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How to Be Good at Fist Fighting

Three Parts:Throwing PunchesPlaying DefenseUsing Your Head

It looks so easy in the Rocky movies. You just take fifty blows straight to the face and then knock the cocky Soviet guy out with a stiff roundhouse, right? Wrong. If you find yourself in a situation where you've got to use your fists to defend yourself, you're going to want to know how to throw a punch, how to take one, and how to fight with smarts. If it's time to put up or shut up, keep reading after the jump to learn how to develop your fist fighting skills.

Part 1
Throwing Punches

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    Stand properly. Face your opponent by turning sideways slightly, pointing your non-dominant side toward the person you're fighting. If you're right-handed, turn your left hip toward your opponent. Don't turn completely perpendicular with your torso, just lead with your non-dominant leg and hip. This makes you into a more slithery target and gives you more power in your punches.
    • Keep a steady center of gravity. Keep your weight on your back leg (your right leg, if you're right handed). If you stand facing your opponent square, you can be knocked over easily. Keep your weight back by spreading your legs perpendicular to your opponent and stay in the fight.
    • Bring your hands up to your head, your non-dominant hand up near your eye and your dominant striking hand near your chin. Keep your hands in loose fists so that you can quickly strike or play defense.
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    Make a fist correctly. Wrap your thumb around the bottom of your fingers, not inside your fist and not on the side of your fingers, as if you were holding a bug you didn't want to escape. Don't clench your hand so tightly that you start to lose circulation, but keep it firm when you're throwing a punch and loose but formed when you're playing defense.
    • When people injure their fist while throwing a punch, it's typically because they're hitting with the wrong part of the hand. The knuckles that should strike your target are the middle knuckles on your hand, between your index and middle finger.
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    Keep your elbows tucked in to throw straight punches. Beginners throw wild, loose, uncontrolled hay-makers that have no power behind them. You want to throw a linear punch, straight between you to your opponent, not a "round" punch. You're not playing Street Fighter II and you're not going to knock somebody out with a lame duck shot to the other guy's ear. A powerful jab is your friend.[1]
    • Good punches come from your lower body as much as from your arm strength. Stepping into your punches will make them much more powerful. On a heavy bag, practice throwing punches that strike straight out from your body, rather than around, and push forward into the bag with your back foot as you rotate and punch with your striking hand.
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    Aim for the soft spots. If you try to smash your knuckles into your opponent's jaw or cheek, you're going to do more damage to yourself. The center of the attacker's face--the nose, specifically--is the softest and most painful place to hit, but punching his nose might just make him angry. Body shots to the floating ribs to the side of your opponent will force them to lose their wind, making it very difficult for them to continue. When they double over to defend, their face is opened up for more attack.
    • Punches to the throat, groin, and kicks to the knees are also effective if you're in a fight for your life. If you're boxing with friends, don't fight dirty, but don't neglect these devastating blows if the fight is serious.
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    Make quick, compact strikes. Don't over-swing wildly like Rocky does, but pick your spots and make quick, sharp jabs that land on their target. The winner of a fight isn't necessarily the fighter who throws the most punches, but the fighter who lands the most punches with the most power.
    • Make sure to follow through. Imagine you're striking at something that's actually about two inches behind your target, and that you want to punch through it.
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    Yell like a maniac. Martial artists make a lot of noises when they compete, and the reason they do this is because it gets adrenaline pumping, intimidates your opponent, and awakens an animalistic part of yourself you may often keep buried. It's time for the Hulk to emerge, so get yelling.
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    Use more than your fists to win a fist fight. Head-butts are the most underrated fighting technique. Putting the most rigid part of your body--the hard plate of your upper forehead--into the softest part of your opponent's face--the nose--will end the fight quickly.
    • In formal sport fighting, like boxing or MMA, head-butts are illegal, but if you're defending yourself against someone you're fighting with, don't waste time playing by the rules of a sport.

Part 2
Playing Defense

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    Learn to take a hit. If you're going to throw punches, you've got to learn to get punched, too. Rolling punches and learning to absorb blows will make you stand in there and hold your ground much better, opening up spots where you can get your offense in.
    • If you get punched in the face, tense your neck muscles, close your jaw, and move into the punch. Moving into the punch takes away the power of it by cutting it off early, and if you start moving backward, you'll probably fall backward. This is difficult to get the hang of, because your natural tendency is to want to back away from the fist, but imagine that the fist is a soccer ball and you want to give it a header. If your opponent punches your forehead, it's going to hurt him a lot more than it will you.
    • Tighten your stomach muscles and try to take the blows straight on, into your abdominals, rather than in your soft spots. You want to protect your liver as much as possible, which is under your floating ribs on your side.
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    Always go forward, never retreat. This is the most important part of defense. Backing up invites your opponent to cross into your yard and gives you the kind of backward momentum that's going to end with your falling down and losing the fight. Step forward, where your opponent's punches will have less power and where you're unlikely to fall down.
    • This will open up your sides to body punches, so be aware and get in your own licks. Don't let your guard down.
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    Keep moving. You'll want to always keep your hands up around your face when you're not actively throwing a punch to deflect as many of the blows as possible, but you'll also want to keep in constant motion, bobbing and weaving all around, to make your head as difficult to hit as possible. The more you move, the more difficult it will be to hit you flush on the face, or in the neck.
    • Keep your feet moving as if you were on hot coals and imagine that the ceiling is right over your head, and that you've got to keep ducking and dodging to avoid hitting your head on the top.
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    Get in shape. Fights don't generally last very long, but if they do you'll want to be the one who can go for several minutes without getting winded. If you're doughy and soft, it's hard to win a fight.
    • Do some aerobic exercise. 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3 or 4 times a week should keep you in good shape to do pretty much anything.
    • Do sit-ups and push-ups regularly. George Foreman won the heavyweight championship of the world without ever setting foot in a gym. He did sit-ups, push-ups, and learned to take a punch. You don't have to be a body-builder to be in ready fighting shape.

Part 3
Using Your Head

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    Avoid stupid fights. The best samurai lets the sword rust in its scabbard. If you're wondering whether or not you should fight, the answer is almost always no. Avoid physical fights at all costs and only fight to defend yourself as a last resort.
    • Try to deescalate the situation before it comes to blows. Speak calmly and quietly to the person you're fighting with and avoid threatening or cocky language.
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    Anticipate your opponent. Your typical assailant will be two things: angry and right-handed. Both of these can work to your advantage if you stay focused, anticipate his right-handed wild punches, and look to end the fight early with a high-probabilty, hard-impact blow to the throat or to the nose.
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    Calm down. If you do happen to get into a fist fight, fear is the number one factor between winning and getting pummeled. Don't be afraid to get hit. Your adrenaline will be pumping so hard you'll hardly even feel anything until later, even if you get smashed. If you're thinking about how much a hard punch to the nose is going to hurt then it's going to hurt even worse, so don't dwell on those things in a fist fight. Just fight.
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    Keep the fight off the ground. If you're fighting smart, you'll have likely peppered your opponent with lots of smart high-impact blows, and your opponent will become frustrated and might try to tackle you in a desperate attempt. You never want to end up on the bottom of a grapple, so your opponent use the ground as a weapon.
    • Always keep your center of balance and shift sideways, away from the grapple if your opponent does Try to tackle you. If he's got you on the ground, shield your face and consider pulling hair, going for the eyes, or other quick methods of getting him off you and breaking the grapple.


  • Keep your eyes on your opponent at all times. Don't tilt your head down at any time, you won't be able to see your opponent's hits coming in and that is pretty much a ticket to getting the snot kicked out of you.
  • When fighting, always control your breathing. You'll last longer without getting tired which is basically how the winner of a fight is determined.
  • Never use just one hand, use both and both of your feet tactically.
  • When hit by a jarring punch, maintain yourself as best you can, because if you recoil back this gives him a good chance to unload on you and you won't be ready since you won't see it coming.
  • Never take your eyes off of your opponent. If you know you are about to fight someone as soon as they walk in the room, look around. But whatever you do, don't look away from the target, because he/she will throw a punch if you look away.
  • Always keep your environment in mind, if you trip and fall backwards over a rock that basically gives your opponent a free pass to pin you down and beat the crap out of you
  • Practice keeping control of your opposition. A way you can do this is try the martial art Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
  • Keep constant movement to keep your opponent guessing.
  • If you punch someone on the nose their eyes will tear up making their vision blurry and giving you an advantage. Also if you kick someone's shin hard (preferably with shoes on) then they will jerk down to comfort it instinctively opening up their defense.


  • Don't fight unless you have to. Fist fights can end with broken noses, lawsuits, and even in extreme cases, jail-time. Only fight if you have no other alternative and must defend yourself.

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Categories: Self Defense