The Science of Mike Tyson and Elements of Peek-A-Boo: part V

pab-logo-hook-vs-uppercut-150px-jpgMike Tyson’s punching principles applied to hooks and uppercuts.







1. General thoughts on body mechanics

2. Hip hunch and shovel hook

3. Heel thud and uppercut


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We review only those punching principles and punching elements that would allows us to progress further with the breakdown of the peekaboo style in the next articles. You may consider reading our articles on the left hook and the snap to get familiar with the basic concepts.

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General Thoughts On Body Mechanics

Jack Dempsey calls a hook almost any punch with a bent arm [1]. He distinguished an uppercut as a special type of a blow that shoots straight up (along an imaginary line from the floor) to an opponent’s solar plexus or to his chin. Here we want to place a special emphasis on how to set the body in motion to snap the punch (a hook and an uppercut), not on how the fist reaches the target (from the side or from the bottom). This is where lies the key distinction between hooks and uppercuts, which is important for the peekaboo.

Initial position

Regardless the blow type, what you would like to achieve when delivering a non-straight blow (or blow from the side) is to get your body twisted first. The GIF below is exaggerated, we deliberately not showing the legs movement and the exact mechanics of the body twist. Just drop your lead arm, turn aside in your waist and hips (not necessarily 90 degrees like in the schematic GIF below), and freeze.


Initial position to understand the mechanics of hooks and uppercuts. CLICK TO OPEN in a new window.

Twisting vs. shifting aside

From the more or less same initial position, to comfortably throw a hook, you should begin by twisting you waist and hips further, while keeping the rest of the body intact. See left animations in the GIF below.


Twist for a hook vs shift aside for an uppercut. CLICK TO OPEN in a new window.

In an uppercut, you must do an adjustment first to allow your fist travel straight up. This is why, unlike in the hooking motion, you do not continue twisting your body more, but you shift your hips to the side of your target. See right animations in the GIF above.

Hook vs. uppercut comparison

In the hook, the twist would create muscle tension in the obliques. This tension would drive the upper-body and shoulders, allowing you to snap the fist at the target. See left animations in the GIF below.


Comparison between a hook (left) vs an uppercut (right). CLICK TO OPEN in a new window.

In the uppercut, as a result of the shift aside, you bend in the waist. An upward surge will drive your upper-body and allow you to throw the punch straight up.

Example by Mike Tyson

In the GIF below, Mike Tyson demonstrates a hook (left animation) and an uppercut (right animation). We try to highlight the initial hip, waist and body movements before the blows.


Example of a hook (left) and an uppercut (right) by Mike Tyson. Highlighted are the initial hip and waist movements for both blows (1/4 speed). CLICK TO OPEN in a new window.

In the beginning of the hooking motion (left in the GIF above), Mike Tyson twists his body. You can see his left hip is moved forward, while the right hip is moved backwards. On the other hand, in the beginning of the uppercutting motion (right in the GIF above), the left and right hips are shifted to the side (right).

Below we proceed describing the mechanics of the hip-hunch, body twist, shoulder whirl, shift aside and upward surge in details.

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Hip Hunch and Shovel Hook

Visually, the technique of hooking may look like as if you are just whirling your shoulders. However, the shoulder whirl itself might not be the only way to throw a fist into a hooking trajectory.

Hip hunch

To understand the technique, take a shovel and try to make a shovelling hunch without moving your feet. The left (front) hip motion you will produce is exactly what is needed for the shovel hook [1].


Hip hunch demostrated with a help of a shovel. CLICK TO OPEN in a new window.

We plan a detailed guide on the shovel hook which will be out soon.

Shovel hook by Mike Tyson

Shovel hooks, which are thrown “inside” with the elbows “in,” pressing tightly against the hips for body blows and pressing tightly against the lower ribs for head blows. Make certain you have no tension in the elbow, shoulder or legs until the whirl is started from your normal position, MORE IMPORTANT: Make certain that (1) Your hand is at the 45-degree angle, and (2) the hip comes up in a vigorous shovelling hunch [1].


Example of Tyson throwing a pure shovel hook to the head (1/4 speed). Highlighted is the hip-hunch movement (1/4 speed). CLICK TO OPEN in a new window.

This is a classical shovel from the classical hip hunch movement. In most cases, you may see Tyson doing it in the clinch. Mike Tyson was clearly deeply grounded in fundamental principles of punching, this is why he could pull off the shovel hook from the back leg:

OPEN GFYCAT in a new window. OPEN YOUTUBE in a new window. OPEN GIF in a new window.

It may seem like an uppercut at first glance, however notice that the hip under the punching arm is pushed greatly forward and not sideways like in the uppercut.

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Heel Thud and Uppercut

The shift aside should result in shifting of your pelvis (also hips and waist) in the direction of the leg, opposite to the punching arm. For that, several body mechanics can be used depending on your initial stance.

Heel thud

Place your feet wider than in the peekaboo stance, so the feet are right under or even outside of your shoulders. Move your weight to your right foot so that you are resting lightly on the ball of your left foot. Practically, you should be able to lift the left foot off the ground and stad stably only on the right leg.


Initial position to understand the fundamental move of the right uppercut. CLICK TO OPEN in a new window.

Try to sway your weight to the left foot so violently that your right heel comes down with a thud. By now, we leave you on your own trying to figure out how to achieve this. We are working on a detailed guide about the stages of the uppercut development based on the manual by Jack Dempsey [1].


The shift aside achieved by the weight transfer from one leg to the other using the heel thud. CLICK TO OPEN in a new window.

At this stage, do not add any extra moves like punching with the arm or shoulder whirling. Simply try to move your weight from one leg to the other the way it is described in the previous paragraph. This should give you the feel of the fundamental move needed for an uppercut.

Right uppercut to the head by Mike Tyson

You may identify this and other stages of the uppercut found in the manual by Jack Dempsey [1] in the example by Mike Tyson below:


Example of Tyson throwing a right uppercut to the head (full speed). Highlighted is the shift aside movement (1/6 speed). CLICK TO OPEN in a new window.

Firstly, he transfers the weight on the right foot and places the left foot on its toe. Then, he drops his weight so suddenly onto the left foot that the shift acts like the dropping of a weight onto the end of a seesaw, helping the spring of his left foot to give an upward surge to the right side of his body. At last, he increases the surge to include more body-weight by the backward wrench of the right shoulder (shoulder whirl) and twisting of the right hip inwards. Meanwhile, at some point, he drops his striking arm and keeps it loose at pelvis area. The vigorous weight transfer naturally results in building up of the muscle tension in the striking shoulder which allows the quick snapping of the arm into the uppercutting motion.

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1. Jack Dempsey. Championship Fighting by Jack Dempsey (1950). pdf source 1, pdf source 2

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3 Responses to The Science of Mike Tyson and Elements of Peek-A-Boo: part V

  1. ric peters says:

    Always the best old school instruction any where, thanks

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