Your Ultimate Guide to The Jab in Boxing

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You know that something is right with a move when Muhammad Ali used to do it 90% of the time in his bouts. The jab is one of the most lethal weapons in any boxer’s arsenal and has proved its worth time and time again in the sport of boxing.

Though, not the most powerful punch in boxing, the jab is crucial to help you set up everything that’s powerful. So, yeah, you might not knock your opponent down on the mat with a jab but can use it to set up a combination which can.

Jab is a great punch to derail your opponent’s confidence, obstruct his/her movement and sting them.

Jab is one of the first punches that every boxer learns. Regardless of your boxing style, whether you’re a good fighter or an elite, you simply can’t do without a jab. Inarguably, the jab is a punch which holds a lot of significance.

Often times, jab helps you to wear your opponent down and in certain cases helps you to win bouts when it comes to points. A jab is a powerful punch thrown from a long range, capable enough to decide your fate.

Jab with regards to your boxing style

If you have an Orthodox stance, then you are going to use your left hand for the front jab. However, if your fighting stance is Southpaw style, then you’d use your right hand for the front jab.

Though beginners might find throwing a jab really hard, there’s really no way around it. Firstly, start with understanding your stance and then put your work into the jab as it will help you improve your striking abilities including the use of combinations.

How to throw a Jab?

This is a beginner’s guide of how to jab. So, if you’re already a boxing professional, these steps can help you cross-check your current practice. Thus, reading it is a win-win for everyone. With that said, let’s move towards how to jab

To understand the jab and how to throw it correctly, let’s break this punch into three parts:

1. Basics​

When it comes to basics, you want to get things right from the get-go. For this reason, you want to follow all the basic steps as mentioned below:

Fighting Stance

When we talk about the fighting stance in a jab, you have to have your face covered at all times. With your knuckles pointing towards the ceiling and your palm towards the floor, you want to keep your fist under your eyes, so you don’t block your vision while punching.

For explanation purposes, let’s assume we’ll be throwing a right jab. Thus, if you’re into jabbing with your left, then everything will be opposite. Start with putting your right foot in front of your left, with the left foot angled out towards your opponent. Protect your chin by tucking your elbows in and keep your chin down.

Punching Posture

You don’t want to be rigid. Relax. Relax your body with your knees bent slightly. Ensure your front foot is pointed forward and your heel is slightly up. Moreover, if you’re throwing with your right, remember, that your punch will come straight out and thus, you have to be closer to your opponent.

Lean forward with your left hand a little higher than your right. REMEMBER! When it comes to the jab, you’re using your core and not just your arm, so it’s important you launch yourself and get your body behind it.

Intensity Generation

Just as you’re about to land, ensure you push your weight in the forward direction. At the same time, shift your weight onto the right foot, while you’re throwing the right arm. While doing so, twitch the right side of your body forward. This will help you generate the intensity.

Before you even plan to land the punch, ensure that your chin is tucked behind the shoulders. Your shoulders should be pretty close to your chin and it should be protected. No part of your body should stick out, otherwise, that’ll be an easy target for your opponent.   

Quick Movement

Jab is a quick punch. It’s more of stinging than taking the sting out entirely. Thus, you’ve got to be super quick. You can’t telegraph it, making it easy for your opponent to counter.

Move quickly, and while doing so, remember the corkscrew motion. Lastly, do not forget to rotate your hands with the palm facing the ground. I.e. where your punch generates the power.

Quick Retraction

Once you’ve landed the jab, don’t get carried away by it. As soon as you connect, make the most out of the situation. Start by bringing your hands back in the normal position super quick and then set up the next move.

Also, do not step back whilst hitting the jab, it will take the power away. You at all times, need to put your weight behind the punch to generate impact. However, once you’ve landed, relax and come up with the next move.

Prepare for the next move

As said earlier, the jab acts as a basis to help set up your next move. Don’t move too backward once you’ve connected.

Stay within the range and land another shot in quick succession. Practice your combinations well, so you can make the most out of the situation.

2. Variations

When it comes to jabs, you ought to know the variations. However, it’s not necessary to throw all these variations at once or at any time. See which ones are you most comfortable with and which one suits your fighting style. Now to understand variations, you’ll have to learn about the different types of jabs. Practice it till you perfect them and then learn to use them in successful combinations. Let’s start by checking out the various jabs:

  1. Regular Jab: Also referred to as a standard jab, the regular jab is usually thrown from a standard position. To throw a regular jab, you must move forward one step with your leading foot and extend your punching arm towards the opponent. While recovering, you must move your trailing leg to the front as you bring your punching hand back thereby enabling you to get back to the normal stance.

2. Tapper Jab: A tapper jab is one of the most utilized jabs in combat. It’s a light move, used to restrict your opponent’s attack or to set up a power jab. Unlike a standard jab, a tapper jab can be thrown consecutively. The goal of this jab is to unlock your opponent’s defenses without over committing. You can do silly movements such as tapping your opponent’s glove and get him to put up his defenses.

3. Power Jab: Visually it appears as if it’s a left cross. However, it’s not it’s still a jab. Why is it called the power jab? Because you utilize your entire body, including the body rotation to generate maximum intensity. You activate your legs by taking a step forward. Boxers such as Floyd Mayweather, use a lunging jab – a variation of a power jab which acts as a powerful tool when wanting to catch your opponent off-guard. However, the success of the lunging jab lies in its non-telegraphic movement. Remember, speed is not your primary goal here but rather intensity. You must circle your body to add hip rotation to the play and angle your jab towards your opponent to generate maximum power.

3. Space Maker Jab: The space maker jab is quite similar in style to the tapper jab. The only major difference is that you extended your jab for quickness. It is mostly used to keep opponents at bay. You can throw this jab numerous times in quick succession as you’re circling around your opponent. This quick and flashy jab is great to distract the opponent and helps keep the opponent busy while you’re preparing the next step. However, the biggest weakness of this jab is it leaves space for vulnerability. Thus, your movement needs to be lightning quick.

4. Body Jab: A jab popularly used by Shane Mosley. A body jab is not as effective as the power jab or a lunging jab but it is a great move to distract your opponent. Herein, you target your opponent’s body in the wake of getting them to loosen their defense. And as soon as you sense an opening, you land a defining blow to their head. Thus, body jab is yet again a great set-up jab.

5. Double Jab: You must have seen the double jab used to great effect by Oscar De La Hoya. As the name suggests, a double jab is a couple of quick jabs used to trick the opponents. After a jab, an opponent usually expects a powerful strike coming their way. However, with a double jab, you trick them and try to catch them off-guard with your third strike. This jab is quite effective when you’re trading jabs with your opponent. You can use it while moving backward, forwards or sideways.

6. Counter Jab: Imagine a double jab being thrown at you. How do you even calculate what’s coming after the first jab? This is where Erik Morales comes in with his trade. Often swift and relaxed, he targets a precise timing to catch his opponent right in the middle. How do you do it? Without flinching back, as soon your opponent throws a jab, immediately stop his jab and charge while hitting him with a hard one. However, you must keep your head back in case if you mistime and provide an opportunity for him to throw a second one. You can also use a counter jab to great effect whilst fake retreating.

3. Combinations

We have discussed setting up combinations for beginners in our boxing guide. If you’re just getting started, you might want to check it out. A jab is pretty much baseless without a combination. Understanding the combinations and the role of a jab is pretty important. If you’re a beginner who’s having a hard time understanding the combinations. You can simply start by learning the number system below. 

Number

Move

1

Jab

2

Right Cross

3

Left Hook

4

Overhand

5

Left Uppercut

6

Right Uppercut

b

Body

Now since we’re talking about the jabs. There has to be a 1 in your coach’s instruction. So, say he instructs you to throw 1b-2. In this case, you must throw a body jab followed by a right cross. Understood? Let’s do it again, I ask you to throw a 1-2-1-1, what’s that like? That’s a normal jab followed by a right cross followed by a double jab. Easy, isn’t it? This way, you can set up your own combinations and use them to great effect in a match. Just to help you out. Here’s a list of the most common boxing combinations:

  1. 1-1
  2. 1-1b
  3. 1-2
  4. 1-2b
  5. 1b-2
  6. 1-1-2
  7. 1-2-1-1
  8. 1-2-3
  9. 1-2-1-2
  10. 1-2-3-2
  11. 1-2-3b-2
  12. 1-2-5-2
  13. 1-6-3-2
  14. 1-2-3-2-1

Common mistakes beginners make when throwing a jab

See, the jab is not easy, it takes plenty of time to wrap your head around it. Thus, when you’re starting out and making mistakes that’s not a big deal. But ensure that you learn from it. However, if you still feel you’re doing something wrong, make sure to read the following points below:

Telegraphing the jab: Indeed, telegraphing is a disease in any fighting sport. As a beginner, we think that we need to move forward with our front leg before throwing the jab. Well, that’s how we start learning it in the first place. However, if you’re up against an experienced fighter, he’ll understand your move the moment you take a step ahead. Thus, when you’re up against an experienced fighter, try not to telegraph the jab. Come up with some creative alternatives.

Letting the hands fall: Perhaps the silliest mistake beginners make is that of letting the hands fall down. REMEMBER to protect your chin at all times. Thus, even if you successfully land your jab, you want to get back into the normal stance as quick as you can. Though this mistake cannot be too costly for tall fighters, for short fighters, it can spell doom.

Getting the distance wrong: Man-oh-man, isn’t this frequent? When you throw a jab and are unable to connect. Don’t go charging all the way. It’s alright if you didn’t connect but don’t make a fool out of yourself by telegraphing the movement. Test your fighting range and your reach. Evaluate your jab well before throwing it in. If you land a weak jab, you’ll instantaneously award your opponent with a psychological advantage.

Feet way too wide: Your feet should be in line with your shoulders. Do not spread them too wide. Ensure your back leg follows your front leg movement. By increasing the distance between your feet, you’ll be hindering your own movement and end up making yourself susceptible to damaging blow.

 Return your hand: Do not leave your hand hanging in the air. Though it’s not a huge mistake. Over a period of time, you’ll end up letting your hands fall down with your chin exposed. Thus, practice to return your hand and guard your chin right from the start.

Countering against jab

You’re not the only one reading this blog, right? It might well be that you might end up facing a fellow reader who’s already well equipped with jab counters? What’s next? He’s throwing a bunch of jabs at you and you don’t know how to counter. However, you don’t have to worry. Below are certain ways through which you can easily counter a jab. Though a good jab is pretty hard to counter. NEVER SAY NEVER.

  1. Keep moving: When I say keep moving, I mean to keep changing the distance. The best way to defend a jab is to prevent it. Keep moving in and out from the striking range. Your sense of awareness and judging the distance is the best counter to avoiding a jab.
  2. Parrying the jab: The role of parrying in defense is often overlooked. Parrying a jab works best against lazy jabs. If you’re up against a fighter throwing a lazy jab i.e. hanging or simple, you can simply parry it and set up your own counter. Parrying is not rocket science; all you have to do is push your opponent’s hand towards the other side.
  3. Throw a right hook: A great weapon against tall boxers who leave their head vulnerable when throwing a jab. Run straight in and after you’ve beaten the jab, bring your head between the body and land a right hook. This is perhaps the most devastating counter against a jab. It is good enough to knock your opponent out cold. What makes it so special? The unpredictability.
  4. Don’t flinch: Flinching can be telegraphed easily. If you want to counter a jab, you must avoid flinching. When a jab is thrown use one of the above techniques but do not flinch as it allows your opponent to read your movement, thereby enabling him to throw a big punch at you.

Drills to improve your jab

Yes, mastering the jab does take time and effort. But almost every professional boxer has this art perfected. If you like jabs and you want to integrate them much more into your bouts, there are certain drills which can help improve your jab technique.

Circling around a heavy bag: This is a great drill to understand the distance and room between you and your opponent. Start by working around a heavy bag moving in a 360-degree motion. Start in a clockwise direction followed by an anti-clockwise direction. This will help you learn the movements and understand the range at which you can work your opponent.

Accuracy Drill: This drill can be done by using a double-end bag. The goal here is to connect with a moving target. While keeping the point of contact in a textbook form, throw a heavy straight hand followed by a jab. Practice the combinations mentioned above on a moving target and it will help you improve your overall accuracy.

Mitts drill: Start working the mitts with your trainer who can push you to bring the best out of you. An effective partner who can force you to your back foot and counter your punches. Training with mitts will help you improve speed, power, and precision. Once again, try different combinations and see what works the best for you whilst getting feedback from your sparring partner.

Hanging bag drills: Majority of the gyms, have suspended bags hanging from the ceiling. You can run and try jabbing every bag as you pass by. It’s a timed drill and if it feels easy to you then you can make it challenging by attempting a double or a triple jab.

Shadowbox: Perhaps the most effective DIY technique to master the jab is shadowboxing. SHADOWBOX. A LOT. Even the best in the game do it wherever they can. They don’t do it to show off. They do it for a reason. After all, your only competition is you, yourself. Try and improve yourself in shadowboxing. Learn to improve on your last performance. Last time you tried a combination of 6? Well, this time it’s going to be 8. Later 10, 12, 14… so on and so forth.

Conclusion

We have covered all the essential details required to help improve your jabs. If you follow this guide and practice hard, ain’t no way you’re missing out on improvement. I hope this comprehensive guide to jab in boxing helped you and if you’re new to boxing, just like over a million people every year, start by reading our ultimate boxing guide for beginners so we’re on the same page as we progress.

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