Lesson 2: the guard stance
What is the best possible guard stance?
As we have already said in Lesson 5.1, 6 Dragons Kung Fu is a liquid martial art, this means that it has not a single or completely defined guard stance.
A good practitioner should not memorize a position, he must understand the principles behind it to adapt them to his interactions with the various fighting scenarios:
- Opponents – Level of preparation, combat style, etc.
- Environment – Reduced space of action, terrain type, etc.
- Combat type – Bare hands, weapon against weapon, etc.
- Psychophysical conditions – Eventual wounds, fatigue, etc.
- Combat distance – Close quarters, long range, etc.
- Conditioning level – Resistance, speed, etc.
- Intentions – Apply a certain technique, defend from a specific opponent’s skill, etc.
There is no multipurpose guard position suitable for every circumstance, it does not exist:
- Bruce Lee insisted on the fact that a good martial artist must be adaptable like water and our combat system adheres to this philosophy
- In this lesson we will see some of the key points of a good guard but do not force yourself to look for a fixed / general scheme ( this way you let the water freeze and return to being breakable)
- In any combat situation (sporting or real) there are innumerable factors to be taken into consideration in the choice of the appropriate guard stance and this is not referred to the integral battle but at every single moment of it
Remember: your stance determine what you can and what you cannot do.
The basic principles of a guard stance
Now let’s see some practical ideas to sketch our first combat position:
- Leg mobility – Your feet must occupy positions (one with respect to the other) that allow you to move without difficulty in all directions (including high and low); you must be able to reach any favorable position and eventually return to occupy the previous one in an instant (this basically means slightly bent legs, slightly raised heels and feet at a natural distance)
- Protection of vulnerable points – Head, genitals and hips must tend to be safe; if you want to intercept the blows directed to the head (chin, jaw, nose, eyes, etc.), you must have hands near the face; if you want to avoid blows to the neck you have to lower the head and the chin; if you want to decrease the exposed area and defend the genitals you must put you 3/4 and put a leg to disturb the direct attack line; if you want to cover the hips you have to close the elbows; if you want to ward off abdominal attacks you have to lower the chest
- No tension -Your body must be relaxed but ready to shoot; rigidity is your enemy, it slows down movements and facilitates the use of brute force by the adversary (eg. when you are hit, you must follow the hitting force of impact and not go against it)
- Action readiness – Legs and arms must be loaded and ready to hit / grab / push / divert / lock / etc. (better if in sequence / combination / simultaneity); your limbs must be at the same time easy to stretch, quick to retract and useful to maintain a safe distance the opponent
- No overextension – During the whole duration of the battle, legs, arms and fingers must in no case be stretched more than 90%; in this way you get a double advantage, you always have space / time to settle a blow (or a push, a fast step) and above all to avoid a dynamic break during a sudden lever (read Chin Na)
- Balance – You have to be stable enough not only to execute all the moves you want but also to resist to an eventual opponent interaction (eg. a push, a projection, etc.); maintaining all the other fighting faculties, your center of gravity must be as lower as possible (slightly flex your knees) and the distance between your foots must always be superior of your shoulders’ opening
- Arrhythmic flow -Even if this is more a tactical choice (we will deepen the topic in the following chapters), your rhythm must never be identifiable by the opponents; an identifiable rhythm allows the wise fighter to predict your positions (read Study an opponent to use his errors); this means that you have to learn to alternate cyclical movements, sudden pauses and changes in speed / type of flow in a spontaneous and instinctive way
Of course there are many other things to say but, for now, it is sufficient (read The guard stances in 6DKF). We will discuss a lot of specific guard stances in various articles.
The applicative key points of the guard stance
Now that we have ideas on how to set up our first guard stance (read Which guard stance choose), let’s see how it should be used:
- Symmetry – We all have a dominant side but under no circumstances you should believe those who try to give you a left setting because you are left-handed or a right one because tradition wants it; it makes no sense and exposes us to endless disadvantaged situations; the training must be specular, the choices of struggle must be the result of tactics and instinct, never of conventions (again, stay away from the instructors who want to force your setup, they will ruin you)
- Never lower the guard – The guard is our last defensive barrier and without it we expose our weaknesses to the action of the adversaries (faints, shots in sequence, trapping, etc.); it does not matter that we are kicking, throwing a fist or performing a projection, in all the cases where it is reasonable, you have to keep it active, reactive and faced in the direction of the opponent (even for those who have an attitude to continuous attack the first thought must always be addressed to self-preservation, read 10 most common errors in combat: solutions)
- Never hide yourself behind the guard – If on one hand it should never be lowered, on the other hand, it should not become a passive pose behind wich to hide; spending the time to collect shots on shots is a dangerous strategy reserved to those who have great experience (it is functional only in presence of a specific plan and an excellent physical conditioning); in general the best way to fight is to anticipate the action of those in front of us or to react syymultaneously (we’ll talk about this later, in this course)
- Alterations in relation to the distance – At close distance, everything tightens and closes (the mouth closes and the guard becomes similar to that of boxing), on the long and medium radius it opens and widens (and becomes similar to those of Kung Fu)
“The on-guard position is that position most favorable to the mechanical execution of all the total techniques and skills. It allows complete relaxation yet, at the same time, gives a muscle tonus most favorable to quick reaction time.” – Bruce Lee
- A little trick: the secret guard of the 6DKF – One of the 6 Dragons Kung Fu’s hidden fighting stance (useful in self-defense situations)
Author: Master Kongling
Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.