Brace for pain, stay calm and keep your chin tucked, kid.
Whether you’re in a boxing ring, a bench-clearing brawl at the company softball game or spilling a drink on the wrong person at the club, sometimes a punch in the face is inevitable.
While there is no great way to get punched in the face, there are things you can do to make sure you stay on your feet. Here is a handy how-to for getting punched in the face with some expert advice from London’s boxing community.
STEP ONE: Avoid getting punched
The best way to take a punch is not getting punched at all.
“Once you’re hit, you’re hit,” says Irving Chestnut, or Coach A-Train as he’s known at CCCC Boxing in London. “You can either get out of the way or sit there and take it.”
It sounds easier than it is, but Chestnut says the the best asset in a fight isn’t fists at all.
“It’s verbal skills,” he says. “I like to talk my way out of a situation. I’ve done it many times, even though I fight.”
Still, some people just can’t be reasoned with.
If you happen to find yourself on the verge of a Patrick Swayze-esque bar fight, and your best attempts at talking your way out of a taking a punch failed, you better get ready for what’s coming. Which is why you need to…
STEP TWO: Brace yourself
It doesn’t matter if you’re a complete noob or a seasoned fighter – punches hurt, even for the pros.
“You get used to the experience,” says amateur-turned-professional boxer Steve Rainford during an interview at Boomerz Boxing Club on Richmond. “But you never get used to the pain.”
A seasoned fighter, Rainford has had his bell rung a few times before. He says it’s similar to the feeling of standing up too fast.
“You get light headed,” he says. “Things go fuzzy, you’re disoriented, sounds get muffled.”
Slowly, over the span of about 10 seconds, he says sounds eventually get clearer and your wits return.
Trying to jump right back into the fray after taking a dizzying blow makes your recovery take longer. Assuming it’s not one of Iron Mike Tyson’s one-and-done punches, you still have some fight left in you.
Don’t spend it scrambling.
“Wait it out, let the cobwebs clear and get back at it,” Rainford says.
Rainford’s top three tips:
1 – Expect pain. “Don’t think it’s not gonna hurt.”
2 – Stay calm. “After the fact, don’t go all psycho.”
3 – Punch back. “If you get hit once, throw two back. If you get hit twice, throw three.”
STEP THREE: Keep your composure
You’ve tried to talk your way out of a knuckle sandwich, however, negotiations failed.
You’ve braced yourself for some pain.
You are now close enough to see hair on your opponent’s knuckles, maybe even thinking to yourself, “How do I take this punch?”
The answer is calmly, padawan.
Relaxed fighers are usually the most dangerous – they are aware of the situation and their surroundings and less likely to overreact.
Four-time Canadian national champion Deedra Chestnut doesn’t mince words on the subject.
“You don’t go into the ring to be scared.”
Instead, she says stay composed, handle the pressure and roll with the punch. By moving with the momentum of the punch, you take the full power of the blow away and minimize the damage. A calm fighter can turn taking a punch into throwing one.
“If I get caught with something, I think ‘now what?’” she says. “Where is that flaw that I can expose?”
It’s easy to take that anger, fear and anxiety and tighten up in a fight, but in this case, intuition is your enemy. Deedra compares tensing up in a fight to bracing yourself for a car crash.
“It puts more stress and more strain on a muscle than it’s used to,” she says. Not only that, but that tension and anxiety are also physically and emotionally draining. That’s not to say a good dose of explosive anger can’t help in a fight, but if all you see is red you won’t see the fist about to collide with your tender melon.
Deedra top three tips:
1 – Protect yourself at all times.
2 – Try to be the smarter fighter.
3 – Don’t get hit.
HOW TO TAKE A PUNCH ON THE CHIN:
“The biggest thing to taking a punch is positioning – the way you hold your head,” says coach A-Train. “Either you have a chin or you don’t.”
Most new fighters’ reaction is to pull their head back, trying to put distance between their opponent’s Tiger Uppercut and their own face. But, the reality is, if you’re up against someone who knows what they are doing, you’ve just created a pointy target.
“If you’ve got your chin up, it’s easy to be knocked off balance,” coach Chestnut says. “Perhaps even knocked out.”
USING YOUR HANDS:
Who says your head needs to be the sole recipient of an incoming fist? Blocking is a great option for taking a punch without actually taking it.
Cross-blocking uses the same hand your opponent is punching with – right hand punch, right hand block. Mirror-hand refers to a mirror image. You block with the hand on the same side the punch is coming from – right hand punch, left hand block.
Irving calls these the brother and sister hands, which he explains by giving a handshake across the table (“Hey brother!”) and a high five straight ahead (“Hey Sister!”).
If possible, go with your sister hands. A cross-hand block leaves you vulnerable for a counter-attack.
BONUS ADVICE: Don’t forget to smile!
As a bonus tip, FUSE’s own Pam Haasen offers this one-word advice:
In addition to making your opponent think you’re crazy, smiling offers two advantages…
One: You are biting down on your mouth guard and better protecting your teeth and jaw.
Two: Your lips are pulled back and are less likely to get split on a glove or a beer-soaked class ring.
NOW IT’S UP TO YOU
Avoid it if you can, stay loose if you can’t, and be ready for some pain.
Follow this expert advice on how to take a punch with minimal damage, and the next time things get heated in the ring, the street or at your kid’s hockey game, you’ll come up swinging with all your teeth still in your head.