Whenever you watch an action hero on the silver screen, the camera tends to focus on him winning fights. In fact, between expert technique, a rock hard physique, and an iron jaw there’s no possibility he’d ever lose; foes fall with broken faces and shattered spirits under the hammer blows of his fists. Sure every now and again an opponent lands a solid right, but our hero just grins and hits him right back. On the one hand this could be blatant abuse of main character powers… on the other hand it’s entirely possible that our lead has simply learned the most important skill any fighter needs to have in his or her arsenal.
How to take a punch.
The Physics of The Punch
A punch is a deceptively simple thing. You ball up your fist, twist your shoulders and hips into the swing, and drive your appendage into a sensitive part of your opponent’s anatomy. While every martial art on the planet from boxing to bartitsu has its own way of doing this, that’s the basic gist behind a punch; slam as much force and momentum into a vulnerable spot on your opponent’s body.
So, now that you understand that, your primary goal in taking a punch is to make sure your opponent doesn’t get what he or she wants.
Hard on Soft, Soft on Hard
This sounds a bit like one of those nonsense phrases that armchair martial arts gurus are fans of, but it’s actually pretty simple. Your fist is made up of some skin and muscle over a lot of sensitive bones and joints. If you drive your fist into a soft spot, like an opponent’s belly or throat, you’re hurting that person more than your hand. If you punch someone in the forehead though then you’re a lot more likely to break your hand than you are their head.
Keep that in mind when you’re defending yourself. Tuck your chin so that the sensitive parts of your lower jaw are protected, along with your nose and eyes. You can take blows on your shoulders or forearms without too much damage, but you should protect your stomach and other soft bits as much as you can. Your opponent will always have targets, but you decide which ones to present.
Roll With The Punches
We’ve all heard this phrase before, but not a lot of us know what it means. When someone throws a heavy, overhand right at you and you just can’t get out of the way, you need to move your body in the direction the punch is going. This diffuses the momentum, and it turns what would have been a fight-ending haymaker into a glancing blow. If you stand still and just try to absorb the punch then you’re going to get slammed with the full force of the hit. The reason tough guys can take a punch and keep on coming is that they aren’t actually taking the brunt of the impact when you see them get hit.
Work Your Neck
Ever wonder why bruisers, particularly those employed by unscrupulous crime lords, always have thick, bull necks? It’s because that feature makes them really, really hard to K.O.
If you don’t fight for a living then you might not know that it’s the whiplash when you take a punch that knocks you out. Your head spins to the side, your brain sloshes, and down you go (I wrote a complete guide to this technique right here). If you have powerful, well-developed neck muscles they can absorb the shock and make even solid blows to the head less effective. It’s like how punching someone skinny in the arm really hurts, but the same force delivered into the bicep of a body builder might not even register. So work your neck when you’re at the gym, especially if you expect to get punched in the head.
Watch Your Opponent
While it’s not exactly a method for absorbing punishment, it’s important to watch your opponent and what he or she is going to do. The punches that hurt the most, and which do the most damage are going to be the ones you never see coming. If you watch your opponent’s technique then you’ll be able to see which punches are coming, and you’ll be able to react before the punch even reaches you. The densest muscles and the fastest reflexes won’t do you any good if the punch comes out of nowhere and lays you out flat.
More Tips on How to Be a Badass
It takes more to be an action hero than knowing how to take a punch and stay on your feet. Here’s a selection of other skills you might find quite useful.
How to Knock Someone Out With The Sleeper Hold
How to Get Out of Handcuffs, Flexicuffs, and Duct Tape
How to Kick In A Door
How to Hot Wire a Car Just Like in The Movies
How to Pick a Lock
“Practical Math: How to Take a Punch” by Anonymous at Academic Earth
“How to Take Punches Better” by Johnny N at Expert Boxing
“How to Take a Punch” by Shane Fazen at Fighting Tips