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The Best Offense

The Best Offense

What is something all the world’s greatest strikers have in common?


It was the great heavyweight Jack Dempsey who was attributed with saying, “the best offense is a good defense”. When a man who has over 60 wins with less then 10 losses in their boxing career says something like this, you listen. That is exactly why this adage has been countlessly spoken in various forums, such as games like chess, sports such as football and basketball, and even warfare.

What does it look like to have a good defense? 

It looks like Anderson Silva bending back as in the matrix, as a punch flies right past his chin, then punching the other fighter into oblivion. Visualize a shelled-up Mike Tyson who is there in front of you taking punches to the arms and then you blink, and he is on the opponent's left side hitting the kidney. Imagine Israel Adesanya or Conor McGregor defending takedowns and getting back to the feet so they can treat the opponent like a heavy bag. We just saw Cody Garbrandt, at UFC 250, bait Raphael Assuncao with head movement and use that head movement as defense to counter with a right hook and send Assuncao all the way to UFC 300! 

A skill that all elite strikers have in common is an incredible defense. 

Why is defensive so important? Defense not only keeps you from getting hit and becoming stiff as a board, or rag-dolled, but it is what give you the confidence to go on an assertive offense. If you are certain that you have created the correct habits of keeping your elbows in, not reaching out to far when a technique is being hurled at your face, or reaching down to far when you think it is going to your body, and making sure when you feel danger that you move out of harm’s way then you will feel more protected. If you feel more protected, then you will be more willing to attack. Keep in mind that your defense sets up your offense, however, when you go on the offense, it will always in some way, compromise your defense, even by just the tiniest means.

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Defensive techniques can come in many forms, and it is important to have a thorough understanding of the various ways a fighter can defend themselves. In this article we will be specifically discussing blocking strikes, rather than using footwork, head movement and other fashions of defense as alluded to prior. Understanding how to block strikes will help a fighter build a solid defensive framework for other essential skills, giving fighters the ability to attack an opponent in a more technically aggressive fashion that has the potential to end a fight.

Blocking is one of the most basic ways that a fighter can defend themselves from the striking techniques of an opponent. Blocking can be seen in a variety of forms and techniques, varying based on the striking techniques allowed, as well as other factors, such as glove size, if fighters are wearing gloves at all.

When blocking straight punches, most fighters will use the hand to block, just as if they were wearing a hand pad from striking practice in the gym. By placing the hand directly in front of the face, with enough distance and outward force to deal with the impact from the strike, a fighter can defend their face from straight punches such as a jab cross combination. It is as if a fighter places a mini wall right at the place wear their opponent is fighting, negating the strike to the face.

Parrying is another form of blocking that fighters will often use to defend against straight punches. To parry a straight punch, fighters will keep their hands up with elbows in; from that position as the punch threatens to pass the arms of the defending fighter, the fighter parrying will, in a slapping motion, place their hand on the wrist of the fighter currently striking, and redirect the punch away from their face, or body with a cupped hand position. Kickboxers, as well as MMA fighters will often use parrying against body kicks. Using the same slapping motion and cupped hand position, a fighter will move their body out of the way, placing their hand on the heel of the kicking fighter, and guiding the kick past the attempted target forcing the kick to miss.

Both the intercepting hand blocking method, as well as the parrying method of blocking are intercepting blocks, where the defending striker meets the opponents strikes prior to the target, shortening the strikes full reach, or redirecting it completely.

Another more common way of blocking, often seen when blocking variety of other strikes is simply to cover the attempted target with the closest limb available. An example of the most basic form of blocking can be seen in this video from UFC veteran Thiago Alves.


In this clip taken from Thiago’s Explosive Striking Instructional, he shows the defense to a hook punch thrown to the side of a fighter’s head, giving tips to take power off of the oncoming punch such as stepping the opposite direction of the strike as it comes, lifting the shoulder, and always be ready to brace for impact. Thiago’s partner can be seen folding his arm at the elbow, blocking the side of his head from strike, while using the other arm to frame at the head of the striking opponent. Framing the hand on the opponent’s head helps to manage distance, as well as disrupt the opponent’s vision while they are striking.

Defense comes in many varieties, and each variety of defense, as seen with blocking has multipledifferent forms. A fighter’s defensive techniques, much like their offensive techniques needs tobe used in combinations, simply blocking an opponent’s strikes is not enough, a fighter willeventually be overwhelmed, unable to block every strike. Like everything in fighting, and in life,you must find a balance!

Explosive Striking by Thiago Alves

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