Why Is Shifting Important in Martial Arts.

Shifting has been an underutilized tool until recently in martial arts. The narrative used to be that shifting left you vulnerable and you would end up only mediocre in both stances. However, that could not be further from the truth. Shifting is when fighters are able to fight out of both an orthodox and southpaw stance. This can include fighters that shift constantly and walk down their opponents, or a situational adjustment to deal with a tricky opponent.



Pros And Cons

Shifting is a high-level technique that must be practiced tirelessly. It is true that it requires many hours of hard work and practice. The payoff is more than worth it, as few fighters can deal with an opponent skilled at shifting. The only true downside of shifting is the extra work required to learn both stances. However, once learned, shifting has many benefits that outweigh the extra time training.

Shifting stances can open up new lanes of attack and quickly cut those same lanes off for your opponent. Even fighters that fight out of one stance utilize shifting when they rotate and turn their hip over for kicks.

Another benefit of shifting is the increase in movement proficiency. To land a clean shot, your opponent must be able to line their shot up in regards to timing and distance. Fighters can use shifting to constantly change the distance of their head from their opponent, making it near impossible to land cleanly. This also allows the fighter utilizing shifting to close distance or counter with an extra layer of defense.



Shifting Punches

To explore the nuances of shifting with your punches, look towards the boxing greats of old. Although modern boxers, such as Vasyl Lomachenko, Oleksandr Usyk, and Tyson Fury utilize shifting, the technique was much more common in the champions of old school boxing. Muhamad Ali was one such champion, often catching his opponents off guard by switching stances mid combination.

Interestingly, Ali switched by allowing his opponent to move, instead of adjusting his position to his opponent. He frequently used this concept after hitting his opponent with a gazelle jab, leaping past them. Instead of resetting to his southpaw stance, Muhammad Ali would simply punch out of the orthodox stance that he landed in, allowing for quick follow-ups against an opponent that was turning into his shot.



Shifting With Kicks

Shifting is an essential skill for anyone looking to maximize their kicking potential. Kicking is essentially an exercise in shifting, as all your weight shifts to your standing leg. Develop this by practicing form in shadow boxing before moving to the heavy bag. This will ensure that you do not use the bag for balance and leverage, compromising your balance if you miss a kick.

Shifting can also be used to set up kicks from advantageous positions. If you and your opponent are both orthodox, you can shift into a southpaw stance to get to an open stance position. In an open stance, the rear kick has a clear pathway. This is the same reason why the right cross is known as a southpaw killer in boxing.



Shifting As Defense

Although shifting sets up many offensive opportunities, it is also quite effective as a means of defense. One of the most common techniques in today’s era of Full Contact Martial Arts is the low kick, often aimed at the calf. A quick step back, or shift, takes your leg completely out of range and will often unbalance an opponent due to their strike missing.


This same shifting technique can quickly remove your leg from danger when your opponent attempts a takedown. Just the threat of you being able to shift will stop many grapplers from dominating you as a striker. Shifting is an important skill, allowing you to not just fight offensively, but also defend against your opponent when needed.