Predicting Punches: Here’s How to See Punches Coming

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.

woman with black boxing gloves throwing punches

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.

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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.

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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.

man and boy throwing punches

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!

2 thoughts on “Predicting Punches: Here’s How to See Punches Coming”

  1. I’ve loved martial arts all my life. Started at an AFB gym in Judo, (at 12 yo, and eventually reached nidan, third black) while also going to the “Y” for golden gloves boxing. Never made a title. During that time I met Gene LeBell, my stepfather’s neighbor. Fun guy. After judo I slid toward Hapkido, getting sam-dan ranking (third black again). Then while in the military, I met and learned a bit of Hwarangdo from Michael Echanis, and a few sessions with Wally Jay in jui-jitsu. During that time (the early 1970’s) I also got to see what worked and what didn’t in actual conflict. In the end, I know one thing. Mean it with all your might, because when you need it, you’ll need it.

  2. I believe in hitting first. Homey don’t play silly games with idiots. If they say or act like they’re going to hit me, I take them at their word. Let’s see how good THEY are at predicting or blocking a strike. The law does not require you to be hit first before you can defend yourself. At my age, I don’t have the stamina to go 15 rounds. I am a big believer in the mantra “Old age and treachery will beat youth and skill every time.” I have fought on the street against so-called “martial artists.” Won every fight for the simple reason I do not and never have fought for “sport.” Most martial arts, as taught in the US, are not true combat arts. A good Krav Maga fighter will be a handful, I’ll admit, but that’s why God invented guns.

    I grew up in Detroit, am a retired police officer, and a Marine veteran. I was never taught to lose fights and the best way to win fights is to hit first, hit hard, and hit hard often.

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