Sunday, November 7, 2010

Protect your head!

Different fighters hold their hands in different positions when they engage in combat. A post over at dojo rat got me thinking about hand position.

My Sensei holds one hand closer to his body and one hand extended out, being held higher.  This position allows for him to cover his body and parry away from the head.  He's very good at this and it's darn near impossible to 'get in' on him.  Some other fighters believe in a keeping their hands in close and held higher, more like a boxer's stance.

For true combat, from my experience in and out of the dojo, I am more likely to adopt the boxer like hand position.  I am aware there are strengths and weaknesses to each approach.

The main reasons that I lean towards the boxer type style are as follows:

1.  I am more likely to be knocked out if I'm stuck in the face than in the body.  So I protect the 'knock out' button located on my chin with my hands.  I recognize that body shots can put a person down, but I'm more concerned about ending up unconscious in a real fight.

2.  My style of Jiu Jitsu and my theories on combat are mainly based on the idea of moving into my opponent.  If I practiced moving away all the time, a more extended hand position might be more appropriate.  I feel my chances of being able to absorb an initial attack and move in are pretty high with my hands up.

I could probably make an argument for the extended position as well. It definitely has some advantages.  In fact, sparring rules or sessions would likely have me adopt the extended hand position but this is due to rules being in place and most sparring being point based with the action stopping after a hit or two.

For real combat, I want to move it, stay in close and not get knocked out.  As such, the hand up high position is superior for me for entry and balance and energy disruption.

I'd enjoy any thoughts on this topic.


  1. Do you think your height also influences the way you hold your hands? I am quite small (5ft 3in) and when sparring I hold my hands more in the way your sensei holds his. I have one hand close to my chest and the other extended out and held at about my chin level. Because I'm small people can hit my head quite easily. The way I've learnt to cope with this is to extend my front arm out and further (and slightly higher) the taller the person is. This generally stops them getting to close to me (or getting inside my maai. Of course, I'm just talking about point sparring, I'm not sure what I'd do if I were ever in a real fight!

  2. factors:
    1) the extended guard likely evolved from combat against other martial artists who will use the kick instead of just boxing (i'd worry more about the groin in this case than the ribs for taking one out of the fight)
    2) law enforcement officers usually wear a vest that will protect their body but not the face (only relevant to officers, of course, but important to note in this case)
    3) a good "boxing" defense will cover the ribs if used properly (elbows drop while still tucked in).
    For these reasons I think the guard is a fluid thing, to be adjusted according to one's own style and opponent. I, personally, think that when one is in close the guard comes up and when outside of the punching range one should be wary of a lower kick used to cover the distance.

  3. Sue,

    Height definitely plays a factor. In fact, when I occasionally point spar, I used the extended version if hopes of staying out of my opponent's range. For real combat, however, I don't plan on engaging in the sparring range if I can help it.


    You are absolutely correct. No one should be locked into one way or another if the circumstances change. Good points. Thanks for the input.