Category: Sports Training

Pros and Cons of Fighting Stances

Pros and Cons of Fighting Stances by Valley Health Clinic

“Stance maketh the fighter.”

Mark my words! If you want to learn just one thing about fighting—learn to perfect your stance.

The Stance

Your stance is just your unique way of being ready to move. It is the starting point of all your martial movement. To combat at your best, it is mandatory to find, understand, and master your starting position.

Attempting one-on-one combat, or martial arts without a proper stance is much like doing a max deadlift without properly securing core.

Always remember, my beautiful reader, that the stance you choose is your foundation. A proper stance allows you to move powerfully—yet effortlessly, while smoothly transferring force from your body to your extremity.

The more professional fighters would tell you that your stance is dependent on your fighter-type. For example, a fighter such as Stephen Thompson has perfected a Karate-style stance, which enables the American MMA artist to deploy certain kicks to their highest effect.

However, you should always avoid copying your favorite boxer. Yes, it is super inspirational to watch Jon Jones and Khabib do their thing with such swiftness—but you must perfect the stance that will cover your weaknesses, while front loading your strengths.

Therefore, whether you’re a boxer, MMA/Muay Thai practitioner, or just someone looking to better their self-defense, it always pays to have a good understanding of different stances.

So let’s dive straight into the pros and cons of different types of fighting stances, and how you can perfect them.

Different Fighting Stances. Their Benefits. Their Disadvantages!

Keep in mind that people will tend to show you their weapons.

What do I mean by that?

When you know the basics of different types of stances, it can help you foreshadow your opponent’s moves in combat. Your opponent will stand in a way that will make their favorite attacks more accessible. If you love front foot side kicks, you will tend to stand with your front foot already turned to the side.

If you love to grapple you will tend to stand with your shoulders square to your opponent, which allows for equal reach with both hands.

Let’s start with your basic stance with feet shoulders width apart, and hands by your side.

In this position you are not showing any weapons, with your ‘natural’ posture, except for the possibility of forward head movement. As you can see, your stance is made up of your:

  • Hands
  • Knees
  • Feet
  • Shoulders

Now, let’s roll out the details:

Knee Depth Determines the Range of Your Distance

The more your knees are bent, the more distance one can cover in combat. Consider it like a box-jump vs a jump rope. Before doing a box jump you will bend your knees and your feet will be flat on the ground. This position loads your hamstrings and glutes to jump.

On the other hand, having a less bent knee would result in a jump rope-style movement. Weight is shifted to your toes and power is generated more for the quads and calves.

Therefore if someone is coming at you with deeply bent knees, he/she is more likely to lunge at you.

Alternatively, if someone is standing tall, then movement would naturally look more like a skip slip or hop in and out of your range.

Visualize a cobra in motion—more the coil, more the spring!

Wider Stance

Wide StanceThe super-wide stance is fantastic for transferring your weight into powerful punches. The body has a more stable base which it can push from. The wide base allows for a lean. It increases the range of motion of your head while decreasing the motion of your hips. The angle of force from your legs also allows for easier side to side motion.

Kicks will be more difficult to execute because a large weight shift has to occur before you can lift your foot off the ground.

If someone with a wide stance they will tend to be a more hand dominant fighter.

Narrow Stance

Narrow StanceCarrying a narrow stance enables you to generate force upwards, as it is easier to pick up one’s feet. Less weight transfer is involved before you can unload a foot.

A compact stance increases the movement of the hips and decreases lean of the head. The body is in a natural hula hoop position. This makes kicking easier and more powerful.

Hands do not offer a lot of power, when the feet are narrowly placed.

When you see your someone coming at you with a narrow stance, probably, they like to kick!

The Position of Hands

Higher Hands
As the hands are raised, or come closer to level with the shoulder, they progressively become more powerful. For instance, if hands are located at or above the shoulder they’re in a more natural position for pushing or grabbing. Waste twisting from this position generates more force, think of a baseball throw. This also allows punches to be thrown with more force.

Yet with hands around the head, it is difficult to quickly move the head out of the way. The weight of the hands adds momentum to the upper half of the body. Locking the hands up by the face tends to also lock the shoulders and ribs in place. Blocking is done either by moving the hands or the whole body. Mike Tyson boxes like this and ducks his whole body from the knees.

When the hands are below the chest area, one can move the head quickly because the hands can move independently of the head and do not add significantly to the upper body momentum. Muhammad Ali keeps his hands relatively lower and just slips his head. With the hands lower one can more easily move the neck and shoulders.

For instance, if a boxer is slipping, he/she would fight with lower hands. You can spot wrestlers and Jiu Jitsu practitioners deploying lower hands because lower hands enable them to do a takedown defense.

Sideways Stance

Sideways StanceWhen a sideways stance is utilized the front hand and rear foot (the main offensive weapons) are prominent. The front hand is jab and hook dominant while the rear hand is acting as a counter. This is because from this position the rear hand/shoulder is farthest away. It has less reach than the front, which makes it a defensive weapon. To utilize the rear hand, one must wait until the target is very close or the upper torso must rotate awkwardly to close the distance to the target. Grappling is less likely as only one hand is able to reach the opponent. A sideways stance enables rapid motion perpendicular to the direction the torso is facing but makes circling movement difficult.

Sideways Stance with a Toe Pointing Sideways

Many people use this stance to fake an attack. With the toe inline with the shoulder the leg is in a very strong position for moving forward and back. Often the front foot will need to be rotated forward to kick and that is their “tell”.

With the toe inline with the shoulder or sideways, means a side kick or back spin kick can be launched easily. It is hard to sprawl or go for a takedown with the toe point sideways because the knee can’t bend forward.

Sideways Stance with a Toe Pointing Forward

This is a commonly used fencing position. The front foot forward allows the knee to bend and hips to rotate forward. The rear foot is able to launch more powerful kicks, like front kicks or roundhouse.

The forward-pointing toe enables a greater knee bend of the front leg, which allows one to shoot in for a takedown or sprawl.

Furthermore, as the stance narrows, the user is in a position to defend against kicks with their front leg. This stance is often deployed by Muay Thai practitioners.

However, it is difficult to launch a spin kick from that position. A “tell” if a spin kick or sidekick is coming is if you see the front foot rotate front pointing forward to the side.

Sideways Chest Forward Stance

Sideways Chest Forward StanceMore commonly known as the bladed position in the realm of boxing. This stance provides protection while moving, defending, and attacking due to the limited exposure of the torso. However, as you can see in the picture, it neutralizes the ability to throw impactful kicks or drop down to inflict a takedown.

Therefore, whenever you see your foe assuming this position, brace yourself for a bout with a boxer!

Square Stance

When a square stance is adopted, the feet are pointing forward. This allows for the user to easily lunge into the opponent. It also assists with quick level changes. Moreover, the right arm becomes an offensive weapon instead of merely a defensive one, because it is in equal distance to the opponent.

Boxers adopt the square stance since they attack more with their right hand.

Square StanceGrapplers also use it because it’s easier to grab a person from a square position than from a sideways stance, as the waist does not have to be completely rotated beforehand.

Moreover, boxers generally keep their hands high, which allows him to be offensive. Conversely, the wrestlers and BJJ people keep their hands low when assuming a square position, which helps them with takedown defenses, and allows them to shoot in.

Furthermore, a square position makes the rear leg and rear arm a potent weapon. However, since the chest is in a forward position, it is difficult to execute spin kicks.

I hope now you have the basic understanding of different fighting stances, and which one suits your style of combat.

Fighting Stances Overview

Knee bend determines the distance

  • Deeper Knee bend allows for larger lung step, like a jump on a box, getting close (take down, fencing lunge)
  • Less knee, more rebound, more bounce, jump rope or running. Slipping out of range

Hand Position

  • Hands Higher, Hight Center of Gravity, Elbows and Head defense
  • Hands lower, Lower center of gravity. Allow for greater head movement and takedown defense. Wrestler and Jujitsu, counter fighters
  • Front/square stance backhand, front foot in the game
  • Sideways/ln-line back hand out. Back foot in the game

Wide stance

  • Wide stance movement is more side to side
  • The wide stance is more head/hand radius
  • Wide stance more hand power
  • Faster footwork movement


  • Slower kick because weight is too wide. A lot of weight shit before can pick up feet

Narrow stance

  • Narrow stance movement is more up and down or kicking
  • Narrow stance more Hip Radius
  • Narrow stance more kicking power
  • Feet closer together can throw kicks faster because less weight shifts off the foot.
  • Slower foot work harder to spring in and out


  • Less power in hands

Feet Squared

  • Increases reach of rear hand for grabbing boxing wrestling.
  • Squared allows for better circling movement
  • Easier Head movement side to side
  • Squared stands allow for level changes and takedown


  • Bigger target for straight kicks
  • Harder Head movement forward and back

Feet Inline

  • Better and moving backing up and forward
  • Quick spinning kicks and sidekicks
  • Sideways/ in-line stand. Front hand more distance. Jab and left hooks counter fighter means opponents need to come in
  • Smaller target


  • Open to takedowns (harder to sprawl)
  • Lead leg open to low kicks hard to check and bend when kicked
  • Hard to move laterally more in and out.

Back Foot Position

Back foot on or close to on centerline

  • Back foot on or close to on centerline spinning/ waist twist backward is quicker. (front foot will be sideways for stability)

Back foot forward form center line

  • Back foot forward form center line, waste twist forward
  • Off-center roundhouse kicking (front foot will be more forward)

Front Foot Position

Front Foot Forward

  • Front foot forward easy to lunge and takedown, back foot roundhouse or front kick.
  • Harder to move back because harder to push off a front foot.
  • Front Forward easier to twist forward for front and roundhouse kicks.
  • Front forward easier to check kicks

Front Foot Sideways

  • Front foot in/sideways easier to twist away, spinning back kicks, side kicks jabs, and front hooks. Because foot doesn’t need to pivot.
  • Front food in/sideway easer to move backward


About the Author
Author Willard Sheppy Exporing the CoastWillard Sheppy is a writer and healthcare practitioner who seamlessly melds scientific knowledge with practical applications in engaging and authoritative articles. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science from Oregon State University and a Master’s in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from the distinguished Oregon College of Oriental Medicine.
In his work, Willard skillfully combines his extensive educational background in scientific research with his practical experience as a healthcare practitioner. Willard balances his life with martial arts and cherished family adventures. As a father of three, he often leads his family on camping and hiking trips along the breathtaking Oregon coast.
Connect with Willard on LinkedIn at or learn more about his services at Embark on this journey towards holistic health with Willard guiding your way.

The Martial Arts Training Schedule: Long-Term and Short-Term Goals

The Martial Arts Training Schedule

When creating a training program for Taekwondo or any other sport, we start by addressing the client’s long-term goal. Then, we work our way into the details of more short-term goals.

In this way, short-term goals should work as a scaffold, helping to reach the client’s longer-term goal.

One way to do this is by starting with our yearly goals, and then reverse-engineering our, monthly, weekly, and daily goals. For clients who are athletes, the process is much the same; but instead of yearly goals, we look at goals for each of the three phases of a training cycle.

Training Cycle Goals

First, we’ll look through the largest lens: the yearly goal.

For athletes, the year is a cycle comprised of three phases: pre-season, competition, and post-season.

Each of these phases typically lasts between three and four months.

Pre-Season Phase

The first phase to look at is the pre-season phase. During this phase, we’re typically working on sports-specific movements and conditioning. That is, movements and conditioning that apply directly to the client’s sport.

To identify an athlete’s sport-specific movements, we look at these four categories:

1. The distance and velocity requirements of the sport.

  • Short distance
  • Medium distance
  • Long distance
  • Low speed
  • Moderate speed
  • High speed

2. The type of directional movement that the sport requires most.

  • Horizontal and/or vertical
  • Forwards and/or backward
  • Lateral and/or rotational

3. The type of resistance that is encountered during movement.

  • Heavy: ~300 lb
  • Medium: ~100 lb
  • Low: ~20 lb
  • None: ~0 lb

4. The length of rest periods between exertions.

  • No rest
  • Short rest: ~30 seconds
  • Medium rest: ~1-5 minutes
  • Long rest: ~5-10 minutes

Using Pre-Season Sport-Specific Movement in Practice

Type Taekwondo Basketball Cross Country
Distance and Velocity 26ft; High/Moderate 95ft; High/Moderate 5 miles; Moderate
Movement Lateral & Horizontal Vertical & Forward Horizontal & Forward
Resistance Low Low None
Rest Medium & Long Medium None

During the pre-season phase, we can use sport-specific movement in two ways:

  • Special preparatory exercises engage the same muscles and energy systems as the sport, but utilize different movement patterns than those used during competition.One example of this is barbell and dumbbell training for maximum explosive strength. General jumping drills can fall into this category as well, but are more specific and will transfer more directly to the sport.

    Special preparatory exercises for Taekwondo include the following:

    • Quarter squats;
    • High-intensity interval training with lateral jumps;
    • Rotational medicine ball throws; and
    • Single leg box jumps.
  • Special developmental exercises engage the same muscle and energy systems as the sport; unlike special preparatory exercises, they also utilize the same movement patterns seen in competition. The competitive movements are typically trained and overloaded in some way to promote adaptation.It’s essential that these exercises are overloading in some way. The activity must be specific to the sport, and it must overload the system enough to stimulate adaptation and growth.

    Often, people will choose exercises that are exactly the same as the sport-movement, and they’re not overloading the system in any way.

    With special developmental exercises, the key is pushing the athlete to produce more force, or to move at a higher velocity, than they usually would in the ring. Overloading one of those qualities is what creates growth. (Tip: resistance bands are a great way to increase resistance for kicking.)

    Example: A standard Taekwondo match is contested over three 2-minute rounds with a rest of 1 minute between rounds. To create overloading in practice, we can change these variables.

Overload Rounds Length Rest
Number of Rounds 4 2 Minutes 1 Minute
Length of Rounds 3 4 Minutes 1 Minute
Rest Period 3 2 Minutes 30 Seconds

Competitive Phase

The next phase is the competitive phase, during which your client competes in their sport.

During this phase, the focus is again on sports-specific training. But we should spend less time building strength and cardio, and more time executing plans. (Focusing too much on strength-building and cardio in this phase increases the likelihood of injury and underperforming during competition.)

We want to continue strength-training so that we don’t lose any progress from the pre-season phase. But want to make sure not to overwork our athletes.

Another difference from pre-season is that in pre-season, you may work on more on special preparatory exercises, while in the competitive phase, you may work more on special developmental exercises.

Post-Season Phase

Last, we have the post-season phase. This is the time for the body to recover from competition. The goal during this phase is focusing on general physical fitness.

Post-season is also an opportunity to have fun, learn new skills, hone new movements and develop different energy systems.

General physical fitness can be categorized into the following movements and energy systems:


  • Squat/hip hinge or hip extension;
  • Single leg lunge;
  • Upper body press;
  • Upper body pull;
  • Forward flexion/v-sit; and
  • Rotational or twisting exercises.

Energy Systems

  • ATP-Phosphocreatine;
  • Glycolytic System/lactic acid; and
  • Oxidative System/aerobic.

These exercises engage different energy systems and movement patterns than those that are involved during regular sports performance training.

General fitness exercises in this phase can be thought of as rehab: they won’t transfer to the sport directly, but instead, work to build a solid foundation of health and movement.

Focusing on general fitness in this way is especially useful for young athletes; sports-specific development can cause imbalances if training is done incorrectly.

This is also a time to focus on new skills. During the competition and pre-season phases, it’s unproductive to throw in new techniques that can’t be adequately learned and executed. But the post-season phase is the perfect time to do so.

Tips for Taekwondo

Taekwondo is different from most sports in that there are three main skill sets: forms, sparring, and self-defense.

These skillsets overlap, but they’re also unique, and each has its own specific needs.

Keep in mind that training for Taekwondo is like training for a triathlon rather than for basketball.

In general, it’s best to have each workout focus mainly on one discipline. For example, Monday and Wednesday focus on sparring; Tuesday and Thursday focus on forms; Friday focuses on self-defense.

During the post-season phase, workouts can incorporate more self-defense training, and during the competition phase, you may want to drop self-defense altogether because it’s not crucial at this time.

Taekwondo matches are three 2-minute rounds, generally with 45 seconds between them, depending on the event. But at Nationals, Pan Am Games, US Open, or World Championships, a fighter will often have more than 40 competitors in their division. To win gold in this case, they have to win five–or even six–matches. This requires enormous endurance. Essentially, you have to take what you would do to prepare for one match, and then multiply it by six or seven.

Matches are taxing–mainly to the ATP-Phosphocreatine and glycolytic system (lactic acid). But the recovery period after an activity is purely aerobic.

The aerobic system in comparison to other systems can create the highest number of ATPs from a single glucose molecule, but it requires a more extended period to do so.

For longer events, aerobic exercise comes into play. This does a few things for an athlete in the ring:

  • The athlete is not worried about getting tired, so there’s no having to think about conserving energy. He’s able to attack at will and not be winded at all.
  • When he attacks, he can choose how long the attack lasts without worrying about tiring.
  • When he does make it to the semi-finals and finals, he’s still fresh and ready to go.

We found that conditioning is perhaps more important than technique at a certain point. Everyone can kick pads and things like that. But not many can do it full-bore for 5 or 6 matches. If we expect to have 5 matches to get to the finals, that’s 15 rounds plus the chance we are tied and go to golden round (golden point/overtime). So we train for 20 rounds allowing for the overtime and then, to be sure we don’t run out of gas we train for 23-25 rounds.

Monthly, Weekly, and Daily Goals

After addressing the long-term goals, we can now delve deeper into short-term goals on a monthly, weekly and daily timeframe.

It’s essential to have a monthly goal because body adaptation–whether it’s mental or physical–takes time and repetition. Switching up goals too frequently will decrease long-term retention.

Weekly goals are a breakdown of monthly goals into achievable smaller goals. In general, these goals will move from basic to more advanced.

Early on when learning a new skill, most of the adaptation is neurological, which means coordination is the most critical aspect.

It’s vital to learn the perfect technique with low to medium intensity, going through the motions and acquiring the necessary skills slowly. When the athlete is comfortable with a new method, then you can increase the intensity, speed, and randomness.

Lastly, you can begin to increase the conditioning difficulty to try and maintain perfect form at longer intervals and higher intensities. Start with higher reps, and move to a higher velocity.

You must first learn the technique correctly and safely to be able to use the technique in a competitive and variable environment.

In this way, you’re able to use high repetition to teach correct form, which reduces the risk of injury when the movement is performed in a variable environment at high velocity. The progression allows for the transfer of training to competition.

When picking weekly conditioning exercises and drills to supplement and improve the sport, we ask ourselves, “How do these drills and exercises transfer to the athlete’s performance in the ring?” This concept is known as the transfer of training.

Tips for Transfer of Training

  • Use sport-specific movements and energy systems. Match categories (see pre-season).
    • The distance or velocity requirements of the sport.
    • The type of movement that the sport utilizes the most.
    • The type of resistance that is encountered during movement.
    • The type of rest/ energy system.
  • Look for similarities between previously-learned skills and new skills.
  • Maximize the similarity between training activities and competitive conditions. Simulate various elements of competition (e.g. arousal level, game intensity, spectator noise) occasionally during training sessions, particularly during the competition phase.
  • Provide adequate experience with fundamental skills before advancing to more complex skills. Well-learned lead-up skills can positively influence an athlete’s performance in more demanding conditions at the next level of play (e.g., T-ball to baseball).
  • Develop more general capabilities, such as critical gross motor skills, which apply to a variety of sport tasks. For example, in basketball, the vertical jump is a key element of rebounding and blocking shots.
  • Point out to the athlete how training activities will improve sport performance. For example, call attention to the shifting of weight, the hip lead, and the arm movement in softball throw when teaching the javelin throw.

When structuring a workout for a taekwondo athlete, there are two daily goals: practicing a skill to improve performance and conditioning to improve the performance.

A general rule of thumb is that the skill comes before the conditioning. In other words, neurologically-taxing activities should come before physically-taxing activities. Neurologically-taxing activities involve paying attention, like when you learn and practice a new skill. You’re building new neural pathways and connections in the brain.

High-intensity training and efforts approaching 90% of the athlete’s capability are also severely taxing on the nervous system. In other words, weight follows speed–not only in the chronological sense (you go to the weight room after doing sprints and jumps on the track) but also in terms of priority. The more speed, power, and intensive, high outputs that an athlete is capable of, the less they need to do in the weight room.

Energy Management

An athlete’s energy every day, week, month, or season is like a cup with a limited amount of space: every stressor and stimulus imposed on an athlete is like a drop in that cup. The more stressful the activity, or the bigger stimulus, the larger the drop.

Part of our job as a trainer is deciding what should take up the most space in that cup–which stressors to impose at what times. Generally speaking, we want the most significant portion of that cup to be taken up by sport-specific practice.

The amount of space sports practice takes up will vary depending on the time of the year, but the thing that’s always the most beneficial to athletes is practicing their sport. Sports practice is the only irreplaceable part of an athlete’s training, so that’s what should fill the cup the most and what we should reserve the most space for.

After that, sprinting and jumping drills likely have a higher correlation to sporting success than most lifting movements. If a movement happens fast in the sport, faster movements are going to correlate better compared to slow ones.

Teach, Learn, Compete

There’s a lot to remember when you’re strategizing for a martial arts training schedule. But a good acronym to use is TLC: teach, learn, compete. At the beginning of a workout or training cycle, you teach by example. Then, you give the athletes learning opportunities with controlled focus drills. Finally, the athlete transfers their skills to compete in a more variable environment.


About the Author
Author Willard Sheppy Exporing the CoastWillard Sheppy is a writer and healthcare practitioner who seamlessly melds scientific knowledge with practical applications in engaging and authoritative articles. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science from Oregon State University and a Master’s in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from the distinguished Oregon College of Oriental Medicine.
In his work, Willard skillfully combines his extensive educational background in scientific research with his practical experience as a healthcare practitioner. Willard balances his life with martial arts and cherished family adventures. As a father of three, he often leads his family on camping and hiking trips along the breathtaking Oregon coast.
Connect with Willard on LinkedIn at or learn more about his services at Embark on this journey towards holistic health with Willard guiding your way.