The jab is the most common arm strike thrown in combat sports, despite being (in most cases) the least powerful. If the intent is to do damage, you’re better off throwing crosses, hooks and uppercuts. So why do most striking coaches emphasize the jab as the most important punch for beginners to work on?
1: The Set-Up
The reason jabs aren’t as powerful as other punches is that you can’t rotate the hips into the strike as much since the lead hip is already rotated forward. However, being that much closer to the target does mean it can be snapped out quickly without warning, and that makes it a great way to open a combo. As Kru Yai Chris teaches, “Lead with speed, devour with power!”
2: The Range Finder
It’s easy to gauge how far away from an opponent you are if you just stand in one spot and hammer on each other, but that isn’t common at the higher level. High level strikers often use a combination of feints and footwork to move in and out of combative range quickly and deceptively. You can’t always trust your eyes, but you can always trust your jab. If you work on keeping a consistent jab out, you’ll always have an idea of how far away the opponent actually is, and what strikes to throw at any given time. For example, I personally know that if my jab is not quite fully extended when it hits the opponent’s defense then a rear cut kick to the thigh will land well, but if I’m just out of jab range entirely it’s the perfect time for a lead head kick!
3: The Deterrent
Generating power in Muay Thai is all about hip rotation to bring more weight into the strike, which is why the short range hooks and uppercuts are generally the hardest hits – they’re the punches that are most directly linked in to the hip rotation. The heavier the opponent, the more dangerous those short range punches become. If you have a stiff jab and throw it out often, you make it much harder for those heavy hitters to close the distance without a good set-up. Without the jab, they can cross the no-mans-land between you at will, and you’ll be in trouble!
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