Sunday, December 12, 1999

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:



back to top
Stickgrappler's Sojourn of Septillion Steps