What is the optimal fighting stance when confronted by an opponent(s) in real life? Currently I'm not quite sure what stance I should use, but I felt like the Wing-Chun stances are safer guards somehow (and it looks better).

The positioning of the feet and body (weight distribution) seems almost uniform across most street-based martial arts styles. What I'm more interested in is the positioning of the hands to defend against a variety of MA styles. Any advice?

  • Do you explicitly mean "when the fight has already begun" or want to include the self-defense aspects prior to actual engagement? I ask because taking a fighting stance as such already is a form of escalation you would try to avoid in self-defense. Aug 27, 2021 at 18:14
  • @ Philip Klocking | Maybe...when the opponent has went into a fighting stance (and when the fight has already begun)?
    – user11733
    Aug 28, 2021 at 2:51

2 Answers 2


Without having more information about the specific circumstances, and your type/level of training to date:

A classic 45 degree shoulder-width stance (weight distributed evenly upon the balls of your feet, rear foot turned out at 45 degrees) provides you with options.

Retreat, pivot, attack, side-step; all can be accomplished to a fair degree from this basic foundation without the need to reposition.

In addition, it is a simple stance that can be assumed quickly and relatively discreetly, even if you're in the throes of an adrenaline dump. It is also a stance compatible with many 'street-functional' martial arts you might be studying such as Krav Maga, MMA, Muay Thai, Boxing, Karate, Jiu-Jitsu.

Some may disagree, but a good philosophy to maintain when training for the stress of real-life combat is to keep things simple. This is a principle followed by most of the military and policing training I've encountered, and these institutions are more invested than most in ensuring their members are trained appropriately for a range of dynamic, unpredictable situations.

Also, whilst I'm not a fan of all of his material, Bas Rutten advocates a non-aggressive upper-body posture commonly employed by security guards which is very useful as a means by which to prepare for incoming strikes.

It is essentially a "thinker" pose. For a right hander, the fist is raised to the chin and the left arm is bent so that the forearm rests horizontally across the torso, the left hand cradling the elbow of the right arm.

In this position, your hands are elevated to a useful degree. When combined with the foot position described above, you have the ability to parry, block and strike hand and/or foot attacks with minimal prior movement and without telegraphing your intent to potential opponents. You are far better placed to defend yourself from this position and you avoid the antagonistic attributes of more explicit fight stances.


I agree with Futilitarian that a good leg position is the 45-degree stance, which gives you the best range of options for footwork and moving the upper torso. For the hands, I would actually recommend raising the hands to about shoulder height, halfway between extended and touching the shoulders, palms out. It's not a very aggressive positioning, more of a "Hold on, buddy, let's talk this over," pose, but your hands are up and ready to deflect or strike, and ideally, it may help to forestall the fight entirely by giving an extra moment to talk things over.

I will add the caveat that this may need to be modified based on the culture you're in. I know that when I was in Russia, our interpreter warned us to be cautious about holding our hands up palm out in a tense situation as it's generally seen as an aggressive move.

  • I was under the impression "palm out" is body language for begging. How could that be insulting or aggressive?
    – Vorac
    Sep 1, 2021 at 4:14
  • 1
    @Vorac: The way I had it explained to me, the extended palms were representative of pushing someone away, like the stereotypical pushing that sometimes starts a fight between two guys. That said, it was about two decades ago that I got this advice, and it might be outdated. Sep 1, 2021 at 5:16

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