Boxing jab, in my opinion, is the most important punch in boxing. It is how you gauge distance, keep your distance, get inside, setup your power shots, & so much more. Having a strong jab in your arsenal is imperative to a strong boxing game. However, before we can even get to the jab, we need to discuss the boxing stance. The boxing stance & footwork are staples of the “sweet science” (the one & only time I will use that terminology). After all, you can’t throw (or take) a punch without your feet under you.
The following description is for those who are right-handed. If you are a south paw (that is, left-handed), just do the opposite (swap right for left, and vice a versa). Below are pictures depicting good & bad stances as well as good & bad jabs. The subject in the shots is Molly McConnell, rank #2 in the world of the Women’s Welterweight Division – other than the one shot of myself.
First, your feet should be staggered about hip-width apart with your left foot forward. The staggered distance will vary depending on the individual, but approximately one step is a good place to start. You don’t want them too far apart, too narrow, nor crossing each other. Most of your weight (preferably 60 – 70%) should be on your back leg. Your knees need to be bent & your weight on the balls of your feet – do not be flat footed! Hands up, chin down, & elbows in. “Hands up” means at your chin, not your chest; “chin down” means tuck your chin to your chest & look out of the tops of your eyeballs; “elbows in” means no more than an inch or two away from your body (touching if possible). And, finally, relax your shoulders.
Now that we’ve gone over the proper boxing stance, time to start jabbing! The jab is the straight, left hand punch. It comes straight out from the chin & straight back to the chin. Remember, as Bruce Lee wrote in his Tao of Jeet Kune Do, there are no arms in boxing. So, do not load up or “wind up” your jab. Let the energy, momentum, & power come from your lower body, specifically, your hips. Also remember this basic physics principle: f=ma (force – or power – is mass x acceleration). There is more mass in your lower body than in your arms; use it. Your jab will also be quicker (have more acceleration) if you let it come straight from the chin instead of bringing it back (loading/winding it up) before letting it go forward. In doing both, you’ll increase both the mass & acceleration in your jab, thereby increasing its force/power.
Keep your hips under you as you throw the jab. That is, do not bend over or “reach” for the target; this will bring your head that much closer to your opponent & make it that much easier for them to hit you. At full extension, your shoulder should now be protecting your chin in lieu of your hand. Don’t tense your shoulder to force this, but if your shoulder is at approximately 90o & your chin is down, this will happen naturally. You should be looking down the length of your arm to your index & middle finger knuckle joints.
These are the knuckles that you want to come in contact with your target. Both your wrist & elbow need to be straight; you risk injury otherwise. In order to keep your elbow in while throwing the jab, do not turn over your fist until your arm is almost fully extended. If you turn your fist over sooner, your elbow will be forced to turn out as well. KEEP YOUR RIGHT HAND UP AT YOUR CHIN AT ALL TIMES!!! Do not drop it, do not load it up to throw it, & do not twist your upper body; stay compact.
The jab, like every other punch, should be quick & crisp – not slow, wide, wild, nor crazy; & you should punch through your target, not at it (but don’t “push” your target). You can step forward with the jab & most of the time, you should. Your jab should land as your front foot lands. And, don’t forget bring your back leg up as well. Do not leave it in its original position or your feet will be too far apart. If your feet are too far apart, you won’t be able to do anything effective afterwards, whether it’s an additional punch, defensive move, or footwork. At the end of your jab, you should be back in your basic boxing stance: feet at good spacing (both width & length), knees bent, weight on your back leg, chin down, hands up at your chin, elbows in, & shoulders relaxed.
Now that you know how to throw a jab, you are well on your way to knowing how to box.