Is Jab the most important strike in combat sports

The Irrefutable case for the Jab

While teaching a seminar many years ago I was approached by a young attendee who asked what I believe to be the most important move in martial arts. I thought a moment and replied assuredly, the jab.

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To an inexperienced young novice this may come as somewhat as a surprise as it “seemingly” lacks the power of the rear cross, is not as impressive as a spinning backfist and nowhere near as devastatingly crippling as the rear round kick. Yet make no mistake about it, the jab is the king of any good strikers’ arsenal.

Israel Adesanya throws the jab in his UFC 221 fight against Rob Wilkinson
Israel Adesanya throws the jab in his UFC 221 fight against Rob Wilkinson | Pic: Emanuel Rudnicki/FIGHTMAG

Fundamental understanding

As a matter of ring / cage strategy the basic jab has three purposes:

  • Gauge your distance
  • Set up your power
  • Keep your opponent mentally off balance

While the first two require little explanation, it is the third purpose that the uninitiated struggle to comprehend. You see, a fighter needs two things to launch an offensive attack, mobility and stability. Boxing coaches of yesteryear called this, “Standing on your square” in which your weight is evenly distributed and ones’ balance is sufficient to strike. This holds true whether boxing, kickboxing or shooting a penetration step in an MMA setting.

The object being herein: Every time ones’ opponent settles into his “set point” or stance, it becomes necessary to use the jab to unseat him from said position.

Action is faster than reaction

It is no mystery that action is faster than reaction. In the context of a fight strategy one is always to begin first whether it be tactfully using the jab or even “active inactivity” via fakes and feints. This is the general rule unless ones’ personal style reflects the “counterpuncher” mentality.

To be first is to control the opponent and leave him guessing as to what level and what angle one will inevitably be targeting i.e. setting up the takedown, low kick or another punch combination.

One size does not fit all

While seemingly simplistic there are many ways and various tactics involved within the context of the jab. This includes the fast “flicker jab” reminiscent of “The Hitman” Tommy Hearns, the elusive “up-jab” made famous by exponents of the “Philly-shell” guard, the falling jab of Jack Demsey, and the power body jab which changes level and involves heavy pronation of the wrist like Canelo Alvarez.

This explanation is by no means all inclusive and is meant to provide some basic insight into the diversity of this time-tested classic.

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