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, even in this case, it has not a single or completely defined way to maintain a guard stance.

Note – This article has been asked by one of our Core Course practitioners on Patreon (see how to attend our home study classes here Learn Kung Fu online: a beginner-to-expert course).

A good practitioner should never passively memorize a position, he must understand the principles behind it to adapt them to the present interactions with the fighting scenario:

  • 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.

It does not exists a perfect guard stance

There is no multipurpose guard position suitable for every circumstance, it does not exist.

A note by Master Kongling – Bruce Lee insisted on the fact that a good martial artist must be adaptable like water and our combat system completely 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, returning to be breakable”).

In any combat situation (sportive or real), there are innumerable factors to be taken into consideration in the choice of the appropriate guard stance and not in terms of the entire battle but in every single moment of it.

A note by Master Kongling – Remember: your stance determines 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 (one in relation to the other) must be displaced in such a way that allows you to move without difficulty in any direction (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 knees, slightly raised heels and feet at a natural distance, read Kung Fu rooting: the pyramid concept)
  • Protection of vulnerable points – Head (neck included), 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 already displaced your 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 act explosively; the 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, read also How to breathe when I get punched)
  • Action readiness – Legs and arms must be always 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 at 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%; this way you get a double advantage, you always have space / time to settle a blow (or a push, or a fast step) and above all to avoid dynamic breakings 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 and the distance between your feet 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 pace should never be identifiable by the opponents; an identifiable rhythm allows the wise fighter to predict your actions (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, see How to develop a good timing)

A note by Master Kongling – The better you are, the more you can bend your knees without sacrificing reactivity. Ancient Shaolin monks were used to fight at high speed even maintaining extremely low stances (read The correct position of the rider (ma bu)). Said this, even for an extremely conditioned fighter, to always remain with the knee so much bent is not automatically a good choice (if we are in fact able to be agile with bent knees, it means that by not bending them we could probably achieve superior performances). The truth is that a low stance is normally more useful in static situations (eg. while executing a joint lever). There are many other things to say but, for now, it is sufficient. We will deepen the guard stances topic in future lessons.

To have a better understanding read:

The applicative key points of the guard stance

Now that you have a basic idea on how to set up your 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 you to endless disadvantaged situations; the training must be (as much as possible) 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, read Recognize a good / bad master: 5 characteristics)
  • Never lower the guard – It seems obvious but it is not at all; the guard is our last defensive barrier and without it, we expose our weaknesses to the action of the adversaries (faints, blows 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 the 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 which to hide; spending the time to collect blows and blows is a dangerous strategy reserved for those who have a great experience (it is functional only in presence of a specific plan and excellent physical conditioning, see Advanced combat tactics); for a beginner / intermediate, in general terms, the best way to fight is to anticipate the action of those in front of us or to react simultaneously (we will 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 the boxing’s one), on the long and medium range, it opens and widens (it is useless to repeat that, at an advanced level, even these choices are tactical)

“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

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Author: Master Kongling

Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.

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