Punching is the cornerstone of the striking arts. Whether street fighting, boxing, traditional martial arts (TMA), or Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), a solid foundation of jabs, crosses, hooks, and uppercuts are enough to win many fights.
Bookmark this page. It’ll teach you everything you need to know about throwing a punch.
You can click anything on this list to jump right to a specific section of this guide:
Types of Punches
- The Jab
- The Hook
- The Cross
- The Uppercut
- The Spinning Back Fist
- The Corkscrew Punch
- Power Punches
- The Hammer Fist
- The Superman Punch
- The Bolo Punch
Boxing and Kickboxing Combinations
Types of Punches
While it’s not usually a knock-out punch, the jab is one of the most important techniques you can learn as a fighter. And keep this in mind: your jab can never be fast enough, strong enough, or precise enough. Practice this punch like it’s your life’s work, and I guarantee you’ll win many fights with this alone.
The hook is usually a knockout punch, and can be thrown from either the left or right hand. A hook is rarely thrown by itself, except to catch a well-guarded opponent unexpectedly.
The cross, or reverse, is a power punch which is thrown from your rear arm. The power in this punch comes primarily from the legs. Use your hips, back leg, and shoulders to twist your upper body with thunderous force, sending your power through your shoulders and into your forearm, punching down a straight line into your opponent.
The uppercut can be thrown with the lead or rear arm. It is a close-ranged attack, that travels in an upward path in between your opponent’s guard. The power comes from the legs and hips, plus some shoulder pop. Throw this punch when your in a tight clinch, or if your opponent is hunched over, and ALWAYS follow up with a hook or a cross.
The Spinning Backfist
The spinning backfist is an untraditional punch, in that you must turn your back on your opponent in order to throw it. It is best thrown after missing with a punch or a kick. Bas Rutten and Shonie Carter are some famous MMA fighters that have successfully used this punch in a fight.
The Corkscrew Punch
The corkscrew punch is a variation on the cross. When you throw your cross, rotate your hand so that the top of your fist is pointing down toward the floor. This turns your shoulder upward, creating a natural shield for your chin. There is a myth that says the corkscrew punch can twist and cut your opponent’s face, or worsen an already existing cut. This is ridiculous and completely made up.
With some time spent on developing proper technique, any punch can be made into a power punch, but usually the cross, hook, uppercut, and overhand are considered power punches because they’re most likely to knock out an opponent.
The Hammer Fist
Hammer fists aren’t new, but they’ve made a comeback in MMA due to the ground-and-pound style of attacks from the mount. A hammerfist is thrown making impact with the bottom or top of the fist. The point is to hit whatever opening in your opponent’s head you can find, so you usually throw them from restrictive angles which don’t allow you to use your shoulders or body for optimum momentum. Plus, combine that with the fact that you’re usually holding an opponent down so that he can’t stand back up, and you see why hammer fists aren’t the most powerful punches; throw them in quantity rather than quality to finish a weakened opponent.
The Superman Punch
The superman punch is a “flying punch”, because you throw it when both feet are off of the ground. With that being said, many people make the mistake of jumping UP, but your should only leave the ground by an inch or so.
The Bolo Punch
The Bolo punch is a chopping punch that originated in the sugar-can fields of the Philippines and carried over into eastern martial arts like Burmese boxing. It is similar to a karate chop or hammer fist, aiming for the face, neck, or groin. The Bolo punch when used in traditional boxing looks like a mix between an uppercut and an underhand softball throw. A lot of flashy boxers use the bolo punch as a feint, to distract their opponent from their other hand.
Remember, throwing a single perfect punch is not the goal: the goal is to win your fight or boxing match, and the key to doing so is usually with punching combinations — some predetermined set of punches that you’ve memorized and practiced until you’re flawless. Bas Rutten mentioned having certain combinations for his MMA fights, some which he claimed had an 80% KO rate.
Hint: It often helps to remember your combinations with names or numbers, like “the 1-3-4″ which might be your jab, lead hook, rear uppercut.
As the great trainer R. Minger once said, “Never just throw 2 punches; throw 1 or 3. 2 punches is too predictable.”
So let’s go over some popular ones…
The Jab-Cross (1-2)
The jab-and-cross combo is a basic 1-2 punch combination of throwing the lead-hand jab and immediately following with a straight-line cross at the shoulder level with your rear fist.
Practice: Keep your rear hand guarding the same side of your head while throwing the lead jab, then immediately bring the lead hand back to guard as you throw your cross. Keep your eyes open and looking forward!
The Double Jab (1-1)
Two jabs in a row, or the “double jab” is a great way to work your way into a bigger combo. If you miss with the first jab, use the second jab to further step in and close off the distance. Make sure you snap both jabs and keep good form in both, otherwise you risk getting caught with a counter in between jabs.
Practice: Try stepping in on a 45 degree angle as you jab each time. Devote an entire round of shadowboxing to JUST the jab!
This is your power combination. You still want to set this up with a jab or two, to make sure you are in range to land the combo, and to get your opponent blinking/reacting. Firing off the powerful cross-hook-cross combo can cause a knockout, even if only some of the punches land flush.
REMEMBER: Immediately return your hands to guarding your head as fast as possible, but still get full extension or twist on these punches!
Countering is an advanced set of techniques for dealing with incoming attacks. Generally, there are 3 types of counters:
- Slipping, or bobbing and weaving
Parrying and catching go hand-in-hand… Quite literally! The parry is the most common defense to a jab, and even a straight cross. The parry is a simple movement, that just redirects the punch away from your face. An even more effective block is the catch, where you show more of your palm and “stuff” the incoming jab (or cross). Never reach for a punch, otherwise they are only feinting and purposely trying to get you to over-react. Never lead your guard by 4-5 inches, otherwise you’re “pawing” to block — this is dangerous!
Bobbing & Weaving
Also known as “slipping” a punch.