Under: martial arts
23 Sep 2009

 

Have you watched a martial arts match and wondered why their stances looked different than what you were taught? Have you noticed that boxers fight in more of a forward facing stance and karateka seem to be more sideways? Should a karateka ever turn into a forward stance?

 

In this post I’ll talk about some of the different stances and the reasons behind them. First off the rules you are fighting with are important. I mean if all targets are open then a boxing stance is ripe for kicks to the groin. If a karateka is fighting a boxer and is inside the distance – he had better be facing forward! Why? Because if he is sideways on the inside – any ol hook will take him out! Here is an example of a karate fighting stance.

 

 

Did you notice that the fighters were a little farther apart than boxing? In karate one positions himself more sideways because the first weapon one has to worry about is kicks! If you turn sideways from outside the critical distance, you present a smaller target while protecting your gut and groin.

 

 

 

While the basic karate stance is more sideways or center line if you will – whenever one gets to the inside, you will have to transition to a forward stance like boxing or Muay Thai. Hooks and elbows can easily hit targets from the side. Now lets look at a boxing stance.

 

 

Now this is a good example of how a boxer will stand so he can have maximum power from any angle with his punches. The boxer does not normally stand sideways because he does not have to worry about kicks. The boxer develops some power from twisting his hips but even more from the proper alignment of his shoulders behind the punches. Here is a Muay Thai stance.



Now the Muay Thai stance was similar to the boxing stance but it emphasized the forward stance for better kicking I believe. There are no groin kicks allowed so again being more forward is not too big of an issue. Now here is an overview of an MMA stance by Frank Shamrock.

Now my fighting stance is more like Machita’s but I like to fight even a little farther out. Now one similarity you might have noticed from MMA and karate is they both seem to be more sideways. Lets examine how this can work for you.

In karate or MMA, you can fight more sideways if you like the outside fighting! I mean if your opponent cannot kick you – you do not really need to focus so much on your cover. You can use what is called a wheel-kick block as your cover (one hand up and the other hand down to block groin kicks).

If you bridge the gap and are attacking or defending on the inside – you should transition to a forward stance more like boxing so you can protect your body and face. Now how much sideways and how much forward are going to be determined by your style, likes and fighting distance.

I hope you have enjoyed this basic overview of fighting stances. To answer the question posed in the title, I think what stance is best depends on your own likes and dislikes.


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10 Responses to “Martial Arts Fighting Stances; What is Best?”

  1. Jack Anzhai Says:

    Interesting post. Good balance is the
    key don’t you think? Good balance allows you to react quicker than your opponent.And launch offensive moves and defend yourself better.

    Light feet that’s what I teach my students.

    Jack

  2. Marc G. Says:

    I would think a more squared up, forward facing stance is the superior position (all things being equal). You have better mobility in a wider range of directions. As well, if you are in a side line fighting position (for the most part) you have cut your offensive arsenal in half. And, it was a good point you raised about the 1 side being wide open to any form or hook punch, etc… But, like I said, the analysis is dependent on all other factors (skill, speed, coordination, etc…) being equal. A very good post, also. It’s a point I think is over looked in favor of more complex fighting strategies. People tend to forget the basics sometimes.
    .-= Marc G.´s last blog ..The True Kata Applications…Part 2 =-.

  3. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Jack, sure, it is certainly important. What I focused on in this post was how the stances differed depending on distance and style. There is probably no right answer to that but it more depends on one’s preferences.
    .
    Hi Marc, I’d say the forward stance is good for inside fighting and poor for outside fighting. Often times you might be fighting someone who does not understand how to take advantage of perceived mistakes. I will also say there are no hard and fast rules.

  4. Zara Says:

    To me there’s only one true fighting-stance and that is the JKD bai-jong or on-guard position. Basically you face the opponent squarely with both feet shoulderwith apart (weight-ratio 50/50), slightly crouched with both hands near the face (elbows in to protect the ribs), the left one slightly forward and hands half open (clenched fists means less speed) with the shin down for obvious reasons. The left knee should point slightly inward to block a straight-line shot to the groin (primary target in street-fighting) and the heel of the back foot should be up to provide a springload and fast forward momentum in either direction. I’m no expert in karate or kickboxing but I do not like a side-stance: your whole side is exposed to shots (roundhouse to the ribs, kidneys or hook to the head as John pointed out), your balance is compromised (two feet in alignment) and your attacks will be highly predictable.

    From that position the only practical options you have are attacks from the front foot or the front hand, so side-kicks (or possibly hook-kicks) or backfists (punching sideways does not have alot of power since your body can’t turn enough to generate true torque). Either is fairly easy to defend and you’ll have a hard time escaping if you missed. For MMA and competitions where groin-strikes are forbidden a good stance would be to the Bas Rutten-stance: basically facing the opponent squarely with feet wide apart. This allows the jab to be used as a power-punch since the shoulders can almost turn as much as with the cross, plus your balance is better in case he goes for a shoot. I wouldn’t use in on the street though since the groin is wide open (similar to the thai-stance) and the front knee can be quickly snapped with a round or side kick. The karate zenkutsu-dachi or attacking stance is not great (at least imo) since it limits your mobility (70% of the weight is on the front leg, if you want to move that leg you’ll have to shift and lift it up first) and is basically an invitation to your opponent to wreck your knee: I know it is used to quickly lunge at the opponent and this gives you great reach in the attack (in itself a good thing) but I wouldn’t employ it as my standard fighting-stance. For grappling your stance should be wider and your bodyweight more forward, depending on the style (judo, wrestling, sambo…) and the situation of course. Weapon-stances are numerous and again depend on the particulars of the style and especially the weapon: with short weapons (especially sharp ones)the weapon should always be in your strong hand with your strong side facing forward to give you the maximum reach and allow you to defend any incoming attacks with the weapon itself instead of the hand.

    In any case I’d steer clear of exotic stances (like those in kung-fu or ninpo) since they’re more for show than for fighting and make you vulnerable without offering any real advantage. That’s just my take on things, nothing more and nothing less. In any case this is an interesting discussion on a very fundamental topic (maybe the most fundamental of all), good work John.

  5. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Zara, fighting a kicker from outside the distance, a more side stance is better – you are a lot less open.

    It is true when you close the gap (or your opponent does) that your stance should shift to more squared off so one can cover effectively.

    There are a lot of opinions on this though… Muay Thai seems to always have the squared off (forward facing) stance.

  6. Matt Klein Says:

    Hi John, stances and footwork are the keys to success in the martial arts so I read your article with great interest. Well done. I believe there is a place for both stances and being able to shift back and forth when needed is the mark of a great fighter. Bill Wallace was super successful in both point and full contact with the side stance, using front wheel (roundhouse), heel hooks, side kicks, backfist almost exclusively. What people didn’t realize was that he could fight really well inside too when needed. Benny Uriquidez was awesome inside by using a more forward stance because his strength was punches but he had great kicks as well. Agree with Jack above that above all you must be mobile, making you a much harder to hit.

  7. Zara Says:

    I’ll take your word for it John, you’re far more experienced in fighting and sparring than me, it’s just that the sparring I’ve done uptill now was always kickboxing orientated and the range there is usually a little shorter than in karate. In kickboxing the sidekick is not used much and the usual way of attacking is boxing-combo’s mixed with mid-range kicks or short-range clinching with knees or JKD-trapping. I would love the opportunity to train with a good karateka on this, unfortunately I don’t know anyone with a decent skill-level (a few lower belts but not very advanced)and I don’t really have the time to join a karate-club. If that were possible I’d prefer kenpo but there isn’t a dojo in reach. I know my sensei used to attend kenpo-seminars for a while but nowadays he’s more into the filipino-MA, I’ll ask him whether he has an interest in taking it up again (he has a car, I don’t).

  8. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Matt, Great points about Bill Wallace and Benny Uriquidez. What is awesome about Bill is he can really develop a lot of power with those front leg kicks!
    .
    Hi Zara, I used to really enjoy fighting people from different styles in open tournaments and dojo sparring. I even had fun once fighting a boxer – bare knuckles after leaving a club one night. We both did not think much of each other fighting style at first (I was a brown belt at the time – not yet very worldly). The fight went like this, I would bridge the gap (boxers aren’t great at this) and smacking with a jab, reverse punch and try to get out of dodge. The boxer just took the strike and counter with some hard hooks (luckily for me I covered on the way out).

    I then faked a back-knuckle and pivoted into a rear kick that picked up the boxer and landed him on his butt.

    We fought until the cops got there and then explained to the cop that we were just having fun! We both left thinking that there was something to each other’s fighting art. :)

  9. Coen Says:

    Kuroi ryu ninjutsu is the style that i practise. My sensei is soke Arie van den Akker o sama sensei. We practise traditional stances and modernd stances as well. I think you need to know many stances it is good for structure and practise.

  10. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Coen,

    Thank you for commenting. There is a lot to be said for both.