Mirrored Stances

Only square your stance if your opponent squares their stance as well.

In every combat sport, the proper stance is critical for victory. Stance describes the positioning of your body during a fight. Different forms of combat sports play within completely different rules, and their various stances reflect those rules.

Implementing the appropriate stance increases your chances of:

When choosing a stance, your feet can be either staggered or squared.

Staggered stance:

The staggered stance refers to having one leg forward and one leg back. Most legitimate martial arts adopt a staggered stance.

The main benefits of staggered stances are:

  • Excellent mobility. The rear leg allows for quick explosive forward movements like shots, and the front leg allows for regressive backwards movements such as sprawls.
  • You can absorb and generate force in four directions, which generally gives you much stronger base than a squared stance.
  • Because only one side of your body is exposed, it’s a lot easier to anticipate where your opponent will attack.

The main disadvantages of staggered stances are:

  • The lead leg is usually the more vulnerable to attack, so wrestlers will often protect it with the same side hand posted on the knee, known as the “gatekeeper”.
  • A staggered stance in the open guard hides your center line, but opens you up to de la Riva, reverse de la Riva, sit-up guard, etc.
  • If you’re on the floor, you’ll probably need to use a hand to post, which means you’re fighting with one arm.

Examples of staggered stances include:

  • The standard boxer/kickboxer stance
  • Instep/shin-to-shin guard
  • The headquarters position (standing in guard with one leg in)
  • Butterfly guard (which can be staggered or squared).

Squared/linear stance:

The squared, or linear, stance describes having your legs positioned square to your opponent.

The main advantages of squared stances are:

  • They’re wider than staggered stances, and allow for excellent side-to-side movement.
  • If you are in a squared stance and can force your opponent to also remain in a squared stance, you can cage their hips and prevent their movement. Many pressure techniques from guard rely on this strategy.
  • If you’re on the ground, you can fight with both hands and both feet because you’re not posting on the floor.

The main disadvantages of squared stances are:

  • They restrict explosive movements both forward and backward. You only have base in two directions. This makes you susceptible to being pulled forward and being pushed backward.
  • Because your feet are positioned in a straight line, your centerline is exposed. This means you’ll be susceptible to attacks, should your opponent gain the inside position between your legs.
  • Because both sides of your body are accessible to your opponent, it’s hard to predict which side they’ll attack.

Examples of squared stances include:

  • The Wing Chun standing stance
  • Closed guard
  • The stack pass
  • Butterfly guard (which can be staggered or squared).

Choosing which stance to play:

When your opponent uses a staggered stance, you should do the same.
When your opponent goes staggered, you can’t stay in a squared stance because you’re susceptible to being pulled forward or pushed backward.

It’s okay to play a squared stance if your opponent is also in a squared stance.
It’s actually a good strategy to hold your opponent in a squared position, and keep a squared position yourself. This allows you to cage their hips and lock their movement, which is the hallmark of many guard passing strategies.

When your opponent is on one knee, you can play either stance.
When your opponent is on one knee (sometimes known “combat base”), their mobility is limited. So even though the combat base looks like a staggered stance, it doesn’t have the same mobility. It’s safe to play either a staggered or squared stance.

When your opponent is on two knees, you can play either stance.
An opponent on both knees has very little mobility, so you can play either stance.

On the podcast:

Further study: