JABS: Set-Up, Sticky & Power

3 Fundamental Utilizations of the Jab

As a beginner, it can a challenge to utilize all the limbs allowed in Muay Thai right from the start. Some are still trying to find the proper distance for that spear knee while others are tentative to throw a roundhouse that might be caught.

The above considered, it’s only natural that novices instinctively revert back to what they have been taught from the beginning: the jab. The jab is the most fundamental building block in a striking-based martial art. It is arguably the best punch in any stand-up fighter’s arsenal.

More than just a singular strike, the jab has many functions. Beginners may throw predictable single jabs with no reason in mind, whereas pro fighters throw jabs with purpose and intention. It’s the motive behind the jabs that separate the pro fighters from the beginners.

Let’s take a look at some of the variants of the jab of which pro fighters take advantage.

The Set-Up Jab

The set-up jab is a common jab that we see in a lot of combination fighting. This particular form often comes out at the beginning of a combo. It can emerge in multiples as well, all depending on the situation.

Mainly used as a tool for distraction, fighters often use the set-up jab(s) to:

  1. Follow up with more devastating power strikes.
  2. Close distance while keeping the opponent pre-occupied.

Since almost every striking combination starts off with a jab, the possibilities are endless once the opponent is distracted by the quick succession.

Set-Up Jab: Nieky Holzken vs. Joe Valtellini

1st: Valtellini shoots a quick jab straight down the center to set up his combination.

2nd:  He immediately follows up with a quick left hook.

3rd: The combo ends low with a thudding right kick that Nieky can’t react to in time.

Click for the full fight.


The Sticky Jab

The sticky jab is a bit more uncommon in striking, though it is found often in Muay Thai fights. This jab is usually characterized by a lingering arm instead of a traditional recoil back to protect the face.

The sticky jab can be used several ways defensively or offensively. Defensively, the suspended arm sets up a long guard that keeps the opponent at bay and countering.

Sticky Jab (Defensive): Jo Nattawut vs. Malaipet

1st: Malaipet beats Jo to the punch with his own jab. However, Jo employs the use of the sticky jab and his arm lingers.

2nd: Jo keeps his right hand next his head and his left arm turns into a long guard keeping  the shorter Malaipet back.

3rd: Malaipet goes for the body with a kick to get past the long guard, but Jo just drops his left arm down to catch.

Click for the full fight.


Taking one of the more offensive routes, the fully extended floating arm from the sticky jab can continue to obstruct the opponent’s vision to hide a strike.

Sticky Jab (Offensive): Jo Nattawut vs. Charlie Peters

1st: Jo throws a jab that he keeps out much longer instead of recoiling.

2nd: Jo backs up Peters into the ropes with the jab still in his face.

3rd: Jo finally brings back his jab only to come over the top and land an elbow behind it.

Click for the full fight.

The Power Jab

The power jab is more of a stiff, singular strike that aims to:

  • Stop an opponent in their tracks from advancing.
  • Interrupt combinations.
  • Cause as much damage as possible.

Several power jabs landed throughout a round accumulate damage, a cumulative effect that adds up as time goes on. Timing can be crucial for the power jab since it often relies on the opponent running into it face-first. Conversely, a fighter with good explosive energy can  launch a power jab from a stand-still position with threatening force.

A great demonstration of jabs with power can be witnessed in Georges St. Pierre‘s fight with Josh Koscheck.


Just one of many power jabs GSP drilled into Koscheck’s eye socket.


The gruesome outcome of this fight serves as a testament to the awesome power behind this jab.


Final Thoughts

Before everyone rounds out their fight game with kicks, elbows and knees, they will always start off throwing 1-2s.

It takes time to develop every limb in the art of striking, but that’s alright! The more devastating strikes will come more naturally by the time you have developed a solid grasp of the basics.

The most elementary aspects of the striking game are the ones that teach the most.

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Daniel Nguyen
Daniel Nguyen is a packaging engineer who trains Muay Thai as a passionate hobby. With a smoker fight under his belt, his ultimate goal is to convince others to join in by conveying his passion for the sport and writing about his experiences.

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