Thursday, March 16, 2006

If it's against the rules, then it must work!

Have you ever heard of Max 'Slapsie Maxie' Rosenbloom? If you have, it's because you're a lover of boxing history and lore, or you're an aficianodo of old films. Either way, this former (1932) world light-heavyweight champion's legacy to me is the proof of the effectiveness of the slap!

In the 20s and 30s, when Rosenbloom was fighting, there was no rule against using the fist in a variety of ways, and Rosenbloom did! According the IMDB bio from his movie career (, he had over 280 professional bouts, and won the light-heavy title in 1932. Though I have never seen film, I've read that his fighting style was very much the "hit and run," elusive syle that Ali in his prime, or heavyweight Chris Byrd now displays. What gave him his nickname was the fact that he slapped his opponents around, and even knocked many out using his open hand! In fact, rules were instituted that made the technique illegal.

My friend Robert told me that there was a similar rules change in high school and college basketball to eliminate dunking because of a young man named Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). You now see a similar change in the NFL to encourage scoring, called the "no-chuck rule,"which prevents bumping or otherwise checking a wide receiver over five yards from the line of scrimmage. Must be pretty good to have a rule made because of you! If you have other examples of this in sports, please let me know.

Whenever I demonstrate this technique on a heavy bag, shield, or paddle for the first time, I invariably hear an impressed intake of breath from my spectator, or something like, "Wow!" I've often posted and taught about the utility of the open hand versus the fist, but unless you've tried it yourself, you may not realize that the open-hand strike is just as powerful (if not more so) as the hook punch, but has more reach (2-4 inches+). The other inherent advantages are that you don't break or sprain your hand, knuckles or wrist, as well as the fact that a single open-hand strike to the ear can knock out, or disable the most powerful foe.

Let's also differentiate between a wimpy, pawing slap and what I call an open-hand strike:
The former is an arm-only, uncommitted swipe that will do no damage, unless you accidentally scratch an eye. The latter is a fully-committed concussive strike that diffuses the power of a circular strike (like a punch or ridgehand) by using the PALM (not the fingers) as the striking surface. As with all good techniques, drive through the target, but hit, don't push or swipe. Another warning, don't lock the elbow! If you do, you could dislocate it if blocked hard.

As the title says, if it's against the rules, then it must work! Why else are the following illegal in boxing - slapping, grabbing, holding and hitting, throwing, kicking, groin punching, "rabbit" punching, elbows, and headbutts? Because they work!!!!

Max Rosebloom info below:

IMDB biography:
He was 5' 11" and weighed 165-170 lbs during the peak of his professional boxing years (which included 289 fights). In years to come the larger-than-life Maxie Rosenbloom would parlay his sports fame into an expansive Hollywood career playing a series of Runyonesque-type thugs and pugs. Born Max Everitt Rosenbloom in Connecticut, the son of an impoverished Russian-Jewish shoemaker and his wife, Maxie was a truant and upstart from the beginning. An older brother (who fought under the name Leonard Rose) helped straighten him out and influenced him to try jabbing away at his own career. The lackluster amateur once called the "Harlem Harlequin" lost most of his matches, working odd jobs as a railroad worker, lifeguard and elevator operator to support himself.

Everything turned around for Maxie after he became managed by seasoned Frank Bachman and turned pro in 1923 as a welterweight. He won all of his first thirty-six professional fights in various weight divisions. He reached his peak from 1930, after winning the light heavyweight belt in a decision against Jimmy Slattery, to 1932, when he earned international recognition as champion in a decision against Lou Scozza. Dubiously nicknamed "Slapsie Maxie" by sportswriter Damon Runyon who disapproved of Maxie's less-than-classy style of slapping opponents with open gloves, he is considered the most active champion in contemporary boxing history with a fighting total of 106 while champion (only eight, however, were for the title).
Rosenbloom was a clever boxer who was very difficult to hit cleanly with a power punch; He chose to fight at a distance since he was not a devastating hitter; At times, he appeared to strike his opponents with open gloves and, so, picked up the nickname "Slapsie Maxie." A popular fighter, Maxie got into entertainment after retiring from the ring and was invloved with radio, television, movies and night clubs. Rosenbloom was elected to the Ring Boxing Hall of Fame in 1972 and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993.


Anonymous said...

The earslap is very effective, and much easier to use and learn than the boxing hook, especially for women whose hands are generally weaker and to whom it doesn't come naturally to use the closed fist as a weapon so for them palmheel strikes and earslaps are a superior option.

Nice article, of course I knew the earslap but not the guy who caused it to be considered a faul in boxing. What I especially liked in your explanation was the differentiation between a light slap as an untrained woman would employ or a hard, devestating strike that can rupture eardrums and cause knockouts. If you learn how to hit with your whole body as opposed to just your arms & hands you'll always pack a whallop, even if you're not that strong or big. In teaching women I'd advise a few simple combo's in boxing fashion but with the open hand: jab (spearhand or palmheel), cross-hook (earslap), C-H-C, H-C-H... combine this with the low straight kick to the groin, knee or shin and elbow and kneestrikes and you've got a good arsenal that can be trained quickly and is fairly easy to use and remember.


Nathan Teodoro said...

Great comments. Thanks Zara.