We’ll be talking about 4 main types of punches: jab, cross, hook, and uppercut.
For self-defense, you need to focus on where you are going to hit. It’s a lot different from a boxing match.
For self defense, we want to focus on causing the most damage the quickest. We aren’t looking to get a lot of solid hits. We want one that will knock the wind out of someone, so we have time to retreat/deal with the situation.
For this reason, it’s not recommended to aim for the head, as you typically see in the movies. Other areas are better to target. A throat hit will take someone down a lot quicker, and with a lot less injury to your hand. With one successful strike, you’ll also instantly end the fight.
For more information on fighting in a self-defense scenario, click here.
Best Practices for Any Punch
- Keep your chin covered at all times (both hands by side of face, return them immediately after you throw a punch
- Always keep your head tilted down
- Keep your knees bent
- Thumb needs to be rested on the outside of your clenched fist, unless you want to break your thumb.
- Don’t hit with your ring or pinky finger. Keep your other knuckles directly aligned with your forearm.
- While we’re talking about knuckles… Only hit with your two main knuckles. Not your upper fingers!
- Don’t bend your wrist too much. It may be a little bent down to hit with the knuckles, but be careful or you’ll break your wrist. If unsure, keep everything perfectly aligned.
- Always do quick and controlled punches. Don’t swing wildly, don’t “wind up” your punch. They should be direct and quick hits with a straight flow.
- Don’t aim for the upper head. It will cause you a lot more pain than them. Trust me on this one.
Correctly Throw a Punch: Jab
Use your lead hand and throw it directly at the opponent. Make sure you have enough space to extend your arm for maximum impact. Push off the back foot, making sure to transfer your weight as much as possible while maintaining a good stance.
Practice twisting your arm in a corkscrew motion directly before the hit. You want to hit with your dominant knuckles mentioned above.
Correctly Throw a Punch: Cross
From a traditional stance, use your dominant arm and pivot from your rear foot. Like the jab, you want to extend your arm and transfer your weight to hit the hardest.
Shift your bodyweight to the front foot during this punch. You can pick it up and bring it further forward to add your bodyweight to the hit.
Correctly Throw a Punch: Hook
This punch requires your arm to be like an L: 90-degree angle. You’re going to want to completely pivot (inward) on the ball of your front foot.
Think of this hit like twisting your body a bit. You’re going to want to twist your hips while throwing it to add your bodyweight to the punch. Standing static in your position may land, but it won’t add much force to the punch. So pivot and have an L shaped arm while performing this punch.
Try to punch “down” so have your arm up to your side and move it slightly down to hit the chin (or wherever you’re aiming)
This is the punch that most think of when they think of “knockouts”. A snap to the jaw can knock someone out quick. It can also snap your wrist if you do it wrong though, so practice!
Correctly Throw a Punch: Uppercut
Your arm will also be 90-degrees for this punch. You’ll want to crouch down slightly and drive your entire weight upward while driving your arm directly up into the attacker’s jaw.
Be very careful with this punch, as it can be hard to maintain your focus on only hitting with the knuckles. It also makes it clear to the opponent you’re going for an uppercut if you take a very long time to crouch down and drive up, so be quick with this motion.
However, it can be a very effective strike. It can snap the jaw upward and cause a hell of a lot of pain, so use it if you feel you have a grasp on the motion and you won’t break your wrist in the process.
Practice The Punches
Don’t just read this and think you know how to punch now.
You need some practice to make it effective. And you’ll learn the subtle tricks and cues while practicing. You’ll also make it less likely you’ll injure yourself in a real self-defense scenario. It’s damn hard to keep your arm and wrist straight even during training. It’s even worse in a street fight.
You don’t have to sign up for boxing or MMA membership (Even though you should). You can just go somewhere with a heavy bag and practice these motions to get a feel for what you’re capable of.
Wear gloves and hand wraps while practicing, especially at the start. If you’ve never practiced this before, you’ll definitely throw some incorrectly and screw up your hand/wrist. This is why practice is so important to punching correctly. Because it takes an intimate knowledge of your body and capabilities to learn to hit without injury.
Go practice and you’ll learn these in no time.