How To Take A Punch Like A Man...from A Female Pro Boxer
They call her The Empress, which is actually a play off her last name, Napoleon. I couldn't tell how tall she was, because the only thing I could concentrate on were her massive arms...which would soon be flying at me at all directions.
Alicia Napoleon has been fighting for 11 years, two of which have been spent kicking ass as a pro. She's won almost a dozen amateur titles and is currently the co-owner of Overthrow New York. The place smells like a gym sock's balls, but man alive, it's legit.
Alicia was kind enough to give me 20 minutes of her time to answer a couple questions I had as a reasonably tall, albeit physically inept man, namely: how does one take a punch? It's actually pretty simple.
1. You don't want to take a punch
"You don't want to take a punch," says Napoleon, "You want to block it, flip it, roll it, step away from it, and take a defensive approach at all times." It's all about paying close attention to your 'fight or flight' response. If you can fly, do it. "Nobody wants to take a punch."
2. Adopt a wide stance and keep your center low
Put your dominant foot forward and keep some weight on your back foot. This will allow you to react to everything thrown at you with the agility of a house cat—Alicia kept reminding me to slightly lean forward as if I were a lion going for its prey. Then I remembered lions walk on all fours. But I got it.
3. Keep your mouth closed unless you want a broken jaw
Alicia told me the importance of relaxing, but making sure you're protected. "Never turn your back, never close your eyes, never stop paying attention. Always keep your mouth closed. If you have your jaw open, you can get your jaw broken on a punch."
It can be hard to keep your eyes open, especially if you're flinching, but you need to be able to react to the situation and you obviously can't do that if your eyes are closed.
4. Clench your abs
Even if you have no semblance of stomach muscles like yours truly, clenching your abs when a punch is imminent will minimize the pain and any potential damage to your vital organs, preventing a Houdini situation.
5. Take the punch with your arm instead of your face
The most basic blocking move is called the cross arm guard. The idea here is that you'd much rather take the punch with your muscle than your skull or gut.
"[For a face punch], that right hand's gonna come up near your head—almost like you're resting your head on a pillow. The other arm is going to be below it, so you can punch or shove them."
I don't know why my face looks that way in this picture. Maybe because I'm happy not to be taking a punch to the money-maker.
6. Take a punch to your forehead instead of your face
Keeping your chin down helps you minimize your face as a target. If you do happen to get punched in the head, chances are it'll go towards your bony forehead, which won't hurt as much.
7. Take body blows with your forearms
If you're about to take a punch to the gut, Napoleon teaches a move she's nicknamed "turtling," which is simply keeping your elbows tight against your side and using your forearms to block the punches.
Full transparency: she really punched me a few times and it really hurt. It was awesome.
8. Be like the Empress and strike back
What, are you just gonna stand there and take it? Ball your fist, wrap the thumb down across the bottom of your curled fingers, align the first two knuckles with the bones in your forearm, maintain eye contact, and punch.
Use this information wisely and, when you win that bar fight, tell 'em Jeremy sent you.
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