The perfect muay Thai stance? Well, as with everything else in life, there are pros and cons to all stances. The stance you choose can be based on your strengths (and weaknesses), fighting style, your opponent’s style and the situation you’re facing in the fight/sparring session.
In this post, I’m just looking at the muay Thai stance (foot position), not the guard (hand position). The factors that make up the stance are the distance between the feet left and right (width), the distance between the feet forward and back (length), and the direction in which the feet are pointed (angle). Flexion/extension of the hip, knee and ankle are part of it too, but they are largely determined by the aforementioned factors. These factors determine the stance’s attacking and defensive capabilities, maneuverability, and its ability to remain balanced when force is applied to the fighter’s body.
Stances vary in every way, but most of them are largely derived from the few main ones I’ve listed below.
Let’s look at a few stances and analyse their strengths and weaknesses. Each stance will be assessed on defence, attack, mobility and stability.
Which Muay Thai Stance is Best?
Traditional Thai stance
This stance is a traditional muay Thai stance which is still taught in Thailand and many other establishments across the world.
The weight is placed mainly on the rear foot which remains flat, with a small percentage of the bodyweight being placed on the ball of the front foot. If I were to have a guess, I would call it 70% rear leg and 30% front leg, maybe even more weight on the rear leg at times. The length and width of the stance are about even.
Defence – An excellent muay Thai stance in terms of blocking with the legs, particularly the front leg. With very little weight being placed on the front foot and the large angle that it points at, it makes for extremely quick blocks left and right.
The back leg isn’t so efficient as it is holding the majority of the body weight so the weight needs to be shifted to the front leg before the rear leg is able to be lifted up. However, due to the narrow placing of the feet, the back leg can still be brought up to block more quickly than in many other stances.
This muay Thai stance is also perfect for the front teep (push kick) – the leg can be brought up very quickly due to the relatively small amount of weight being applied and the constant bounce on the ball of the foot.
Attack – A Poor muay Thai stance in terms of attacking ability due to the fighter needing to shift weight to the front leg to move forward and launch the attack. The ability to explode forward is largely lost as the back foot is planted and the knee is almost extended to 180 degrees. The power that can be produced in this stance is also limited as a result of the quite “square” hip position which is made by the out-turned lead foot. This is particularly problematic with boxing techniques.
Mobility – Movement is often slow and the steps are small. With the body being set to the rear with the front leg out ahead, it’s difficult to get any real length in the step and almost impossible to make quick movements forward. Going backwards is a little quicker as the fighter is able to push off of the front foot which is ready to fire. Left and right movements are also cumbersome due to the heavy back leg.
Stability – A decent muay Thai stance for overall stability. The fighter will be knocked off balance less often than with some other stances as the width and length are fairly even. The rear leg acts as a strong anchor for front leg blocks, although it lacks stability for frontal attacks such as teeps and punches as there is little pliability at the knee due to the large angle of the rear foot.
Another short-coming of the traditional Thai stance is that the feet are close together which makes for a small, perhaps unstable base. Fighters using this stance may get pushed backwards and be forced to move the front leg to the rear to re-adjust.
Pros | A stable muay Thai stance which is excellent at firing any kick or block off the front leg.
Cons | Not very mobile and makes most rear side techniques sluggish.
Balanced (square) Muay Thai Stance
The balanced muay Thai stance is “OK” at just about everything – it doesn’t excel in many areas and doesn’t fail in many either. An all-round stance which is usually a starting point for most practitioners. This is one of the few stances where the legs can do what they like in terms of flexion/extension of the knee and ankle, but we’ll look at the pros and cons of those options as and when we come to it.
The weight is distributed evenly across both feet. As with the Traditional Thai stance, the width and length are pretty even, but it is longer and wider. The angles of the feet have been rotated and are facing more towards the opponent.
Defence – A decent muay Thai stance for blocking kicks off of both legs with the weight being evenly distributed between left and right. However, if the feet are flat on the ground, the legs are more easily raised when compared to being on the balls of the feet.
Attack – Another decent grade for attacking techniques, with the advantage being given to the “heels up” method as it makes it easier to explode forward into an attack. The hips aren’t as forward-facing when using this stance as they are with the traditional Thai stance so strikes are generally more powerful.
Mobility – Movements to the left and right and forward and back are fairly easy. The fighter is able to take larger steps and make quicker movements using this stance than when using the traditional Thai stance. The body is positioned halfway between both feet making push-offs in both directions relatively easy.
Stability – Being knocked off balance is rarely an issue with this stance and the foot placement is fairly wide which allows the knee and hip musculature a lot of scope to provide shock absorption and prevent unnecessary foot movement when struck from the sides. The heels up method provides more resistance when hit with a teep or straight boxing techniques.
Pros/cons | All-rounder
Balanced (Narrow) Muay Thai Stance
This stance is similar to the previous stance in that the weight is evenly distributed between the two feet, only this time the stance is narrower and longer. This stance may suit a more attacking fighter or counter fighter who requires quicker movements and extra power.
The angles of the feet are smaller than in the previous two examples, with the front toes pointing directly forwards.
Defence – We’re heading towards the attacking end of the spectrum here so defence attributes are decreasing, although this stance still provides adequate blocking abilities. The lead foot is still pointing forwards so there are no issues with not being able to open the hips for blocks to the left or to the right, nor is there the issue of having too much weight placed on that leg. The rear leg is just as capable at blocking kicks as the lead leg due to the even weight distribution.
Attack – Excellent attacking muay Thai stance which provides a very powerful base going forwards AND backwards. The angle of the back foot and the narrow width of the stance means the fighter can bounce back and forth at speed to generate powerful attacks. The fighter can also generate more torque in the hips and shoulders for striking power because of the long stride, providing more room for rotation.
Mobility – An extremely mobile stance for forward and backward movements. The fighter is able to move in and out of range quickly and safely. The superior ability to do this when compared with the previous two stances makes this muay Thai stance a great option for those who like to punch. Movement to the left and right is not quite so easy – the fighter will need to widen the stance somewhat to get any real distance and may be slow, but circling to the left can be done quickly and with ease. Circling right can be sluggish.
Stability – The most stable of all stances listed so far in terms of straight shots, but may be vulnerable to becoming off balanced by strong kicks or hooks coming in from the left and right. This stance’s integrity may also come into question when fighting an opponent with good sweeping ability, due to the narrow width of the foot placement.
Pros | Great attacking muay Thai stance with awesome moblity.
Cons | Vulnerable to sweeps and being off balanced left and right.
The Boxing/MMA stance
The final stance is more of a boxer’s stance, and is similar to some MMA fighters stances. I’m not sure how many muay Thai fighters are able to use this stance but a lot of practitioners from other sports such as boxing or MMA may favour this stance so I thought I’d include it and explain its pros and cons.
In terms of weight distribution, it’s 50/50, maybe even 60% rear and 40% lead. The angles of the feet are large, with both feet facing right.
Defence – Poor. The angle of the lead leg is far too great to be capable of defending a kick quickly – the hips need to be rotated in order to form a blocking position and that takes far too long. A fighter with this stance is also extremely vulnerable to being swept for the same reasons. If the weight is evenly distributed between two legs then blocking off of the rear leg shouldn’t be much of an issue.
Attack – Good attacking stance from a boxer’s point of view – the hips and torso are facing away from the opponent which makes for a small target and the right hand had tremendous power due to the extra rotation of the torso. However, a good roundhouse kick or knee is impossible to pull off due to the fighter being unable to open up the hip angle with the lead foot. If the foot is rotated to the left to open the hip from this stance then the opponent would see the kick coming a mile off.
Mobility – Very mobile stance with quick movements in all directions.
Stability – A seriously vulnerable muay Thai stance in terms of stability along the width. Any kick or sweep will off-balance the fighter.
Pros | Powerful punches with good mobilty
Cons | Extremely poor kicking and sweep defence, lacks stability
Which Muay Thai Stance Suits You?
The question shouldn’t be “what is the best muay Thai stance?”. Rather, which muay Thai stance suits you in a given situation or against a particular opponent.
During a fight, numerous stances are normally used, depending on the given situation. For example, if a fighter is using stance #2 (balanced) and is unable to defend leg kicks, the logical solution would be to switch to more of a traditional stance where more of the weight is place on the rear leg making it easier to block using the front. Or, switch to stance #3 (balanced narrow) which is more suitable to attack the kicker with counters using boxing.
However, fighters generally have one stance which suits them initially.
Coaches will teach one type of muay Thai stance to beginners, but there is no right or wrong stance. The practitioner just needs to know why he/she is using that stance.Follow MuayThaiScholar