While mastering how to throw punches is critical to winning a bout, learning how to block them is equally important.
Beginners tend to be more excited about learning how to punch than to block. A couple of broken noses, however, generally turn them around. A proper stance, a sense of observation and the correct blocking techniques should help you bypass incoming punches.
Prerequisites to Stop a Blow
There are some general guidelines to follow, before and during combat, to stop a strike effectively:
- Keep a proper stance.
- Observe your opponent.
- Keep moving.
- Maintain your personal space.
The quality of your stance determines how efficient you’ll be at blocking punches. Here are a few vital reminders:
- Always keep your hands up to your eyes’ level, guarding your face. Your fists should sit either just below your eyes or on the sides, by your temples. Don’t block your vision; you need to see the punches coming.
- Take a stance with your most powerful arm at the back. If you’re right-handed, your right leg will also be towards the back. Your left shoulder should then be facing forward.
- Your legs should be at shoulder’s width, giving you better balance.
- Whatever happens, don’t square-up, your legs should never be side by side as it may impact your balance and mobility.
- Keep your shoulders up and your head down.
- Tuck your elbows in, to protect your ribs.
- Keep your hands and arms loose. Tense muscles are slower to move and will impact your reflexes.
You may see boxers standing with one hand up, while the other arm guards the core in a diagonal position. This might be a good alternative if you’re an experienced fighter with excellent reflexes and are expecting body punches from your opponent. For beginners, however, we recommend sticking to the regular stance.
If you’re heading into a competition, research your opponent. Watch their previous fights and observe their technique and style.
Notice how their foot positioning impacts the type of punches thrown. If you know what to expect, you’ll be in a better position to block them. The best fighters will make their patterns difficult to reveal, yet it’s worth giving it a try.
If you aren’t competing and don’t know ahead of time who you’ll be facing, that’s okay. Some of these patterns can be identified at the beginning of a match. Although you don’t want to solely focus on this, take some time to observe and feel your opponent.
In all cases, always keep an eye on your competitor’s arms and body movements. ‘Telegraphing’ are bodily clues your opponent may give you to let you know what’s coming ahead.
Here’s more on how to avoid telegraphing:
Even the best stance can be inefficient if you’re immobile; you make your opponent’s job easier to plan their next attack.
In their stance, boxers tend to bounce from one foot to the other. This footwork is designed to constantly change the angle of your exposed body parts — head and core. It’s also vital in order to enhance reflex and to be able to move in any direction quickly.
This strategy makes planning an offensive more difficult for your attacker. The more flexible your legs are, the faster you’ll be able to respond and change direction in case of an imminent blow.
Maintain Your Personal Space
Keeping a reasonable distance between your rival and your fist is essential. You have a broader range of motion, giving you more blocking options when it comes to defense.
Don’t be tempted to step back every time you receive a blow. It gives more momentum to your partner to attack, and ultimately, you’ll find yourself against the ropes of the ring. It’s then more difficult to counterattack and block punches.
Instead, pivot your body to a 90-degree angle. Before punching again, your opponent will have to re-position their body to face you.
How to Block Punches
There are three main approaches to blocking a punch:
- Blocking the strike.
- Deflecting and counterattacking.
- Avoiding the punch.
Blocking the Punch
For novices, these are the fundamental defensive techniques you should start practicing.
Using the Fist
The primary and most straightforward tactic is to stop the punch with your own by using a punching block.
- As you see the hit coming, lean your fist in the direction of the punch with the same amount of force. This will prevent their force from driving you back.
- Use your footwork to give your motion more force. As you’re blocking, switch your body weight from your back leg to the front.
- Generally speaking, a right jab from your opponent will be stopped by your left fist. When it comes to a right straight, it’ll be stopped with your right fist.
- If the punch is coming from below — as with an uppercut — turn your palm towards the ground and push down.
When to use it: jabs, straight punches and uppercuts.
Using your Forearm
When the punch is too close or strong, use your forearm to protect your face.
- Bring your left fist to the center of your forehead.
- Rotate your left shoulder and hips towards the right to protect your entire face.
- Keep your elbows tucked it in. Your fist and elbow should form a vertical line.
When to use it: straight punches.
Using your Shoulder
- If your opponent is trying to throw a left hook, lift your right arm in a vertical position — elbow to your chest, fist to your temple.
- This time, keep your hips and upper body facing your opponent.
- Your attacker’s hook should land on your shoulder, which should be less damaging than receiving it on the head.
When to use it: hooks.
This technique should be your last option. Maybe you haven’t seen the blow coming, and you’re caught off guard. Because the frontal bone of the skull is one of the strongest, it may even hurt your opponent’s hands.
Before trying this in a competition, make sure to practice with a partner. An improper form or taking a blow on a weak spot could be extremely damaging.
- Lean forward with your chin and face pointing down to the canvas.
- Your neck muscles should be tense, and your jaw locked.
When to use it: straights, jabs, punches to the body.
Using Your Elbow
Elbows can be used to block three main types of punches:
- Side punches.
- Body strikes.
- Blows to the head.
Elbow Blocking Side Punches
- In your stance position, keep your hands to your chin, elbows tight to the core.
- If your attacker is reaching for your right side, rotate and slightly bend your upper body towards the right. Hand positioning shouldn’t move an inch.
- Your opponent’s punch should be reaching your elbow, or slightly higher depending on the angle of the oncoming blow.
Elbow Blocking Body Punches
If you’re guarding your head correctly, your opponent will likely aim for the body. Body strikes are generally aimed at the solar plexus and can be extremely painful if you aren’t prepared.
- Engage your core and abdominals. If the punch manages to go through, it won’t hurt as much.
- While keeping both hands guarding your face, bring your elbows together.
- Slightly bend your upper body forward and bend your knees to meet the strike.
Elbow Blocking Blows to the Head
- If your attacker is throwing a left jab, place your right hand over your right ear. When faced with powerful strikes, you’ll find some boxers putting their hand behind the head.
- Tilt your upper body to the left. Cover your face with your right inner forearm. Your elbow should be facing your opponent.
- Keep your left hand at eye level.
Here is a good summary of these various techniques:
Deflect and Counter Attack
Also called a parry, this can be more efficient than simply blocking a punch. While you can certainly deflect and evade, experienced boxers will deviate the blow, only to follow with an offensive strike. This technique is typically used to stop straights and jabs.
- As your opponent is throwing a left jab, use your right fist to slap their glove down.
- This should be a movement of minimal amplitude; you don’t want to lower your arm below your opponent’s core.
- If you only take your opponent’s fist down, it’ll still hit you in the body. As you’re taking the punch down, scoop it out from the left, making a circular movement towards your right side.
- Now it’s time to go on the offensive. Immediately after deflecting the strike, throw a left jab, a right straight or both, one after the other.
If you’re blocking a left jab, send their incoming arm above your right shoulder. On the other hand, if you’re deflecting a straight punch, you’ll push their right fist above your left shoulder.
To take an example, let’s say that your opponent is throwing a straight with the right arm.
- With your left hand, push your attacker’s glove towards your right side. Keep your left elbow down. The strike should end above your right shoulder.
- From here, counterpunch with a left jab or hook to the body.
Similar to an ‘over-the-shoulder’ parry, this technique bounces the punch over your head, towards the side. In this instance, your partner is throwing a right straight:
- Take your left fist up, yet not higher than your head.
- Slightly pivot your hips clockwise.
- Your elbow is facing your opponent, away from you.
- The strike should fall on the outer side of your hand or forearm.
- In a sharp movement towards the left, push the fist out.
- Follow with a left jab or right straight.
Your last, yet as efficient technique, is to avoid the punch without even touching your attacker. This approach is often used when your opponent is higher or heavier than you, and blocking the blow might be challenging.
This method consists of bending your body towards the right or left side to avoid the blow. In this case, the punch goes past one of your shoulders.
- During a slip, your neck shouldn’t move and should stay centered with your shoulders and hands up.
- Instead, use your core, bend your knees and tilt your torso on the opposite side of the incoming strike.
- Keep your hands up guarding your face.
Bob and Weave
This tactic has a similar concept to the ‘slip.’ Yet, unlike it, the bob and weave will let the strike fly over your head. It’s a convenient approach when your opponent is much taller than you:
- The entire movement should form a 180-degree circle. This means that if you start on the right side, you’ll come out on the left. For this, you’ll need to switch your body weight from your back leg to the front.
- Bend your knees enough to form a squat. Keep our hands and shoulders up.
- Come back up on the opposite side of the punch.
- As you’re coming from a lower gravity point, this is a good time to throw an uppercut or body shot.
Practice, Practice, Practice
To practice, try to find a partner roughly the same height as you. You might also need to invest in a set of punching mitts. The flat glove makes it easier for beginners since it’s a larger target to hit and is softer; perfect for training.
Start with slow motions, and slowly pick up the pace. If you don’t have a partner you can practice with, use a speed bag.
All these blocking methods can appear complicated at first. When starting, you may have learned all the proper techniques, but when the punch is coming, the brain goes into survival mode and you might forget your training. This is where practicing is important; to form muscle memory and habits.
How to punch a block isn’t that difficult, and it all comes with training. Soon, stopping a strike should become second nature.
We hope that this article will keep you away from broken noses and losing fights. Yet, don’t forget that your opponent may expect your blocks and strategize according to your responses. Be smart and alternate your defensive techniques!