Proper Muay Thai Stance [Your Simple Guide]

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Muay Thai stance with knee.

Would you like to learn how to do a proper Muay Thai stance?

Well, you’re in luck because in this article we’ll deep dive into the southpaw and orthodox variations of the classic Muay Thai stance. Plus give you some extra tips on how to switch it up.

So let’s jump right in.

What is the Muay Thai Stance?

In Muay Thai, you need to consider incoming attacks from many places. And so the stance you take must defend, block, and counter from 8 different limbs.

This makes the Muay Thai stance very different from other martial arts. 

The traditional Muay Thai stance is sometimes referred to as the standard stance common in the old Muay Chaiya style of Thai boxing (Muay Boran). 

It’s the stance that has been around since Muay Thai’s earliest records. It affords you both more balance and power.

We discuss it a bit more in our breakdown of Muay Thai ropes if you’d like more context.

Upper Body in Muay Thai Stance

Hands high and chin down is a no-brainer. But whether you position your hands in an open or closed position is up to you.

The traditional fighting stance had fighters stand with their hands high around the forehead and palms and forearms facing out. This isn’t as common these days but it’s left up to your preference.

But generally, your more powerful arm will protect your chin while your other hand is positioned very slightly out and at a slightly higher. 

Fighters stand tall and upright with their shoulders forward to deliver the most powerful punches they can. With elbows tucked, experienced fighters can also deliver straighter punches while protecting from body strikes.

The upright upper body position and shoulder-wide solid stance help keep balance and dominant position.

Lower Body in Muay Thai Stance

Most of your body weight stays on the balls of both feet to maintain a solid base and strong foundation.

The lead leg goes in front of the body facing the opponent at a slight 10-degree angle outward. The rear foot placement is shoulder-width apart at a 45 degrees angle away from the lead foot. 

Weight distribution rocks back and forth between the balls of both feet in a rock the boat-type body movement, and the knees of both legs are slightly bent for a lower center of gravity.

There are, however, different ways you can distribute weight to your feet.

In one way, your lead foot can hold most of your weight. This allows you to plant your foot to deliver round kicks and rear kicks more quicker. For this, your rear heel will typically remain slightly raised.  

The other way can have more of the weight distributed on the back leg in which case the heel of the lead leg is slightly raised. This allows for more efficient straight kicks and checks of attacks. 

The Thai boxer’s hip position also stays at about a 45-degree angle to match their back leg.

This is a defensive stance or square position. It helps reduce the areas that can be hit by half when compared to front-facing or side-facing positions.

Too much of a front-facing position, like with Western boxing stances leaves much of your vital points exposed.

While the side-facing bladed stance, like what’s used in karate, limits the ability to deliver Muay Thai’s most powerful attacks effectively. 

That’s why it’s common for Muay Thai fighters to keep their body at a square stance with their feet in a triangle shape.

This slight angle with feet shoulder-width apart helps to maintain balance against your opponent’s attacks. 

Variations to the Fundamental Fighting Stance

Just like in other striking arts there are orthodox and southpaw variations.

Your proper stance and lead leg will depend on which side of your body can deliver more powerful strikes. We usually have a stronger side and we want this at the back for momentum’s sake. 

What is an Orthodox Stance?

Orthodox fighters generally stand with their left foot forward and their right side behind. If your strength rests mostly on your right side, you’ll want to take an orthodox position. 

What is a Southpaw Stance?

If your left side is stronger, you’ll likely want to stand like a Southpaw fighter.

Here the right side of your body comes first, with your right foot forward and your left foot behind. 

Can You Switch Stances in Muay Thai?

It is quite common for fighters to adjust their stance depending on the opponent. This goes for both the stances and the orthodox, southpaw positions.

But just know that requires more advanced footwork.

To counter a more narrow stance, a fighter can take a traditional stance and vice versa. This improves your ability to block strikes like incoming kicks and elbow strikes. 

It’s also important to consider the size of your opponent. Since a traditional stance allows you to have a bit more momentum behind your strikes, you may want to take a traditional stance against a bigger fighter or more aggressive fighter. 

Momentum is key, especially for leg strikes, and regardless of which leg is stronger, fighters often quickly reverse their feet positioning for maximum leverage and power. This is because it allows you to turn your hip into the strike and put your entire body behind a strike.

For instance, if you have an orthodox stance but want to kick with your left, you’ll typically take a small step forward with your right foot positioning taking the lead before you kick. This way, you can leverage the thrust as you turn your body into the kick. 

Weaknesses of the Muay Thai stance

In a street fight, there are some obvious weaknesses to a Muay Thai stance.

Because of how upright a Muay Thai fighter stands, regardless of stance, they’re often vulnerable against takedowns. 

This is why it’s rare to see MMA or street fighters using a Muay Thai stance in a mixed rules competition. 

The Muay Thai walk is also more of a plod than a bounce. You do rock back and forth on your feet but you won’t be as light as say a boxer who is constantly bouncing on their toes. Check out on Boxing vs Muay Thai!

The Evolution of the Muay Thai Stance

Since its start, fighters’ hands and feet positioning have evolved over time. In ancient tradition, there were 3 feet positions believed to be necessary for any combat style. 

There was the 1-point support position known as the Yeun Neung Khum.

The 2-point support position or square stance position, is known as Yeun Song Khum.

And then the 3-point support position or triangle stance is known as Yeun Saam Khum.

Each point up increases balance and power. 

And this final 3-point stance is the stance discussed in this article. 

Which UFC Fighters use a Muay Thai Stance?

Israel Adesanya

Jon Jones

Valentina Shevshenko


Donald Cerrone

Rafael Dos Anjos

Jose Aldo

Edson Barboza

Darren Till

Paul Felder

Carlos Condit

Honourable mentions: 

Anderson Silva – A legend and one of the greatest combat sports athletes of all time. 

Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua – The quintessential Muay Thai fighter in the rising days of MMA popularity. 

Wanderlei Silva – An absolute wrecking ball in his heyday. Ran through some of the biggest names in Pride and the UFC. 

Alistair Overeem – A celebrated Dutch kickboxer who competed in all sorts of martial art forms. He has many notable knockouts including many from devastating knees from the clinch.

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We're a team of fight fans and martial arts practitioners. Many of us have been involved in martial arts our entire lives.