The jab is undeniably the most important punch in your arsenal, whether you’re talking Muay Thai or straight boxing. Almost every other technique flows seamlessly from the jab. It’s your range finder, stance breaker, defensive strike, offensive starting shot, quick scorer and more. So how then do you defeat an opponent with a brilliant jab? It’s usually the closest limb to you, and it is by far the quickest shot and the one with the longest range that can strike both head and body at will. It’s not an easy task at all, but these tips should set you up to deal with this tricky punch.
Let’s picture two fighters facing one another, completely squared off and within striking range. Your right hand lines up with their left, and your left with their right. Stances may vary slightly from the completely square to the slightly side on, but the line up of hands is usually similar.
A “catch” in boxing terms refers to allowing your opponent to fire off a straight shot towards your head, and then to use the palm of your glove in either hand to stop the shot in mid air. Notice it resembles catching a ball that has been thrown at you, hence the name. It’s important to note this does not work for body shots, so be sure the opponents attack is aimed for your head before attempting a catch.
If you catch the shot with your lead left hand, you stop it much earlier, and it opens up the opportunity to bomb back with a strong right hand, or elbow if you step in. If you catch the punch with your rear right hand, it will be much more extended, opening up left hooks to the body or head of the opponent. It’s up to you which path to take and which strikes you’re most confident with.
Experiment by free drilling these options with a partner. Get them to throw straight jabs at you, and practice catching then attack back instantly. Over time you’ll have a few “go to” options for live sparring or competition.
One of the sweetest parts of the sweet science of boxing, the slip, takes a lot of practice to get right. It relies on both timing and speed, as well as spatial awareness and good decision-making to pull off. The move is essentially to allow the opponent to throw a punch and then lean off to the side at the last possible moment so that it glides past your ear and over your shoulder. It happens much more commonly in boxing, but can be seen used to great effect by some of the great Muay Thai fighters of the last few decades, Somrak Khamsing being a great example.
It’s important to note that generally, you want to slip outside a punch as it’s thrown. But what does that mean exactly? Well, picture your opponent throwing a left jab towards you. If you slip to the left, you actually put yourself in the line of fire for their right hand to follow up, or even a quick knee. It’s a risky move and while not necessarily wrong, is very hard to pull off effectively. It’s better to slip to your right side (the opponents left) where there are no other limbs waiting for you, and where they have now exposed their ribs for a hard body shot counter attack.
To practice slipping a punch, you can do so with or without a training partner. Some types of heavy bags (usually teardrop shaped) hand at head level and can be used as aids to practice slipping. Alternatively, if you’re feeling creative, hang a tennis ball from the ceiling by a piece of string at the level of your face. Give it a push away from you, and as it swings back towards your face, move the head by rolling the shoulders at the last possible moment.
The Low Kick
One huge advantage that Muay Thai fighters have over western boxers is the use of the kicks in combat, none more so than the devastating low kick. It doesn’t take many of these powerful weapons to the opponents thigh to drastically change the shape of the fight.
A good jab relies on the planting of the feet to execute properly. The weight shifts a little more into the front foot, making it very difficult to lift it off the floor to defend a low kick. If you find your opponent is jab heavy, try to time your low kick at the same moment. The motion of your kick moves your head out of danger, and their leg is right there for the strike. The foot being planted magnifies the force of the strike by a large margin too. A few of these exchanges and your opponent won’t be so quick to plant their feet and jab at will.
Why try and beat your opponent to the punch? In Muay Thai you really don’t have to. While the jab is the quickest and longest range punch, it’s distance covering abilities are nothing compared to that of the lead teep (push kick) in Muay Thai.
The teep resembles a stomping motion aimed at the opponent’s torso or legs and can be executed with the toes, ball of the foot, sole, or even the heel of the foot, depending on what you want to achieve with it. When executed properly, there is barely any indication that it’s coming at all. The leg is lifted almost dead straight upwards, with the sole of the foot aimed at the opponent. A sharp push forwards with the hips generates enough power not only to knock your opponent backwards, but sometimes completely off their feet.
If you find your opponent relies heavily on the jab, start to work your lead push kick until you notice them throw it less. The legs will always beat the arms in the game of range, and soon you’ll notice their jab hitting nothing but the air in front of your face.
By analyzing your opponents best weapons and selecting yours intelligently in order to counter them, your fight IQ will increase dramatically. A lot of fighting is very automatic, but having a game plan and planning a few moves ahead can pay off big time in the ring.