Should fighters keep switching stances and keep going back and forth between orthodox and southpaw? History tells us no. The best fighters in the world, no matter the discipline, have stuck to one primary stance. Just look at Mayweather, Buakaw, Yodsanklai, Ali, and even George St. Pierre. However, this does not mean that a new generation has to follow suit. There is no rule book that says you have to stick to one. Let’s examine the pros and cons about going back and forth.
One of the main tenants of martial arts is to hit and not get hit. In order to do that, most of us practitioners have been taught to stand at an angle, keeping the dominant hand and leg behind. This means that if you are right handed, your right foot and right leg will slightly be behind your left foot and left hand. The opposite is true if you’re a lefty.
One explanation behind this practice is that standing at an angle reduces the target area that we all carry, which is your trunk: the upper body.
Another reason is for balance. Most, if not all sports require that we stand with one foot forward. Think of tennis, baseball, football, sprinting, etc… That is called the athletic stance; it enables us to keep our balance, agility, and it helps us generate power and explosion at the drop of a dime.
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The defensive advantage of switching back and forth is that it may confuse the opponent and make you hard to hit.
The disadvantage is that one becomes vulnerable in that transition. A perfectly timed punch or kick while one is transitioning back and forth can knock you on your ass. That can be the difference between a win or a loss.
Keeping the weaker hand in front and the stronger one behind is a great strategy because it enables you to find your range, and set up bombs with the power hand. One can argue that using the power hand to find the range and jab can be a huge advantage. I agree. Oscar De la Hoya and Miguel Cotto are two examples of left handed fighters who have adopted the orthodox stance. Both had extremely successful careers in the ring. With that being said, they both picked a stance and stuck with it. They are not known for going back and forth.
Compared to other professions, a fighter’s career is very short. Perhaps one can fight ten to fifteen years. By contrast, a police officer can spend fifty years on the force. This means that time is of the essence. Why spend twice the amount of time learning both stances? Doing so would take a long time to master. Not only would you have to learn the offense from both stances, you would also have to learn the defense to be effective. There are so many techniques to learn using one stance. Adding a second stance without mastering the first is risky, and time consuming.
A few fighters, such as Marvin Hagler, Rob Kaman, and Fabio Pinca have been successful using both stances. It is possible to do and beautiful to see. However, I believe these individuals are the exception not the norm. Keeping that in mind, mastering one stance and adding a few simple moves in the opposite stance is not a bad idea. It will give you extra options, and may help you recover if your lead leg is getting battered by low kicks.
Pierre Smith started his journey in martial arts after witnessing Bruce Lee on the silver screen. He began training Tae Kwon Do, earning his black belt by his 18th birthday. He took up Muay Thai in 2000, training under Kru Nestor in New York City. Later on, Pierre moved to South Florida and trained at American Top Team under Olympic gold medalist Howard Davis Jr. Today, Pierre teaches Muay Thai and personal fitness in the South Florida region. Pierre can be reached by Email at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Instagram and his blog Catching Wreck.