Bolo Punch – A Specific Filipino Influence on Western Boxing


When most of us think about boxing, we imagine an American martial art that was taught for self defense in every YMCA in America during the mid to late 20th century.

Everyone knows about the titans of the sport like Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Floyd Mayweather, and Joe Lewis.

What many of us don’t realize is that a large percentage of modern boxing has been thanks in large part to the contributions of immigrants and their martial arts.

One such contribution comes from Filipino immigrants following World War II. Some of these immigrants practiced the stick/sword/knife/empty hand fighting art of Arnis and Panantukan.

They easily realized that boxing paid more than farming in the new country.

Then, they adapted their unique boxing style to fit into the western rules. One of the major transplants was the Bolo Punch.

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What is the Bolo Punch?

A left bolo punch in counterpunchA left bolo punch in counterpunch

A left bolo punch in counterpunch

A left bolo punch in attackA left bolo punch in attack

A left bolo punch in attack

At its core, the bolo punch is a loose wiping upper cut that is directed at a lower target.

The evolution for the strike comes from Escrimadors striking with their cane in closer striking ranges.

This same technique translates into every weapon practiced in Escrima, including the sword or Bolo.

The target in blunt striking would be the floating ribs, liver, head if lowered, kidneys if opponent is turned, etc…

With a bladed weapon there is a slicing finish after the initial strike along with continued follow up strike to the opposite side.

These strikes were especially effective in battle where armor was weakest around the joints and areas of movement.

How do you do it?

No matter why you are learning the technique there are a few things that you need to keep in mind as you practice:

Stay loose and fluid. You must keep the weight on the balls of your feet, and make sure you are striking appropriate targets.

As you can see in the video below with punch bag pro, you start from a relaxed boxing stance.

And then you go from a high to low whipping motion strike forward and in towards the target.

KEY MAKER: pressing off the balls of the feet as you begin the motion in your shoulder transferring the force to your elbow and then to your wrist and fist.


It can be difficult to feel whether or not you are really getting the proper results of the strike.

However, if you perform this as a cane strike on a target you will be able to very easily hear and see the proper results.

To do this all you need to do is perform the same motion from the same position but from 2 or 3 feet further away to account for striking with the end of the cane.

The strike should feel fluid, sharp, and continuous through the target.

When you are practicing your Bolo Punch, make sure that you are breathing.

You will quickly feel your muscles tense prior to striking if you don’t use proper breath control.

At the moment of impact, you want to have your muscles tense and powerful so expel the air in a quick powerful motion.

When do you use this skill?

The Bolo Punch won’t be of much use to you.

You can only use it while in a fight, match, or sparring session.

Because of that, you should focus on building quality combinations around it.

Start with stiff jabs and find what series of strikes flow freely into your new strike.

Since you want your body to be in a twisting fashion for the conservation of energy, a good high hook or elbow is the perfect preceding strike to your bolo.

Try different things to see what works for your body type.

What do you practice on?

Due to the acceleration of the Bolo Punch, try to avoid practicing them in the air.

It’s because of the potential strain they it can place on the joints.

Heavy bags are ok. But they only give you the feedback from the impact of your strike against a soft flat surface.

The best non person striking surface that you can use is a something like the century BOB target.


  • These targets have visible targets so you have the impact of hitting a solid surface.
  • Besides, you can feel what different contours of the body feel like.
  • Bob also gives you the oppor
    tunity to pull and move the target around for striking.
  • If you learn this interesting variation on the uppercut, it isn’t much use unless you can actually hit the target that you are aiming at.

Once you have the hang of using it on a stationary target it is time to convince your buddy to put on some sparring gear and step into the ring.

Focus on your high combinations to bring their arms up and then let them have it.

Wrap it up

The Bolo Punch is a tool that you have been missing from your new fighter toolbox.

Once you have mastered it you will have a powerful uppercut that has carried many warriors across the battlefield.

Train the technique, find the correct body movement, and practice on the right target and you will have an amazing weapon.

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Teaching, Friendly, Young, Passion. Always wanna go up & down. Hey, you gotta live, do you?  

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Robert Sterling  //  Author

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