How do you block a jab?

17 Jan

If you’ve read my book Lion’s Roar San Da, you might have noticed that the first method I advocate to block a jab is a parry with the hand.

my parry

Using the hand to parry is a very common method. You will find it in western boxing and Muay Thai as well.


However, if you’ve seen some of my DVD’s or trained with me, you might have also noticed that the jab can be deflected in a similar manner using the forearm. This method, using the forearm, corresponds with the more traditional Lama Pai method known as “Jit” (截).

jit choih 1

The purpose of this particular blog is NOT to teach you how to defend against a jab (though you might walk away with a few new ideas). Rather, it is to discuss how and why different traditions have selected certain methods. I have chosen the jab because it is one of the most basic and common attacks there is. It is nothing more than a straight punch. Yet, there are a multitude of potential defenses against such an attack;

jab defense

In many Asian martial arts systems, it is common to see tactics in which there is a deflection / block from the outside.

outside parry

However, both Asian methods and western boxing sometimes advocate deflections / block from the inside. Many people operate under the assumption that defenses are predicated on whether the training is barehanded or with gloves. I will demonstrate as we progress that this is NOT one of the major considerations.


In deciding what to teach a beginning student, certainly one consideration is what might be the easiest for them to learn and successfully apply, i.e. the higher percentage defense. Deflections and blocking are certainly higher percentage than some of the movement based defense I will discuss next. But there are even variations on basic themes. A variation on the basic parry which I teach is to “catch” the jab using the same rear hand.


Using movement, especially head movement, for defense has certain advantages. Since the hands are not being used to defend, they are free to quickly (often simultaneously) counter attack. The outside slip is a common western boxing tactic exactly for this reason. I also teach this tactic, but I consider it more advanced. It requires a higher degree of awareness, being comfortable with angles and small degrees of movement and also acquiring “cool under fire” attitude.


Western boxing embraces a number of head movement defenses. Above is a “duck” against a jab. Why does western boxing have so many of these tactics yet in Asian martial arts they appear less frequently? I will get to that soon.

inside slip

Slipping to the “outside” may be the most common boxing tactic, but certainly many boxers slip to the “inside” (Mike Tyson being a prime example).

In western boxing, if you are skilled enough, sometimes you can even keep your hands down and avoid the jab with a slight retraction of the head.


Now, I return to the central question of this blog which is how and why did I pick the tactics that I teach my students? Certainly, every single tactic I have shown you so far in this blog is effective against a jab. Do I avoid teaching all of them simply because there is no need for so many different tactics to block a single technique? That is certainly part of the answer.


The larger issue is that while these techniques may all be effective against a jab IN ISOLATION, how do they fit into a “larger picture”? Another way to address this, what is likely to happen AFTER the jab? Do I only have to worry about more punches (as in boxing)? Or do I have to worry about kicks (kickboxing)? Low kicks (most international styles of kickboxing)? What about elbows (Muay Thai, Mixed Martial Arts)? What about throws and takedowns (Sanshou, San Da and Mixed Martial Arts)?

proper round kick

In my method, over time I was very selective in choosing what tactics I would teach my students. First, they had to be not only high percentage but also the ones most students would have the attributes to execute. Blocking is stressed first, and head movement later and only for those with an aptitude toward it. Second, the defense must also anticipate ALL the possible “follow ups”. It must not put me in an awkward position that would expose me to these potential “follow ups”. Third, it must keep me in a structure where I can respond with all the potential “follow ups”. That is to say, the tactics demonstrated here are not “wrong” per se, they are just wrong for the context in which we operate.


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