Don’t go out looking for a fight. That being said, every man should be prepared to stick up for himself if a shady situation arises. You need to know how to throw a punch.
“Most bar fights are won and finished in one punch,” says Mike Jennings, who co-owns Train, Fight, Win of Denver, Colorado, with his badass wife, L.A. The couple are former submission wrestling, martial arts, JiuJitsu, and kickboxing athletes; today, they coach fighters and Average Joes alike on how to deliver a a clean, safe, effective punch. The Jennings shared a street-punch breakdown with The Manual so you will be ready and confident to go full Iron Fist when the need arises.
Step No. 1: Establish Your Base
Put your dominant foot behind you (whichever hand you write with — that foot) and spread your feet shoulder-distance apart, as if they are on different sides of a train track. “Do not stand in one line with both toes pointing at your opponent,” warns L.A., as this makes it easy to fall off balance. Once you have your base, bend your knees.
Step No. 2: Make a Proper Fist
Keyword here: proper. Starting with a flat hand (your dominant side), roll your fingers toward your palm like you’re holding a hammer, then fold your thumb over the outside. “Do not leave space in your hand or put your thumb on the inside,” Mike adds. “That’s how you break your thumb.” In fact, the majority of people without formal training throw their first punch and break their hand in some way. Don’t be one of those guys.
Step No. 3: Shield Your Face
Lift your free hand to cover your face. You have a couple options here: You can hold it at your forehead as if you’re tipping a hat, or on the side of your face along your ear. “Do not put your hand in your pocket,” L.A. says. “Even before you establish your base, if you’re in a verbal altercation, don’t put your hands in your pocket or crossed in front of your chest. You want them to be out and ready to block or punch.”
Step No. 4: Punch
Your striking surface is the first two knuckles of your punching hand. Start the twist at your dominant foot, turn the heel and your body, and extend your punch. When you’re extended, your pinky knuckle should be higher than your first two. This makes your shoulder rotate which covers your chin for good defense, the Jennings say. “Do tuck your chin, always.” Oh, and “do punch first,” adds Mike, who used to work as a bouncer for punk rock shows in the deep South. The rotation should feel similar to throwing a baseball. And remember, keep your base solid so you don’t throw all your weight into the punch and go tumbling forward. Lastly, exhale with each punch.
Step No. 5: Aim for the Nose or Jaw
While keeping a gaze on the base of their throat, extend your punch at the nose or jaw. “Don’t close your eyes,” Mike says. “Look at their clavicle so you can see if someone’s taking a knife out of their pocket.” Choosing between the nose and jaw depends on your intent. Jaw = knockout, which is a rapid acceleration and deceleration of the brain, causing said TKO. Nose = blood, instant pain, the smell of metal. “A hit right to the nose is a real equalizer,” says Mike. “Plus, it’s demoralizing, because your eyes start tearing and you begin to sniffle.”
Step No. 6: Retract
The second you extend your punch, get ready to retract. Pull the punch back into your starting position using your bicep. Which leads directly to step No. 6 …
Step No. 7: Expect to Throw Another Punch
Always be ready. If you throw your first punch, don’t let your arms drift down to your sides. Keep them up, ready, and, if necessary, “keep punching until the cops come,” Mike says. “Keep in mind, there may be more targets, and some may be at your back.” L.A. adds, “you extend and retract so the hand is ready.”
Step No. 8: Practice
Shadowbox (where you practice punching without hitting anything) using your shower curtain … just don’t slip. You can also invest in a variety of punching bags for the home. “Don’t think the punch is going to come out when you need it.” The Jennings also suggest practicing with a friend (share this article with your dudes), and taking a class at an mixed martial arts (MMA) gym. “Don’t go to a self-defense gym,” Mike advises. “Train with people who punch people.”
Again, you’re probably not looking to Hulk your way down Main Street, but your ability to punch can increase your safety and skill set.