Jack Slack's Troubleshooting 1

Originally from my blog at:

Over the course of writing this blog and pieces at I have received several emails from individuals in need of a little guidance with their striking game. While I try to reply to all of these emails, I often find some questions come up several times, and that it would be useful for me to answer them out in the open. Other times questions are quite unique but are so outside of the box that many readers of this blog could benefit from them, and they certainly made me think!

And so, I commence my first "Agony Aunt" style post, which I hope to make a fairly regular feature on this blog, and will compile under a menu in the bar at the top of the page eventually. The question I will be answering today comes from Ashley and reads:


At the moment when I'm sparring I'm scared of getting countered, this severely limits my offense. Is this probably just a technique flaw with keeping my hands up and jaw down?


The first thing to say is that there is absolutely no problem with being timid about attacking when beginning to spar. It shows intelligence and that you understand the existence of counter punches. Often, when someone so conscious of counter punches gets caught with one while attacking, he finds that it was nowhere near as bad as he expected.

On the other hand, someone who simply learns to wade in and overwhelm and opponent with his attack will eventually meet a sparring partner or opponent with the savvy to catch him clean as he comes in, and then he will be in a world of trouble. It is absolutely important that you be scared of the counter punch and work around it with science, rather than trying to Wanderlei Silva or Chris Leben your way through it.

Dealing with the counter seems overwhelming - between slips, sidesteps, parries and blocks, Edwin Haislet estimated that there are over 700 variations of counterpunch to be exploited, and even more to be made up. It is rarely so complex though. Most normal fighters will favor one counter almost exclusively, and even the most feared counterpunchers such as James Toney still only use one or two initial counters, then follow them with combinations.

The way to best deal with counterpunches is to look at your opponent and prioritize. An orthodox fighter against another orthodox fighter will struggle to land right handed power counters until he has already hurt his opponent. They are slower and have to cover far more distance, in which you can see them. Unless your opponent is very sharp, you will be able to at least duck a right hand counter.

Left handed counters are far more common. If an opponent is in a traditional half facing stance, his jab will be the best counter to your attacks. In which case a trick which might help is to extend your rear hand to cover his lead hand as you jab. This was a staple of Joe Louis, who was not a particularly fleet footed fighter and so had to cover all the opponent's options when he moved in to fire his combinations.


This covering of the lead hand as you enter completely nullifies the opponent's most effective counter, and his favored lead. It effectively eliminates both his offense, and his counter offense and puts the ball in your court. Here is a still from a fight I linked to yesterday, where the crafty Roy Jones Jr (having switched to southpaw against his southpaw opponent) neutralizes the opponent's jab while searching for an opportunity to lead with one of his hooks, jabs or uppercuts. Of course, a degree of reaction time is needed, but few men are fast enough to swing their lead hand outside of your extended arm and land a hook, and such an action is easy to see coming, and to block.

Fighting is often as simple as "bite down on your gumshield, tuck your chin, and go in", but by taking a step back and studying it as a science rather than a contest, you can use tricks such as this to eliminate your opponent's quickest counters and leave him struggling to land slower, less practiced ones.

If you have a question for Jack Slack's Troubleshooting, please mail it to

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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