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The Backhand Jab
Crackpot Mailbox: Sean Wants to Know if It Just Works for Freaks

"James, I noticed that Tyson Fury throws a backhand jab. Is it something that just works for tall heavyweights like him of is it functional for the rest of us?"



Sean, as a Taekwondo man who learned in the last two decades it might surprise you to find out that when Karate and Taekwondo came to the U.S. that they did not jab. They had four basic punches:

-the lunge punch with the lead

-the backfist with the lead

-the reverse punch with the rear hand

-the ridge hand with either hand

and also:

-the spinning backfist [an old gloved boxing blow]

-the hammer fist

-and loads more useless shit like leaping crane's beak...

Debates raged in martial arts magazines as to whether the Asian backfist could compete with the boxer's jab, with the consensus that the backfist was for bareknuckle and the jab for gloves, which was wrong.

What settled the debate was the desire for competing in kickboxing with gloves, meaning that the backfist went by the wayside and karate men that came around after 1978 rarely even know that the backfist existed other than as the spinning backfist which was retained in kickboxing. The jab is borrowed from boxing and replaced the backfist and lunge punch.

Two notable boxers have used the backhanded jab to effect, Tyson Fury and Mohamed Ali, often called a flicking jab. As delivered in the video you made below, Tyson has pretty good black belt form with his backfist. Classically, you were supposed to aim with the elbow but that was too telegraphed so he half-chambers and lets fly.

In boxing the backhand jab only works for tall men with big shoulders as the relative weight of the glove does not impair the whipping action like it would for small thinner men, and a low lead works better for tall men who can effectively lean away like Ali. It is also no good for south paws unless they are taller than the opponent as it impedes rightward mobility against a jabbing orthodox fighter. The backfist is tiring to the shoulder and needs to be combined with a low guard for this reason and also the fact that the telegraphing elbow is not as counterproductive when the punch is rising.

Yes, Gym Hopper, I have predicted your follow up question!

Why didn't the backfist become a thing in early MMA since it was a bare-knuckle strike?

For the same reason why it didn't work in street fights:

-There is no KO potential against a tough fighter

-Unlike the jab, it does not stab and stiff-arm the opponent like the jab, stopping his forward progress, but folds up, which can be useful in the duel of boxing but not in a no-holds-barred situation when the other man might be seeking to grapple.

When using the backfist you need a right hand behind it and, like Tyson Fury, a defense that works from the low hand and relies on the shoulder roll and wing block to deal with the opponent's rear hand to the chin.

The Punishing Art

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