My first article has to be about the counter left hook, because this technique is where it all started. I remember one night I randomly came across this highlight video of Nieky Holzken, and I couldn’t help but notice how his left hooks (later on I learnt that its actually the counter left hook to be exact) will almost always land on his opponents. To be fair, its a highlight video, so of course his strikes is gonna land. But at that time I really didn’t had much tools in my arsenal and I was really interested in how he uses his left hook and possibly add it to my arsenal. Of course Nieky is great at millions other things, but this was the one technique that I learnt from him.
Why the Counter Left hook Works
Everyone knows that after you throw a punch, your hand has to come back to your head to protect yourself. This is taught by every coach since the first day you walk into any legit gym. This is easier said than done, especially in a fight. These are the main reasons why fighters fail to retract their hands during a fight:
- Being overly aggressive and swings, completely forgetting about their defense while attacking
- Getting overly confident / comfortable and assume that your opponent is not going to fire back
- Bad training habit
Being tired in a fight is inevitable, so there is not much to say there. Bad training habit usually happens when a fighter reach a certain level and becomes too comfortable with his surrounding (the gym that he trains at). No one really questions them and correct their form and thus the bad habit develop. If you go look at the training footages of some world class fighters you can actually see this happen quite often.
Now lets talk about the first 2 scenario, which plays a larger role into why the counter left hook works. These 2 scenario happens in almost every fight you watch, when the attacker is solely focused on attacking and completely neglecting his defense while he is attacking, leaving defensive holes for his opponents to exploit. This is very common among aggressive fighters.
But more importantly, it is actually inevitable.
The timing of counter left hook
If you fire the counter left hook too soon (as soon as it land), then your opponent’s right hand will most likely be still on your left hand (assuming that you have your guard up), and he can probably feel that your left hand is about to fire and know something is coming. This can often lead to the two hands jamming each other or your opponent backing out. Given that a hook is a shorter range weapon, it will not land if your opponent step out of the pocket (You can obviously leap with the hook, but then you are risking a chance of running into something. You don’t really want to do it against someone who has heavy hands or good at catching someone coming in). But more importantly, your opponent now knows that you are going to counter his straight right with a left hook, and the chance of it succeeding will decrease significantly.
If you do it too late (Your opponent’s right hand is back to his head / almost back to his head), then your left hook will either 1) land on his guard, 2) completely miss. The first outcome is actually not that bad because it will make your opponent think twice before throwing his straight right again. This timing can actually be used when you react a second too late but still want to keep his right hand in check. The second outcome is just a complete waste of energy (depends on how hard you throw it) and as mentioned in the above paragraph, showing your opponent your card for literally nothing.
The correct timing to fire the counter left hook is right after your opponent’s straight right landed on your guard and on its way back to his head. This is a small opening window in which that the right side of your opponent’s face is left unprotected. If you can land a clean hard shot to the chin or temple during this time, it is bound to do some great damage.
Here we see a few example where Nieky execute the perfect timing for a counter left hook beautifully.
The situation in which the counter left hook works
- The counter left hook is best used against an aggresive puncher, who favours his right hand. Ideally, your opponent likes to commit lots of power to his shots, thus making retraction a little slower.
The situation in which the counter left hook won’t work(or have little succeed)
- Your opponent is not really committed to the right hand
- Your opponent is choosing speed over power (which means his right hand will retract much faster, smaller opening window)
How to use the counter left hook
I personally found great success in sparring using the counter left hook doing the following:
- Recognize the person is a puncher
- Pick a tighter guard
- Circle / slightly backout as he come in with punches while covering up, and start to time his right hand
- Once you get his timing down, then fire the counter left hook
Keep in mind that the principle of countering is that you want the person to feel comfortable / safe as they are coming in / throwing at you. Then you land the counter when they are least expected.
Follow up with the counter left hook
The most common follow up with the counter left hook are
- Right hands
- Right kicks
- Right knees
- Right elbows
- Another left hook
So even if you miss your counter left hook (or land on the guard of your opponent), make sure you follow through with these attacks
Of course, you need be aware of your distance. If you miss with the hook, you will want to use a longer range weapon such as the straight right and right kicks. Maybe even stepping in with it depending on how far away your opponent is.
If your hook lands on his guard, then chances are you are in the pocket. Therefore, you will want to use the shorter range weapon such as the hooks, elbows, and knees.
Countering the Counter Left hook
I will finish off this article with some ways of countering the counter left hook. If you know your opponent has a good counter left hook, here are some things that you can do.
- Duck under as he throw the left hand, if you have good footwork you can even get an dominant angle on him. You can also fire a left hook to the body while you duck under and finish up with a strong right hook on top.
- After you land your right hand on your opponent’s guard, keep your right hand on his left hand. This will serve as a check / pin and its very hard for your opponent to fire a left hand out of it.
- After you land your right hand on your opponent’s guard, if you know that he is going to fire a counter left hook, you can even retract your right hand just a little and fire another right hand again. The mechanic of this punch is the same as a double jab, except you are doing it with the right hand.