How to Throw the Ol’ One-Two

Training like a fighter begins with the basics and it doesn’t get more elementary than throwing the ol’ one-two (jab-cross) from a fundamentally sound, on-guard stance. Though the following instructions are designed for an orthodox, left-hand-lead fighter, they can be easily flipped for a southpaw.

With your feet about shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent and heels slightly raised, maintain equal weight, balance and spring on both feet. You’re turned at a sideways angle—exposing the least amount of your body to your opponent.

The leading left hand is positioned a few inches from your face in a vertical position, just below the left eye. The left elbow is tucked to the ribcage. The rear right fist is held close to the right cheekbone—right elbow also tight to the ribcage. Your chin is tucked down toward the chest.

From this on-guard position, you are ready to throw your first jab. This is a quick, straight movement. Rotate your fist (thumb turns inward) 90 degrees as you reach full extension—drop your chin a bit more to protect your head—and then return quickly to the on-guard stance. The rear hand remains in its protective position throughout.

Legendary boxing trainer Gil Clancy describes the jab as such: “You’re standing in front of a rack of bread and you reach straight out for the loaf you want, grab it, and pull it back quickly.”

The jab is a probing punch designed to gauge distance, test your opponent’s reactions, and set up other punches—like the cross.

Unlike the jab, the cross is a knockout punch that requires a lot more torque from your body. Imagine yourself executing a jab as described above. As your left hand begins its return trip to the on-guard stance, the rear right hand is thrown—in a straight line—across the body.

The key lies not in drawing power from your right arm and shoulder, but rather from a counter-clockwise rotation of your hips as you pivot on the balls of your feet. Like a baseball swing, the sudden transfer of weight from the rear foot to the front foot delivers the knockout power. Of course, after the cross is thrown, you quickly retract your right hand to the on-guard position.

Once you’ve grasped the basics of the stance, jab, and cross, you can begin integrating these techniques into your training regimen via shadowboxing, heavy bag, etc.

Next up: Left hook.

Final note: The advice presented above is not meant for anyone with contraindicated health problems. Please consult a medical or fitness professional.