Did you know…?
8 out of every 10 boxers don’t know how to come in with the jab.
It’s a random statistic I just made up but my point is: hardly anybody moves their head when they come forward with the jab. Anytime you bring yourself closer to your opponent, you’re potentially walking into a dangerous counter punch. For this reason head movement is crucial for all forward movements—ESPECIALLY THE JAB.
It’s time you learned how to SAFELY come in behind the jab.
Move Your Head When You Come Inside
Example of jabbing WITHOUT head movement…
Here’s me in my boxing stance…
…and this is what happens when I jab straight forward without moving my head.
I can understand beginners being taught to come in with their head straight up. It develops good form and posture and confidence and power and all those nice things. But once fighters learns that, it’s time to get slick real fast.
Always be ready to slip when you come forward.
This should be a general rule of boxing. Slipping is FAR MORE IMPORTANT when going forward than it is for going backward. If you’re coming closer to your opponent, you have to slip to stay safely in range. Coming in with a high guard works too but how can you attack on your way in if your hands are busy blocking?
You don’t have to slip every time you go forward but you should always be ready to do it. The amazing thing is that many fighters are taught to slip when going backwards or at the end of combinations but very few if ever are taught to slip when coming forward with the jab. Most trainers let their fighters to come in with their head straight up. If you’ve ever sparred with a slick pro, then you already know that’s never a good idea.
How to Move Your Head When You Jab
Move your head along a 3 dimensional axis
Think of your head as being able to move within the range of a three-dimensional sphere.
Your head can be placed:
- LEFT or RIGHT
- HIGH or LOW
- NEAR or FAR
So here is the essence to head movement when you jab:
STEP #1 – place your head in one spot
STEP #2 – move the head to another position when you throw the jab
Again, be creative and use the full three-dimensional range you can place your head. Try putting it low, and then bringing it up high. Or putting it to the left side and then bringing it to the right. Keep moving it to different spots to be more evasive! This tactic also works well going backwards—try it.
You don’t necessarily have to bait or slip your opponent’s punch. It’s simply the idea of moving your head when you throw the jab. Again, it’s crucial especially when coming forward with the jab.
Now let’s see this simple technique in action!
Jab & Head Movement Drill
This is a great drill for you to practice this head movement:
Step #1 – place your head in one position to bait the jab
Step #2 – move your head slightly and counter jab
*** Please watch the video, it’s a far better demonstration than the pictures alone.
Example #1 – HIGH to LOW
- Stand tall and then drop down and jab him in the stomach.
- Even if he blocks you can still push him back off balance.
Example #2 – LOW to HIGH
- Lower yourself to bait the punch downwards.
- Then stand up and counter-jab over the top.
Example #3 – LEFT to RIGHT
- Rotate the body forward to bait the jab straight on.
- Slip to the outside while throwing a counter jab.
- If you have long enough arms, you can use this to setup with a left hook counter.
- This setup can also be used to go “NEAR to FAR”.
Example #4 – RIGHT to LEFT
- Post your head to the right to bait a really long jab.
- Cut over to the inside and counter jab on the inside.
- It may seem like a scary angle because you’re moving towards your opponent’s right hand but actually it’s a very awkward position for him to reach you once you’re shifted to his right side.
Example #5 – FAR to NEAR
- Pull away when he jabs.
- Then come back with your counter jab.
- You can also do the reverse of this by going “NEAR to FAR” (not pictured). Put your head in close and then counter-jab as you pull your head back out.
Move your head to a different position when you jab.
The examples are simply examples. In the images, I am showing extra-exaggerated movement for demonstrative purposes. In actuality, the movements should be very slight—you move just enough to avoid the punch. Don’t limit yourself to my examples. Be creative and come up with different positions and different angles of moving your head. Try using more diagonal angles (ex: move from low right to high left, or forward right to forward left to back right with multiple jabs).
This is a great evasion drill and helps you develop the natural slipping AWARENESS for boxing. You will become a far more deadly fighter once this movement becomes so natural you no longer think about it!
Advanced Tips for Jabbing with Head Movement
SET UP YOUR RIGHT HAND
All this work is not merely to hit your opponent with a jab. It’s to set something up. Everything you just learned is supposed to be automatic. Using head movement to land the jab is the easy part; it should be trained into your subconscious. The real work you should be doing consciously is to land that right hand as fast as possible.
So when you slip, make sure you keep that right hand ready to throw. Don’t over-twist your body or make yourself come off balance. Don’t take your right hand out of position just to land a jab! You should always feel like your jab is SETTING UP THE RIGHT HAND!
Your jab should set up the right hand,
not take it away.
Focus on Moving Your Head, Not on Slipping the Punch
Once you get used to the movement, you shouldn’t be too worried about slipping the punch or waiting all day to avoid a punch. Move your head and you’ll be ok. He will miss as long as you move from the position he aimed at. You only have to move a few inches which is easy to do even if you barely moved. As long as you’re aware of incoming fire, you can go back to focusing on being offensive!
Change the Angle of Your Fist
You can also think about angling your jabbing fist differently. The palm doesn’t always have to face the floor; the palm can face sideways (like a hook) or up (like an uppercut). BE CREATIVE!
Try Using Footwork
Try using the same head movement tricks BUT with a small dash towards your opponent. Get within just outside of his range, and then quick jump in 2 inches while you move your head and throw the jab. This is a very deadly maneuver that many experienced fighters do very well. It’s one of those things that separate the average amateur fighters from the better ones. Again, the key is to make a SMALL DASH.
Learn Head Movement from the Pros
The best way to learn this type of head movement is to spar a pro. That’s how I learned it and it’s one of those things you never forget. You never realize how slick someone can be until you fight him.
For those of you who don’t have the opportunity to spar a pro, I highly recommend for you to watch videos of James Toney or Bernard Hopkins fighting. It’s preferable for you to watch them sparring and to really look for that subtle head movement. Almost all pros do it but it’s so subtle you never see it unless you’re sparring them yourself. I can see it now only because I know what to look for.
Head Movement is about Awareness, Not Evasion
The greatest benefit of learning how to slip
is to increase your defensive awareness.
The slipping movement itself doesn’t really matter. The real lesson here is awareness! The real benefit to learning how to slip is not so that you can slip every punch but more so that you are fully aware of every punch. This increased level of awareness allows you to make whatever split-second reaction you like—slipping, rolling, countering, etc.
You would think it’s common sense to be ready to slip but this isn’t the case for most boxers. Most boxers are so focused on throwing their power punches that they aren’t aware of jab counters. And they wonder why throwing the jab is so scary at times. They complain about getting countered or they complain that their jab doesn’t get there fast enough. Or they waste a lot of energy trying to jump into range.
The real answer is simply awareness. Once you’re aware of incoming counters, you can pretty much walk into range and pop your opponent in the face with whatever you like. It’s really that easy.