Sunday, December 12, 1999

BOXING: Frank Benn - Some tips and concepts related to the jab

Some tips and concepts related to the jab -- cultivating the technique, and applying it.

Some Basic/Intermediate/Advanced Considerations For The Jab

Closing the Distance

One of the most important skills in all of martial art is the ability to land a lead weapon attack on the opponent, initiating it from outside of his reach. This is the beginning of any heavier attack -- the mobility, ranging, and timing of the lead.

Always train the quick shuffle from out of the opponent's reach (even when shadowboxing or working the bag) to get into the habit of closing distance quickly and properly when setting up your combinations. Too often, fighters and martial artists will train their technique from a standstill, throwing punch after punch, angle after angle. I always tell my students, if he's close enough for you to do that, HE'S HITTING YOU TOO.

Weapon Moves First

When initiating and closing for the attack, your weapon moves first. If your feet move first, your attack is now telegraphed, and the opponent moves. Train against a light target, at first closing just a short distance, concentrating on moving your lead hand first -- before your feet. From there, increase the distance -- without sacrificing good form and posture. DO NOT OVEREXTEND. There's no power in it (making it a waste of time) if you do, and you will leave yourself open.

Varying Your Head Position

A common liability in most fighters' styles is predictability. Most people, when throwing the jab, tend to put their head in the same place every time. A thinking, adjusting opponent will adapt to this and exploit it. Vary your head position when you jab. This comes heavily into play as well when you do a lot of stop-hitting. In this case, your change of head position is designed to make him miss while you're scoring your jab, and setting up other things.

In general, you want to vary your head position in these ways:

  • Slipping or sidestepping to your back (to the "outside", IOW to the left if you're a left lead), lining your chin up with your lead.
  • Head inside your jab (to the right if you're a left lead), roughly in line with your rear foot.
  • Head center positioned in normal boxing poise.
  • Head center low. 

The important thing is that you concentrate on shooting that jab out there while the head is changing position. If a good fighter knows you tend to leave your head in the same place when you jab (and furthermore if he anticipates that you won't follow your jab up with something damaging), he is going to throw a cross or overhand right over top of it as he bobs. Lights out. You can prevent it, though, if you vary your head position. For instance, I've caught people with jab hook combo's quite often because they got too confident with that cross over the jab. Their cross misses, and as it recovers, there's that hook on the chin. BTW, against opposing leads, the hook works in a similar way, and you also have the option of throwing a cross instead, or a rear hand uppercut. Depends on how you time it, but they all work.


Speed is a major aspect of a good jab. To develop speed in your jab, start off by not trying to hit "hard" with it. That builds tension in your forearm, lead shoulder, and back, and will just slow you down. Tension is the opposite of speed.

Try to "sting" him with your jab. When you punch with good follow-through, body alignment, and timing, the power is there already.

Ali used to say the jab was his "fly swatter".

Good tip for speed in the jab: Think of only the retraction. That is, the amount of time from "in" to "out" doesn't exist, and the first unit of time expended occurs on the return ("out" to "in").

Throw multiple jabs with movement in all directions: Circling, Slipping, Sidestepping, Advancing, Retreating, Ducking, etc.

Weight Is On The Lead Foot

That's when you have a jab -- when you shift your weight onto the lead foot. This puts body mass into it, and extends your reach in the direction of your target.

Put Some Starch In It

Align your body and arm correctly, and you can knock a man off his feet or at least stun him with a good jab. Add some good nontelegraphic speed, footwork, and timing, and you've got your bread and butter right there. Tighten the fist only on the end of the punch to make it hit solidly, while not slowing it down with that old opposite of speed -- tension.

The Jab Provides Its Own Cover

One of the few moves in all of martial art that provides its own cover -- the jab. Lead shoulder protects that side of your chin. Rear hand up. Look down the barrel of the gun.
If you jab with your chin up in a real fight or full contact sparring match, you'll soon see why it's not a good idea.

The Jab In A Boxing Match

In boxing, depending upon your personal style (boxer, puncher, boxer/puncher, etc.) you might end up throwing up to 70% or more jabs as a percentage of total punches thrown. The jab is actually that important. There are few punches you can throw that a good jab won't improve -- either by virtue of setting up your timing, establishing a feint that he reacts to, helping you gain the necessary distance, or giving you the change of angle you need to line up that power punch.

The Jab In A Fight

The jab's function in a streetfight is not so artful as it is in a boxing ring against a good boxer. You want to master the "one-two". Trust me on that, if you've never been in a real fight before. Your jab is the "one", and your cross is the "two" (also can be an overhand -- depends on the situation). Put the "one" and the "two" as close together temporally as possible. Remember, your jab is the can opener, and your cross is the spoon. The opponent is a can of meat, in this metaphor.

As A Probe

The jab is how I find out important things about my opponent. Which direction is he prepared to move? Throw a jab, and find out. Is he a good counter puncher? Throw a jab or two with movement, and find out. Which hand does he initiate with? Is he trying to box me, or just punch me? Throw some jabs, and find out. Where does he open up, where I can follow-up to? Throw some jabs, and find out. For instance, get him to draw that rear hand high to cover your incoming jab, and round kick his ribs on that side as his arm opens them up. Even if he counter crosses, this move will work even better as you lean away and tenderize the meat with that kick.

As An Insert

Use it to break up his attack. One of the worst things that can happen to you is to face an opponent who is constantly attacking you, or is faster than you, and you don't want to open up with a power shot for fear of his counter. The jab is one way to break up his combos, and create gaps that you can move on.

As A Setup For The Cross

This ties back to the use of the jab in a streetfight -- not to mention the same use in sparring. Cultivate a solid and quick "one-two", and "one-two-one". Then move. Do it again. Move again. Don't just stand there. Stay mobile, and re-angle that "one-two". This is something anybody can master in a relatively short amount of time (as compared to other things, which might take many years), and you know you've got it when you need it.

As A Setup For The Hook

Many boxers will try to work their hook off of the lag punch, the Dempsey roll, the Shoe-Shine, or the cross. But the elite hitters can do it with the jab. Roy Jones against Vinnie Pazienza is a study on hooking off of the jab, for example.

As A Setup For Kicking

Many people use boxing to set up their kicking, but the converse can also be very effective. This is because you might have your opponent in punching range, and he may back away out of range -- RIGHT INTO YOUR KICKING RANGE. Throwing multiple jabs is often a good way to get the opponent to back up into my kicking range where I can punish him while he retreats.

Other times, I'll be in punching range, and I'll lean away and finish my punching combo with a jab and then in comes the lead round kick, catching him in his blindspot. This is VERY effective.

As A Setup For Entry To Grappling

BJJ stylists like this one, and it does work. Your jab can draw the opponent's hands UP, which opens the door for a mid to lower body shot, leading to the takedown.

Along these lines, jabbing can also get him to throw a solid counter punch, which you will come inside of, outside of, or under to get your clinch. The opponent is easiest to get ahold of (at the torso) when his arms are extended. This use of the jab to get him to punch establishes these conditions very well.

Establish the Jab BEFORE You Feint With It

The lead feint is a great subterfuge for setting other things up. But, remember: You have to sting him with it first, so as to make it believable. Otherwise, like I said before, he'll come right in over top of it and nail you, because he knows it's a fake. When you can sting with it early, and do it with blinding speed, it'll be too fast from then on for him to tell the difference between a feint and the real thing.

The trick to a good feint is to use good committed body mechanics -- the body mechanics are what really trick him. After all, the hand is moving too fast anyway for him to tell what's real and what's not. It's the body (shoulders, hips, footwork) that tells him what's real and what's not.

Also, regarding feinting: It is a great way to conceal (yet at the same time facilitate) the load up for your other power punches.

So there you go. These are some important tips for developing and implementing one of the most important weapons in any martial artist's arsenal -- The Jab. This information is not easy to come by, so I hope those who read it appreciate it. I must be feeling generous today.

Good luck.

Frank Benn
Integrated Arts
Austin, Texas

My deepest gratitude to Frank Benn for his kind permission in allowing me to archive his article he posted to rec.martial-arts on 4/1/1999 12:00 AM to my old archives. Posted 2/10/13 as of 12/12/1999 to mirror my old archives.

Frank Benn's contact info:
Phone: 512-663-4242

Integrated Fighting Arts Academy
University Towers Business Center
715 W 23rd St.
Suite Q
Austin, TX 78705

Other Frank Benn articles posted:

BOXING: Frank Benn - Boxing Tips for Fighting -- Part 2

I received a lot of favorable feedback on my previous post on Boxing Tips for Fighting. That being the case, I'll address some questions some of the people had who emailed me, and elaborate some more on other important fighting-related topics. The information I'm giving, if practiced, will help add to your effectiveness. Some of these are lessons that took a long time to learn -- i.e. from other good trainers and fighters, or from years of teaching and training others.

Stance - Open/Closed

Most people carry themselves either too open or too closed. That is, they are either facing front so they can fire with both guns, or they're tucked away where it's difficult to open up for rear hand power shots. When you give too much front exposure, the trade-off for being able to throw more angles is that you're more open to being hit. This is ameliorated somewhat if you have good head movement and can change vertical levels and ranges easily. On the other hand, when you're closed off, it's just a short step for your opponent to get around the outside of your lead foot, and now you've got nothing. He can hit you at will, and you're forced to turn into his incoming blows.

The solution is a compromise: Draw a line from your rear heel through your lead big toe to the opponent's centerline. Now you're in a position where it's a small adjustment to open up and fire away, and a small adjustment to close up.

Add this to the other info about upper and lower body carriage, and you've got a good stance.


Simple rule: Each needs what the other has.

Lightweight fighters tend to have good skills, mobility, speed. Also, conditioning is heavily in their favor; lighter fighters tend to be able to keep up a furious pace for much longer. This has to do with the bottleneck of the whole equation -- the circulatory system -- and how a person twice the size of another generally will not have a circulatory system that can bring in oxygen, etc., and remove wastes at twice the rate. Lightweight fighters also have good evasion skills, crisp footwork, etc.

Heavyweight fighters, on the other hand, are generally less well conditioned. Though they may be fast for their size overall, they rely heavily on their reach, their power, etc., and are often not as well conditioned at the middle (abs and lower back) to allow for crisp, quick footwork, body angling, head movement, etc.

Now. When you take a lighter person and give him a classic heavyweight characteristic -- say, power -- you have someone like Roberto Duran. Hands of stone. A real standout, because no one at his weight could go toe to toe with him. If you stood at range and slugged with him, he'd laugh at your punches while you chewed on the bricks he sent your way.

Now the converse. Take a heavier fighter, and put into him the skills, mobility, speed, and conditioning of a classic lightweight, and you also have a standout. Muhammad Ali. Chris Byrd. Even Roy Jones -- who learned to be the way he is at a much lighter weight, but now resides closer to heavyweight.

I say this as a person who developed his boxing skills as a 170-something lb. teenager and adult, but who now (thanks to many years of a good and consistent diet and training regimen) resides at a solid and trim 215-220. It's important not to forget the values that fighting at the lighter weights teaches you. A fast, well-conditioned, mobile heavyweight has the best of both worlds.


Don't try to hit "hard" when you punch. You'll just tense up your shoulders and back, and wear yourself out in no time. There are two things you need: Think of hitting with relaxed speed, but with your body aligned into the shot. Alignment is your power -- not inordinate effort. If you think speed and have proper alignment, you will have it all going for you. People who hit with tension tend to give mostly arm punches. I usually don't even bother to slip those.

Plus, tense fighters tend to telegraph.

The Uppercut

Crushing peanuts with the lead foot -- just like the lead hook. Turn the lead heel out. Shift your weight. Your heel turns your hip and shoulder into the punch -- that's where the power is. Like a door on hinges.

NEVER uppercut a person whose head is above yours. It's a waste of time. The rule is: his eye level is equal to yours, or below.

The Hook

Generally, horizontal fist works well in close (palm down), and vertical fist works well at a greater distance (palm toward you). Turn the lead heel out on the lead hook (crushing peanuts), rear heel out on the rear hook. Shift your weight -- always shift your weight from one foot to the other. Same as the cross, overhand, etc.

Double Hook

When you double hook -- say low to the body, then high -- you don't turn your heel out until the second hook. The first one is a diversion more than anything else. If you turn your heel out on the first one, you'll lose the load-up for your second one on the jaw or temple.

Lag Punch

The lag punch is a boxing method for loading up your hook and getting him to stop while you enter and hit him. Works well in the ring. Not so important for the streetfight, from my own experience.


The shoeshine is a good way to gain momentum for your punches in close without opening up or telegraphing. Hands up (scratch your eyebrows with your knuckles), palms toward you, head down, elbows in, etc. Great for hooks and uppercuts. Shoeshining keeps you moving and keeps him guessing.

Holding the Head

Holding the head is not allowed in the ring. BUT, it is GREAT for the street. Also, holding the collar or lapel works well. He can't move. He gets hit.

Death Grip on the Head

The Death Grip is what I call the classic Muay Thai clinch with both hands securing the back of the head and neck. This clinching method facilitates knees pretty well, headbutts, and elbow shots -- since you have control of the top of his spine and can pretty much dictate the pace and open up to hit him.

Better still is control of the head and one arm. This will give you more angles on the head, and make it more difficult for him to fight back in some cases. Also enables you to angle off to his blind side, take him down, etc.

As far as takedowns from this position are concerned, the easiest is just to dump him control of his head. Downward pressure with your head hold as you step back and out on a circle. You can add in a knee block or trip of various sorts, or just use it to reangle him so you can land your cross on his temple, and that will take him down. This has worked really well for me.

Elbows from the Clinch

One hand holds his neck, the other is overhooking his arm -- like a collar tie / head tie with overhook from wrestling. With the arm that has the collar tie, bring you inner elbow in under his jaw and throw your shoulder into it. This lifts up his head and loads up your other arm, with comes across with an elbow. This is a REALLY GOOD way to open up the clinch and catch him solidly with the elbow. Rarely ever misses.

Follow up with an upward elbow, or in some cases a downward angular elbow.

Headbutts from the Clinch

Same clinch as above. Turn the top of your head in toward him and hit him with back top corner -- it's the hardest part of your head -- against the side of his. Follow up with an upward headbutt to set up a bear hug / backward bend takedown. Works really well -- your head is doing the hitting and lifts up his chin (angling his spine backward), while your hands are free set up the takedown.

Knees and Lower Body Shots from the Clinch

You can knee him to the groin if he's upright, and to the ribs or head of he's bent over. Be careful, though, not to give him a single leg takedown when you do it. Be ready to whizzer, crossface, etc. if he tries it.

Another really good lower body shot is the shin kick to the leg. You can go to the thigh, knee level, even to his shin. These will not put the guy down necessarily, but are good for drawing his attention low before you attack him high or take him down. Oblique kicks can also be a good distraction toward this end.

The Jab Revisited

Remember, the jab is your can opener. It precedes most other untensils. Look at it also as your sword. The jab must be fast, and reliable. When you've got nothing else left, you'd better at least have a jab. Insert it into every gap. Use it to probe the opponent's reactions. Imagine that you're blind -- your jab is how you feel for every contour.

Use of the jab ranges from pawing with it to load up your cross (Ali) to using it to conceal your low entry (Chris Byrd, even Royce Gracie) to a damaging tool that will make your man see stars (Larry Holmes). Hurting a man with your jab has to do with how much you bring your lead hip in line with the shot, and how much you shift your weight into it.

Most people don't put anything on their jab, and a decent boxer will not respect it -- as you throw it, he'll come right over the top of it with his cross and knock you out, or slip inside of it and catch you with his hook.

Feinting with the Jab

Before you can even use your jab as a feint, you have to make it believable. Otherwise (as already stated) your opponent will wait for that soldier to leave his post and storm that wall (previous metaphor from other post). Once you've made your jab into something credible and fearful in your opponent's eyes, you can work some other variables with it.

Bread Basket Jab

This is a great way to get the opponent to lower his lead hand and expose his chin. Or, if he won't lower that hand, you just crack away at that floating rib. I've put heavyweights on the floor with breadbasket jabs -- not hard to do if you've got a jab with some starch in it, and you time it when he's coming toward you. You've got to do it as you slip outside or sidestep -- i.e. your head moves on the same first beat that your punch did.

Fighting A Larger Opponent When You're Small

Let's not fool ourselves, you can't stay at the outter ranges and trade with a guy who has a 12 inch reach advantage. The only exception to this is if you're a good kicker, and he's not a kicker at all. Then you can punish his legs while he flails away with his hands at the open air, forcing him to overcommit forward, and then you fight from the inside. Fighting inside, you can launch power and leverage that he can't (in many cases).

So, rule 1 is if you are short and have a short reach, learn to kick HARD to the legs, low, and lean somewhat away from his punches. Reason being, if he has good reach, he still may be able to punch you while you kick him. So watch out.

Rule 2 for the short fighter: Learn to grapple. Your center of gravity is lower than his. You have more leverage in close. Learn takedowns which lead directly to the back mount. From there, it's all elbows and naked chokes (hadaka jime). Kataha jime also works really well, even with just a t-shirt. Move off to the side to make this one more powerful (the side of the arm your arm is under). This gives more leverage to the hand that grabs his collar.

Rule 3 for the short fighter: Beware of coming inside and holding on at the lower level (mainly legs) while he pounds away at you. If you clinch at the waist, move around to his back, where he can't hit you.

Rule 4: Don't let him get ahold of you under your arms or on your legs. He is taller -- and likely stronger -- and his height will give added lift which can easily dump you on your back. If you are shorter and he is taller/larger, do NOT go to the guard position. His reach and wide base will make him unsweepable, while his punches reach further than you can remedy by holding him off. If you end up on your back, use the guard to get back to your feet, or to climb on his back.

Rule 5: Back to hitting, if you are a good boxer and know you can hit, train the accuracy of your overhand punch. This is a well-covered punch that can knock a taller fighter out. Do NOT try and uppercut him, unless his head is at your level.

Lots of other things can be said about how to fight a taller/larger person. One of the best clinches against such a person (barring any head control, since he's taller and bigger) is a seatbelt and bicep tie-up. Move off to his left side, reach around his back and grab his belt/pants at his right back hip. Put thumb-index arch of your left palm on his right bicep/inner elbow. From here, you've got control of him, you're halfway to his back, he can't hit you, you're out of the firing line of his knees, and you are halfway around to his back for a back mount if you want to take him down to finish. When you're off to his side like this, you only have to fight half the man. That's the whole idea anyway, when you're smaller.

I'll close with that. There is a lot there, and I can say without reservation that it will help you very very much if you apply what I've given here. It's all about efficacy, after all. I have no problem with sharing the ideas and applications that work.

As I've said before -- and not to bang my own drum -- I've fought, boxed, done submission grappling, kicking, etc. and taught it for quite a while now. And, yes, I've done it with a measure of success. A lot of the things I've learned didn't take forever to pick up -- so don't believe what everybody tells you about 20 years to be any good at this or that. If you're serious and eager, pay close attention to what you're doing and what you're seeking, honest, and you really care about learning true and effective ways of doing these things, you can find it in a reasonable amount of time. My first area of noticeable efficacy in martial art was in kicking. My own teacher, who 18 years ago when he told me this was already a 20+ year veteran in martial arts, used to tell me that I had a knack for finding function, that I was naturally fast, etc. I don't know about that, myself, since I always first and foremost worked my ass off to get where I did. My teacher's remark (in that case about the kicking) was that he'd known good kickers who worked for 15-20 years and didn't get as far as I did in 3.

Reason I say this is just this: believe in yourself, and you'll get there -- wherever "there" is. Avoid running a race against your peers, and you'll end up much further along in the end. Set your own standard, and don't settle for mediocrity. Train in the arts to master them, not just to get by. This may sound arrogant, but it's not. You're not saying you have already mastered them when you say you train for mastery -- you're just admitting that mastery is your goal.

And, don't think that just because you're really good at one thing that you can't be really good at several others. I've surprised more than one person in my time on this one. Some people know that I'm a solid boxer and kicker, so then they're surprised to learn that I am a seasoned wrestler/submission grappler, that I can and do hang with and submit high level people in that realm. Then, that makes it all the harder for some to accept that I'm also very serious about training in and teaching the Filipino Martial Arts, which I've done since 1983, a couple of years after I began grappling and standup empty hand fighting.

Good luck to you all.

Frank Benn
Integrated Arts
Austin, Texas

My deepest gratitude to Frank Benn for his kind permission in allowing me to archive his article he posted to rec.martial-arts IIRC March 1999 to my old archives. Posted 2/10/13 as of 12/12/1999 to mirror my old archives.

Frank Benn's contact info:
Phone: 512-663-4242

Integrated Fighting Arts Academy
University Towers Business Center
715 W 23rd St.
Suite Q
Austin, TX 78705

Other Frank Benn articles posted:

BOXING: Frank Benn - Boxing Tips for Fighting

The following are some requested tips that will help you improve your fighting ability. They are truisms that, in my own experience, are universal to fighting in general. I have been boxing since the early 1980's, and have taught and trained continuously since then. I must be in a giving mood to hand this over like I am, but here goes.

We'll start with some basics, and move into some more involved material as we go. I will inevitably skip some things, since I'm just rattling these off the top of my head.


Chin tucked. Lead shoulder slightly shrugged (though not unnaturally). Elbows in. Hands up (measure your eyebrows with your fists now and then). Knees slightly bent. Feet shoulder width apart, nearly parallel. Groin not open.

Dynamic, phasic, mobile stance.


Learn to become really comfortable standing just out of his reach. Develop the sensitivity to gauge people's reach, and allow them to just barely miss. This will give you two valuable things: The ability to not freak out because things are flying at your face and barely missing, and the posture and positioning to hit him with little adjustment.

In other words, your defense has to facilitate your offense. Everything "defensive" is really a matter of doing AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE to make him miss while not messing up your alignment to hit him back. This is why multi-step blocking and highly eccentric movements (literally, "far from center") are not practiced in boxing.

Never, ever, ever

. . . take your eyes off of your opponent.

Let it go by

Don't always try to stay out of his reach, or you'll always find him out of your reach. Train your slip and bob to stay in range and let the punch go right by so you're still in range to deal it out. Don't weave too much.

Everything serves your ends

Like Musashi says, "Do nothing that is without a reason". Beware of gratuitous and wasteful motions that don't serve any purpose. For example, jab when you slip his jab. Cross when you slip his cross. Etc. Don't let him become comfortable, or secure in the knowledge that you're going to stand there while he does what he wants.

The thing that weakens an opponent's offense is your own offense. Everything else (e.g. slipping without countering, blocking as an isolated movement) is just prolonging the inevitable.

Read the hips

Learn to read his hips. Whenever a hip comes toward you, that is advance notice that something is coming from that side. Some also telegraph with their shoulders, but this is overt and amateurish i.e. wouldn't expect a good fighter to do it. Try to read his loading up in the hips, too.

The jab

To me, the art of boxing is founded on the jab. If you've got a jab, you can box. If you don't, then boxing is hard. Simple as that. Without the jab, expect to get hit a lot. The jab helps to make you a good boxer. Without one, you're just a puncher (which can also be effective, but requires specialized attributes to pull it off).

The Can Opener, and the Spoon

There's a saying in boxing that your jab is a can opener, and your cross is a spoon. The opponent is a can of meat. You've got to use your can opener to open the can BEFORE you can use your spoon to dig out the meat. If you try to use your spoon first, you'll generally fail. Even if you like to lead off with a cross (not usually advisable, unless you're Roy Jones, Ali, or a pissed off Jack Johnson), it is advisable that you at least feint a jab to conceal the load-up of your rear shoulder for the cross.

The Hook "Crushing Peanuts, and Come Here"

Two things to remember in throwing your hook. Lead foot rotates on the ball like you're crushing peanuts. Lead arm hooks horizontally and tight, like you're grabbing one of your friends around the neck with your arm and saying, "Come here!" (the noogie position).

Also regarding the hook, THERE IS NO WRIST. Your wrist does not exist. You can use horizontal or vertical fist matter of what range you're hooking at.

Balls of the feet are the gas, heels are the brakes

Rule of thumb for mobility and planting.


Better to give, than to receive.


Speed is very important. But quickness and suddenness are even more important. Don't build up in speed. If you do, you will tend to miss against a person with movement, even though your punches are fast at full extension. This is because there is a discernible buildup in your acceleration. Relaxation is important for speed. Don't tighten your fist up until you're almost fully extended.

Shoe in the Bucket

This is a common mistake in martial arts that you will really pay for when full contact is happening. It describes a failure to shift the weight off of one foot and onto the other when throwing a power punch. Classic example is in the cross at full extension, your rear foot is on the ball, allowing the weight to shift and that hip to come forward. This contradicts the planted rear foot of many traditional martial arts in their "reverse punch"what in boxing we call shoe in the bucket.

Barrel of a gun

Look down your punching arm like you're looking down the barrel of a gun. This will help that arm to provide cover for your chin on that side while you're punching. Common mistake is for people to leave their chin open on the side of the arm they are punching with. Depending on your personal style, it can also help to turn your thumbs downward to help bring the shoulders up and provide better cover.

Your arms are like two soldiers guarding a fort. When one of them leaves the fort to make war, he has to build a wall to protect his post while he's gone. Also, in keeping with this analogy the other soldier at such times is extra vigilant.

Where there's weight, there's power

Proper loading is essential for power punching. But, do not telegraph. Conceal the shift of weight in your combinations.

Hourglass stance

This is a dangerous but necessary position in hitting. It happens at the tail end of your cross. Be ready to duck and cover. Your cross will put you in a bob position. You should be ready to stay low and elbow block, weave under, or jab to correct your posture. DO NOT just stand there fully extended with nowhere to go.

60/40 Rule

In your stancing and movement, do not put more than 60 percent of your weight on either foot *except in brief extreme situations*. i.e. In the course of regular movement stand in balance. One-legged stances, stilted and straight knee stances, overextended forward stances, etc., are a big mistake both offensively and defensively.


Don't dance around, or bounce up and down. Quick, short, even-keeled adjustments are what you want. Stay mobile, but don't waste any motion. In keeping with the gas and brakes analogy above, stay on the balls for quick range adjustment, but SETTLE IN on your punches. You get your punching power from the ground, through the legs, and off the hips.

The generator

This is a principle I teach my students. Everything you do needs to derive power from somewhere. Your hips are your generator. Plug everything you do into your generator. Throwing punches without the hips is like fighting a duel with an unloaded gun. You might get the first shot off, but he'll be the one who really connects.

Better to make him miss by an inch, than by a mile

This relates to some other things I've already said. When you make him miss by a mile, you'll often find yourself too far out of alignment to fire back. Make him miss by an inch, and it's as if he's not punching you at all as far as your ability to counter-punch is concerned.

Head at the level of your punch

You have to drop your head to the level of your target. THIS INCLUDES BODY SHOTS. Not to do this is to get hit. Some say you should put your eyes at the level of where you're punching, some say the chin or shoulders. I usually put my eyes at the target level.

Punching Power

The power of your punch is on the very end of it. This is one way in which boxing/fighting is a range game. You've got to find your distance, in order to tee off. The real art comes in catching him at the right time and place when your punch is at its max. It's like catching a train. You've got to coordinate things, so that both you AND the train are at the station if you're going to catch the train. Both of you are on the move, though, and this takes timing.

When to catch him

Often, an opponent is ready to move once off of your first attack to make you miss. But, usually after this first movement he has nowhere to go unless he's pretty good. Often you can catch him flatfooted at this time, if you're ready to follow up and keep gaining range. Most common of all is simply leaning away from your initial attack. If you're ready to follow up from that, you can usually catch most people (unless your opponent is Chris Byrd).

Musashi once said something related to this: Throw something up at his face, and you'll see his reaction. Then you can know exactly what to do, since he has tipped his hand, and show his intention. Example: You throw a threatening jab (good safe angle, well-covered, but believable) and he reacts by moving slightly back away. This tells you to do the same thing, but follow with an overhand to catch him because you know where his head is going to be after the jab.

The chin

The chin is the magic button. Tuck yours, exploit his. Some people look really tough, but they go down from a tap on the chin. Whereas, trying to knock a guy out by punching his skull can take a while, unless you hit really hard. Head's like a helmet. Not a good target, unless you can already break patio blocks with your fists. I've knocked people out by punching their skull without hurting my hands, but it takes a while to get your fists tough enough for it.

Jab like a fencer

Jabbing is a game of controlled lunging in coordinated footwork to achieve the right range for other things. Some people use the jab in a light way, like a fly swatter. I like to use it light, but also as a heavier punch as wella dichotomy which comes from originally learning to box at 175 lbs., but finding myself now at a trim 215-220 lbs. with enough speed AND weight to use it both ways.


The quality of your sparring partners will influence your skill level. Highly skilled fighters do not need to go full contact all the time to get a lot from the exchange. Besides, if you're a heavyweight like me, here's an important stat for you: 87% of all heavyweight pros suffer from permanent brain damage as a result of full contact sparring and fighting. No thanks. I want to be able to remember my wife's name when I'm 60.

Moreover, you can't explore new combinations and options if there's too big a price to pay. When somebody is out there trying to knock your block off all the time, you'll tend to fall back on just surviving instead of consciously enforcing actions that are intelligent if not yet reflexive.


You should shadowbox EVERY DAY. The most valuable training experiences for me have been those little 15 or 20 minute sessions where I shadowbox and play with different angles and combos. Keeps you sharp, too.

Number your angles

Start with a basic numbering system:

1. Jab
2. Cross
3. Lead Hook
4. Rear Overhand
5. Lead Uppercut

Eventually add other angles (e.g. from close range, squared face-off, or opponent moves to inside):

6. Rear Uppercut
7. Lead overhand
8. Rear Hook

Now. When working the focus mitts, have the feeder call out combos by number:

"1,1 while circling"


The feeder should collide the mitts with your punches so that the mitts do not snap back, making it possible for him to stay with you on faster combinations, and to give you a satisfying impact when you punch.

Next, work into advancing combos where the feeder throws angles after your first one or two shots, you evade and continue with your counter.



Again, these are mostly BASICS. I've just skipped around a bit, in addition to avoiding kicking altogether which is a favorite area of mine. Maybe some other time. But what I've given here is based entirely on my experience, and it will help you if you apply it.

Good luck.

Frank Benn
Integrated Arts
Austin, Texas


My deepest gratitude to Frank Benn for his kind permission in allowing me to archive his article he posted to rec.martial-arts IIRC March 1999 to my old archives. Posted 2/6/13 as of 12/12/1999 to mirror my old archives.

Frank Benn's contact info:

Phone: 512-663-4242

Integrated Fighting Arts Academy
University Towers Business Center
715 W 23rd St.
Suite Q
Austin, TX 78705

Other Frank Benn-related entries posted:

Wednesday, December 01, 1999

Did Filipino Martial Arts Revolutionize Boxing? by Lilia I. Howe

The stunning footwork of today's greatest fighters, including Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson, may have been the product of Filipino fighting principles honed on the island of Hawaii.

By Lilia I. Howe

Over the years, there have been many valiant attempts to link Asian fighting arts to modem spoils and/or forms of combat. Most of these can be charitably described as "reaches" or pure speculation. However, in one case, there is strong historical evidence that a Southeast Asian fighting system may have had a profound effect on Western boxing specifically the Filipino martial arts, known variously as kali escrima and arnis.


Despite the aura of mysticism an "ancient" lineage gives a fighting art, Western boxing predates most Asian martial arts. Pugilism was practiced in a refined art form in ancient Greece several hundred years before the birth of Christ, whereas most classical Asian systems evolved after the birth of Christ. Many arts, such as karate, are products of the 20th century.

Although there has been some speculation that the Greek arts were the origins of refined Asian combative principles, the stronger evidence suggests that India was their place of origin. Spreading northward into China across the Himalayas, the Indian miartial arts evolved into what we now know as chuan fa (fist way). At the same time, sailors, merchants, and traders carried their knowledge of fighting arts south, throughout the Mahajapayit empire, a vast chain of islands consisting of modern-day Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, and the Philippines. Western pugilism evolved in a similar fashion. The Greek culture had a profound influence on the Romans, who conquered the known world. Hand-to-hand fighting was regularly practiced by soldiers and gladiators, who required a knowledge of how to stay in combat when disarmed. This evolved into the sport of boxing.

East Meets West
By the beginning of the 20th century, Western boxing was both a sport and an art form. Fighters would generally chamber their hands in a straight-up position; fists pointed upward covering the face, elbows tucked into the body, the fighter would drive his blows in an "uppercut" into the body of his opponent Old pictures of such greats as John L. Sullivan depict this fighting stance.

Fights consisted mainly of "exchanging blows." One fighter would strike the other, then the other would hit back, and this process would go until one fighter lost consciousness or was too hurt to continue.
As anyone who has ever seen even an amateur boxing match knows, the boxing of today is radically different. Boxers generally employ a 45-degree angle positioning of the hands, and jabs and crosses are driven to the target. Sophisticated footwork patterns often save the day, and, rather than exchange blows, a defensive strategy of drawing and countering and blocking and countering is used.

"Gentlemen" Jim Corbett is generally regarded as the first scientific boxer. Not a powerful puncher, he defeated Sullivan using footwork, evasions and timing. Corbett's successes caused boxers to approach their art with a new respect for strategy over power. This created fertile soil for the most significant event in the history of Western pugilism.

Boxing changed drastically in a cultural exchange during the early 1900s in one of the greatest ethnic melting pots in history -- Hawaii -- a relatively lawless territory. Fights frequently occurred, and one's survival often depended on one's toughness. Asian immigrants passed on their knowledge of martial arts to their sons, hoping it would ensure their survival.

Since fighting skills were so highly valued, Hawaii produced many fine fighters. One such fighter was Lucky Lucaylucay, amateur boxing champion of Kaui and Honolulu, son of Buenaventura Lucaylucay, a Filipino immigrant who had become the professional boxing champion of Kaui and Honolulu.

Lucky Lucaylucay saw the melding of Filipino martial arts and Western boxing firsthand. "I remember, there were two types of boxers in Hawaii in the `20s," he recounts. `There were the Americans, who held their fists at an angle, used footwork, bobbing and weaving, and used continuous motion in their techniques instead of just `trading hits.'

"The English style of boxing would almost always lose to the Filipino style. It was just vastly more sophisticated."

Lucky maintains that the Filipino style of boxing is a direct derivative of Filipino pananh-kan (pugilism). "Filipino arts start training with weapons because it's more likely you'd be attacked with weapons. The empty-hand motions come from weapons moves. In the case of boxing, the hand moves come from the moves of the dagger.

"In the Philippines, the preferred method for knife fighting is with the blade pointed downward. If your practice is based only on empty bands, you can take punches, so your strategy is sometimes based on taking a punch. On the other hand, if your practice is based on knife fighting, you have to become much more sophisticated with your footwork, evasions and delivery because one wrong move could mean death.
"Filipino boxing is exactly like knife fighting, except instead of cutting with a blade, we strike with a closed fist. There have to be some modifications. For example, you need more power in striking with the fist, so we stand close and use a whip like motion to deliver power."

As the saying goes, "You can't argue with success." Thus, as servicemen and visiting boxers experienced the Filipino boxing strategy, they were quick to adopt the techniques. What once was a static "toughest guy" contest, soon incorporated such concepts as combinations, follow-ups, angling and flowing _concepts familiar to any practitioner of Filipino martial arts.

"If you look at the old English way of boxing, there was no blocking," says Lucky. "There's no control. I used to watch my dad and Kid Moro (a Filipino boxing champion) fight, and their control was so superb they used to spar without gloves, use full-power blows, and they could stop a fraction of an inch before a blow made contact. There was never an injury."

The JKD Connection
Lucky's son, Ted Lucaylucay, is well-known in martial arts circles as one of the most knowledgeable exponents of not only Filipino martial arts, but Bruce Lee's fighting concept of Jeet Kune Do. Ted points out that many of Lee's theories on boxing were later found to apply to Filipino martial arts.

"In Filipino martial arts, there is no rigidity," according to Ted. `The individual adapts. The techniques are Just the ladders that take you upward in your training. You develop your own style after a while. This is why the Filipino arts lent themselves to boxing so well. They already existed as a process of adapting, so a Filipino martial artist could just shift his training to the requirements of boxing.

"I have had the opportunity to experience many different martial arts, and my Filipino background helped me with boxing, silat, muay Thai ,JKD, and so on. I could see the angles of attack, body positioning, and balance."

Float Like an Ali-bangbang, Sting Like a Bubuyug? 
The Philippines have produced many famous boxers, such as Kid Moro and Pancho Villa, but without question, the greatest fighter ever to come out of the islands was the late "Flash" Ellorde, former world lightweight champion. Ellorde was the first to use the "dancing" style of footwork later made famous by Muhammad Ali.

"I can't say for certain whether Flash taught Muhammad his footwork," says Ellorde's sister, Jacinta Perez. "I know they were close and when Muhammad came to the Philippines he stayed with my brother. What I do know is that that particular style of footwork is from escrima, and it originated with Flash.

So he either taught it to Muhammad, or Muhammad picked it up after others started imitating Flash's style."
Ellorde came from an impoverished childhood in the Visayan Islands region of the Philippines. His schooling was neglected, so he had to start school later in life. Because he was older than the other children. they made fun of him, and he soon dropped out of school.

"Flash was very self-conscious about his illiteracy," according to Jacinta. `lie knew that he had absolutely no chance m this world unless he made it as a boxer. So from a very early age, he was determined to make is as a boxer.

"He practiced night and day, and became very good. However, our father had been the escrima champion of Cebu, and he refused to teach Flash. In the Phillippines, fathers usually didn't pass the art on to their sons.
"One day I said to Flash. `If you want to learn from dad, give him a couple of glasses of wine and get him happy. Then tease him; push him around a little. You'll learn what he knows.

"So Flash would sit and talk with our father and serve him wine then he'd start teasing him. Our father would get up and defend himself and come at Flash using his escrima, and Flash noticed his intricate footwork, the way he'd angle his body' how he'd seem to just float gently, then explode with power.

`This was the style Flash used in the ring. Quite often, other fighters couldn't lay a glove on him. Of course, all of the great fighters came to watch each other fight, and pretty soon others were using Flash's footwork. But no one was better at it than Muhammad Ali."

Therefore, East truly did meet West in one of the most unlikely places, the boxing ring. It just might be that even today, when Holyfleld lays a challenger flat, whether or not he knows it, most of his technical skill originated in the rice fields of the Philippines.

Lilia I. Howe is a frequent contributor to Inside Kung_Fu and Inside Karate Magazines.

NOTE:  This was originally published in Inside Karate. Posted 3/24/13 as of 12/1/99 to mirror my old archives, however, I didn't have the exact date I posted. I noted on the archives that I posted this article sometime after 11/24/99 and before 12/11/99 so I will use 12/1/99 as the date. 

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