The hands are the primary striking weapon in most martial arts, and although strikes can be made with any part or shape of the hands, punches are still the most common type of hand strike. Punches are the only allowed strike in boxing. Still, they are the main ones in all other popular combat sports like MMA, Muay Thai, kickboxing, and many others.
There are four general types of punches determined by their trajectory: the jab, the rear straight, also called a cross, hooks, and uppercuts. A jab is always done with the lead hand, and a cross is always done with the rear hand. Hooks and uppercuts can be thrown with both.
There is much more to know, not only about the basic types of punches but also about how to number each punch for better instruction and construct good combinations. We will provide you with all of that in this article.
Table of Contents
Punches with both hands can be executed in various ways. Each serves a different purpose and carries distinct advantages and disadvantages. Then each fighter can have his unique way of throwing a punch. Still, the largest division in punches is regarding their trajectory.
The jab and cross are very different in mechanics and use, making them two different types of punches despite both being straights. At the same time, lead and rear hooks and uppercuts are grouped together.
The jab is a straight punch with the lead hand. The jab is the fastest, longest, and safest punch in the arsenal, and for this reason, it is the most important one. Everything in textbook boxing is built around the jab, which serves as a range finder and then as a setup for other, more powerful punches.
The rear straight is often called a cross, and while technically, the cross is a punch that goes over an opponent’s jab in a slight arch, we will stick to the widespread word for the rear straight. The cross is a power punch coming straight in the middle and is very versatile.
The hook is a punch traveling in a horizontal arc toward the opponent with the arm bent at around 90 degrees. Hooks can be both rear and lead and target the head and body. Hooks are very powerful but have a shorter range than straight punches, making them mid to close-range weapons.
Uppercuts fly vertically with a bent arm targeting the head or midsection. Uppercuts have the least range but also carry great power if the positioning is correct. The trajectory they take makes them harder to see and block but, at the same time, leaves the attacker more open to a counterattack.
How Are Numbers In Boxing Used?
There may only be 4 types of punches, but they may differ by hand used (lead or rear), target (head or body), or variation (rear straight or overhand). To make things easier for fighters and coaches, a system using simple numbers was thought out, assigning each punch a number. This makes them easier to remember and easier and faster to say in words and use for quick instructions.
The simple formula can be learned quickly by remembering that odd numbers are always with the leading hand and even numbers are punches thrown from the rear. If you are orthodox, this means 1, 3, 5, and 7 are left-hand punches, while 2, 4, 6, and 8 are right-hand punches.
- Jab– the most fundamental punch naturally is numbered as 1. Jabs to the head and body are always a 1. If the jab is the body, the coach gives clear instructions like “1 body.”
- Cross– The rear straight or a cross is also called a two. Again can be thrown to the body or the head.
- Lead hook– Number 3 is the lead hook. In most cases, the liver hook is a 3 to the body. Still, some may assign that a different number because it is a significant difference.
- Rear hook– One of the most powerful strikes, the rear hook gets number 4.
- Lead uppercut- We move on to the powerful but dangerous to throw uppercuts. The lead one is a 5.
- Rear uppercut- The last punch in the basin number system is the rear uppercut under nr. 5
The following two punch numbers are not as fundamental as the first six. Still, they can be very useful for more advanced fighters wanting to add some variation.
7. Shovel hook to the body– The lead hook to the body, which, if the attacking fighter is orthodox, targets the liver, is assigned at number 7. The punch is different in angle and use than the 3, so it is better to have its own number.
8. Overhand – The rear overhand, the most powerful punch, is used differently than the standard rear straight, so it’s good to differentiate it.
Some trainers and gyms change these numbers for secret purposes. When they shout instructions to their fighters during a fight, their opponents inevitably hear them.
Some camps prefer using a cipher of some kind, assigning different numbers to punches or whole combinations, but this is all individual. Others prefer to give different numbers for head and body strikes of the same type. An excellent example of that is the system Mike Tyson used:
The widely agreed number system from 1 to 6 is generally the same everywhere.
Boxing Combinations Using The Numbers
The number system is in place mainly to make wording punch combinations easier. With numbers, a coach can quickly shout three or four numbers, and the fighter will instantly know which punch combination he should fire. Using the name of each punch would take more time.
Here are a few bread-and-butter combinations every boxer should know inside and out and be able to use in many situations. You can always build your own combinations using the numbers and add more movements like slipping, ducking, pivoting, and feinting to make the combinations more advanced.
1-2 (jab- right cross) – The most fundamental combination is the 1-2. As basic as this is, it is still the most used combo, even at the highest level of combat sports.
1-2-3(jab, cross, left hook) – The left hook is the most powerful punch in this classic combo and is perfectly set up by the cross.
1-2-3-2(jab, cross, left hook)- Adding another cross to the previous combination moves the focus to the last punch. The straights open up the guard for the hooks and vice versa.
1-6-3-2 (jab, right uppercut, left hook, cross)- It’s good to sometimes change things a bit and not start with the 1-2. Using the right uppercut as a substitute is excellent if the range is correct. If the uppercut lands, it will lift the head of the opponent up for the left hook and cross after that.
2-3-2 (cross, left hook, cross)- Leading with the cross is not something beginners are advised to do but is commonly used by intermediate fighters and above.
1-2-7-8- (jab, cross, shovel hook to the body, overhand right)- To showcase a combo using the 7 and 8, which are not part of the basic numbers system, we can add them to the classic 1-2. Changing levels after a cross, digging to the liver with the 7, and then immediately looping an overhand on top is a very common and proven combination in fighting.
Different punches have different purposes, and they are not all equal in power. Many are used as a setup for other more powerful punches. The science of what goes into a powerful strike shows us there are multiple components involved.
To simplify, it boils down to generating mass and velocity in the punch by engaging the whole body from the ground up in a kinetic chain. This entails activating the muscles from the calves to the forearm in a single fluid motion.
Based on these premises, the most powerful punches come from the body’s rear side, where more momentum and force can be generated.
This still leaves us with many options, but while all rear punches have knockout potential, some allow more power to be generated by stepping in and twisting the torso. These are the hook, uppercut, and overhand.
The uppercut can be extremely powerful, but it is too dependent on the opponent’s position, making the step in overhand right the clear winner. It just has the most momentum and engages the muscles of the whole body in a way other punches cannot.
And while a few years ago, the debate was always open, modern tracking devices show us that most fighters can generate the greatest force with overhands, specifically using a step forward. The current world record for the most powerful punch is held by UFC heavyweight Francis Nganou.
Punches are separated into different types depending on the trajectory they take. Straights are further broken down into a jab thrown with the lead hand and a cross done with the rear. Hooks are horizontal punches, and uppercuts fly upward, vertically. All these punches target the head or body and are usually numbered for easier wording of combinations.