If your experience with punching began in the fourth grade and ends with watching the UFC, it’s easy to assume that a punch is a gross motion. Just pull your hand back and throw a big ol’ John Wayne saloon slobberknocker and the other guy falls over, right? Wrong.
“A good punch is actually thrown with the whole body, not just the arm,” says former undefeated pro boxer Steve Petramale, owner of Petramale Boxing in Los Angeles. “You can definitely tell the difference when a guy is throwing a punch with his whole body rather than just with his arm.”
Petramale would know. In 2006 he appeared on the National Geographic TV special Fight Science, along with several other leading martial artists. Petramale recorded the single hardest punch among all the other fighters. Here are his tips for throwing a right cross more like Sugar Ray than Rachael Ray.
Start with the stance: Get in a basic boxing stance with your left foot forward, your left hand in front of your chin and your right hand just below your right ear. You should be looking forward over your left shoulder while your torso, hips and toes point 90 degrees to the right. Keep your weight on your toes, equally balanced between your two feet, Petramale says.
Use your hips: The punch begins with the ball of the right foot. Keeping your left foot in place, pivot on that big toe, bringing the heel off the ground and forcefully turning over your right hip. This wave of energy will travel up your body, rotating your torso, turning over your right shoulder and propelling your right hand forward. Do not use your deltoids to push the punch. The hand should move almost effortlessly, buoyed by the momentum of your lower body.
Throw it straight: Before the punch, the right hand should be loose and relaxed, protecting the right side of your jaw. As you turn over your hips and the right hand starts to fly, concentrate on sending it in a very compact straight line. The right elbow should stay low and not come winging out to the side like a chicken. Halfway toward the target, begin turning the hand over so that at the moment of impact, your palm is facing the floor. At the end of the punch, your chin should be tucked behind your right shoulder. Immediately retract your hand along that same straight path and bring it back to its defensive position.
Try it with a jab: Petramale believes that the best way to throw a right cross is immediately after a left jab. Starting a combination with a jab is not only the smart thing to do, but it also helps you throw a better right hand. “In boxing, everything works off a jab,” he says. “The act of pulling back your left hand after a jab actually helps you turn your right hand over.”
To throw a good jab, start with your left hand by your chin and your elbow in tight to your body, protecting your ribs. Push off with the back foot and fire your jab in a straight line. Your left hand should be like a piston, shooting forward and then quickly sliding back into place in a strictly linear motion.
To throw a right cross behind the jab, imagine you have a towel around your neck and one end in each hand. As the left begins the return journey back to the chin, the right hand shoots forward, crossing paths with the left for a split second. The right hand connects and then is quickly brought back to help protect your head. The next step is to try it with a double jab — or just gloat over your opponent’s unconscious body.