Jab with Head Movement

April 26, 2012 April 26, 2012 by Johnny N Body Movement, Boxing Techniques 61 Comments

jab with head movement

Did you know…?

8 out of every 10 boxers don’t know how to come in with the jab.

It’s a random statistic I just made up but my point is: hardly anybody moves their head when they come forward with the jab. Anytime you bring yourself closer to your opponent, you’re potentially walking into a dangerous counter punch. For this reason head movement is crucial for all forward movements—ESPECIALLY THE JAB.

It’s time you learned how to SAFELY come in behind the jab.



Move Your Head When You Come Inside


Example of jabbing WITHOUT head movement…

jab without head-movement 1

Here’s me in my boxing stance…


jab without head movement 2

…and this is what happens when I jab straight forward without moving my head.


I can understand beginners being taught to come in with their head straight up. It develops good form and posture and confidence and power and all those nice things. But once fighters learns that, it’s time to get slick real fast.

Always be ready to slip when you come forward.

This should be a general rule of boxing. Slipping is FAR MORE IMPORTANT when going forward than it is for going backward. If you’re coming closer to your opponent, you have to slip to stay safely in range. Coming in with a high guard works too but how can you attack on your way in if your hands are busy blocking?

You don’t have to slip every time you go forward but you should always be ready to do it. The amazing thing is that many fighters are taught to slip when going backwards or at the end of combinations but very few if ever are taught to slip when coming forward with the jab. Most trainers let their fighters to come in with their head straight up. If you’ve ever sparred with a slick pro, then you already know that’s never a good idea.


How to Move Your Head When You Jab


Move your head along a 3 dimensional axis

jab head movement angles 1


jab head movement angles 2

Think of your head as being able to move within the range of a three-dimensional sphere.
Your head can be placed:

  • HIGH or LOW
  • NEAR or FAR


So here is the essence to head movement when you jab:

STEP #1 – place your head in one spot

STEP #2 – move the head to another position when you throw the jab


Again, be creative and use the full three-dimensional range you can place your head. Try putting it low, and then bringing it up high. Or putting it to the left side and then bringing it to the right. Keep moving it to different spots to be more evasive! This tactic also works well going backwards—try it.

You don’t necessarily have to bait or slip your opponent’s punch. It’s simply the idea of moving your head when you throw the jab. Again, it’s crucial especially when coming forward with the jab.

Now let’s see this simple technique in action!


Jab & Head Movement Drill


This is a great drill for you to practice this head movement:

Step #1 – place your head in one position to bait the jab

Step #2 – move your head slightly and counter jab


*** Please watch the video, it’s a far better demonstration than the pictures alone.


Example #1 – HIGH to LOW

jab high to low

  • Stand tall and then drop down and jab him in the stomach.
  • Even if he blocks you can still push him back off balance.


Example #2 – LOW to HIGH

jab low to high

  • Lower yourself to bait the punch downwards.
  • Then stand up and counter-jab over the top.


Example #3 – LEFT to RIGHT

jab left to right

  • Rotate the body forward to bait the jab straight on.
  • Slip to the outside while throwing a counter jab.
  • If you have long enough arms, you can use this to setup with a left hook counter.
  • This setup can also be used to go “NEAR to FAR”.


Example #4 – RIGHT to LEFT

jab right to left

  • Post your head to the right to bait a really long jab.
  • Cut over to the inside and counter jab on the inside.
  • It may seem like a scary angle because you’re moving towards your opponent’s right hand but actually it’s a very awkward position for him to reach you once you’re shifted to his right side.


Example #5 – FAR to NEAR

jab far to near

  • Pull away when he jabs.
  • Then come back with your counter jab.
  • You can also do the reverse of this by going “NEAR to FAR” (not pictured). Put your head in close and then counter-jab as you pull your head back out.


Move your head to a different position when you jab.

The examples are simply examples. In the images, I am showing extra-exaggerated movement for demonstrative purposes. In actuality, the movements should be very slight—you move just enough to avoid the punch. Don’t limit yourself to my examples. Be creative and come up with different positions and different angles of moving your head. Try using more diagonal angles (ex: move from low right to high left, or forward right to forward left to back right with multiple jabs).

This is a great evasion drill and helps you develop the natural slipping AWARENESS for boxing. You will become a far more deadly fighter once this movement becomes so natural you no longer think about it!


Advanced Tips for Jabbing with Head Movement



All this work is not merely to hit your opponent with a jab. It’s to set something up. Everything you just learned is supposed to be automatic. Using head movement to land the jab is the easy part; it should be trained into your subconscious. The real work you should be doing consciously is to land that right hand as fast as possible.

So when you slip, make sure you keep that right hand ready to throw. Don’t over-twist your body or make yourself come off balance. Don’t take your right hand out of position just to land a jab! You should always feel like your jab is SETTING UP THE RIGHT HAND!

Your jab should set up the right hand,
not take it away.


Focus on Moving Your Head, Not on Slipping the Punch

Once you get used to the movement, you shouldn’t be too worried about slipping the punch or waiting all day to avoid a punch. Move your head and you’ll be ok. He will miss as long as you move from the position he aimed at.  You only have to move a few inches which is easy to do even if you barely moved. As long as you’re aware of incoming fire, you can go back to focusing on being offensive!


Change the Angle of Your Fist

You can also think about angling your jabbing fist differently. The palm doesn’t always have to face the floor; the palm can face sideways (like a hook) or up (like an uppercut). BE CREATIVE!


Try Using Footwork

Try using the same head movement tricks BUT with a small dash towards your opponent. Get within just outside of his range, and then quick jump in 2 inches while you move your head and throw the jab. This is a very deadly maneuver that many experienced fighters do very well. It’s one of those things that separate the average amateur fighters from the better ones. Again, the key is to make a SMALL DASH.


Learn Head Movement from the Pros

The best way to learn this type of head movement is to spar a pro. That’s how I learned it and it’s one of those things you never forget. You never realize how slick someone can be until you fight him.

For those of you who don’t have the opportunity to spar a pro, I highly recommend for you to watch videos of James Toney or Bernard Hopkins fighting. It’s preferable for you to watch them sparring and to really look for that subtle head movement. Almost all pros do it but it’s so subtle you never see it unless you’re sparring them yourself. I can see it now only because I know what to look for.


Head Movement is about Awareness, Not Evasion

The greatest benefit of learning how to slip
is to increase your defensive awareness.

The slipping movement itself doesn’t really matter. The real lesson here is awareness! The real benefit to learning how to slip is not so that you can slip every punch but more so that you are fully aware of every punch. This increased level of awareness allows you to make whatever split-second reaction you like—slipping, rolling, countering, etc.

You would think it’s common sense to be ready to slip but this isn’t the case for most boxers. Most boxers are so focused on throwing their power punches that they aren’t aware of jab counters. And they wonder why throwing the jab is so scary at times. They complain about getting countered or they complain that their jab doesn’t get there fast enough. Or they waste a lot of energy trying to jump into range.

The real answer is simply awareness. Once you’re aware of incoming counters, you can pretty much walk into range and pop your opponent in the face with whatever you like. It’s really that easy.

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AzBoxerVictor April 26, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Really detailed article, it pretty much answered all my questions, but man I love talking boxing so I am gonna still hit you with a few anyways lol. Do you feel like throwing an up jab ( a jab coming from my waist) would give me a better advantage? Or disadvantages? I was always taught never slip jabs cause the right hand that follows will crush you, even though I don’t totally agree with that theory 100% what do you say about that? Your definently right about sparring pros, I had the chance to spar a former ibf champ, and man he slipped EVERYTHING! And did sick body work, that seems like the traits of every pro I sparred! Ok great article love the website


Johnny N May 1, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Everything you do will give advantages/disadvantages. The up jab from the waist is very useful in some situations but not all. I do agree that slipping jabs is not a good idea if you can’t slip the right hand that comes after. Better to get hit by the jab and save your slip for the right hand, than the other way around.


starr June 1, 2012 at 5:35 am

do you have anything on the “feeling out process”?


Johnny N June 4, 2012 at 10:27 am

No I don’t right now but I will later.


saber khan April 27, 2012 at 1:04 am

now johny this is easily the most advanced boxing site online. im glad you didnt stick all the baits feints and counters in one spot like i suggested, this is much better for digesting data for beginners and even for advanced guys


Johnny N May 1, 2012 at 4:47 pm

I’m glad you agreed, Saber. It’s such a dense subject to cover. 😉


saber khan May 7, 2012 at 5:36 pm

yeah putting them all together would have been impractical. could you do an article about riding with punches ? seems to me it would go nicely with moving in with a jab or turning the head for a power shot. since its down to timing its also a pretty confusing thing kind of mystical; im curious how youd go about handling it. ps love the mohawk johny 🙂


Johnny N May 8, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Riding the punches! It’s pretty much the same as shoulder roll or body slipping but if you’re late, it will be a trick to riding the punch. I can definitely do a video about riding right hands. It’s a fun trick the pros use a lot.


saber khan May 10, 2012 at 5:53 pm

oh riding the punch is a staple of mine. but im not as good at explaining it, i ended up confusing someone. the more i tried to explain it the more mixed up he got.
i describe it is, turning the torso and shoulder with the chin tucked in away from the punch. to get the head turning away from the punch so it misses by about 3 inches from its peak point of power. but the timing and distance are hard for me to describe. and how would u teach some one to turn away from the punch which means not having a visual all the time on the opponent, but still knowing where the opponent is and not getting into a position to be hit by a follow up punch ? i put it down to getting low, tucking in the chin, keeping contact with their body to know if they are throwing something or moving. but i cant really explain it so im wondering if u would do it 🙂 besides if u did an article i might learn something i didnt know particularly riding with punches during exchanges..

mehran April 27, 2012 at 1:58 am

THANK YOUUUUUUUUUUU Johny ,,, i’ve been waiting so long for this … always had a problem with my head movement after the jab for counter punching/pushing in … ur the best


J April 27, 2012 at 8:52 pm

will this head movement be beneficial for other punches such as the hook, cross, uppercut, etc?


Johnny N May 1, 2012 at 4:48 pm

The same ideas can be applied but in the exact same ways. The details will have to be covered in another article. For now this article should give you a good start.


andrewp April 27, 2012 at 11:03 pm

good article johnny altough not completly sold on leaning back jab not saying its wrong as it would suit some styles its more on a subconscious level of not commiting to punch.also even though its just your head going in opposite direction theres alot of core muscle involment moving away from punch.even if a fighter is charghing at you i dont think its a good position to take punches in or counter from.that aside whats your thoughts on the parry jab i find it very effective to force aggressive fighter onto backfoot.not sure if you would recognise the old fashioned british term for it.orthodoxed boxer steps into opponents jab autimaticaly pushing right hand up,upwards parry infront of face simutaniously landing own jab.although amater judges tend to miss this and score for blocked shot not landed one i dont think they intend to but there subconscious is expecting landed and the deflection triggers landed response on clicker .its very effective though


Johnny N May 1, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Every move is potentially useful depending on how and when you use it. Some moves rely on power, others on accuracy, etc. The leanback jab is a common punch. Maybe it doesn’t feel powerful or useful but I can assure you that it’s used on a regular basis. It’s fine if you don’t like throwing it, but you better get used to defending it because you will see a ton of those at the higher levels of boxing.

I’ve never done that upwards parry jab because most fighters prefer to have their hand on top so that they can counter over. I’ve seen many up-jabs but never an upwards PARRY jab. i have seen several guys who purposely paw at the glove to distract the opponent from the right hand follow-up.


saber khan May 10, 2012 at 6:14 pm

andrewp, i think guys who sometimes fight with their guard lowered or all the time do the paryring upwards than those that have a high guard. the high guard makes it quicker easier and more accurate to downparry. i up parry with the elbow sometimes in close, but i do parry upwards with the glove very rarely. and only when my guard hand is down and instinct kicks it. i use a mix guard, but i think everyone finds the parry easier and more accurate in terms of timing and power when parrying down rather than up. i can use some shoulder to deflect a punch down but when up parrying its up to arm strength.
i have found up parrying with glove in a special case; against guys who throw hard stiff lefts or hard pushing right overhands rather than snap punches. i found sometimes parrying these stiff stiff jabs sidewards or down doesnt shove them away enough and they still land on the body. im talking about the impaling iron armed karate punches, theyre slow easy to see but because theyre so stiff, when parried they dont move too far off target. so yeah pushing upwards with the glove is sometimes the best weapon.
i do upwards parries with the elbow when in close or near the ropes and this is much more useful than upward parrying with the glove. it can be done against hooks and straights. and keeps the arm in position to throw the counter hook and lead right perfectly with an overhand.

like johny i think generally everyone likes to throw the overhand counter to a jab because parrying down moves the left shoulder away from the chin exposing it to the counter more. in my opinion a proper down parry exposes the chin and sometiems sideparrying inside can make it harder on myself to hit the chin with the parrying hand. so i prefer side parrying outside, it creates a gap between shoulder and chin. downparrying also creates that distance.


andrewp April 27, 2012 at 11:10 pm

ps only refering to left to right jab johnny


WillNP April 28, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Hey Johnny

Firstly I’d jut like to say that I really appreciate the website, its been seriously helpful to me since I took up boxing almost 2 years ago. Because of this site I’ve been able to develop techniques way quicker than I could have otherwise.

Reading this article I was just thinking about a situation at my current club. I keep getting put in the ring with an over aggressive boxer who is more experienced and about 10kg heavier than me who just pushes me around and beats me up whenever I spar him. My advantages are speed and footwork, but I fight him in a 12ft ring so this is very little help, even if I move around him and land a couple I just get pushed into another corner a few moments later. My coaches tell me to ‘keep pumping the jab’ but this just gets walked through and I always end up covered up in a corner. In this situation just a jab don’t seem to be enough.

I’m pretty much prepared to go to any lengths to beat this guy because I don’t think he shows the right attitude. Can you advise me?


Johnny N May 1, 2012 at 4:53 pm

You need to improve all your skills. If he’s bigger than you, you will have to be a far better boxer to beat him. Your scenario description is not really enough for me to give you tactical advice but I would start with developing a heavier jab and also learning how to lose fights.

At some point, you have to be content with improving even if you can’t beat the bigger fighter. There are weight classes for a reason.


Vivek April 29, 2012 at 7:23 am

Thanks johny;for another wonderfull article.
Next week there is my national trial.it will be of very short dur. i.e. 1min or less.what strategy should I use.


Johnny N May 1, 2012 at 5:27 pm

Oh man! No time for new strategies, Vivek. Use what you know. I’m going to say, “jab and move!”


Peter Mokhosoa April 29, 2012 at 7:27 am

hi,I am a southpaw,can southpaws dance around the opponent?


Johnny N May 1, 2012 at 5:27 pm

Yes they can and yes they do.


Peter Mokhosoa April 29, 2012 at 2:21 pm

While jabbing*


Alejandro April 29, 2012 at 5:09 pm

This is my biggest problems, thank you so much for this!


Ron May 1, 2012 at 9:29 am


How are you chief??

It’s been a while, still addicted to your site but haven’t had a moment to drop comments and well wishes, I hope everything is solid in your corner (I’m sure it is)!

Great article/guide.

My body-style is more suitable for infighting, though I love to dance around and pick shots (it relates to your article of how we want to emulate what we usually are furthest from, not that I can’t but it’s not optimal for me), my bread and butter was fighting inside so my coach is sending me back to my roots.

As my sparring partners got better, I was always getting caught coming in. I thought I had the fundamentals right, chin tucked, striding forwards, eyes looking through my brow but then crack! my head snaps before or during my right hand opening up.

I’ve been working the head movement while jabbing on the bag, and am going to test it out in sparring tonight, I can’t wait.

My issue is, as I come in (I’m being instructed to double jab in almost everytime), I’m pretty sure I need to change the angle of my head for both jabs i.e. near to far, low to high etc.

Also, can you explain the “small dash” when you get a chance? I have a bad habit of hopping sometimes and I need to stamp it out.


Tommy May 1, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Cheers johnny that’s a really useful article I really needed to learn an effective way how to move forward because I’m one of the youngest in my gym and most of the the time I spar with fully grown men or much older boys with longer reaches and I often over reach with my punches and lose my balance hopefully next time I spar I can use this to effectively get on the inside 🙂


Peter Mokhosoa May 2, 2012 at 3:19 am

Ok,I hv been reading ur articles since I started boxing last year,and it help me a lot.I easily beat all my sparring partners cos I always dance around them so they tire out but there is only one guy who beats the hell out of me, he is a brawler,has great stamina and is a very hard puncher….,what should I do to keep him out of range?he’s my worst night mare!


Johnny N May 8, 2012 at 5:09 am

If you want to keep him out of range. You either have to outrun him or out-turn him. It’s also easier to do this if you’re countering him while you’re backing off. Throwing power punches while going backwards is hard to do if you’re still a beginner.


Peter Mokhosoa May 8, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Thnx a lot!I will give it a try


Iron Boy May 5, 2012 at 7:26 am

my 3rd fight ko.johnny u will like this..(same guy that sent u that first fight) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BswtdyzGRk&feature=youtube_gdata_player


curtis c May 5, 2012 at 8:31 am

who are the best boxers who do this? Larry Holmes, Ali?


Johnny N May 8, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Many fighters do this well, even amateurs. Unfortunately, the better they are at doing it, the harder it is to see. You can only tell when you fight them. :/


Iron Boy May 7, 2012 at 3:02 pm

What u think of this jonnhy 3rd amateur fight..Ko



Johnny N May 8, 2012 at 2:01 pm

WOW! GREAT power and sharp hands. The first right was beautiful. I also noticed you mastered the art of slipping the right hand and countering with the left hook. Great stuff man. You have a very fan-friendly pro style.

BTW, I’m gonna be sharing this video on our Facebook. I’m a big fan of yours! ;p


Tim May 13, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Can you help me out on how to train and get better on changing angles and pivoting thanks


Charles May 21, 2012 at 4:59 pm

This article helped me out tremendously, i always sort of ended up just taking the punches but with more of a constant head movement its a huge help, so im using these types of head movements with my jab and pretty much constantly now, it has helped a lot to get inside but what if you have a sparring partner that just keep sort of running away and backing up? any tips or other articles i could read, i searched some key words but not with much luck. Thanks


Johnny N May 21, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Then you need different type of skills. Having good footwork helps.


Reign August 1, 2012 at 4:33 pm

I read another piece about Mayweather on here that reminded me of your post. It reads:

“It is for this reason that many trainers will tell their fighters to aim for the body when they want to trap a moving opponent. When you force a boxer to defend a body shot, he’ll have less chance of escaping since he has to stand his ground and block (because slipping a body shot is hard).” (Johnny N)

I’m wondering if this excerpt will also apply to stopping an opponent from running away. Any thoughts on this? I’m curious if this would work against lyoto machida ufc light heavy fighter (known for his evasiveness)


Johnny N August 3, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Some opponents WILL run because they can’t slip the body shot. Many fleet-footed boxers will simply jump out of range. That’s what Machida does, too–he steps completely out of range.


xavier May 26, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Had a question – what does it mean to ‘set up’ a punch? Is it referring to positioning your body, or getting your opponents hands up, or what? I’ve asked a few so called ‘experts’ and all they’ve managed to do is confuse the hell out of me.


Johnny N May 27, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Setting up a punch means preparing the way for your punch to land, instead of throwing it without any prior preparation.

Maybe it has to do with you moving to a specific angle, or maybe you do it by making your opponent move to an specific angle. Everyone has their own way of setting a punch. The reason why you’re confused is because you’re trying to find one right answer instead of looking for multiple answers.


Reign August 1, 2012 at 4:37 pm

This is great stuff you have up. Much appreciation for your hard work and attention to detail.

The jab with head movement makes me wonder about a few things. If you can close distance this way by using head movement while advancing with the jab, can you also advance with other techniques as well? For example, instead of using a jab, could you use a cross or perhaps a body shot?


Johnny N August 3, 2012 at 6:10 pm



Joey October 6, 2012 at 4:30 pm

would these same principal’s aplly to a southpaw?


Johnny N October 7, 2012 at 3:19 am

The principle of moving your head when you jab? Yes, it will help. I can’t see why it wouldn’t be helpful.


Alex Jay November 14, 2012 at 5:45 am

Thanks for these tips, i’m really trying to get my head movement down and this is a big help. All the best & One Love


chad the newfie January 14, 2013 at 5:52 pm

Hahaha this has been me for years … amazing artical, funny that i complained this morning after sparring that my jab was getting coubtered… thanks johnny, huge fan, chad


Michael September 29, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Hey johnny Does jumping rope increase footwork? And how can i get my head movement better?


Johnny N November 22, 2013 at 9:54 pm

Yes! Jumping rope can definitely help your footwork. (Especially if you’re not already doing it.) As for head movement…work the technique, and then do the drills. Practice it in shadow boxing, mitt work, and ultimately sparring. PRACTICE!


mathew November 18, 2013 at 10:14 pm

i always move when i jab i keep trying new things but always seem to get countered, i try moving side to side back i try pivot and i try bringing my jab hand back to the head but sometimes my opponents wait for me to come in, is this because im too predictable or do i need to inch closer? another issue i have is my range i can find my range but i have a bad habit of not staying in range and getting closer, any suggestions on how to correct my errors Johnny?


Johnny N November 26, 2013 at 8:38 am

My guess is your jab is too easy to read. And a big reason for this is probably because you’re not as relaxed. If you’re not relaxed, the tension gives you away when you’re about to do something. Now I’m not saying it’s easy to be relaxed. This is hard to do when you don’t trust that something is going to work or when you’re not sure what you’re doing. It’s even harder to relax when you’re worried about counters. But that right there is what you have to work on. Throw a more relaxed jab…not lighter or weaker…simply more relaxed. Work on that.


devon December 18, 2013 at 9:39 pm

really nice guide johnny. Being a kickboxer i need to be careful with my headmovement because of getting kicked, but i found a great way to make it work. The Out->in jab work in kickboxing really well at any range, which makes it one of my favorite. The the ducking jab works well but only in really close range so i dont get kicked, but then on the outside i do a jab while trapping their lead hand. Great guide man, i can tell its a good site because i always see things on here that im taught or that i use, and its great to get reassurance on what works.


Tom Edwards June 2, 2014 at 5:46 am

For me I noticed doing the right evasion came naturally when I respected a guys power. But when I didn’t some of the most painful punches I got were from trying to jab taller opponents who were not as powerful. Sometimes running into a job hurts the worse because its combined with your own momentum. My biggest struggle when slipping right when jabbing is I could not follow up with anything else. Do you think this is because I just went too far and a more subtle slip wouldn’t have that problem? Or are there punches you can throw from the angles in your pictures?


Johnny N July 22, 2014 at 11:00 pm

Your feelings are accurate, Tom. It’s hard to counter when you’re slipping right because your body is most likely facing to the right and you’re kind of folded up. And so it takes a lot of time and energy to pivot your body until’s facing your opponent again in order to land a punch. And it’s also much harder if you’re facing are facing right as well…which means you can’t face your body forward until your feet are facing forward again.

The cure for this is to use a more subtle slip. AND/OR to have your head a bit forward and maybe even a tiny bit to the left in the first place so that when you slip to your right, you don’t have to fold or turn your body out of range.


Tom Edwards July 23, 2014 at 5:27 am

Genius. I will have to practice that


hajime no ippo September 12, 2014 at 3:41 am

Good day Johnny.

This article seems to be the mix the techniques of “3 axes of boxing” and your articles about jabs.

The “near” seems like the “forward lean axis” and “far” seems like the “back lean axis”. Of course not that forward or back, more like right and left but they seemed a little similar to me.

In your opinion, does this idea helps for training, improving? Or am I thinking too much?

Thank you.


Johnny N November 25, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Yes, some concepts may share similar theories or underlying principles. Although, I don’t want to tell you NOT to think, I can however tell you that it’s possible to over-analyze things and end up missing the bigger picture.


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