How to rapidly learn Kung Fu: guard stance

The fundamental concepts of the basic fighting stance

In combat (as we said a lot of times, read Which guard stance choose and The guard stances in 6DKF), it does not exist a perfect guard stance for every type of:

  • Scenario
  • Opponent
  • Weapon involved
  • Preparation level
  • Tactic

Having clarified this (given that many students have asked us for a basic starting point), in this brief tutorial we want to share a “generic” guard stance that can be easily adapted to the various contexts.


  • Do not read this article without having read the 2 mentioned
  • In this context, when we talk about guard stances we refer to the ones to use during all the neutral moments of a fight (to be ready to attack or defend)
  • The other stances typical of Kung Fu (Ma Bu, Gong Bu, etc.) are instead part of the execution of fighting techniques, sequences and forms (read /// Subscribe (it's free!) or Login to see this content ///)
  • The stance we are going to describe is similar to many modern others (in particular to the Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do one)
  • This is not an ancient guard stance, we will see the differences in future articles

An effective guard position: how to

A note by Master Kongling – In our school we teach that anything that we do in a fight (a roll, a punch, a kick, etc.): we always have to try to start from a guard stance and arrive in a stable guard stance.

Let’s imagine to start from a normal standing position.

The hands:

  • The hands are not completely closed nor opened (to be ready to grab and to hit)
  • Thumb excluded, the fingers are in contact with one another (not tightened); the idea is to avoid to be caught / beaten singularly
  • The thumb must be in a neutral natural position (to avoid to be easily bent in a direction or in the opposite one)
  • The hands must be in front of our mouth (to cover the upper body targets and to be ready to react)

A note by Master Kongling – At a short-middle distance (read Ideal distance from the opponent during a fight), to defend from punches (etc.), the hands must be attached to the cheeks (to cover the nose, etc. and to avoid bounces). If the opponent is far, the guard must be stretched in his direction.

The shoulders and the trunk:

  • The shoulders must be relaxed (ready to explode in any direction)
  • The shoulders are not static, they move drawing small circles in the air (in a natural way, not exasperated)

The trunk:

  • The chest closes vertically downward on the abdomen (to reduce the size of the central target)
  • The abdomen rotates 45° on the Y-axis (to reduce the lateral targets’ area); we impose our side to the opponent

The head:

  • The chin is lowered and grazes the frontal shoulder (to protect the neck and to avoid, for example, easy uppercut knockouts)
  • The gaze must be directed towards the opponent’s windpipe (trachea); if we learn to maintain our eyes on that point, our adversary will have hard times to understand our moves (directions, targets, damages, etc., read The overall view: see everything, do not look at anything)

The arms:

  • The elbows must be narrow to the body (to close the openings towards the ribs)

The legs:

  • The knees are always bent (to avoid easy joint levers, to be ready to move and to improve our balance, read Kung Fu rooting: the pyramid concept)
  • The weight distribution is 60-65% in the front leg and 35-40% in the back one

The feet:

  • In relation to the extension of the straight line that looks over our opponent, our front foot must touch it with the big toe and the back one with with the heel (let’s do not cross this line, otherwise we will lose our balance)
  • The distance between our feet should be slightly bigger than the one of our shoulders (we must feel a comfortable sensation of stable equilibrium)
  • Both feet tend to look forward but they are not parallels (generally the frontward foot looks slightly more frontward)
  • The back foot must be ready to push frontally (its heel do not completely touch the floor, this allow to move faster and better)

A note by Master Kongling – The back foot should become perpendicular to the front one only in specific circumstances (eg. in a circular lateral movement).

A few general rules:

  • Our center of gravity must be moved forward (to be more stable, read How to improve balance: tricks and exercises)
  • The stance must not be rigid, we have to relax (to move faster)
  • The stance must not be static, we have to slightly bounce (to be ready to explode in any direction)
  • Let’s avoid too rhythmic / repetitive movements, let’s learn to naturally change our pace randomly (this make us unpredictable)

Final notes

Last tips:

  • Let’s do not choose a preferred side, we always have to be ready to change
  • A good fighting stance allows us to defend, attack but also to absorb the opponent’s strikes limiting the damages (we will never face a fight where we will not get punched, read Why martial arts do not work: 5 reasons)
  • The guard is our shield and must remain up in any possible situation (while kicking, etc.); one of the most common errors of the beginners is to lower the guard after the first few seconds of combat (read The 10 most common combat mistakes)
  • For a novice in a low physical shape (read How to start practicing from scratch), it is not so easy to maintain the arms up but it is only a matter of training; if, in the beginning, we can’t take it anymore (rather than let our guard down), we can lean the elbows on our ribs
  • If (after the first times) we do not feel comfortable and perfectly stable with our guard stance, we are doing something wrong (make a few variations and tests)
  • The only way to build an effective “guard system” is to practice sparring regularly (read The meaning of sparring fighting in martial arts)
  • Understood the basic rules, an advanced practitioner can (must) adapt this stance to his style of combat (choosing, for example, to sacrifice part of his defense structure to access to more effective attack options, as in the photo)
  • Last but not least, a bad guard stance is always better than no-guard

To deepen the topic read also /// Subscribe (it's free!) or Login to see this content ///. In the next article of this series, we will see other types of combat stances and their variations.

In-depth video courses

In-depth articles


Reply in the comments and share your experience:

  • Do you feel comfortable in your guard stance?

Author: Master Kongling

Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.

How to master 6 Dragons Kung Fu?

Are you searching for:

  • Daily training exercises?
  • Synthetic theory and concepts?
  • A step by step path from white to black belt?
  • A path (clear, consequential and gradual) designed to build real martial skills?
  • A direct contact with Master Kongling?

Go to our Patreon page and choose a training plan: starting from the Practitioner level, you will gain access to all this and much more.

Inside each Premium Lesson, you will receive the same teaching (practices, tips, concepts, small secrets and corrections) reserved to the live students of Master Kongling.

Important - Once a certain number of registrations are reached, no other participants can be accepted. For more information write to: [email protected].

Support us (1€ / month):