(warning: the following post is especially heavy in metaphors)
“Putting bugs on the windshield” - that is a Teddy Atlas boxing aphorism that adeptly describes what can make the jab so effective. Teddy’s got a million of ‘em and half a million of his sayings are all about the importance of the mighty jab. Implicitly, it describes how the jab, especially thrown in a multitude, can both blind and distract the opponent. While they are busy avoiding and brushing away the “bugs” they are momentarily unable to counter and potentially vulnerable to what may be about to hit them in the grille.
Why so many pithy sayings about such a basic maneuver? Well, just as boxing is deceptively complex, the jab is deceptively functional. The jab looks like nothing, but the expert fighter can wield this fight weapon with great strategic purpose.
If boxing is chess, jabs are your pawns. And just as the grandmaster would use her pawns to set up bigger moves, you should use the jab to set up bigger shots.
If boxing is bullfighting, the jab is your red cape. Like the matador using simple thrusts of her cape to distract and tire out the beast, you can work your jab to wear down an opponent until you’re ready to unleash a deadly combination.
If boxing is lion taming, the jab is your whip. Like the lion tamer cracking her whip to keep from getting mauled, you can use the jab to keep your opponent off and avoid getting hit cleanly.
There are numerous jab styles with many strategic purposes. Measure distance for your power punches, keep an aggressive opponent at bay, block straight punches, target the body to free the head as a target; you can even fake a jab and follow with a power shot while they’re covered up. The better you develop this punch and the myriad of its uses, the better equipped you’ll be to face challengers.
A good jab should be mostly effortless and yet there’s a huge difference between one thrown lazily and one that can snap an opponents head back. If you flop a towel at someone it will have zero effect, but wet the tip, wind it up and thrash that same towel like a whip and you’ll inflict some damage and get people’s attention.
The jab should come straight out from your shoulder rather than your elbow. This is how you generate power behind it - by cork-screwing the punch and adding some body English starting from the hips. Lazy jabs thrown by pulsing the forearm behind the elbow have nothing on them and can leave you vulnerable to a counter punch. They’re slower and easier to see coming, which are not good traits for any punch. By keeping your head and shoulder behind the jab, you can drive some power into it and still be able to protect yourself.
The jab is certainly not a haymaker shot and one does not generally discuss how good a fighter is based on it, but this modest punch can be the difference maker in a fight. Throwing a good jab requires composure and often works best when it happens without thinking - an impulse to an opportunity. Develop your jab skills thoroughly if you dream of becoming an elite fighter or at least fighting like one.