Tag Archives: boxing

If muscle mass has only a small impact on fight abilities, what’s with the prevalence of weight classes? And why are martial arts and boxing champions generally men?

See, you were trying to sneak around it with that start on muscle mass but this is about the idea that women can fight and or fight as well as a man. We get these questions a lot, and the answer is always the same. However, the question itself always displays the asker’s ignorance on the subject matter and about combat in general. You aren’t the first to go, “but boxing!!!” as if it means something or is a winning point. Usually, “muscles” is a go to standard because that’s what so many have been led to believe makes men superior.

When I get these questions, I can always tell this person who asked has never been to a martial arts competition of any kind. If they had, they would know Women’s Divisions are a standard practice. They would also know that with an exception of major tournaments where there are enough participants to justify it, the girls and the boys spar each other at the ranks below black belt. Sometimes, the boys win. Sometimes, the girls win. The breakdown is by age (adults/kids) and belt rank, not by gender.

I’ll tell you though, none of the boy’s in the black belt division
wanted to jump in with the girls. Those girls were vicious. Men’s
sparring was much more laid back, and slower. Women’s TKD… yeesh.

Again, in most martial arts tournaments there are no weight classes. The breakdown is by age and rank, with gender as a secondary when there are enough participants to justify multiple divisions. Weight classes are a boxing tradition and other, similar bloodsports which rears it’s head when they have enough participants to justify one. In many Taekwondo tournaments, you can easily end up with a 150 pound black belt sparring one weighing in at 250. And you won’t know what they weigh anyway because there is no “weighing in”.

I’ve explained before why there are weight classes in boxing. The moment you stop and realize that it’s a sport with a purpose to make money, the reasoning behind the weight classes will become fairly clear. (Hint: it’s entertainment and aesthetics.)

That said, the “boxing champions are generally men” crap is, well, crap. They don’t let women box men professionally, or at the collegiate level. It’s hard to make a case for muscle mass when citing professional sports where women are barred from competing. Now, there was a time when there were women boxers who boxed with each other and against men. In the 1800s, it was called bareknuckle boxing. This is the granddaddy version of modern boxing, when it was all back alleys without gloves or handwraps.

That said, women’s boxing is making a comeback at the collegiate level. There’s a National Champion in Women’s Collegiate Boxing walking around somewhere in the US right now. There are multiple female martial arts champions from a variety of disciplines wandering around all over the world. The UFC has opened a division for female fighters. This is like asking why there aren’t female wrestlers (there are) or female quarterbacks (there are).
One of the greatest snipers in history is a woman.

You just don’t hear about them or the women who did the hard work pushing back to fight for the categories to be re-added.

That said, comparing the restrictions applied in sports to a person’s “fighting ability” is a mistake. You’re not asking an honest question so much as floundering for a popular misconception. It’s essentially the same as saying, “it’s ridiculous for there to be female fighters in this historical fiction because there were no female warriors”.

1) That assertion is patently false.

2) When one gender is barred from participating by the established rules of a modern sport whose history you don’t understand, you can’t then turn around and ask why most of the champions are men.

History makes a case for a lot of female combatants throughout history, but you’re not going to know they’re there if you don’t go looking for them. Their accomplishments tend to get wiped out.


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About how long would it take the average person to become highly proficient in boxing? Thanks in advance! Love the blog!

I know some colleges offer boxing classes or have full competitive boxing programs. So, one or two semesters should be enough time to build a student up to competitive levels.

I’ll be honest, with hand to hand styles, “highly proficient” is a lot more subjective than you might think, and it makes this question a lot harder than it would seem.

A boxer is going to have to train constantly if they want to make a professional career out of it, and they will always be at a disadvantage when facing able bodied competitors with more experience.

Note the “able bodied” part. As with all sport fighters, injuries do pile up over time, and with boxing, concussions are a real risk, and can impair a more experienced fighter.

With non-sport combatants, more recent training has the advantage. Actual combat styles, including self defense, military and police forms evolve ridiculously fast. To the point that most of my hand to hand training is completely out of date. It will still work against untrained opponents, but I can’t take that and use it against someone with police training. And, again, makes the question of “highly proficient” really hard to answer.

This isn’t an issue with most sport forms, because the rules create a stable structure to work with, and it isn’t an issue with most highly traditional forms, those are trained a specific way because that’s how it’s done, and anything else is just incorrect.

In those cases, “highly proficient” will be a very rigidly defined point, but how long it takes to get there will depend completely on the style and it’s approach to progression.


How would you write boxing for a character? Like stances, punches ect ect.

Well, keep in mind that I only have a passing familiarity with boxing, so if you really want to write it, you’re going to have to do more research. (And you should always be doing more research anyway because the information you glean from one source is never as the one you gain through your own work.)

Boxing is one of the oldest surviving Eurpoean martial forms and has been part of the fine tradition of gambling for many centuries. However, training in boxing has currently passed almost entirely into the realm of sport fighting and out of the realm of traditional combat. Today, boxing can be learned for self-defense but most of those who practice it do so to either become a professional fighter or for health and fitness reasons.

You may be wondering, what does the history of boxing have to do with writing it? Well, like civilization itself, combat evolves. How I would write boxing in 2013 is very different from, say, how I would write a character who boxes in 1908, or one who boxes in 1803, and so on. Fortunately for you, however, boxing is a sport that is very well documented. I recommend some research of it’s history if you haven’t yet, mostly because it will help show the kind of characters who become professional fighters, the tradition of boxing in the “Western”/European/American military, and of course, what the culture that surrounds modern boxing.

Remember, it’s not enough to write a character who can box, you also have to create a realistic persona to go with it and a surrounding back story that supports them. A character who started boxing as recreation at their local YMCA is going to be very different from the character for whom professional boxing was the only way to escape poverty, and they both will be different from the character who learned to box at college and worked the collegiate sports circuit (and whether that was East or West Coast in America), they will also be different from the character who started boxing because they joined the Military and went to one of the officer Academies like Westpoint where boxing is a tradition.

Okay, so let’s talk about boxing.

First, I want you to check out this post: FightWrite: A Basic Upper Body Primer (Fists) because it does cover some of the basic punches and how they work.

Boxing is limited almost entirely to the upper body, with the exception of knees, and, in a modern context, almost all the strikes are based around the assumption that your hands are wearing boxing gloves or, at the very least, some sort of wrap for reinforcement. A common beginner mistake is assuming that the boxing gloves are there to protect the opponent’s face, they aren’t. They are there to protect the hands from a metacarpal break (fracturing the fragile bones in the fingers). A metacarpal break is commonly called a “boxer break” or a “boxer fracture” for this reason, a broken finger bone is a common injury for a professional boxer. The incidents of serious head injuries actually increased after the introduction of the boxing glove because fighters could suddenly punch to the face without fear of injury.

This is important because this is how your character is going to be trained, unless they receive supplementary training for when they are assaulted on the street, they will follow their first instinct and today, the opening boxing strikes do go to the head.

Because of it’s reliance entirely on the upper body, boxing has to happen in very close quarters aka inside arm range. This means that if the fight doesn’t begin with a face to face altercation then the boxer has to close the distance. Boxers will be at a disadvantage against kickers if they can’t get past the legs and may also be at a disadvantage against grappling experts and joint locking practitioners if they can’t knock them out before they get a good grip on their arms/legs/shoulders/head etc. It goes without saying that they will also be off balance against an armed opponent, especially a knife or crowbar/club/tire iron. That said, boxing would not have survived so long if it was not an extremely effective martial form and, also, fun to watch.

Some terminology:

The Fighting Stance: The fighting stance for boxing is a very square one, both shoulders face the opponent on an even line, the back foot is on the ball and bent at a 45 degree angle. The boxer leans forward slightly on the front foot, tilting forward, ready to spring into action. Both hands are up to protect the face, with the fast hand (usually the left) slightly forward with the right hovering right at the cheekbone. The power hand (right or left) will always match the foot that’s tilted onto the ball, because of the greater hip rotation provided by the pivot of the back foot.

Blocks: Boxing blocks are very simply and are great when studying conservation of movement. Unlike some of the more traditional martial arts that use big movements, blocks in boxing rarely move much. They involve batting and pushing the incoming hands away from the face, freeing the fighter up to retaliate quickly. When they need to protect the head from a high strike like a haymaker, the fighter tucks their elbow up against their head in a triangle to take the incoming hit.

Slip: The slip is when the weight drops and the head tilts slightly to get out of the way of an incoming attack. A slip will often lead into a hook or an uppercut, because the lower positioning of the body allows for greater rotation of the hips and puts the fighter into a position to easily attack the ribcage.

The clinch: When the fighter gets in close enough that he can wrap his hands around the back of his opponent’s head, the clinch is often accompanied by powerful knee strikes while the other fighter attempts to defend himself from a disadvantaged position.

The jab: This is the opening punch used to soften up an opponent’s defenses before delivering a cross. The jab is always the front hand or the fast hand and while it doesn’t deal much damage, it can pound away on an opponent to create openings for much stronger attacks.

The cross or the straight right: The cross is the back hand or the power hand, this punch achieves a full rotation of the hips. It’s slower due to the windup, but is much stronger. In a professional fight, the cross often aims for the cheek, the nose, and the eyebrow (to cause bleeds). These attacks correspond to the same side as the punch, so one fighter’s right connects to the fighter’s left side of their face.

The hook: the hook is a punch that comes across and aims for the ribcage. The hook can also go high, if the opening is right, and aim for the back end of the jaw to the gap between the jaw and the rest of the skull, right beneath the ear. A successful hit here will cause a knockout.

The uppercut: The uppercut is a punch that comes up, underneath the jaw or drives into the stomach/solar plexus region of the body.

Elbows: I think boxing allows elbow strikes, these usually go to the face if the opponents are close enough for them.

Shoulder check: ramming the shoulder into the chest.

Hip check: ramming the hip into the opponent’s side, when on a horizontal angle.

Strategy: most professional and collegiate fights rely on a significant amount of strategizing pre-fight for success. A similar kind of strategy will be at play if the fighter finds himself or herself in combat on the street. So, it might be worth reading through a few memoirs and how to books to get a solid feel for what the basics of those strategies are. You want to write a boxer, you’ve got to write a character who thinks like one.

There’s a lot more to it than this, but this should be enough to get you started. Also, do yourself a favor and start learning the differences between professional boxing and Olympic boxing. Then, watch some professional fights if you haven’t yet. You can find quite a few for free on Youtube. Have fun!


Fight Write: A Basic Upper Body Primer (Fists)

In this post, I’m going to talk about basic strikes using the upper body. I’m breaking up blocks, kicks, and the body strike zones to make the information absorption easier. My major caveat here is that all the techniques I’m going to talk about are based from my own Tae Kwan Do/MMA/Muay Thai background and therefore not always applicable depending on which Martial Art you plan on using. While they are similar, all Martial Arts techniques are unique to each individual style, so research the Martial Art you plan on using, even if it’s just a trip to Wikipedia.



The basic strikes I plan on talking about in this post all relate to using the fist. These strikes are: the punch, the hammer fist, the backfist, the uppercut, and the hook.  While it’s common for martial artists to list all these strikes underneath the punch header, I’m separating them out as distinctively different for writers because movements of the body (arm position, hand position, hip pivot, and striking range) while performing them varies depending on the individual strike.

Always remember that there are more than just these and extensive variations of each, so research, research, research. But the basics are the building blocks of any solid Martial Artist and they will save your character’s life when all the fancy tricks fail. And as tempting as it can be, the most important thing for any good writer to realize is this: there is no “best” in the world of Martial Arts, only what works best for you/your character’s physiology, style, and personality. If your character’s mind is not prepared to do what the style is asking them/training their body for, then it’s no good. If the style is meant/built around a different body type and is difficult for your character to modify to the point of them being subpar then it’s no good.


The Punch:

The punch is the most basic technique of any fighter’s arsenal. Every martial art in the world has some variation of the punch and because it’s simple, it’s easy to use. So, let’s talk about it.

The punch involves pulling all five fingers into a fist, with the thumb acting as a bracer for the others. When it strikes, it drives the two front knuckles into the opponent’s soft tissue. It’s actually a common fallacy that the punch involves the whole hand. Practice forming a fist and you’ll notice the knuckles on the fore and index fingers extend forward while the others pull back. The rest of the fingers brace the hand. The reason why the punch is often taught first is because it’s a basic builder for training someone to make a fist and teaching their muscles how to tighten properly in conjunction with the blow.

A punch always drives forward with three variations: the face (the neck, the upper lip, the nose, and sometimes (in boxing) the eyebrow), the solar plexus (the midpoint in the chest), and the stomach itself (around the belly button). The height of the character and the height of their opponent will dictate their comfort level in striking to these areas. The punch is commonly taught to beginners from the waist, standing or in a horse stance (feet facing forwards, both knees bent to a 90 degree angle), or from a fighting stance (one foot forward, one foot back the length of the shoulders, shoulders and hips on a 45 degree angle). There are several variations on the punch for the more advanced writer and I will detail them in a post dedicated to them.

Common Advanced Technique: It’s not really an advanced technique, but in boxing the punch is broken up into two separate categories: the jab and the cross/straight. The jab is performed by the leading hand in the fighting stance (usually the left), it’s a fast strike that pivots off the front foot with minimal shoulder cranking, in a boxing or UFC match it’s usually the first punch thrown to test the opponent’s guard. Because of its speed, the strike is designed around stunning the opponent when it connects, thus disorienting the opponent and leaving them open to a follow up strike: usually the cross. It can also be used to keep the opponent on the defensive. The cross (right or left) is the secondary strike that follows the jab. It’s performed with the rear hand in a fighting stance, the one by the cheek that’s guarding the face, and uses the back foot to pivot the hip and create power. The cross is the power punch. Together, these two strikes create a basic combination that’s known as the double punch.

Common Beginning Mistake: When most beginners start out, they stick their thumb inside the fist in order to protect it. This will break the hand when it connects; always keep your characters fingers tight in a punch.

So, how do you write it? Here’s an example:

Alex lunged forwards, his right fist striking high. Knocking the hand away at the wrist, Anna stepped in, her back foot pivoting as she slammed her own fist into her opponent’s throat.

The Hammer Fist:

This is one of those attacks that works exactly as the name describes.

No, really.

The hand tightens into a fist, but instead of turning over to punch, it remains vertical and strikes downwards to the center of chest in the same manner as we would use a hammer to strike a nail or an anvil. This strike comes in two flavors, direct, to the nose, the wrist, the back of the head, the sternum, the groin/testicles, and the collarbone. It also works on a forty-five degree angle to the neck, usually the soft pressure point underneath the ear or the occipital bone, the mandible, or slightly lower to the carotid artery. The hammer fist does not risk the bones in the hand to a break and it spreads the force of its strikes more evenly across a small surface (the size of the fist or a small golf ball).

 Common Advanced Technique: The Hammer Fist doesn’t really have one, it can however be performed on a diagonal for easier access to more sensitive areas.

Common Beginner Mistake: The hammer fist is a fairly safe strike, so long as the beginner remembers to keep their fingers tight with their thumb bracing their fist and their wrist aligned with the hand. Also, because of the hammer fist’s wind up, the beginner often forgets to keep their free hand up, protecting their face. The hammer fist is a powerful strike, but it leaves openings that can be exploited by a clever opponent. Remember, because it’s slow, this strike is not an opening move unless the opponent is already prone.


Alex came in low, shooting forwards with his arms spread wide. He’s going to tackle me, Anna thought. He had the height and weight advantage. If he got her on the ground then the fight would be over. I can thrash all I want, but it won’t do much good. Still, going forward also left him vulnerable. He’s expecting me to attempt a sprawl, but why risk the timing? Swinging her leg sideways, she turned her body completely one hundred and eighty degrees to his. By the time he was able to stop, it would be too late. Drawing her arm back, she struck downwards with the bottom of her fist. Her hand slammed into the back of his neck, into the vulnerable point where skeleton joined with skull, with the force of a hammer.

The Backfist

 As the name suggests, the backfist uses the back of the hand, specifically the knuckles, to strike the opponents softer regions. Like with the above punch the backfist strikes with the tops of the front two knuckles, pulling the leading arm back diagonally across the body and striking outward to the temple or the throat. The advantage of the backfist is that it’s fast. When it lands, the backfist disorients the opponent and like all strikes to the head, it may cause them to stumble.

In Tae Kwon Do, this strike is also commonly used as a distractor to create an opening in the opponent’s guard by striking within the opponent’s outside field of peripheral vision, thus tricking the brain into attempting to block high while simultaneously striking low with a punch to the gut or ribs. The backfist/cross combination is one of the most basic techniques taught to new trainees. It’s also useful, in sparring circumstances, by instructors who wish to remind a lazy student to guard their head.

Common Advanced Technique: The spinning backfist. Using a technique similar to spin kicks such as the wheel kick, the fighter spins 360 degrees to either the right or left and strikes their opponent with their leading hand (the side they spun to the left or right with). This increases the power of the strike by including the extra momentum of the spin. However, it is very easy for the beginner to become disoriented and for the user to be knocked off their feet by their opponent’s counter.

Common Beginner Mistake: If the student is wearing hand-guards (brass knuckles, UFC fiberglass gloves, handwraps, wrist-wraps) the backfist is very useful in a real world situation. If they’re not, they risk breaking their knuckles on their opponent’s skull when they miss the temple. The backfist is one of those attacks that requires a higher level of accuracy than most of the other strikes on this list for that reason. It’s a powerful strike, but carries with it a greater risk versus reward.


The instructor dropped his hand in front of them. “Go!” He yelled.

Anna lunged in. Her opponent, Regina had strong legs, but like all those new to sparring, she had some bad habits regarding the protection of the head. Drawing her left hand back to the side of her face, Anna struck out with the back of her fist. Landing an easy, visible hit to Regina’s head, she slammed her right hand into the other woman’s chest pad.

“Three points!“

The Uppercut

 The uppercut is a very specific strike most commonly seen in variations of boxing and kickboxing. This technique involves driving the fist upwards, usually to strike under the opponent’s chin and knock the head back. The uppercut can also be driven forward on a diagonal into the stomach and solar plexus, also though more uncommonly to the nose and eyes (though only when wearing hand-guards). Unlike the backfist, the punch, and the hammer fist, the uppercut requires the wielder be within fairly close proximity to their opponent.  Like most punches in boxing, the uppercut can be thrown with either hand.

Common Advanced Technique: Like the Hammer Fist, there really isn’t one.

Common Beginner Mistake: The most common beginner mistake with the uppercut is a timing failure, knowing when and how to use a technique is a matter of practice. Like all strikes, the uppercut can leave the user open to exacting counters when used improperly or when they miss. If your character is new and decides to use this technique, do not be afraid to punish them for it.


It was supposed to be an easy follow-up to the hook, just drop her weight low and pivot her back foot while thrusting her left arm and hip upwards. If she was lucky, well, she’d score a knock out and the round would be over. But Alex’s hand came down and knocked her arm sideways, his other fist slammed into her nose. She heard the crunch of cartilage ringing in her ears as blinding white hot pain shot through her brain. Then, his knee drove forwards into her belly. Knees hitting the floor, she grasped her stomach.

It hurt more than she thought it would.

The Hook

The hook is another specialized strike that’s common mostly to boxing and kickboxing. It’s a horizontal blow that comes in sideways, swinging around to connect with the ribs or the jaw. When it connects to the occipital bone in the jaw it’s a knockout strike. It can be performed with either hand.

Common Advanced Technique: The check hook. The difference between the check hook and the regular hook is entirely a matter of footwork, much like the spinning backfist, it’s what the feet are doing that makes the difference in the attack. The check hook is performed in boxing when the opponent lunges, the boxer pivots their left foot and swings their back foot 180 degrees sideways, driving the hook  into the opponent’s jaw as they rush past.

Common Beginner Mistake: A failure to connect the lower body with the upper body. Please remember: always think about the feet and the hips in conjunction with the upper body.


 When his right-cross came, she slipped underneath it. Stepping sideways, head low, she twisted her front foot and swung her left fist around, driving it straight into his ribs.

 Fist Strikes and Damage:

The hand is full of many small, delicate bones and the front of the face (the forehead and the cheekbones) is the most heavily armored part of the human body. The brain is the most important part of keeping us alive, so it makes sense. So please, unless your character is some variant of a boxer or UFC fighter don’t have them punch to the face. If their hands are unprotected or unarmored, they’re going to break something. When most martial artists talk about punching to the face, they usually mean it in a “sport” capacity, not a self-defense one. Always make sure to research the martial art you are using and modify it appropriately if you mean to use it in a self-defense context.

It’s often a misnomer of non-practitioners that the boxing gloves, fiberglass gloves, or handwraps seen in most professional boxing/kickboxing sports are there for the safety of the opponent. They are not, they are there to reinforce a fighter’s fist and minimize the risk of a metacarpal injury.

When striking with any fist strike, the wrist must be aligned with the hand to prevent injury. Your fighter must keep the muscles of the fist and the wrist tight.

I’ll link the other primers on the open hand strikes and elbows together for easy viewing when I get them up.

As always, happy writing!