The Jab

The knowledge that you can knock a man out with one punch, that however far behind you fall in the fight you can pull it out with one shot can be dangerous in a fighter. It can lead to passivity in the early rounds and letting a fight slip away. The Jab is different. The Jab is commitment. The Jab is steady. The Jab is knowledge. The Jab is technique. You take control with the Jab. It makes life easy in the ring. The Jab is fundamental. The Jab sets up the bigger, more impressive shots. The Jab is simple. The Jab is your most important punch.

 

What is Will Power and How Do You Get It?

There are two main theories about will power. One sees it as a sort of energy that a person has a limited supply of. Whenever confronted with a choice it uses some of this energy to make a decision about the choice and act on it.  Choices that conflict with low-level desires like sleep, hunger, the avoidance of pain and the desire for pleasure, take more energy to enforce than choices that satisfy these desires. For example: it doesn’t require a lot of mental effort to sleep that extra 15 minutes, have the extra serving or the one beer too many. This view suggests that every time you make a hard choice it depletes your reserves of mental energy and you have less to resist the next time, at least in the short term.  Most mass media advertising is based on this deterministic view of will power and human behavior in general.

The other way to view willpower is that it is like a muscle and every time you use it becomes a little stronger.  My personal experience supports the second view.  The second view also presents a happier vision of mankind, supports the notion of free will and suggests that we can, if we work hard enough, improve ourselves and the conditions of our lives.

“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.”

Henry David Thoreau

The truth is that probably both views are partially correct.  We can strengthen our will power by using it, but no man’s strength of mind is infinite. Everyone has a breaking point and once a person’s will shatters it’s hard to put back together.  So the key to developing stronger willpower is to exercise it consistently without breaking it. This is a fundamental principal of any successful exercise regime.  It’s also why working with a coach or personal trainer is such a good decision.  A good instructor will know how to help you push just far enough and not too far, then a little further the next time.

“We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

Aristotle

The great enemy of willpower isn’t weakness, but confusion. If a person is confronted with too many choices or unclear choices, then the situation requires exponentially more mental energy to deal with.  This is our predicament in modern life.  We are overwhelmed with data, distraction, and noise. Marketing messages bombard and political messages obfuscate, or worse, inflame. Rather than presenting clear choices to the mind, life points us in a million different ways.

A good gym is a refuge from this numbing complexity.  In the gym the choices are simple.  You perform or you don’t.  Every workout is a series of tiny contests between your will and desire. You win or you lose. When your conscious will overrides low-level animal desire “you” win. If you have a good instructor and on a good day at the gym you experience this type of victory dozens of times, your mind gets used to winning and it becomes addictive.

Like having a strong body, developing strong willpower alone is morally neutral. A person may have indomitable will power but use it towards bad or stubborn ends.  A person’s character is what determines the ways they will use their will power. You may see a bad person with strong willpower but you will never see a good person with weak willpower.  This is because, by nature, a person’s mind will flow towards the path of least resistance, or, towards the desires that tempt them. Because it combines the will-strengthening benefits of athletic training with the character development present in any good student/teacher relationship, martial arts training is a great way to achieve health, a stronger mind, and a happier outlook on life.

Punching Hard

The prin­ci­ples of effec­tive punch­ing are: decep­tion, effec­tive weight trans­fer­ence, and place­ment. Ide­ally a blow will uti­lize all three but any one of them is enough to cre­ate a punch that will knock the aver­age man unconscious.

If a man is expect­ing to get hit, if he can see the punch com­ing and steel him­self to its impact, then it’s unlikely that the blow will pro­duce a knock­out. It’s more effec­tive to hit a man with a lighter punch that he doesn’t see com­ing than a heav­ier blow which he has pre­pared him­self for, even if only for a frac­tion of a frac­tion of a second.

A good method of deceiv­ing your oppo­nent as to the tim­ing and place­ment of a blow is to “hide” the punch inside a series of lighter shots. There­fore, you should always throw more than one punch and never try to “pot shot” your oppo­nent with one punch from the out­side. Keep your hands up and chin down, tucked behind the lead shoul­der, and com­mit to start­ing and fin­ish­ing exchanges with your oppo­nent. It’s within these exchanges that most dam­age is done.

By feint­ing to one part of the body and throw­ing to another you can catch your oppo­nent unaware or make him defend the wrong part him­self. Feint­ing should be done with the shoul­ders, head, eyes and feet and not just the arms. Effec­tive feints are small and sub­tle and are con­cerned with dis­rupt­ing your opponent’s rhythm ever so slightly.

Effec­tive body punch­ing both drains your oppo­nent of vital­ity and also makes feints more effec­tive. In addi­tion to set­ting up a knock­out blow to the chin with repeated punches and feints to the body, a rarer and more ele­gant tech­nique is to feint to the head and deliver a well-placed and accu­rate left hook to the opponent’s body when he doesn’t expect it.

Also effec­tive is to cause your oppo­nent to cover up his head with a light com­bi­na­tion then shoot a quick, accu­rate left hook which touches the short ribs just under the chest. This is how Bernard Hop­kins stopped Oscar De La Hoya when they fought. This shot, when landed cor­rectly, is the sin­gle most unpleas­ant blow to get hit with in box­ing and is the only punch that I know of that is so inca­pac­i­tat­ing that it will make a trained pro­fes­sional boxer quit.

Through the cor­rect trans­fer­ence of your body’s weight tremen­dous force can be gen­er­ated in your punches over very short dis­tances and with lit­tle vis­i­ble move­ment. This is the secret to infight­ing. The weight of the body should move up from the feet through the legs, hips, core, then shoul­ders and arms and be deliv­ered on the end of the fist with a snap. The move­ment is akin to the way one shifts the weight from one foot to another when danc­ing in place. Flu­id­ity is essen­tial and coor­di­na­tion has more to do with punch­ing effec­tively than bod­ily strength.

Raw speed and reflex­ive abil­ity are inher­ent and can­not be devel­oped if you‘re not blessed with them from the get go. How­ever, rhythm and tim­ing can be devel­oped with prac­tice. A fighter who has good tech­nique, i.e. throws short straight punches, and who has devel­oped his abil­ity to time his oppo­nents will seem fast whether he is or isn’t. The great nul­li­fier of an opponent’s supe­rior hand speed is a con­sis­tent and steady jab.

A boxer’s body and abil­ity to punch must be con­di­tioned through count­less repeated move­ment, drills, shadow box­ing and spar­ring. This process takes years of train­ing and the ath­letic prime of a boxer is typ­i­cally only a few years (27–31). This is why a really excel­lent boxer who has long-term suc­cess in the ring is such a rar­ity and one of the most remark­able occur­rences in the sports world.