The jab is the king of all punches: it’s versatile, it sets up the big ‘payday’ shots like the right hand, left hook, and uppercut. You can throw it while moving in almost any direction and it leaves your balance intact. It goes without saying that having a good jab can take you from average to above average, and from good to great. What constitutes a good jab lies in how you deliver it, your ability to use it frequently to clear the road ahead, and to apply it in various scenarios to suit your purpose. The jab is a thinking man’s (or woman’s) punch.
TECHNICAL ASPECTS (the description below assumes an orthodox fighter who jabs with his left hand)
The delivery of the jab is critical for both your offense and defence. You need it to be fast and efficient to set up ensuing shots while at the same time leaving you covered against potential counters.
Here are some absolutely essential aspects on delivering the jab.
1) Keep the elbow down until the last second when you deliver the jab and extend your arm. A flared up elbow will leave your jab coming sideways (in some cases you will want this, but not for a basic jab) and it will also leave your jab a bit short, throw that jab with the elbow down and deliver it like it’s being thrown down a pipe.
2) Turn the fist over. There is a time and place for the backfisted jab and the intentionally misplaced jab, in most cases however, you need the jab to come straight through to the opponent’s chin. When you turn the fist over with your pinky finger facing the ceiling your shoulder will roll up that bit higher to protect your chin. Of course, you also need to remember to tuck your chin like you’re holding a wad of cash to your upper chest.
3) Do NOT drop your fist even in the slightest upon delivery. This is the biggest mistake I see beginners make, they drop their fist an inch or two from their face before throwing the jab straight out. The only time to drop the hand before throwing the jab is when you’re faking a punch and are following up with something or if you are in a position with your hand down. To train this habit, get yourself close to a mirror, right up close, just couple feet away. Throw a hundred spontaneous jabs and keep your eyes on your punch. It should come out almost like you are punching over a table that is at the height of your neck. Do NOT drop that hand.
4) Twist your body and extend your shoulder so that your back is rounded on the jab side, you want to stretch your shoulder blade forwards. Just doing this will put your shoulder to your chin when you finish the shot to give you extra coverage.
5) Do not move the right hand when you jab, it should be planted on your face with your upper arm resting comfortably on your ribs. A lot of fighters pull a ‘shot gun’ pose when they jab, it’s easy to catch these guys with the left hook. Some fighters open up their arm near the ribcage and are susceptible to a counter left uppercut. Don’t give anything away for free, you can prevent a lot of shots from scoring simply by keeping the opposite protective hand in position. To train this you need to spend time shadowboxing and thinking about the non-punching hand when you throw combos. Bodily self-awareness is critical in boxing.
6) For most jabs your arm should be loose and relaxed, and the punch should snap without telegraphing. The best way to train this is to train in front of a mirror and watch yourself for telegraphing cues. Your hand snaps and the rest of you is calm like an unrippled pond. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t moving the rest of your body, it just means that you are in a rhythm and do not have any fist pumps or tensing up that gives you away. In your mind you are thinking “stay loose, maintain rhythm, and fast delivery”. That being said, not all jabs need to be loose and snappy, sometimes you need to stiff arm them just a bit to drive somebody back, the key is to apply force without leaving your arm extended for longer than a millisecond.