Jack Dempsey’s Guide to Explosive Straight Punching


Illustrated guide to Jack Dempsey’s explosive straight punching technique. Secret to a knock-out or stunning straight punch.






1. Introduction

2. What is a Power Punch?

3. Falling Step

4. Power Line

5. Explode

6. Tips


!!!Power Point version!!!

If you need to see mostly pictures from the article, check out new power point version. Less words, more illustrations with animated giffs!


Jack Dempsey was not only a great fighter and one of the greatest hitters ever, but he was a dedicated student of the game. After he hung his gloves, he took serious time and effort to analyzed the development of his own striking skills. He wrote a very condensed manual on prize-fighting basics available now free on internet [1].

There are some good news for the beginners:

  1. Punchers are made, not born
  2. You can develop knock-out skills in 3-6 months

It is important to notice that in this article we will be talking about a specific type of punches only: power jab and jolt. There are other types of jab, so, by no means, we imply that there is only one way of throwing the jab.

We believe that with new rules in amateur boxing, which make it closer to the professional boxing, the art of power punching will become important again.

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What is a Power Punch?

The formula is very simple:

  1. Set body weight in explosive motion
  2. Form a power-line with the punching arm
  3. Convey the moving body-weight by exploding against your opponent

In the example below, Migel executes the formula and floors Joshua Clottey with the power jab:


Migel Cotto executes a power punch and floors Joshua Clottey

Below we expand in more details on each step in the formula.

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Falling Step

How to set body-weight in motion?

The first thing that comes to mind is to push with legs or spring forward like Migel Cotto in the example below. However, this may not be powerful enough if you are an untrained athlete. In this case, the most effective way is to use gravity.

Imagine you are standing straight like in left figure below. If you somehow remove the support by contracting your legs, the gravity will set your body-weight in motion. However, in this case the direction of motion is downwards.


Principle of setting body weight in motion with gravity

We need to set the body-weight in forward motion to contribute to the punching power. You cannot do it 100% by the gravity, because the direction of gravity is vertical. You can do it partly by letting the gravity incline your body like in right figure above. In this case, a part of body-weight motion is directed forward.

It is important to mention that the figure above serves illustration purposes only to explain the idea and concept. It should not be understood literally. The actual technique is described below.


If you set body-weight in motion too slow, you may not even touch your opponent. Equally important is the element of surprise or the ability to set body weight in motion suddenly and quickly. For that you need a certain adjustment to your initial position to be able to trigger the movements.


Preparation and initial body position for the falling step

Stand in the middle of the floor. Point your left foot at any distant object in the room. Place your right foot to the rear and slightly to the right of your left foot. Let your arms hang loosely at your sides; you won’t need to use them in the step. Bend your knees slightly. Bend your body forward slightly as you shift your weight forward onto your left foot, so that your right foot is resting only lightly on the ball of the foot.


Bounce to find better balanced position

Remember that the knees are still slightly bent. Bounce up and down easily without leaving the floor to make certain you’re in a comfortable, balanced position. If your position does not feel balanced and comfortable, move your right foot about slightly – but not much – to get a better balance as you bounce.


You are resting only lightly on the ball of your right foot, remember. Stop bouncing, but keep the knees slightly bent and your arms at your side. Now, without any preliminary movement, take a long, quick step forward with your left foot, toward the object at which your left toe had been pointing. The left foot should land flat and solid on the floor at the end of the step. The step should be long enough so that it gives gravity a chance to impart unusual momentum to your body-weight. The solidity with which your left foot lands upon the floor is caused by this momentum.


The falling step

Although the weight of your body was resting largely upon your left foot when you stepped off, you didn’t fall to the floor. Why? Because the alert ball of your right foot came to the rescue quickly and gave your body a forward spring in a desperate attempt to keep your body balanced upright-to maintain its equilibrium. The left foot serves as a “trigger” to spring the right foot. So, the falling step sometimes is called the Trigger Step.

No preliminary movements

We emphasize: NO PRELIMINARY MOVEMENT BEFORE THE STEP. For that make sure your in your initial position before the step your weight is WELL forward on the left foot, so no extra movements are needed. To trigger the step, one way is to lift the left heel off the ground by rolling the left foot over the toe. The second way is to lift the whole left foot with the thigh movement. It appears that the second way would create undesirable weight shifting and shaking of upper body, which would telegraph your punch. Moreover, this just seems slower than the first way.


No preliminary movements before the step!

You unquestionably will be tempted to shift some of the weight from the left foot to the right foot just before you step. But don’t do it. Do nothing with the right foot, which is resting lightly on its ball, NO PRELIMINARY MOVEMENT! Just lift the left foot and LET THE BODY FALL FORWARD IN A LONG, QUICK STEP Had you followed your natural inclination and shifted your weight to the right foot before stepping, that action would have started your body-weight moving backward-away from the direction in which you intended to step. Then you would have had to lose a split-second while your right foot was stopping the backward motion and shifting your weight forward again before the punching step could be taken. Learn now and remember always that in fighting you cannot afford to give your body the luxury of a useless preliminary or preparatory movement before shooting a punch. In the first place, your target may be open for only a split-second, and you must take advantage of that opening like a bolt of lightning. Secondly, preliminary movements are give-aways-“tell-tales”-“telegraphs”-that treacherously betray to your opponent your own next action.

This weight shift on the right foot is not ultimately wrong. In the example above, Migel Cotto is doing it when jabbing. It is wrong only in the context of Jack Dempsey’s technique of the falling step discussed here.

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Power Line

The next step is to convey efficiently the body-mass to the point of impact. No matter how much inertia you have gained by the falling step, if your arm is not rigid enough because of bends in shoulder, elbow, and wrist, it will damp the force, instead of conveying it without losses [2].

Discover your power line

Walk toward a wall until you’re at arm’s length from the wall when facing it. You should be standing just far enough from the wall so that you can barely touch it with the tip of the middle finger of your right hand-at a point directly opposite your chin. Now, move back half a foot length. Put your heels together. Make a fist with your left hand firmly. In making a fist, close the fingers into the palm of the hand, and then close the thumb down over the outside of the fingers. Extend the fist at arm’s length toward the spot on the wall-only toward it. The fist should be upright, as if you were holding a stick running from ceiling to floor. The little knuckle is down, toward the floor. With your arm stiffly extended, let your body sway slowly forward-without moving the feet-until your fist (still upright) is pressed so firmly against the chin-high spot on the wall that your fist and stiff arm are supporting the weight of your leaning body.


Discover your power line

Note that the lower part of your fist (still upright) – particularly the little knuckle – provides the natural, solid end of the firm, straight line – from shoulder to fist – that is supporting your weight. To sum up, THE POWER LINE RUNS FROM EITHER SHOULDER STRAIGHT DOWN THE LENGTH OF THE ARM TO THE FIST KNUCKLE OF THE LITTLE FINGER, when you made the fist and keep it vertical. Remember: the power line ends in the fist knuckle of the little finger on either hand. Gaze upon your “pinky” with new respect. You might call that pinky knuckle the exit of your power line – the muzzle of your cannon.


Correct power-line

To test how rigid is the power-line in comparison to other first positions, try to shift your pressure from the little knuckle to the upper knuckles. Then turn your fist so that the palm of your hand is down. When you attempt these changes, you should feel immediately that both new pressure position of your fist “lack” the “solidity” of the first position. And you should feel and see that a change in position shifted the power-line at the wrist – putting your wrist in a hazardous landing position.


Test rigidity of the power line

Power line when snapping

If you have problems in elbow when extending the arm, in the final stage of the punch, you may twist the hand and the forearm inwards, so that the elbow is pointing more upwards. Some fighters call it snap [3]. In this case, the power line will go through the knuckle of the middle finger as you can feel it out by the same way as described above.

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Follow-through effect

If you want to make your arms and fists serve efficiently as conveyors and exploders, close cooperation is necessary between the POWER LINE and WEIGHT-MOTION. Even beginner would tell you to punch through the target to achieve more power. How would you do it technically? Shoot your loose, half-opened left hand straight along the power line at a chin-high spot on the bag. But, as the relaxed left hand speeds toward the bag, suddenly close the hand with a convulsive, grabbing snap. Close it with such a terrific grab that when the second knuckle of the upright fist smashes into the bag, the fist and the arm and the shoulder will be “frozen” steel-hard by the terrific grabbing tension. That convulsive, freezing grab is the explosion.


Explode to create the follow through effect

Notice two important difference in this example of the falling step in comparison with the previous one. First, keep your chin down. Secondly, when throwing the left hand, move your right palm to protect the chin.

Three knuckle landing

We explained previously that your power-line ends in your pinky finger knuckle. It means that the greatest possible solidity would be achieved if you landed every punch with the little knuckle first. Unfortunately, however, the hand-bone behind the little knuckle is the most fragile of the five backbones. It can be broken the most easily. You must not attempt to land first with the little knuckle. Instead you must try to land first with the knuckle next to your pinky (the ring finger). We’ll call that the 2nd knuckle. Aiming with the 2nd knuckle usually brings about a three-knuckle landing. Those three-knuckles are: middle, second (ring) and pinky. If you aim with the second knuckle, those three knuckles usually will land together because the average fist slopes slightly from the middle knuckle to the pinky. Such a three-knuckle landing not only prevents the hand-bone behind any one knuckle from bearing all the punch-shock, but it also permits punching almost exactly along the power line. Rarely will one of those knuckles make a solo landing. But if you aim with the little knuckle, you risk a dangerous solo landing on forehead or blocking elbow.

Always aim with the second knuckle-the one next to your pinky-and LET THE OTHER KNUCKLES TAKE CARE OF THEMSELVES. They’ll take care of themselves all right; for the shape of the fist makes it impossible for them to do otherwise.

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How much time is it necessary to practice the step? Lets consider mastering levels based on the order of magnitude increase in the amount of repetitions. Just 10 reps would make you familiar with the technique only. If 1 rep is about 3-5 sec, 100 reps would take you about 5-10 min to complete. 1k reps are something you can do within an hour. To finish 10k reps a week may be needed. The amount of 100k reps is what you can reach after 3-6 months. This supports the statement of Jack Dempsey that you need 3-6 months of practicing to develop knock out skills.


Practicing the falling-step can put serious stress on your knees, ankles, foot, and various joints. Make sure the floor is soft enough. If you are an untrained athlete or over-weight, we suggest using elastic knee and foot holders. Also, pump your thigh muscles to prevent knee buckling and other traumas.

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1. Jack Dempsey. Championship Fighting by Jack Dempsey (1950) .

2. Kostya Tszyu’s masterclass (in Russian)

3. Jeff Mayweather – The Jab

4. Michael Jai White and Kimbo Slice extended version

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2 Responses to Jack Dempsey’s Guide to Explosive Straight Punching

  1. sean says:

    Hey so for this punch I would have to keep a hand form of pinky on bottom and thumb on top to get the power line? and are you saying that if it’s a hand form with the palm face down I wouldn’t be able get a strong punch from my punch? Thanks for any help I get.

    • SugarBoxing says:

      correct. Palm facing down has the weakest powerline. Actually, some fighters twist their hand (so called wrist snap) even more so that the thumb is facing down. This is also good from the powerline point

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