“I’m not a fighter, I’m never going to get punched in the face.”
You say that now, but the truth is you never know when a punch is on a collision course with your facial region. All it takes is saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, or even bumping into someone when they’re in a bad mood. Suddenly, punch in the face.
Taking a few minutes to learn how to get punched in the face will help you make the most out of your face punching experience.
This advice also applies to those voluntarily getting punched in the face (boxers, MMA fighters, fight club rascals).
For added fun, all of this advice can also be a metaphor for dealing with unfavorable life situations.
You see a punch coming.
You might not have time to physically get out of the way (which is always the best option), but your mind is still going rapid fire. Take control of your consciousness and shift your focus within.
Focus on your breathing and internal energy (chi, prahna, life force, etc.).
This technique is super effective for fighting, boxing and any other situation where you’ll have more time to anticipate getting punched in the face. From the very beginning, focus more on your breathing, your energy and your body than you do your opponent.
You’ll be more concerned with your own movements than your opponent’s. Focusing on your breathing throughout a fight will decrease flinching (which can be devastating). You’ll also be more poised to quickly react since you will be present in the moment instead of worrying about getting, well, punched in the face.
I learned this tip from an advanced student when I was studying Kung Fu. I was still flinching quite a bit when a punch would get near my face (which is a natural reaction, don’t judge me or yourself). We took a break from sparring and he asked how much meditation I had been doing. I said quite a bit, so he said to apply that mindset to sparring. Flinching comes from focusing externally, while stillness comes from focusing internally.
We resumed sparring. He intentionally attacked my dome more often. By focusing within, I was able to see his attacks coming more clearly and drastically reduce the amount of flinching that occurred. When I did get punched in the face, I was more aware it was happening and able to react accordingly.
So, you’ve managed to get punched in the face. By focusing within and being more aware of it, you’re able to…
Roll With it
The idiom ‘roll with the punches’ came about for a reason. It’s literal advice!
Remember in <any martial arts movie ever made> when our daring protagonist is near the end of his journey but he encounters a super tough bad guy? The protagonist punches him in the face and there is no reaction, except for perhaps a slight movement of the neck. Surely this guy is badass and we should all strive to be so cool.
Wrong! Don’t be that guy.
Do not tense up when you’re getting punched. Do not fight the force of the punch.
If you resist a punch that’s already connected, you’re stopping the kinetic energy in your neck, skull and wherever else. This dramatically increases the damage taken from said punch.
Instead, roll with it. Don’t become tense, become relaxed. Let the kinetic energy of the punch pass through you however it may.
Consider an out of control car. It’s speeding along a city block and has two ways to stop – hit a moving car or hit a parked car. Hitting a moving car will (generally) cause far less damage to both parties than hitting a parked car.
Except when it comes to a fist and your face, the damage done to the fist will be minimal in either situation. Especially if said fist is accustomed to punching faces. Your face, however, needs to do whatever it can to minimize damage.
Consider a fist punching a stiff board. What happens? It breaks.
What if a fist punches a pool of water? It flows, it reacts. After a few moments, it’s like it never happened.
“Be water, my friend.” – Bruce Lee
My Sifu (Kung Fu master) was fond of reacting to punches instead of becoming stiff against them. He used another example that may not be popular, but it’s accurate.
Drunk drivers generally survive car accidents. Why? Because their bodies are relaxed and don’t fight being jostled around. Instead of becoming tense, they stay relaxed and walk away unharmed (probably the only life lessons to be learned from drunk drivers).
Be relaxed, not tense. You’ll minimize the damage.
Fun Note: A few days after sifu imparted this advice, I was in a serious car accident (no alcohol involved). I lost control of my car going 80 MPH on the highway and spun out. I managed to avoid hitting anyone else, but my car slammed into the median. As you often hear, it was like slow motion. My sifu’s advice sprang to mind just before impact and I relaxed my body. I was jostled and mentally shocked, but I walked away unharmed. I went to the chiropractor the next day and he couldn’t believe I was just in a high speed car accident. I had no injuries and no whiplash, despite hitting a stationery object whilst speeding.
If relaxing and rolling with it can save me in a high speed car accident, it can certainly help you deal with a punch to the face.
So, you’ve been punched in the face and you’ve relaxed into it. What do you do next?
Running is probably a good option. If this isn’t a planned fight, flight is always your best move. An unsolicited punch might be followed an unsolicited knife or gun. We’d all love to Bruce Lee the crap out of some street thugs, but the facts are, you never know their experience level or what they’re packing. Just get out of there.
Now, if you are in a fight you can’t escape or a voluntary fight, you have other options.
My Sifu (kung fu master) loved playing with kinetic energy (and spiritual energy, but that’s an entirely different topic). He often said that if a punch or kick has been landed you’ve just been granted extra kinetic energy. With proper training, it can be used against your opponent (with some kinetic power of your own).
To illustrate this point, imagine a board mounted on a swivel. If you punch one end of the board, the other end will smack you in the back of the head.
Sifu trained us how to use getting punched in the face as an attack. For example, if you get punched straight in the face and relax into it, you can channel that kinetic energy to your legs and use it to power a quick snap kick to the groin.
If you catch a hook that starts you spinning, you can go with it and hold out a fist. Suddenly, spinning back fist to your opponents face.
Admittedly, this is pretty high level stuff. It’s a lot to think about when you’ve been punched, but just having the idea that it’s possible is great.
You have plenty of other options, too. Throw a kick, return a punch or go for a takedown. The important thing is to react as quickly as possible. Immediately after your opponent lands a punch they are incredibly vulnerable for a split second. Their arm is within your reach, half of their torso is unguarded, and if they don’t know what they’re doing, they’re off balance.
Use getting punched in the face to your advantage.
Also, Life Advice
Apply this to any unfavorable life situations, even if they aren’t as bad as getting punched in the face.
Lose your job? Focus inwards. Relax into your new space. React to your urgent needs.
Significant other just leave you? Focus on yourself. Relax about finding someone else. React to your emotional maelstrom.
Get in a car accident? I think you get the point.
Don’t wait to get punched in the face to learn how to focus within, relax and react. Start doing this now with any obstacle you encounter and any situation you find unpleasant.
You’ll be ready to do the same thing when you hit someone in the fist with your face.
(photo credit: main image)