Is The Jab As Important In MMA As It Is In Boxing? Part 2

And now that you have borne witness to two gods vaulting into the skies, and those self-same skies weeping with profuse admiration-admittedly, and hopefully this won’t tarnish my tough guy bonafides, I well up every time I watch that fight.  Sniff, let’s consider the jab and its oft underserved utility.

…a lazy jab against an early ’90s Royce Gracie was, in fact,  a frightening thing to the Gracie clan…”

Here are a few uses for an “educated” jab.  This list is by no means exhaustive:

  • Measuring Device
  • Low Risk Attack
  • Reconnaissance
  • Cattle Prod
  • Interference
  • Cloaking Device

Measuring Device

A boxer can throw a jab, while moving in any direction.  And to the point, if you can just touch an opponent with a jab, you can hit that opponent well with the cross.  The puncher’s weight shift will add easily a couple inches to the reach of a conventional, basic boxing jab; the distinction is necessary as there are many ways to throw the jab.  Moreover, all other punch distances, knee, elbow and kick distances can be quickly approximated based on this punch measurement. 

The windows of attack and counter are usually open for only fractions of a second.  Having a physical measuring device in the form of a punch, or an outstretched arm, or the memory of a previous exchange is a useful tool when deciding when to throw a punch or rattle off a combination.  To be sure, when sparring, poorly thrown punches can be a waste of precious energy at best, and a meal for a hungry counter-puncher at worst.

Low Risk Attack

Risk falls on a spectrum.  A person risks walking down the stairs on the way to climb into a boxing ring.  Moreover, a lazy jab against an early ’90s Royce Gracie was, in fact,  a frightening thing to the Gracie clan, not the innocent flirtation with disaster that it would be before a seasoned counter-puncher.   The jab is a relatively low risk attack behind strong defensive cover when thrown well; especially when compared with other punches in the boxer’s repertoire.  It is one of the most mobile and stance preserving punches in the arsenal as it doesn’t generally require the type of sizable weight shifts that the cross, hooks and uppercuts do.  Per corollary, because of its brevity, it lends itself to shorter countering windows, and thus safety.  Although the argument could be made that the jab is usually the most thrown punch in the bag, which provides more opportunity for countering-more open windows to attempt to climb through if you will.  Therefore, it increases the risk…Yes, one could argue.

The mobility that can be enjoyed when throwing the jab can be a defensive benefit, again, because a counter-puncher or even a puncher who is leading will need to adjust distance and timing based on his opponent’s speed, trajectory and angle over and over and over… again.  In contrast a right cross brings with it a crushing power when exacting, but it will require the puncher to have his/her feet set in the same spot for a longer period of time than the jabber. Rotating the upper body and dropping one’s weight is a more energy intensive and time consuming endeavor.


A fact finding mission.  Think of it as a trusted scout; a way to survey the terrain before entering into enemy territory.  A jab can be thrown to target or even a bit short of the target to instigate a response.  That information can then be considered in deciding on the overall approach to solving the problem in front of you.

Consider, for example, that every time you throw a jab when you are squared off in the center of the ring or cage your opponent backs up.  From such behavior one could reasonably conclude that throwing a lead left hook has very little chance of landing.  Therefore, it might be more prudent to feint, or double the jab before attempting the left hook.

Another scenario might involve an immediate right uppercut counter attempt from your opponent.  If your opponent attempts this counter again, maybe it is time to feint that jab and throw that lead left hook to the body.

The possibilities are virtually endless.  Start with a simple jab, and note the response that you receive. More often than not, you will now have some actionable intelligence in your brief.

Cattle Prod

It sure would be nice to be able to put your opponent right where you want him.  The jab can do just that.

A simple example might involve throwing your jab towards the forehead to encourage a fighter who is already predisposed to rolling inside underneath punches to comply. You’re potentially on your way to setting up an uppercut.  Conversely, one might aim low for the neck or the chest to discourage a shorter opponent who likes to come inside from doing so.  This could allow you to keep your interactions at a longer range that suits your style or physical attributes.


Some times the jab is good for simply throwing an opponent’s rhythm off or even stymying his attack.

One way or another a jab has to be assessed and dealt with.  This usually happens within a split second, but failure to do so can only lead to obviously bad things.  An opponent has only a few options:  Parry, evade or block and/or counter.  Forcing an opponent to make this decision over and over again can be a serious deterrent to his forward movement.  It can also hamper his ability to throw in combination.

Another great tactic is to habitually counter an opponent’s jab with a parry, jab counter of your own.  The punch needn’t even necessarily reach the ostensible target.  Throwing a counter or even a lead into a space that you know your opponent wants to move into can prevent your opponent from completing his combination.  It can be the beginning of an effective combination of your own.

Cloaking Device

As mentioned in the “Interference” tactic above, a jab can disrupt rhythm and stunt attacks.  It can also provide cover for distance and angle changes.  Especially in the event that your jab has been effective, forcing an opponent to bring his guard up can greatly impair his vision and limit his periphery.  Similarly, snapping an opponent’s head back, or throwing a jab on an upward trajectory can cause an opponent to momentarily lose site of you.  This can result in your advancement into a favorable position.  It can also blind your opponent just long enough for him to overlook the incoming right cross or left hook to the body.

In Summary

An effective jab will, at the very least, make you more difficult to continually locate.  A schooled fighter should always attempt to know the angle advantage that he enjoys or concedes, as well as the instantaneous changes in distance between himself and his opponent.

In response to our foremost question, I think it is obvious. Tactics that can be engaged in with the use of an educated jab will be a boon to an MMA or kickboxing repertoire.  As we are well aware, a refined tool in the hands of a hack craftsman can do more harm than good, while even a compromised tool in the hands of a master craftsman can go a long way towards building a cathedral.

Do your best to choose the proper tool for the job at hand, and always seek to perfect your craft…and when learning, don’t be afraid to make mistakes!


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