Primer: How To Take A Punch

Regardless of who you are or what you do for a living, there are times when you have to engage in combat, whether it’s in the ring, cage or at a bar when you have to defend yourself from that drunken goon that’s swinging for the fences. Either way, taking a punch is a necessary skill for any man to hone.

Sure, you’ve seen films that have romanticized boxing a bit where the hero absorbs tons of haymakers and wears his opponent down for the killer knockout. Going into a fight with all heart can only be done by a few special warriors, but that method will surely live up to its promise of agonizing pain, just ask Micky Ward (former WBU and IBF Light Welterweight Champion). There is a proper method for taking punches so that you have a better chance of prevailing when you square up and throw hands. Keeping it simple and in line with the sweet science of boxing, you have to learn the mechanics of a punch to anticipate it, grasp the concept of evading punches, master rolling and blocking shots and perfect your breathing method and defensive stance when a punch connects. Tough isn’t enough when punches are thrown in bunches.


A Brief Disclaimer

Learning how to take a punch is a fantastic ability to add to your repertoire of self-defense skills, but there’s only so much you can accomplish at home. If you practice how to take a punch or decide to box, please do it under the guidance of professionals to ensure your safety. Drills may complement the perfection of the technique, but live rounds are a different animal. However, gaining knowledge on the concept is the perfect place to start, so let’s begin.

The Mechanics Of Punching

Breaking Down A Proper Punch

Before you learn how to take a punch, it would be beneficial to learn the mechanics of a proper shot. A boxer will typically stand with their dominant hand back, allowing that hand to generate more power when executing the correct technique. Twist your hips to generate maximum power and simultaneously rotate the shoulder of the arm that you’re throwing the punch with. While you’re doing this, your back foot should be twisting into the punch as well, kind of making the motion of putting out a cigarette with your foot. There are four basic punches in boxing: the jab, straight, hook and uppercut. All four punches employ the same action of rotating your hips and leading with the shoulder to generate power.

The idea is that if you know how to throw a shot properly, that knowledge will help you deal with one coming at you.It’s not enough to know the four basic punches. You should also learn a few basic combos at the gym as well. The first basic combo that’s commonly thrown is the double-jab followed by a straight right (which is reversed if you’re a southpaw). Another common boxing combo to practice and look out for is the jab, followed by a straight right and a left hook. Start by learning these two combos so that you can see the pattern come up and eventually learn to react to it the right way. From there, you can observe how a punch unfolds, which is the beginning of the never-ending journey of the sweet science. Keep your eyes on the opponent’s shoulders to try and anticipate the punches that are coming. The idea is that if you know how to throw a shot properly, that knowledge will help you deal with one coming at you. Always keep your eyes alert, as the punches that you don’t see are the ones that will put you to bed.

Be Elusive

Technique To Avoiding Shots

The best way to take a punch that’s coming is to get out of the way and avoid it altogether. If you learn anything from reading this article, it should be this: keep moving. Move or die is the name of the game. Active footwork will help you stay out of range and potentially tire the opponent out, especially if they’re fueled by liquid courage. Be light on your toes and keep your distance to avoid those wild haymakers.

There are also methods to make the opponent miss; however, you have to always keep your hands up to protect the pressure points on your face. For straight forward shots to the dome, you want to slip the punch. This means you are anticipating a straight punch coming and slipping your head just enough to one side or the other to avoid the shot. In other words, you make them miss and make them pay, as slipping a punch will usually give you a clean opportunity to throw one back.

Another technique to employ is ducking punches. It’s exactly what it sounds like and it’s used to evade hooks that are meant to take your head off. When you see the hook coming, perform a squat so that the hook clears over your head, setting you up to throw your own shot back. If executed properly, your opponent’s body will be exposed for a clean punch.

Roll And Block

Solidifying Your Defense

You’re not going to be able to evade every shot and come out of a fight untouched, so you need to learn how to roll with the punches. Bend your knees slightly, keeping your elbows tight and guard up, giving your opponent smaller targets and making easier for you to roll or block punches.

Be sure to always keep those elbows close to the body because if someone buries a fist into your liver then you probably won’t be getting up any time soon.When a punch makes contact, you can actually decrease the damage by turning your head or body away from the punch. Of course, this takes practice, like anything else, so it would be smart to drill, just like any other self-defense skill. A simple way to practice rolling with punches and blocking is to have one person solely on offense and the other strictly on defense, allowing you to get a feel for how the punches are launched at you. The point of rotating your body with the punches is so that the shots do not hit you square, decreasing their power.

Blocking shots is also a credible option. Keeping your hands up and guarding your face, while your elbows hug your body, is ideal. Also, you want to stand in a staggered position with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your left foot forward if you’re right-handed (and vice versa if you’re left-handed). Drop your elbows down to block hooks to the body or close the elbows to block shots aimed at your solar plexus (aka the bread basket), which is like a hurt button that you can’t really flex no matter how defined your six-pack is. Be sure to always keep those elbows close to the body because if someone buries a fist into your liver then you probably won’t be getting up any time soon. Ideally, you want to both roll with the punches and block them for air-tight defense.

Remember to watch the opposition’s shoulders to anticipate when the punch is coming. If your opponent dips their shoulder, they are most likely gunning for the body; however, if their shoulder rises up, expect knuckles to shoot towards your dome.

Taking A Hit

What To Do When A Punch Connects

I’m pretty sure you’ve heard the phrase “getting the wind knocked out of you.” That’s exactly what will happen if you take a shot to the body without breathing out when the punch connects. If you watch a professional boxer when they’re training or when they’re doing the real deal, they breathe out with every punch they throw or receive. This is because when you exhale, your body contracts and forms a shell, diluting the pain a bit and speeding up your recovery time.

If you remember what Mike Tyson looked like in his prime, you’ll probably recall that his neck was a like a tree trunk.As for shots to the head, you really have to keep your chin down to avoid getting clipped on that knockout button. Again, keep your hands up to guard your face and protect yourself at all times. During a fight, you probably don’t want to be talking smack, so you should also keep your mouth shut and clench your jaw. This will help you brace for punches that you end up eating, allowing you to recover and get back in the game with little lag time. Be humble in combat or you will be humbled by a bomb that cracks your jaw.

If you remember what Mike Tyson looked like in his prime, you’ll probably recall that his neck was a like a tree trunk. That’s because neck exercises were part of his daily boxing regimen. The same thing goes for Floyd Mayweather Jr. who lifted weights with his neck, helping him weather the storm of some real sluggers to earn those 50 wins. In working out your neck, you’ll be building muscles in that area that will ease the trauma of whiplash. When someone gets knocked out, it’s because their brain crashes into their skull, causing them to lose consciousness and crumble to the ground. A stronger neck will help you take the blows to the head better, so get at it.

Remember to relax and train smart. Watch the masters that take punches well and deconstruct what they’re doing. Anyone can learn how to throw a punch, but if you can take one too, then you’ll be much more well-rounded in a fight, whether it’s at the gym or outside of your favorite bar.