Bluish Coder

Programming Languages, Martials Arts and Computers. The Weblog of Chris Double.


Jack Dempsey

Jack Dempsey was a famous boxer early in the 20th century. Today I got in the mail a DVD on Jack Dempsey's style of boxing made available by Kirk Lawson on rec.martial-arts.

The DVD is a garage training session led by Ken Pfrenger, a western martial arts instructor. Ken's 'western martial arts' interest covers early bare knuckle boxing, Irish Collar and Elbow wrestling and stickplay and Cornish Close Hugg wrestling amongst other things. Based on his knowledge of Dempsey and Dempsey's book and fights he led a session on some of his techniques and tactics. This is what appears on the DVD.

Some interesting stuff covered, including: * Stance * Center line theory and parrying * The Jolt * Trigger Step * Shoulder Whirl * The Surge, upper cut and shovel hook * Feinting and drawing the punch * The Double Shift * The Corkscrew * The Cross * The Inside Triple * The Outside Triple

As you can see early boxing had its own vernicular seperate from modern boxing. Even 'The Cross' is a different punch being much more like an overhand right.

The DVD is about 45 minutes of material - raw and relatively unpolished - but containing very interesting and useful content to the enthusiast of boxing's history and great fighters. Well worth the low price Kirk is selling them for.

It is interesting to compare the differences style of the early 20th century of boxing versus modern boxing. Dempsey advocated punching with the bottom three knuckles of the fist (vs modern boxing's top two) and many punches are done with a vertical fist.

The Jolt is a lead hand punch different from the modern Jab. The fist is vertical and the power is obtained from a drop step into the opponent.

Many of the punches derive power by rapidly rotating the shoulders, concentrating on bringing back fast the non punching shoulder and thrusting forward the punching shoulder - creating a rotational torque which pushes out the punching hand. This movement being called the 'shoulder whirl'. Described in Dempsey's book, Championship Fighting, as:

One shoulder whips forward while the other whips back. Muscles of the shoulders, back, stomach, legs co-operate in achieving the whirl. Also, the process is assisted by shifting the weight from one leg to the other. You need concern yourself only with the shoulder motions. Nature will supervise the assisting muscles and movements.



According to the DVD Dempsey advocated a open hand position. Rather than keeping the hands in close to the head, protecting the chin. creating a shield like say Peek-a-boo boxing style or Rodney King's Crazy Monkey, they were kept more apart to create a target for the opponent and thus draw his punches to a known point. Parrying the punch then being as simple as a downward parry motion to bat the punch away or a stop-catch with the rear hand followed by a lead hand punch or jolt.

There's some nice coverage of the shovel hook to the body and the upper cut. The delivery style for the shovel hook being to keep the drop down from the knees, keep the elbow of the hooking hand close (or attached to) the hip and torquing with the hips to drive the punch. No movement of the hand or arm away from the hip.

Some nice links to Dempsey in action:

The video of Dempsey vs Willard linked above shows some obvious differences in rules compared to modern boxing. When a boxer is knocked down they get a ten count but the opponent can stand right over them and immediately hit them when they get up. There is no neutral corner rule. In this fight Willard is knocked down seven times in the first round.


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