Punches are a predictable and somewhat necessary aspect of fighting and let’s face it, getting punched SUCKS! It’s painful and leaves some nasty bruises, it can also cause some pretty serious injuries.
In the time that I’ve been training in taekwondo, I’ve been punched in the chest, stomach, sides, shoulders, face, and throat – yes, you read that correctly.
I’ve been punched and kicked in the throat several times during sparring practice and yes, it’s as painful as you think it is.
So, here’s the proverbial million-dollar question; how can you see punches coming and act before they land? In layman’s terms: can you predict and subsequently avoid having your lights switched off?
Your Eyes are Quicker than your Hands
You’ve likely heard the saying: “the pen is mightier than the sword” a few times growing up. Well, this is kind of the same thing and while it sounds strange, your eyes are indeed faster than your hands.
Your eyes can see at speeds of between 30 and 60 frames per second, can you move your hands that fast? Nope, but that’s not actually a bad thing; quite the opposite in fact.
“If your opponent can’t see, he can’t fight.” – Terry Silver, Karate Kid III
It’s funny how many statements of fact you’ll find in classic martial arts movies, isn’t it? If you can see a threat, you can avoid it. On the other hand, if you don’t see it…well…you get hurt.
So, how do you Predict Punches?
Okay, something to note is that predicting punches isn’t really a science. It’s a mixture of luck and skills, but you can’t predict everything – feinting is, after all, a thing. With that said, here are a few things to help you out.
1. Fancy Footwork
Boxing, kickboxing, and taekwondo all share a key similarity: footwork is crucial if you want to keep your lights on!
The rule of thumb is to keep your lead foot outside of your opponent’s lead foot. There is, however, a problem with this rule; can you guess what it is? Your opponent is going to be trying for dominant/superior footwork throughout the fight.
If you get it right, you’ll be in a good position to make sure your strikes and combos go where you want them to and that they connect. It’ll also make predicting punches a bit easier.
2. Stay Off the Centerline
Okay, so first off; what’s the centerline? The centerline is an invisible line formed when two fighters square off.
The line is formed by the bodies of the fighters lining up. Now, straight shots and combos are typically thrown from the centerline, and while combos/angular shots are a bit easier to predict, straight shots are…well…not.
Your eyes can see the angled shots and combos easier than the straight shots. So, obviously, one way to predict punches is to stay off the centerline which is much easier said than done – especially if you’re new to boxing and/or combat sports.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of keeping off the centerline and you’ve got the head movement to a good place, it’ll make seeing punches easier.
3. Pick up on Patterns
Ah, patterns…the bane of any fighter both in combat sports and self-defense. When I talk about patterns, I’m talking about habits that a fighter may have that you can use to your advantage.
So, for example, if you’re fighting someone who throws two jabs and a cross – in that order – for a good while, you can reasonably assume that it’s a habit of sorts that they’ve developed.
Another tell is the way their shoulder will move when they throw a punch. Why do fighters develop these habits? Because it’s worked for them in the past.
The saying may be: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it” but you can’t rely on that in combat sports or self-defense. If your opponent has a particular habit, you can use that to see punches much more easily than you would otherwise.
4. Use Range to Your Advantage
Controlling the range (i.e. the distance between you and your opponent) can make quite a difference. If you know that your opponent likes to be up close and personal, then you know they’ll be aiming to get as close to you as possible.
5. Don’t Focus on One Point
Okay, so this one seems a bit strange; don’t you need to focus in a fight? Well, yes, but don’t get tunnel vision. Where do you look? Well, you look forward but you’re not looking at specific things (i.e. movements). You’re paying attention and just reacting to what’s happening.
This is Much Harder than it Looks!
Let’s be real, this is much harder than you think, and you won’t see every single punch coming at you. That said, if you can spot enough of them, you can avoid them and potentially win the fight.
Your first attempts are likely to fail miserably, and you’ll get beaten up because you don’t really know what you’re doing yet but stick with it and you’ll get better.
That’s all from me, I hope you guys enjoyed the article and found it informative. As always, I want to say thanks for reading and I’ll see you next time. Until then, take care and stay safe!
Greg spent much of his younger years camping and hiking. Greg grew up on a small farm with lots of livestock such as cows, horses and chickens. He’s good with a bow and arrow, is a huge knife enthusiast, and has a blackbelt in Taekwondo.