Blocking a punch is the most fundamental defense in boxing and street fighting. Blocking is the easiest defense to execute, and while it’s much better to avoid the strikes or parry them, you will rarely be able to do that. So a sturdy and dependable block should be the foundation upon which all your defense is built.
To block a punch, you must use your hands, elbows, forearms, or shoulders to absorb the strike aimed at your head or body, which are vulnerable. With blocking, you don’t avoid or deflect the strike but rather soften its impact.
This guide will show you how to block punches to the head and body.
Blocking punches is easy and challenging at the same time. The standard fighting stance has blocking integrated into it. Your hands are close to your head and are in the way of incoming punches when maintaining a proper guard. But you will usually need to adjust to block heavier punches, and blocking combinations is much trickier.
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Blocking is the default defense because of its ease of use and low energy requirement. But keep in mind that if the opponent is strong, his punches can still hurt you even if you block them correctly.
The face is the most vulnerable part of the body, and the primary target of punches, so solid blocking skills are fundamental. Make sure you keep your guard tight and your hands close to the head. The block should be very subtle; the hands and body work in unison when blocking.
- For straight punches, raise your hands a little higher, place the palms on your forehead and bring the forearms together, so the punch lands on them.
- For looping punches and hooks, raise the elbow of the blocking hand high with your hand tightly pressed to your head, tuck your chin and rotate your body slightly to the opposite side. The punch will land either on your shoulder or the forearm.
Punches to the stomach are no joke, especially if your body is not conditioned to take punishment. Luckily blocking body shots are not that hard to defend if they are not a part of a combination.
- For straight punches aimed at your stomach, rotate your body slightly and position your forearm and elbow in front of the incoming punch.
- For side shots to the body, position your elbow to cover the sides while keeping the hand close to the head.
It’s essential to avoid lowering your hands too much when you block body shots. Keep your hands close to your head in case the opponent fakes the body shot and goes up top or continues with a hook to the head after the one to the body. Use your elbows and lean your body towards the strike to absorb it.
Blocking punches in a street fight is different from blocking in boxing. The overall mechanics are the same, but the lack of gloves changes things quite a bit. The unguarded hand is much smaller and can easily slip through even a tight guard.
The good news is that in a street fight, straight punches are very rare unless some of the participants are trained. Most strikes used are looping punches, which are easier to predict and defend. There are two ways to block them effectively.
The first is by doing an outward block where you intercept the incoming punch midway, much like karate blocks are used. This is an excellent option if you see the punch coming because you intercept it before it has gathered momentum.
The second and much safer option is to use the block we outlined in the previous section about blocking to the head. Everything must be tight, so the attack can’t penetrate between your hand and shoulder.
Like everything else in martial arts, there are many ways to block. We will only cover pure blocking for this guide as it’s the easiest and safest to execute and must be learned first by beginners.
The boxing gloves provide a shield that can be used for effective blocking while also protecting the hands from damage. Smashing bare knuckles to bare hands will damage both, but the gloves keep them safe.
Another factor in boxing is that punches are often thrown in combinations, and you should always anticipate another punch coming. On top of that, punches to the body are also frequent, so the blocking must also account for that.
Blocking different punches also leaves you in an excellent position for fire back with a counterattack. A blocked cross is the perfect opportunity to answer with a cross of your own. Blocking hooks properly with a slight pivot away from the punch loads up the same punch for you. Many great boxers have developed the skill to fire back at the instant they feel a punch land on their block.
Let’s see how to block the most common punches in boxing.
The block of the jab is built in the boxer’s stance. If your hands are close to your head, a jab will have difficulty getting through. Just bring your hands close to each other, and the gloves and forearms will absorb the strike. Keep your elbows tucked to protect the body as well; a body jab is often done after a feint to the head.
Blocking the cross can be done the same way as blocking the jab. But a cross has more power, and you can do a more effective block with the elbow or forearm. This is similar to blocking a hook or an overhand right. Lift the elbow to almost a 90-degree angle and place the forearm in the way of the punch.
Blocking with the forearm rather than the glove spares you the head rattling from the inevitable shock through the glove even after a successful block.
As we already explained above, the hook is blocked by raising your defending arm at a 90 degrees’ angle and pivoting slightly to the opposite side to absorb the damage further. If you catch the punch on the gloves, some impact inevitably goes to the head.
To avoid that, you must raise the elbow higher, which will allow the shoulder to take the shot. The downside of that is the body is even more exposed, and it’s almost impossible to bring the hand down to defend a liver shot, for example.
The uppercut comes from a different angle than other punches and is sometimes hard to see. But blocking it does not require too much effort. Just position your hand like you are about to block a hook, but instead of lifting the arm, simply rotate your body, so the punch lands on your elbow or forearm.
Reaching- Reaching too far to block a punch is a mistake. Many beginners try to reach for punches out of fear. Sometimes a block that intercepts the punch is very effective. Still, often the trajectory of the punch can be changed mid-flight, and your head will be wide open. When blocking, the hands must always be close to the head.
Not looking at the opponent- You should always try to keep your eyes on the opponent. Don’t close your eyes and always find the opening through your guard to watch through. Closing your eyes is a hard habit to get rid of. Still, it’s one that is very detrimental to your overall game, not simply blocking.
Disconnecting the hand from the forehead – Another common mistake beginner boxers make is not keeping their gloves tight to the forehead while blocking and trying to block with the arms only. It’s almost impossible to block a hard punch just with arms, and what ends up happening is that the punch is blocked, but the defender hits himself in the head with his own gloves from the force of the strike.
Learning how to block a punch must be the first thing you learn as a defense. Blocking efficiently conserves energy and keeps you in position, and is the foundation of a good defense in boxing.
With that said, blocking against powerful punchers will tire your arms. Against long-range sharpshooters, you will have a hard time getting in range if you only depend on blocking. To be truly defensively proficient, you will need to master parrying, slipping, bobbing, and weaving and learn how to use each of them at the correct time.