A complete guide to the jab

The jab is one of the most important weapons in boxing. It has been successfully ported to MMA and become a standard of any fighter’s arsenal. Just like Muhammad Ali and Oscar De La Hoya in boxing, MMA fighters such as George St. Pierre and Anderson Silva can win whole matches with just the jab.

If you want to achieve any level of competency as a striker, you need to master the jab. This guide is s run down of the basics.

What’s so special about the jab?

The jab is a quick, fast punch that can set up a whole range of strikes as well as be a powerful knockout weapon on its own.

People with excellent jabs have calm relaxed jabs that hit like a small spark of power and hit very accurately. The jab can be used to keep your opponent at a distance, disrupt his rhythm, stop him in the middle of a combination, or to deliver repeated damage over the course of a fight. No other attack in a striker’s arsenal, except the Muay Thai leg kick, is as good at this job as the jab.

Once you throw a jab, you are free to set up a whole range of combinations.

Throwing the Jab

  1. Stand in your basic stance with your feet spread shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, chin down, hands up, and eyes on your opponent.
  2. Take a small step forward with your front foot as you push you entire body forward with the lead foot.
  3. At the same time that you extend your left foot forward, you also punch your lead fist towards opponent’s head extending the lead arm straight out in front of you. (Don’t forget to breathe out when you throw the jab!)
  4. As you are throwing the jab, you are rotating the lead fist so that the palm is facing the ground by the time your jab hits your opponent.
  5. Recover your lead fist back to your chin quickly by pulling the jab straight back. At the same time you are retracting your lead fist, you are sliding your BACK foot forwards so that your feet are shoulder width again.
  6. 6. When you are done throwing the jab, your body should be in the same position when you started with your feet back to shoulder-width apart and you are now a little closer to your opponent.


  • Don’t telegraph the jab! The rest of your upper body stays still as you throw the jab. It is a simple motion and does not require you to move your right arm or over-rotate your upper body when you throw the jab.
  • Keep your right hand by the chin the whole time. Don’t drop the right hand or else you’ll be easily countered by your opponent’s counter-jab or counter-lead hook.
  • Remember to bend your knees. If you stand too straight up, you lose power on the jab and your body gets slightly off balanced making it easy for your opponent to counter-punch you.
  • When you are jabbing your opponent, keep your chin down and aiming forward as you raise your lead shoulder high during the jab to cover the chin. Raising the lead shoulder to cover your chin will prevent your opponent from throwing an overhand punch over the jab into your face.
  • If you don’t want to step in and you’re already in range, you can throw the jab from a stationary position without having to move your feet as you throw the jab.

Types of jabs

There are many different types of jabs and many ways to using it. Below is just a selection on using this weapon.

Regular – The regular jab or the standard jab is just that – a jab. You throw the jab from the basic position and step forward with your lead foot as your extend your arm out towards your opponent. As you recover your lead arm, the rear foot moves forward to return you to your basic stance.

Tapper – This is a light punch that is used just to make your opponent put up his defences to give you room to make a bigger punch or to skip out of harm’s way. A tapper jab can be repeated multiple times. The main point is to use the tapper jab to get your opponent’s defences up; in the meanwhile, you’re holding all your energy back for your big right hand since you’re not committing too much to the jab. You can even tap his glove, and then right-hand to his face. Or tap his face and right-hand to his body.

Space-Maker – This is the same as the tapper jab except that you leave your arm almost fully extended and so your jab is quicker but weaker since it’s not travelling such a far distance. You leave your left arm almost extended and throw small jabs and push as you make space and keep your opponent at bay. The space maker can be thrown multiple times as your circle around to your opponent’s right side (Southpaws will do the opposite). An important thing to notice about the space-maker jab is that it’s there to just distract the opponent. It’s very quick and flashy, not strong so you have to make sure not to pull your arm all the way back. If you’re throwing multiple tapper jabs, leave your arm almost fully extended as you throw multiple jabs to keep your opponent busy. It is VERY important to keep an eye out for your opponent’s right hand since extending your left arm leaves you vulnerable to punches on that side of your head. Also, ALWAYS be moving around when you use the space-maker; if you stand still and stretch your arm you will get hit with the hard right counter.

Power Jab – This can sometimes be more of a left cross than a jab. A power jab gets its power from your legs, your body rotation, and your angle on your opponent. For the legs to generate power into the jab, you have to step forward. You have to step swiftly and powerfully without lunging. At times, a lunging jab might be the perfect weapon to catch your opponent off guard but don’t do it too much or else you’ll get countered. The success of lunging punches requires perfect timing, NOT speed. For your body to power the jab, it has to rotate a bit. The easiest way to rotate your body as you jab is to circle to your opponent’s right side, which is your left side. As your circle, your upper body will have to spin a bit to give you a straight angle shot at your opponent. The movement alone will set your body to move out to the side and throw the punch at your opponent at an angle. Using this angle makes the jab even more devastating. The most important thing to remember through all this is not to cock your jab and send out a signal that you’re going to throw a big jab.

The Double Jab – The double jab is exactly what it sounds like – one good jab followed by another. The effectiveness of this punch relies on your opponent anticipating a one-two combination. He’s looking for your right hand after your jab but instead you catch him off guard with another jab. The double jab works well when followed by a straight right to the head or body. Another way to use the double jab is when you find yourself in a jab contest where both of you are trading jabs and trying for through 1-2 combinations. If your opponent is throwing a 1-2 (jab followed by right-hand), your double jab should counter effectively. Your first jab will trade or nullify with his jab, and your second jab will intercept the right hand and score the point. If he throws a left hook afterwards, your right-hand follow-up should be able to intercept that and score as well. A double jab can be used while moving forward backwards, or sideways. It’s also important that you make it a hard enough punch so that it has the power to stun your opponent if he tries to throw a straight right.

Body-Jab – This jab is thrown to the body. While it may not be strong enough to do damage to the body, it can distract your opponent and force him to drop his guard while you punch to his head with your right hand.

The Counter Jab – The move is done with slick timing and works best when you are swift and relaxed. If you tense up or act like you have a counter, it won’t work as well. Here’s how it works: when your opponent throws a jab, you immediately, WITHOUT flinching your head back, stop his jab with your right glove, and then step forward and hit him directly in the face with a hard jab. Make sure your head is leaning to the rear a little or else you risk getting hit by his hard right hand if he follows up with it. If he lunges with his jab, you can also take a step back as you block his jab, and then come back forward to strike him with your own. Sometimes, people don’t expect you to go back and forward right away.

Ways to counter against the jab

Unfortunately, a very good jab will be very hard to defend against. A jabber can be very difficult to get inside against, and at times downright annoying. It’s also very frustrating in amateur bouts since points can be scored even for ‘weak’ punches like the jab. Listed below are a variety of multiple ways to counter a good jab.

Change Distance – One way to defend against the jab is to keep moving in and out of distance. Boxers who use the jab often are usually very aware of the distance between themselves and their opponents.

Right-Hook – This counter is effective against tall boxers or boxers who leave their head standing upright when they throw the jab. You can easily beat the jab by coming straight in with your body, bringing your head to the inside of the jab and throwing a high right hook to your opponent’s head. It’s a devastating counter and one that leads to many knockouts since the other fighter usually doesn’t see the right hand coming. Again, the right-hand over the jab is one of the most devastating punches in boxing because of the opponent’s vulnerability to the blind angle.

Parry to Straight-Right – This counter works against boxers who throw a lazy jab or like to punch a jab and leave it hanging out there for too long before recovering. This counter-punch also works well when the other boxer is getting tired and leaves his arms out. All you have to do is tap down on the opponent’s hand and parry it slightly down as you quickly come forward and throw your straight-right hand right over it. This counter requires you to be on your toes and have your body leaning slightly forward as you see the jab coming.

Never Flinch – It is important that you never ever flinch when the opponent’s jab is thrown. If you do that, it would be very easy for him to time your flinch movement, fake you out, and land a big punch later on.

Ways to setup the jab

There are many theories to properly using the jab aside from the methods I’ve listed above.

End with a Jab – Most fighters like to end their combo’s with a big right hand. The problem is that if you miss, your opponent could easily counter you. There’s an easy fix for this, end with a backstep jab. As you finish your combo, see if he lunges after you. If he does, pop him with a jab as your step back with your rear foot and leap away. The jab scores an extra point for you but also defends you from his counter right hand should he come after you.

Jab Up and Down – That’s right. Jab to head, throw to body. Jab to the body and throw to the head.

Light-Hard – Throw a light jab to his gloves and throw a hard jab through it. Throw a light jab to the body and hard jab to the face. Or throw a hard jab to the face and follow it with a quick light jab to keep his defenses up while you throw a hard right hand to the body. You don’t always have to throw a light jab, you could just fake a jab instead.

Jab-right fake-jab – Throw a jab, fake a right-hand, and jab again.

Jab- step back-jab – Throw a jab, step back out of range as he misses his counter, and quickly come forward and throw another jab. Sometimes, you can be so fast that he doesn’t expect it. Other times you can time it. Follow-up with hard shots if he’s vulnerable.


Anderson Silva is master of the jab and one of the few fighters who can claim to have knocked out an opponent using this simple weapon. Here’s is a Silva video demontrating exactly how he uses the weapon:

Jeff Joslin breaks down an effective way to develop proper technique when throwing the jab from his Beginner MMA training program “MMA QuickStart”.

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