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[EXPLAINED] 3 Best Stand-Up Fighting Styles

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Learning a new martial art can be an exciting experience for anyone looking to get fit while discovering very useful self-defense skills.

There are many great martial arts to choose from today, some better than others.

Many of these are classified as “stand-up” martial arts because they focus on hand-to-hand combat between opponents in a standing position.

These stand-up fighting styles can help you defend yourself in a variety of settings and are often used together with grappling fighting styles for MMA or Mixed Martial Arts.

In this article, we’ll look at the top 3 stand-up martial arts and what makes them great.

These include:

  1. Boxing
  2. Muay Thai
  3. Judo

Let’s get into it.

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What Is The Best Stand-Up Fighting Style?

The best stand-up fighting style for you depends on what you enjoy learning and the purpose you’re learning it for.

If you’re learning a stand-up fighting style for self-defense, I would recommend learning either Muay Thai or Judo. If you’re learning stand-up fighting for MMA, I recommend learning boxing, Muay Thai, and Judo to give you all the weapons you need to dominate an opponent.

Let’s look at these 3 styles in more detail, so you can choose the best one for you.


The stand-up fighting style I would recommend most people start with is boxing.

Boxing is one of the most widely practiced stand-up fighting styles across the globe and is easy to learn.

Its emphasis on defensive footwork and head movement is a great place to start learning the best ways of keeping yourself safe in dangerous situations.

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Boxing Techniques

Boxing techniques involve mainly the top half of the body since there are no kicks (The Marquess of Queensberry Rules).

The 4 main boxing techniques include:

  1. Jab
  2. Cross or Straight Punch
  3. Hook
  4. Uppercut

A talented boxer uses all of these techniques in combination, with good footwork to out-wit and out-box their opponents.

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Types of Boxing Styles

There are 4 types of boxing styles you’ll learn, eventually specializing and being defined by one of them.

The 4 main boxing styles include:

  1. Swarming
  2. Out-boxing
  3. Slugging
  4. Boxer-punching

Swarming or Pressure Fighting Style

In the swarming style, a boxer overwhelms their opponent by applying continuous pressure and constantly walking towards them.

Allowing them to get past their reach and within striking range, constantly placing the opponent on the defense which is very difficult to counter-attack.

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Out-boxing Style

Out-boxing allows the boxer to maintain a gap between them and their opponent.

They do this by staying outside their opponent’s striking distance, using long straight punches and jabs to keep their opponent away.

This can be advantageous if their reach is longer than their opponent’s.

Slugging Style

The slugging style uses raw strength to break an opponent’s guard and land heavy blows.

Sluggers tend to move slower than out-boxers for example, but their punches are far harder because they put their whole body into it.

Slugging is the least elegant of the boxing styles, but it’s often the most effective if used by an experienced striker.

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Boxer-punching Style

The boxer-puncher fighting style uses a combination of out-boxing’s speed and counter-punching, along with the strength of slugging.

Boxers who’ve trained at least one of the styles mentioned above can take on a wide variety of opponents in both MMA and self-defense.

The upper body strength, muscle memory, and quick punches give boxers an edge in most fights.

This makes it ideal for anyone who wishes to defend themselves and land a few brutal blows in an MMA fight.

Muay Thai

Muay Thai remains the best stand-up martial art for street fights or in an MMA setting.

This fighting style originates from Thailand and is commonly referred to as “The Art of Eight Limbs”.

It earned this name because it utilizes various body parts including knees, elbows, fists, and shins.

Fighters who specialize in Muay Thai are known as Nak Muay (“boxer”).

Most Muay Thai techniques involve full-body movements, like rotating the hip to deliver kicks, punches, and elbows.

The 8 main striking techniques in Muay Thai:

  1. Jab
  2. Cross or Straight Punch
  3. Hook
  4. Uppercut
  5. Elbow Strikes
  6. Knees Strikes
  7. Shin Kicks
  8. Teep Kicks (leading kick with the bottom of your foot)

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Like boxing, each of these techniques has a wide range of variations.

For example, elbow strikes can be separated into 8 different categories:

  • Elbow Slash
  • Horizontal Elbow
  • Uppercut Elbow
  • Forward Elbow Thrust
  • Reverse Horizontal Elbow
  • Spinning Elbow
  • Double Elbow Chop
  • Mid-Air Elbow Strike/Jump elbow chop.

Muay Thai is a very complex stand-up martial art which takes years to master.

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Muay Thai for MMA & Street Fights

Muay Thai is considered superior to other striking martial arts because it isn’t limited to just punches.

These fighters have a wide array of kicks they can utilize in both street fighting and MMA settings, and can often catch their opponents off-guard.

A well-timed roundhouse kick from a Nak Muay (Thai Fighter) can do some serious damage and potentially disable an opponent.

Elbows can be thrown from very close proximity, often from inside a clinch.

So not only does Muay Thai give you striking options at distance, but it’s great up-close too.

Learning the stand-up martial art Muay Thai is a wise move for any prospective fighter who’d like the upper hand in any fight.

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Judo is one of the best stand-up fighting styles for self-defense.

This martial art originates from Japan and was practiced by the Samurais for generations.

Judo is now a very popular martial art around the world, being adopted into school curriculums and has even become an Olympic sport.

What Is The Main Focus of Judo?

Judo focuses on taking down opponents using sweeps and throws while avoiding being thrown yourself. Judo uses grips, leverage, momentum, and weight distribution instead of brute force to gain the upper hand in a fight.

Judo is different from boxing and Muay Thai because it includes almost no striking at all outside of traditional Kata (Atemi-Waza).

Interestingly, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (Jiu-Jitsu) which is predominantly a grappling martial art is actually derived from Judo’s ground fighting techniques known as Ne-Waza.

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Why Judo Is Great For Self-Defense

Learning Judo is a smart choice for fighters who wish to prioritize self-defense.

This martial art uses the philosophy of performing moves with maximum efficiency, expending as little energy as possible to neutralize an opponent.

Since the art of Judo doesn’t rely on kicks, punches, or other types of strikes – it can be practiced by just about anyone without the risk of severe brain injuries like CTE which accompany other striking stand-up styles like boxing.

Another great thing about Judo is you don’t need to possess an athletic build to defeat your opponent if you use the correct techniques.

This is why I recommend everyone learn at least some basics of Judo.


It’s difficult to choose one as the best because they all excel in different ways. 

Boxing is great for keeping your opponent on their toes and beating them down using a combination of speed and strength.

Trained boxers often win MMA fights due to the endurance they built up through years of practice.

Muay Thai is useful for striking opponents using a variety of moves.

Opponents will be caught off guard by your diverse set of moves and will lose their composure trying to guess your next move.

Muay Thai is great for anyone that wants to turn their body into a fighting machine that can handle the most brutal street fights.

Judo allows you to protect yourself in a fight setting without ever having to kick or punch an opponent.

This makes it useful for children or elderly people that wish to stand-up fighting for self-defense.

The right Judo technique could help save your life in an emergency.

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