Q: Why shouldn’t boxers train equally in both stances? Being able to fight in both stances equally well would seem to be a major advantage. – Schalk
A: Boxers shouldn’t train in both stances because it means you will have spent half your training time taking away from your most effective, most efficient stance to work on your weaker, less effective, less efficient stance.
Think of it like using a computer mouse. Why would you bother learning how to use the mouse with your left hand when your right hand is so much more efficient? Boxing stances can be the same in that your switch stance will never be as good as your dominant stance. And if you ever reach that point, you would have been better off spending the time to develop more skills from your dominant stance.
I suggest that you keep your strong hand in the rear where it can deliver the most damage, and then keep your weak hand as the range finder hand that sets up the strong hand. To reverse the two can definitely trip up your opponent but wouldn’t be using your hands for their intended purpose. Worst of all, if your opponent is the superior boxer, he only has to switch his stance and apply the same techniques and his switch stance theoretically will defeat your switch stance.
Another problem with the fighting in your switch stance is that your dominant eye is not lined up with the backhand. While your weaker hand might be equally strong, it will never have the same accuracy and precision. Suppose you are right eye dominant but choose to stand southpaw. That means you’re going to be aiming your left cross using your right eye–which is HARD and also awkward. If you don’t know what I mean, try throwing a hard southpaw left cross while closing your left eye (also try it vice versa). If you’re right eye dominant, you should definitely leave your right hand in the back so your dominant hand is lined up with your dominant eye.
Trying to aim the back hand punch with the opposite eye
is like trying to aim a sniper rifle from your waist!
Suppose you’re an orthodox fighter, I do agree that you should learn a few basics on the southpaw stance so that you know how it feels to fight from that angle and to think in the mindset of a southpaw. Other than learning some basics from your switch-stance, I would always recommend focusing on taking your original stance to the next level. One good stance beats two bad stances.
I think most people want to master both stances because they want to feel adaptable and versatile in the boxing ring. Instead of learning 2 stances, why don’t you use 2 styles? Learning 2 entirely different styles from your normal stance would improve your style-adaptability and still take advantage of your natural dominant stance.
Lastly, I’m sure there are going to be hundreds of people who will read this and completely disregard what I just said because they don’t agree. If that’s you, I suggest that you quickly put yourself into a competitive sparring match and see how well your switch stance works.
…ultimately, who do you think has the advantage—the guy in his natural stance or the guy in his switch stance?
See my other guides on boxing stance:
Beta Kung fu
Hi Coach! thanks again for your informative articles, how do you develop defense and offense awareness?
What do you think of left side dominant fighters who have been converted to fight orthodox style? Couldn’t that actually be an advantage in some ways because his left arm punches would be much more powerful and effective?
Converted boxing stances
Yes, being a converted boxer like Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto, or Victor Ortiz does have its benefits. Having a stronger jab arm is an advantage. Likewise, having a weaker cross is a disadvantage. If you’re tall like De La Hoya and can keep guys away with a long jab, it can work. If they get past that jab arm, which they will at some point, your back hand better be strong enough to get them off you.
Beta Kung Fu,
Developing defensive and offensive awareness. It will take a lot of drills. Focus mitts, double-end bag, speedbag and light sparring.
Im left eye dominant but fight from an orthadox stance, quite strange because i know 2/3 of people are right eye dominant, does this mean i should fight from southpaw?
No Aaron, it doesn’t mean that. You’ll have to use what you feel best. I’m left eye dominant in orthodox stance, too. It’s not always possible to satisfy every requirement. Use what feels more natural and performs the best.
I’m considering changing my stance from orthodox to southpaw for self-defense purposes. In your opinion, is this a bad idea? I’m right-handed but left-eye dominant. I’m also studying Eskrima and we fight right-handed, since much of what we learn is with weapons.
This is boxing; I recommend my boxing advice.
Granted im a kickboxer not a proper boxer, but I have found switching stances to be benificial in fights and sparring. Particularly if you are standing in southpaw to an orthodox fighter you can easily come over the top with a right hook with you power hand. Also it tends to confuse people who are only used to sparring with orthodox oponents (even southpaws themselves).
Food for thought anyway.
I am going to say that I don’t agree with this. I think ideally you should be trained to work both stances from the beginning of your boxing career. Of course if you try to pick up this skill mid career it is going to be very awkward and slow going, but still beneficial. Of course you can’t decide today that you want to do this and go into a fight next week and utilize it. It doesn’t work like that. It is going to take months, if not years to perfect something like this.
I do not compete but really just look at boxing as a fitness and self defense/confidence thing. I started doing this to get a change from weight lifting. Coming from that background I looked at it like, if I train one stance then I will only work half of my body. After doing this for 2-3 years I feel comfort working in both stances. I also feel a little difference in style out of either stance. I feel differences in the grace of my footwork. I actually almost feel more graceful going southpaw (I am orthodox naturally) but more precise with my feet as an orthodox. My jab is very stiff at southpaw, which is expected since that is my power hand.
In the amateur ranks you don’t have the time to research your opponents and to bring this skill into the ring, if proficient, could be a major game changer. It can really confuse an opponent to get used to looking at an opponent in one stance in one round and then all of the sudden they are seeing their opponent from a completely different view.
I have to finish my comment by saying this; I have read a lot of boxing material. The theory of working both stances is not a very popular one. It gets shot down all of the time. I have actually been pushing it a lot on a couple of forums I frequent the past couple of days and have been surprised by the positive responses that I have gotten for it. I honestly think that “don’t do it” is something people have heard from their trainers and have just been too scared to try. After all, you put all your trust in your trainer. They will make you or break you. I think martial arts are evolving all of the time. I think this is just something that needs to be part of that evolution. We need to move on into something that will improve boxing technique. Johnny, I love your site. I think your info is great and I love it and soak most of it up. I am going to disagree with you on this one though. 🙂
I think you should train and spend a few years in a competitive environment before straight out disagreeing with people who have. There are so many reason…some that can’t be explained…some that can’t. More importantly, it’s best for you to actually try it and see why it fails in actual fighting conditions.
The theory of being able to surprise people in amateur boxing competition will not work. I suggest for you to try it out and you’ll see why. Every fighter that’s been trained well knows darn well to always give his opponents “different looks” and “different angles” and “try different things”. This is nothing special, we’ve all been trained to do it. And experience will very quickly teach you that you are far more effective offering “different looks” from your best stance then to try and switch stances and give “different looks” from your weaker stance. Sure, you can train both and tell yourself that both are even or even that you’re ambidextrous now, but the truth is: one side will always be the better one.
As I said, I have gotten more positive feedback on it than I thought I would. So, I would say that, If trained like it should be, it can be beneficial. Obviously there are more people out there that believe in it than just me. You just have to put the time and effort into it. There are also many pros out there that have utilized this strategy. If you are ever going to be able to use this you have to start early, from the beginning stages of your career. I would be interested to hear your opinion on why it would fail in actual fighting conditions. I would also like to know if it failed with a person who had just started trying it versus a person who had been training this way for quite a while.
What I’m saying is for you to try it for yourself. There are so many people who don’t even train but go around offering advice.
I’ve actually explained against it in another guide recently. I think it was in my shadowboxing guide. Somebody was asking about it. Look it up in the comments section of the “Guide to Shadowboxing” article and you’ll see the discussion.
I’ve done it myself and know many others who do it. It fails easily and once you try fighting yourself, you’ll understand why. It’s simply not practical. It’s one of those things that sound good in theory but rarely work out.
But the bottom line is…you should do it YOURSELF before coming to any conclusions…regardless of what I or what anybody else thinks. That is the only way to know for sure and to see why. It won’t take you long, either. You can easily test its effectiveness within 1 month of training and sparring.
I read the comments of that blog. I still agree with what I am saying, but along with the person who you were talking with on that page, I do not want to take away from your blog. I have a lot of respect for you as well. With that, I will stop the debate. I would like to point out though that something like this would take more than just a month of time to master. I think that some boxing strategy to prepare for a certain fight is just honing or molding what you already have, but to get comfortable with another stance is almost starting over from the ground up. If you don’t take the proper amount of time and you don’t believe in your style, it will fail. Again, I really respect what you do here and I want to thank you for sharing your knowledge. You do have a lot of it. You are a true artist.
Since it’s time to leave final comments, I will take this opportunity to leave my own. Time spent training in a switch stance (especially for a beginner) will pretty much be WASTED time.
A fighter with 100 hours of training in his regular stance will definitely beat a fighter who’s spent 50 hours training in each stance.
Now what if you want to argue that one guy spent 100 hours in one stance and the other guy did 98 hours and 2 hours? I would say the difference is nothing. Because whatever the other guy did with only 2 hours is not going to be natural and effective enough in a real fight. What if he spent 90 hours and 10 hours? Well now he’s definitely behind.
This is a fight. Best weapon vs best weapon. Your best stance needs to beat his beat stance….forget about relying on other inferior stances and styles that you pull out. If he’s kicking your ass from your BEST and MOST DOMINANT STANCE, switching it around to your weaker side is not going to help you.
And again, I would advise you to try this and see it firsthand why it’s such a bad idea. Because this is one of those theories beginners come up with all the time. (It will NOT work in a real competitive environment with seasoned well-trained amateur competition-level boxers.) I never ever see seasoned fighters train this, teach this, or recommend it. If you can do it, great…but to train it as part of your skill asset, uhhhh…very unrealistic.
You say you have never ever seen a seasoned fighter train or teach this? What about Terrence Crawford? What about Marvin Hagler? We have seen Tyson do it, Mayweather do it. I saw a fight last year, I believe, and Zou Shimeng was doing it. Demetrius Andrade also switch hits.
You also say that if you are getting beat from your best stance, switching to your weaker side will not help you. If your already getting beat badly what would it hurt to try something different? Some people don’t like fighting southpaws.
You’re talking about the exception, not the rule. And yes…I’ve never seen it (someone actually TRAINING their switch stance, versus just messing around, or switching on the bag to even out their body, or because they’re injured). If you’ve seen all these guys actually doing it agan and again in person, good for you. I’ve messed around switch-stance as well….but it doesn’t mean I actually make it a serious part of my strategy/training.
Since you’re throwing out names of anybody that’s ever switched stance…we can also add Naseem Hamed, Pernell Whitaker, Miguel Cotto, Manny Pacquiao…really just about anybody that’s ever tried boxing has played around with it at some point. I think there’s a difference between actually TRAINING in 2 stances versus utilizing the switch stance from time to time.
I disagree Johnny, i have spent 5 years in amateur game and have had 12 bouts so i have that experience you are saying Bryan doesnt have, which is of course is true. However in bouts or sparring you have to BOX your opponent. Meaning you must look for there weak areas and chinks in there armor that you will need to pick out and utilize. Knowing both of these stances will allow you to utilize other variations of your boxing ability. The ability to switch up your stances can be advantageous against the way your opponent boxes. For example, if you are an orthodox fighter but also trained to use a southpaw stance, you can figure out what punches are more effective in landing from 2 different stances, 6 more types of punches you can use, literally. Knowing that operating from your southpaw stance that you can effectively land stiff jabs to the body of your opponent (the chink in their armor), will allow you to work more effectively landing flush, powerful and also more punches. As well as then landing punches to follow in a combination, because opportunities have been set up from operating that stance and using the wider array of punching from different angles. Saying that training in another stance will slow your progression in your normal preferred sounds lazy and just doesn’t work with the science behind the sporting activity. As you will know from experience, beginners in boxing like many other activities learn rapidly, and so their ability will develop very quickly in the stance they feel comfortable in due to those neural adaptions being made in the brain. However after training in the main learning years, the rate in which you excel and develop to become a better boxer is decreased dramatically. For most boxers, learning to operate in a new stance will only broaden your skill set when it comes to putting it into use in the ring against an opponent that you can adapt to to beat. So learning both stances when starting the sport can be very advantageous, of course it will take longer, but it will make you a more effective boxer. Even after training for years in one stance, training to use another one will still benefit you and not have any negative effect on your boxing ability. Taking into account that it is a new stance you don’t work in, practicing it will only take a few months until you are able to incorporate it in the ring. You will just have to increase the time spent doing the sport, fitting in more time and dedicating yourself to learning that new stance. It wont affect your normal training pattern or regimes, it will just be extra training!
What are your boxing credentials? You give all this advice online about the specifics of boxing but what exactly is the nature of your boxing experience? Have you fought as an amateur or a pro? Who taught you how to box? How many fights have you had? Which gym have you trained at? How many years have you been boxing?
My boxing credentials are…I’m basically a guy who lived in the gym for a long long time. No, I did not fight a billion amateur fights or pro fights but I did train under great trainers and alongside some amateur and pro champions and was also taught the same things they were taught. I came out of several gyms. Anyway…you can read all about me in my bio (click on my name).
ok umm i have a problem my ambidextrous friend is looking to get into boxing he can write neatly catch etc with both hands and is confused about which stance to train what would you say to go for i think he maybe a little better orthodox but its hard to tell umm more the feet i think one leg is slightly better and maybe a hand to i think he had to teach himself to right left so im thinking orthodox. yeah thx for ur help this is an amazing site u run
Hey, Johnny, I completely agree with your point of always using your best weapon when competing. I fight orthodox and I wouldn’t want to switch stance against an opponent. But I do often devote several rounds of shadow boxing per training session to practice southpaw. I do this strictly to balance out my muscles. Throwing a cross involves several important muscle groups that throwing a jab can’t activate. When you throw a cross, you’re using much more of a rotation motion in your abdomen and hips. I want both sides of my body to reap that benefit. I feel like there are similar effects in your calves (rear leg vs. front leg), obliques, and quads/glutes (rear leg vs. front leg again).
My buddy used to be on Team USA as a 400 meter sprinter and on contract for Nike. Fractions of a second really count in his world and they try to avoid any form of training that would hinder them from operating at full efficiency. He told me professional sprinters occasionally train by running the opposite way around the track because leaning the other way around the curves puts more pressure on the other side of your body. The idea is that strengthening both sides will make you stronger OVERALL, and yield a benefit on competition day…. even though he would be running the normal way around the track. I’ll admit, its a theory that’s hard to definitively test. And I don’t think, as a boxer, you should devote 50% to both sides. But it makes enough sense to dedicate some of your work out to your other side purely to ensure that your muscles are strong symmetrically and at all angles… in order to be stronger in your dominant stance.
You know what…I totally agree with this and it makes good sense! 🙂
Watch Felix Sturm v De la Hoya. He really confused Oscar by boxing the late rounds southpaw. Also if you are ambidextrous, go for it. Also watch Willie Pep.
I’m still wondering what stance i should really devote myself to. From an early age i have been quite adept at switch hands when doing things (often when i was tired) to the point i could not tell what was my dominant hand (i write from the right hand, but could from the left if i wanted to). Even today i can use forks or knives on either hand, just like i can use my mouse on either side of my keyboard. For the last 6 months i have been training the orthodox way and slowly improving. However, i found out while sparring that under fire i sometimes switch to southpaw stance without meaning to, and the funny thing is i don’t feel awkward when i do. I think i will eventually try to fight as a southpaw and see if i’m more comfortable that way, might help getting over the wall i seem to have with improving my skills (my right leg gives me troubles in the rear).
Well, i confirmed it today; i’m a southpaw. My dominant eye may be the right one, and i write from the right, but i’m way more comfortable fighting as a southpaw. I box faster, move more, do a lot less mistakes, no delays in reactions and even do things i haven’t trained for like the falling step. It’s like i’m someone else entirely. One of the trainers at my gym confirmed it too, i’m way better that way. Sad it took me 6 months to figures this out…
Well I would like to learn orthodox for these reasons please advise me is I am wasting my time or not . My my right hand is my leading hand it is stronger by far so that my jab hand. Reasons why , I feel more comfortable with my peek a boo stance And ultimately am much morerelaxed with my strong hand jabbing and winning the jab battle with relative ease I have three titles and I’m 22 and 0 but I really would like to learn orthodox because I wanna switch and bang people out with my strongest hand which is my right .
I have knocked people down with my left but it doesn’t feel the same as my right I think I am not utilising my best weapon and it does my head in what shall I do ???? because I am boxing at a high level but wasting my main dig and boxing on the back foot not hitting as hard as I could with my back hand on the plus my leading hook jab and right hand glancing uppercut is really powerful i have boxed Ike this for so long I feel most comfortable by far like this what shall I do
Do you have any advice regarding temporary shifting, ala Marvin Hagler or GGG? I see the merit of training in just one stance, but being able to initiate and temporarily switch to surprise the opponents would be interesting, no?
i am left handed but use the mouse with my right hand – this frees up my left hand to write, whilst still using the mouse – there are huge advantages to being able to switch stance and hands, not just in boxing but in many sports – and the ones who can do this really well are the real stand out of the sports – Ronnie O’sullivan, kevin pietersen – and in boxing some of the greats – Roy Jones Jr, De La Hoya
Hey Rich, i don’t get what all you guys about this using a mouse thing as i am a true lefty in every sense and i can do all those things your talking about. Try these two experiment’s: which hand would you use to cut paper from that requires delicate lines and second one, if you had to kick/punt a football or soccer ball which foot would you do it with. These should give you your true comfortable stance as a guideline for development, good luck..
If I’m given left handed scissors I’d cut with my left hand. I’d probably kick with my right foot. On the other hand my left leg is actually stronger. To me that means my right foot should be forward.
perfectly said! Mr. Johnny N, it’s the truth!
Thanks. This is good, and something I’ve been wondering. When I trained capoeira, we always had to train everything from both sides. This article does make a lot of sense, though it does seem worthwhile to train some limited stance switching for in the moment reaction and setups ala Sugar Ray Leonard.
nelson future champ
the style of no style
Why would I switch my mouse? Reduces the chances of carpal tunnel for one thing being able to switch back and forth. Now I switch back and forth. With a trackpad on a laptop I tend to automatically use my right, but that’s more habit than anything because I can use it just as well with my left.
I don’t really get how something that is happening so close and requires depth perception for accuracy is comparable to using a rifle.
I’ve been visiting this site for a while and wanted to give my 2 cents on the subject. Training on one side fucked my body up. I HAD to convert to southpaw to save my body. I took Johnny’s advice because all his other advice is solid, and again what he’s saying might be true for most but my experience was different. Training on one side I ended up with Oblique imbalances, hip imbalances that now affect my gait
that makes me walk all crooked, my legs are assymetrical now and one of my knee caps isn’t in the right place due to incorrect muscle activation. Standing in such a specific stance recruits different muscles on each side. Training on one side CAN fuck you up. Maybe people with more muscle can handle it? Idk. But even for me… There are a lot of traditional cues that just don’t work for me, like keeping your chin down, I compressed my left LTN and it took me a year to get my left serratus working again. Protecting my chin with my shoulder, I now have a visible AC impingement and over active trapezius and gummed up scalene muscles and cervical problems on my left side. Be careful with how hard you follow these cues guys. you need to develop a strong posture to even begin this sport. Looking to one side all the time with your chin down and shoulder forward and then trying to throw lightning jabs from this position, I don’t know how anyone even does this…for me it’s meat grinder city. I can’t box without hurting myself so maybe it IS me. I take what works for me, I’m really concerned for the health of my neck, for me now it’s proper posture FIRST. I try to move off the line, slip, roll, pull, duck as much as possible with proper posture now and that seems to be the route i gotta go. Terence, Loma and Jacobs seem to be doing alright. Following up your 2 as a jab with the same hand is old school. Switching stances is old school. /Rant
Hey Jarett, thank you for sharing your experience. I’m sorry you had to work through all that physical pain. In all honesty, I think your experience had little to do with boxing’s asymmetrical nature. Almost every sport I can think of is at least somewhat asymmetrical. Basketball, football, baseball, golf, tennis, etc and etc. As much as you’d like to validate your experience, the majority of champions do not train asymmetrically–not even in boxing. Lomachenko and Crawford are not the norm. Heck…most things we do in our daily lives are also extremely assymmetrical (writing, opening things, picking up things, driving a car, using a computer mouse, construction work).
Now let’s get to WHY I think you’re having those issues. A lot of our muscle issues are usually due to habitual movement. I think you’re over-doing your movements and taking your body out of alignment and also sounds to me that you are moving too stiffly. You saying that you can’t box without hurting yourself says it all to me. Most fighters don’t train asymmetrically and they also don’t have problems. Also, a lot of boxing training can be very symmetrical as well. Such as all the conditioning work and things that you do with weights and other resistance exercises. Running, skipping rope, etc. Perhaps you can join our free FB group and share some videos of your movements and I or other fighters can leave some helpful feedback for you. Wishing the best for you, man.
Hey johnny thank you for your reply i want to add that i didnt come here to say that this advice is wrong but to be careful to not over do it. I in no way want to compare myself to loma or crawford i use them to justify what i felt i had to resort to. Until now it has been just training by myself im joining a gym soon that my buddy goes too and he has asked me what my stance is, i was embarrassed to tell him both. For me it is a nice little project cataloging all the different footworks and transitions in both stances and it gives me more artistic freedom which is what got me interested in boxing, if i ever compete ill probably learn the hard way like i do with everything. For now it might be delusional but it sure is fun! Thanks again johnny my bedroom walls are covered with printed pages of your site. You should sleep well knowing how many people you help.
The attitude of the “coach” who answered the original question is the reason boxing is just a sport these days, and not a functional martial art.
While simplicity in martial arts is a desired thing, it’s hard to overstate the importance of versatility and the tactical advantage of ambidexterity.
Keep training to be a prize fighter, but don’t get surprised when you get decked by someone who simply has been in a few scuffles outside a ring with codified rules.
I speak from my own personal experience as well as many others. Many newbies or martial artists come into boxing with this “open-minded” attitude thinking that being ambidextrous is a big advantage. An old trainer/fighter’s wisdom will tell you it just doesn’t work, they won’t even let you try it (believe me). The truth is most of us (I’d guess 95-98%) are simply not ambidextrous. We NATURALLY cannot operate from the other side as well as from our dominant side. Developing your weak side takes 3-5x as long as your strong side. I think forcing yourself to operate from a weaker side when you have a more effective one is a bit foolish. It’s like choosing to write with your left hand when your right hand is so much faster. Sure, you can LEARN and IMPROVE the weaker side but that training time could have been better served improving the dominant side.
I also think the idea of switching stances to create versatility is extremely flawed. You can find TONS of versatility using only your dominant side. If you want to do more things, learn more things from your dominant side. After all, it is your stronger and more natural side, allowing you to do far more tricks and far more ADVANCED things from that position. I’d much rather be able to fight at a high level from one side than to fight at a low level from both sides. You also have to know that in a stressed situation, you’ll naturally revert to your strong side anyway. Life experience will tell you that.
I also cannot help but feel you aren’t actually a boxer and/or probably never stepped foot in a boxing gym at all. Boxing gyms often have street brawlers coming in looking for fights. Many boxers themselves are also ex-gangsters and street brawlers. Any trained boxer will deal with wild haymakers and unstrategic aggression pretty easily.
Ultimately, it’s up to you. You are free to try learning from both sides. Hahaha, we’ve all done it. Trust me…it’s one of the most common noob tactics…thinking that being able to switch stances gives you some advantage. You can try it for yourself and see how far it gets you. Many fighters out there, even top champions do not switch. Some may occasionally train from the switch side but in a real fight, they don’t use it (outside of minor positional movements). Anyway, I hope you try your theories out in a real boxing gym, then come back and share your experience. And if you find great success with it, do teach us how you did it.
There are numerous examples to trumps this and there are numerous explanations that give us insight on why there is no “right side” just like there is no “wrong hole” adapt and fight. haha enjoy !
If by “numerous”, you mean statistically 1%…then yes, you are absolutely correct. The post is simply conventional wisdom. So many coaches tell their fighters to keep their hands up and yet we have Muhammad Ali and Roy Jones, some of the best fighters in boxing history. Regardless…everyone is more than welcome to fight any way they like. It is your life and your health so you should have absolute control/freedom as you please. I only advise in the manner that I know best. Nothing more.
Thank you for your website.
I am going to start boxing after a few year rest from Muay Thai.
After reading your website, I found out i am left eye dominant.
I ma naturally right handed. Do you think I should switch to southpaw?
I’ve always had an inaccurate straight right hand and now I know why!
Hi I always switch stance as a way to disorientated my opponent I am ambidextrous in essence so I feel comfortable with both stances so what kinda of style would you call a boxer who can amicably fight in both stances while maintaining focus and discipline just as a view I’m not sure
Book of five rings states that there should be no preference for stances. There are 5 stances and you can shift your hands slightly to go from one stance to the next. He states that you should not be focused on what stance you are making just free your mind to come up with the best solution to defeat your enemy. You fight as natural as possible and during natural walking there are no preferences for foot placement. You can win with strong hand forward or strong hand back. If the timing is good and the technique is right it will work. Also diminishing returns training just one stance after a certain amount of time. Just some other food for though.