” What would happen if a year-old baby fell from a fourth-floor window onto the head of a burly truck driver, standing on the sidewalk?”
This is how Jack Dempsey’s classic book Championship Fighting begins.
Jack Dempsey was Heavyweight Champion from 1919 to 1926. He started earning money fighting at the turn of the century by going to rough bars and challenging anyone in the house to a bare knuckle fight, then having his friends place bets.
This guy knew how to knock people out.
The point he dramatically made with his opening line about the falling baby is that the weight of the tiny weak baby would knock out or kill the burly truck driver.
I took two valuable points about fighting from Dempsey’s book. The importance of ending the fight quickly and the importance of body weight for the generation of knockout power.
Ending the fight as quickly as possible is key. As Dempsey says, there are no officials at a street fight. “Never forget: The longer the fight lasts, the longer you are exposed to danger… Moreover, the danger percentage against you generally increases with each passing minute of the fight,” he wrote.
“It is imperative that you end the brawl as quickly as possible; and the best way to do that is by a knockout. The knockout is far more important in fist-fighting than in boxing, you’ve got to knock ’em out in fist-fights.”
He dedicated a chapter of his book to the concept he calls the “falling step.” He instructs the reader to stand with their hands at their sides with one leg slightly forward and then to lunge forward in the direction of the leading leg, a short step that lands flat. The idea is to become aware of the weight of your moving forward and to understand that if you throw a punch and the punch lands on the opponent before the foot hits the ground, then the weight of the body momentarily lands behind the punch.
The punch weighs as close to the weight of the whole body as possible. “Exploding body-weight is the most important weapon in fist-fighting or boxing,” he writes.
Try it on a heavy bag – the key is not to push the bag with your weight, but to make the bag absorb the power, so that the bag jumps rather than sways, a tip I got from a friend who is a professional boxer. More on that later.