moving at you you might have no response at all. You should see my wife when I toss out a set of keys. She startles by the physical impulse of the keys moving at her and she does not have that pre-programmed neurological response that actually controls the act of catching them so they bounce off her forehead and then I get yelled at.

Best training method to stop flinching?

Back in the 60’s and 70’s boxers were taught the hard way, full contact sparring. But with all the studies conducted in boxing regarding head trauma, modern boxing has come up with a new way, especially for beginners, pool noodles method
Pool noodles are used in boxing, MMA and Muay Thai gyms as a drill for pre-programming neurological responses. This type of drill is used by amateur fighters as well as professional fighters.

Here is a video of Canelo Alvarez training with pool noodles

Pool noodles condition your neurological network in a complete safe and damageless way. You will get used to stuff hitting you in the face. Sometimes it will hit you in the eye and you’ll have to focus through one eye for a second. Sometimes you get blasted on the nose and you get that feeling where your eyes are kind of watery for a moment and you will learn how to recover.
Your training partner has to try to hit you with that noodle in uncomfortable areas on your face, your role will be to try to survive and slip the next one because a good training partner is damn well gonna try to fire another one in there even if you seem uncomfortable. He’s not going to stop just because he hit you in the face. The same way in a street fight, your adversary is not going to sit there and celebrate his one successful punch, he’s going to hit you once and he’s going to try to hit you again. So you’ll get used to taking punches and recovering so you can respond with the correct neurological action.

Also, one of the greatest training methods to stop flinching and developing fast reflexes is the reflex boxing ball method

It’s also important to note that most black belts in traditional martial arts completely skip impulse based training, and as such they really actually suck at taking punches. It doesn’t matter how much you smack the wooden dummy.

The martial arts instructor seems to be clueless on how to defend a punch.
The failure obviously lies in the martial artist’s response to the punch which is to blindly thrust his arms out in front of him while keeping his head in the exact same spot. He chose an attempted bench press or something!
This is not a form of training that should be neglected. If you don’t build the neurological networks to react to punches you’re likely going to geek out and do something stupid that will get you hurt like thrusting your arms out in front of you and wishing punches to disappear.

What happens when you get used to pool noodles drills?

While getting hit with pool noodles by your training partner, if you pay close attention to the way that his body moves when he’s stepping forward trying to smack you on the face with the pool noodle, you will see that he is producing an almost identical set of physical impulses as if he is throwing a straight punch. So if you buy a pool noodle  and cut it in half and hand it to your best training partner and have him try to do it a hundred times, a few fantastic things happen:

  • The impulse of a straight punch will not be anywhere near as startling because you’ve seen it a hundred times and even in the cases where you get hit by a real punch you will still be fine.
  • Your reaction time will be way faster because you built the neurological network that actually identifies and reacts to this threat.
  • If you add a counter punch immediately after you slip their punch, you will build a muscle memory to punish your adversary for every single punch they throw. Your neurological network will not be wired only to slip punches but also to automatically slip and counter in the same time. Slipping and counter punching will  both merge in one dynamic neurological network. All of a sudden any single time that punch comes at you you will not be thinking about it, the movement will just happen and you will find yourself slipping and countering instantly.