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George Dawson and The Kidney Punch by Mark Hatmaker

I include this now illegal tactic for a bit of historical delving.

First things first — Do Not Fire Kidney Punches in the Sport.

What happens in a self-defense or street application is a horse of another color.

Firing shots to the kidneys has likely been a feature of armed and unarmed combat since man began walloping one another. Just when the name “kidney punch” became a separate idea in the early era of boxing is a bit unclear but legend ballparks it on an early lightweight champion of the bareknuckle era — one George Dawson.

Dawson was born on October 7, 1867 in New South Wales, Australia. His town of nativity went by the colorful name Dark Corner. His parents had emigrated from England in pursuit of the Australian Gold Rush.

There is not much known about Dawson’s early years beyond that he was encouraged to try the sport after the death of his parents and he was rather active on the Australian scene during the 1880s and early 1890s.

He boxed over 292 rounds in his career, included in some of those rounds was time spent against Bob Fitsimmons and Tommy Ryan.

In the course of his career he picked up the lightweight crown of Queensland in 1887 and he held the lightweight title of Australia from 1889-1891.

Dawson was dubbed the “inventor” of the kidney punch, but this designation seems to come long after his career was over. An article from the mid-1930s (perhaps 1935) titled “The Boxer and Wrestler” declares Dawson the inventor.

Unlikely he was the inventor, but indications are good that his reputation for using it was well-deserved.

Let’s have a look at a few applications of this mighty painful blow.

First, the target area.

Assuming nothing, let’s find the general area that is so much of the problem.

Reach behind you with either hand and feel for the soft patch of skin beneath your ribs and above your hipbone.

This tender spot on your back about three inches away from your spine is the target area.

One can already see that with the target being on the back this was most likely off limits in most “fair play” bouts.

But, beyond accidental kidney punches and/or an opponent who “runs” (blatantly turns their back) there are a few sneaky ways to get this blow in.

Eleven Rounds to Kidney Punching Prowess

Round One – The Side-Step and Dig.
  • Take a big outside step with the rear foot—even better if we make that side-step 45 degrees and forward.
  • Throw a loose rear hook to the target.
  • As it rounds the torso, use the biceps to snap the punch into the target.
  • You will not have a “clean” shot at the kidneys without this snap, so keep that snap a constant.
Round Two – Repeat with the lead hand.
  • Take that big sliding step forward and to the outside.
  • Snap that fist into the target.
Round Three – The Rear Thumb-Fist Kidney Punch
  • You can deliver this blow gloved or ungloved. It is similar to Battling Nelson’s dig to the liver.
  • Keep all of your mechanics including the step and snap but here…
  • Make impact with the thumb-side of the fist. The soft target area makes injuring the hand unlikely and the biceps snap feels a bit stronger with the hand in this position.
Round Four – The Lead Thumb-Fist Kidney Punch
  • Repeat round two with the thumb-fist.
Round Five – The Rear Cupping Kidney Shot
  • This sneaky little tool from the bareknuckle era provides a surprising percussive wallop.
  • Make a cup with your ungloved hand as you would to bring water to your mouth from a mountain stream.
  • Use all of the Round One mechanics and allow this cupping hand to apply a percussive snap to the target.
Round Six – The Lead Cupping Kidney Shot
Round Seven – The preceding blows are a bit blatant, but the following allows us to “hide” the intent.
  • As your opponent steps in with a long jab, hit any of the preceding tactics.
  • Timing the shot with your opponent’s incoming movement gives the appearance of an accidental shot that overshot the “intended” legal target.
Round Eight – Let’s look at hiding it off a rear straight from your opponent…
  • If a lunging rear straight is fired…
  • Side-step 45 degrees to the outside and forward and dig the shot using your opponent’s lunge as the “hide.”
Round Nine – The Clinch Kidney Punch
  • The punch is easily fired here. It is easily read, but for historical or street sake…
  • On the bag, work clinching and snapping the punch to the kidney area.
Round Ten – The Clinch Thumb-Fist
  • Repeat the bag drill but here use the thumb-fist to make impact.
Round Eleven – The Clinch Cupping Kidney Shot
  • On the bag, you know what to do.

Again, illegal in today’s game, questionable in the early days, but mighty mighty effective.

Click Here For Brutally Effective Boxing Moves Taught By Mark Hatmaker

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9 thoughts on “George Dawson and The Kidney Punch by Mark Hatmaker”

  1. It works Justas you say. I have to use it a time or two when I was much smaller than my attacker. That’s all I can really say.

  2. The Kinney punch works really well if the ref does not catch it. My name is Dr CHARLES Vitelli and when I was younger boxed golden gloves in many tournaments. Have used Kinney Punch if an opponent hit low. It should only be used in a dire situation for it could kill them. We also in special ops in Viet Nam used against the enemy their it was useful.

  3. All of the while time is being spent to do some body damage, which is important but it leads me to this question. On the street scene is a kidney shot like this even practical? Sounds like some fight club stuff to help a brawler to just stay in a fight, not end a fight.

  4. When I was the Head Bouncer at the Little Bear Saloon in Evergreen, Colorado (Denver’s “Beverly Hills from the 1870’s on…), I was the smallest of my six and seven man crew, but I was the quickest, fastest, and meanest in quickly shutting down brawls between drunks, or a drunk hitting his wife or a woman. I’m only 6′, and 215 but that’s all muscle and bone. The biggest thing was my martial arts training and growing up beating up bullies and punks who were trying to hurt older, bigger kids than me. (I received my “marching orders” from my GrandDad Williams who had been a Territorial Oklahoma Deputy Sheriff and Sheriff.)
    Dad Williams was who taught me the effectiveness of the “kidney punch” but not for normal fighting, and certainly not in matches. I had to use it several times at the Bear to save guys’ lives involved in drunken brawls, using pool balls, while pulling each other’s long hair as well as busting up multi-person brawls to keep people from being thrown over the 15′ balcony down on to the tables of folks below. By the time my big boys got through the crowds to the brawl, I almost always had things at least separated, if not under control. My boys would “escort” them thru the heavy swinging batwing doors and the even thicker, stout, huge wood-layered front door (designed to keep our winter storms of down to -45 degrees outside since the Bear was built in the 1870s, giving them a brief flight down the 9 or 10 concrete steps to the Main Street/Highway below. The Kidney (or rabbit?) punch works, and works especially well, literally saving lives and stopping people who need to be stopped. Just don’t practice on your family, friends, or trees!