FIghting Stances – Martial Art Stances And What To Use In A Fight

When it comes to fighting, there are plenty of styles to choose from. Boxing, MMA, Kickboxing, Wrestling and Muay Thai all have a host of unique strikes and techniques that encourage a certain stance to perfect.

You will notice that the stance for each sport is a mix between offensive effectiveness and defensive protection. The martial art you chose to participate in will teach different footwork and movement. In this guide we will give a break down of the stances in many of the popular combat sports.

Boxing Stance:

Known as the sweet science, boxing is the possibly the most simple striking sport in the world. From the outside, it looks like two guys punching each other in the head until one falls over.

When you get involved in the sport or look a bit closer, you see that the feet have a lot more to do with boxing than first meets the eye. The footwork sets up the punches, look at Lomachenko for instance who sets up his punches with blistering footwork.


Boxing Stance Image

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The Basic Orthodox Stance:

The Orthodox boxing stance is for right handed people who jab with their lead left hand and load up the right hand for their power punches. Since boxers don’t need to worry about taking kicks to their lead leg, they keep it in front.

The back leg will be 90 degrees behind. The feet will not point straight forward but will be turned 45 degrees to the right.

The basic stance will see the right hand pressed against the cheekbone and the left hand clenched in a fist and held in front of the face. The left hand is in front of the face to let off the jab quickly and keep the distance with your opponent.

You want to be on the balls of your feet and keep a slight bend in the knee to move quickly in the sport of boxing.


Boxing Stance

Boxing Stance Female










Basic Movement In Boxing:

From your boxing stance, you’ll need to move around the ring. The way you want to move will dictate which foot moves first.

If you want to move forward the lead leg moves first and the back leg follows. If you want to move backward the back leg moves first and the front leg follows.

If you want to move left, the left leg moves first and the right follows. Moving right, the right leg goes first, followed by the left.

This ensures that wont cross your feet. If you cross your feet in boxing, you will lose your balance and you can easily be knocked over. You won’t be able to react quickly to incoming attacks as well.

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Southpaw Stance

Southpaws like to lead with the right hand for jabbing and carry the power in their left hand. it is a mirror image of the Orthodox stance just reversed.

Right leg in front and left leg behind. Being a southpaw brings benefits and disadvantages.

For one southpaws spar orthodox all the time while orthodox rarely get to spar southpaw opponents which should be an advantage in theory.

Getting In Your Boxing Stance


Turn your feet 45 degrees to the right for orthodox and to the left for a south paw. take one step back with your back leg, slightly bend the knees and get up on the balls of your feet.

You are ready to start working on your movement. Check out this video for a quick guide:



Muay Thai Stance


When it comes to Muay Thai, We’ve got one major difference, Kicks! If you stand in your boxing stance and try to spar in muay thai, you’ll quickly learn that legs kicks hurt.

Your lead leg will be be a sitting target for heavy low kicks and you wont be able to defend kicks to the body.

If sparring your partner will be wearing shin pads, in a fight they will not. Not only will keeping the lead leg forward lead to you getting kicked a lot, you will also be open to sweeps that will land you on your ass fast.


Muay Thai Stance


Getting into the Muay Thai Stance

You may have guessed by know that the Muay Thai stance is more square that its boxing counterpart. To get into the Muay Thai Stance your front foot will face directly forward. Take a smaller step back with the right foot foot if orthodox and take a step to the right.

You can keep the back foot flat and stay on the ball of your front foot. This is important for blocking kickings coming to the leg or body. By staying on the ball of your front foot, you will also be able to easily let of a teep which can keep you opponent at distance.

You always want to keep the chin tucked and the hands at eye brow level to block any high kicks or elbows that come in. Keeping the hands high will also enable you to enter the clinch effectively and throw knees.

As you can see, you have a few more threats to worry about in Muay Thai than you do in Boxing. That is not to say one is more skillful than the other. They are both different art forms, equally worthy of respect.


Thai StanceMuay Thai Stance In Action










Movement In Muay Thai


There are a few things to keep in mind here. You can have a wide muay thai stance and a narrow muay thai stance.


Square Muay Thai Stance

A square stance will make your movements back and forward less quick but it will increase ability to attack and defend effectively in the sport.

This is going to suit you well if you will to take one to give one. Muay Thai sluggers will have a wide stance.

If you are a shorter ‘inside fighter’ with power that wants to trade by loading up on hooks and kicks.


Muay Thai Wide StanceSquare Muay Thai Stance


Narrow Muay Thai Stance

Keeping the feet closer together will mean you move quicker to evade your opponents attacks and can close the distance on you opponent quickly.

You have to keep in mind that you will be more vulnerable to low kicks as you move in.

This stance can be very effective for taller fighters who want to throw straight punches, long kicks and want to clinch when they get inside and throw knees.


Muay Thai Narrow StanceNarrow Muay Thai Stance



Switch Hitting In Muay Thai


There is a lot of switch hitting in Muay Thai due to large number of different techniques at fighters disposal. Throw a left kick from an Orthodox stance requires you to move the right forward into the forward position.

You can do this with a deliberate step or you can skip into the kick. Often when Kickboxers or muay thai fighters go into boxing they will have the advantage of being able to switch hit but few do it very well.

Boxers going into Kickboxing or Muay Thai will have the advantage of fast footwork and better hands. You need to keep in mind that they are completely different sports and success in one doe not guarantee success in the other.

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Basic Stance And Movement In Muay Thai


Differences between K1 Kickboxing and Muay Thai

These sports are similar but different. One should be able to move between K1 and Muay Thai without a serious amount of adjustment. There is no elbows in K1 and there is limited clinch.

When you clinch with an opponent you may be only allowed to throw 1 knee before the ref breaks it up. You also can’t sweep or throw your opponent in K1. Other than that the sports are quite similar.


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The MMA Stance


I am going to go out on a limb here and say that Professional MMA fighters have to toughest job when it comes to preparing for a fight and I do not say this lightly.

MMA fighters have to deal with everything from Boxing, Muay Thai, all other striking and sports AND they have to worry about being taken to the ground.

All these styles are going to require more than 1 training session per day usually and they have to consider their strength condition and road work in the build up to the fight.

Dealing With The Risk Of Going To The Ground

An MMA fighter may choose any stance they want but the risk of being taken to the grounds adds an extra dynamic to the mix. If your feet are too wide and narrow, you can move quickly but you are open to sweeps and leg kicks.

If your feet are too wide you are more open to the takedown but you can defend with a knee. The key to blocking the takedown is in knowing that it might come and keep your head lower so you can react and snuff any takedown attempts.

Other than that you want to be able to defend when you are taken down by improving your jiu jitsu and wrestling.

MMA StanceMMA Stances








Every MMA fighter will favour their own style but keeping a bit lower for the takedown is a prerequisite in MMA. McGregor for instance keeps a very wide stance which allows him to use his hands and he keeps opponents off guard with unorthodox taekwondo and capoeira kicks and movements.

We have seen that McGregors ground game has been his weakness in his career. That’s why it is so hard for MMA fighters. They have to be exceptional in at least one aspect but they have to have a very high standard in everything else.


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MMA Vs Boxing Vs Muay Thai – What Wins In A Street Fight

Anything can happen in a street fight but the more tools you have available to you, the better off you will be. Boxing is going to be quickest to the target with effective strikes. If the fight goes on leg kicks will be able to hit the boxer without taking any damage for the kicker.

MMA will allow a smaller guy to beat a bigger guy on the ground. If someone who cant fight starts on an MMA guy they will be able to choke him out without causing damage which is a lot better than striking someone with the big chance of causing serious damage and risking jail time.

All things being equal, MMA wins out everytime. Muay Thai will beat Boxing 9/10. If the boxer can land first and do damage he may win. Just having a ground game is great but if have to fight more than one person you may be in trouble.

Fighting is always a last resort and you negotiate your way out of it. Usually only people who cant fight want to start fights or newbies where the training has gone to their heads. This happens with weight lifters as well.

Always use violence as an absolute last resort and dont be a douche bag. Never cause damage to a person physically no matter how far they step out of line is my advice!

If someone strikes you and you feel in danger then go ahead but never be the aggressor even if provoked or attacked by a much weaker person.



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Aidan Lehane has been involved in the fight game for well over 10 and has trained in some of the leading boxing gyms around the world including Sinbi Muay Thai and MTK Global Marbella. He wants to offer as much advice to beginners and pros as possible.

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