This article will be about the jab, a simple punch in boxing that has many uses but is often overlooked. Most people prefer the power punches like the hooks, so it is no surprise that the jab is often overlooked. Please note, though, that mastery of the fundamentals like the jab will help you land your preferred punches and then some. If you have not learned anything about the boxing stance or boxing footwork, I strongly recommend you check those articles out before setting out to learn a punch.

What is a Jab:

The jab is the first punch you would learn when you first start boxing. There are many variations of the jab, but your most basic jab will be the focus of this article. Being the first punch you learn, you can expect the jab to be relatively simple compared to the other punches. This punch is a straight punch, which means that it moves from your guard directly to your opponent (who would be straight ahead of you if you’re using your footwork). The basic jab is not a power punch. It is a tool for your other punches, your defense, and controlling your opponent.

How to Throw the Jab:

  1. Assuming you are in your stance, and as with any other punch, keep your free (rear) hand guarding both your face and your ribs throughout the punch. The rear hand is the hand furthest from your opponent and the lead hand is the closest hand to your opponent. A rookie always exposes their face or ribs (or both) when they punch.
  2. Launch your lead hand directly ahead of you, taking care to keep your chin tucked. At the same time you are extending, you are pivoting your front foot slightly. This helps in rotating your body to get that punch thrown faster.
  3. As with any normal punch, when you reach your target with your fist, snap your fist back to your guard. Do not push through the target. Let your punch snap, which means it’s like a whip as opposed to a bat. You do not push through with a whip because you want the impact force of that whip to be compressed (rather than dissipated), and you want that whip to come back ASAP so that you can whip again (or defend). If you let that punch snap which in practice means that it launches fast and comes back faster, you compress the impact of that punch and are ready to go again.
  4. At the end of the punch, return your fist back to where it started. Your punch should come back along the same path with which it came out (i.e. straight back). Rookies return it lower to where it started.

Note: The jab to the body is done differently than the jab to the head. An article about the jab to the body is forthcoming.

When to use the Jab:

There are very many uses for the jab, some which are commonly known and others which are very situational. Of course, I can’t detail the situational uses of the jab because these uses depend on you, your opponent, and the heat of the moment. But I can detail the common, more general uses of the jab. You would use the jab most commonly:

  • As a range finding tool– use of the jab will allow you to know your range, which is the distance around you where you can land your punches.
  • As a tool to set up shots– use of the jab will allow you to get closer to your opponent, distract your opponent, and disrupt your opponent for you to land your combinations.
  • As a tool to keep busy–  you can preoccupy your opponent to get a breather or position yourself, while still getting work done.
  • As a pacing tool– depending on the speed and frequency of the jab, you can control your pace and likely your opponent’s pace too. This means, for example, that you engage when you want to engage, and not when your opponent wants to engage.
  • As a tool to test your opponent– The first punch thrown in almost every match, sparring session, etc. is the jab. With it, you can determine certain characteristics about your opponent such as how anxious your opponent is, how green she is, how yellow she is, and so on.


The jab is a straight punch thrown with the lead hand. Even though it is simply a snapping straight punch, it has many uses in boxing. These uses show why it’s so important in boxing and why it is one of the most fundamental punches in boxing.

Author: Loc Ho

Loc Ho was assistant coach, team captain, and boxed at 139 lbs, 132 lbs, and 125 lbs for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s boxing team from 2016-2019. He has trained hundreds of novices and seasoned athletes and created the program’s year-long training curriculum that has taken complete beginners to elite collegiate competitors. With Loc as assistant coach for three years, the program placed six athletes regionally and nationally, including the program’s first men’s national champion at 119 lbs and a national runner-up at 195 lbs. Loc is currently studying law at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.

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