GUARDS From 3 Combat Sports


What makes a good guard? How does the guard differ among combat sports? Which is, arguably, the best?

When you start sparring and fighting, you’ll soon learn that you can’t always be on the offensive. Unlike pads and bags, people hit back! Because of this, it’s important to know how to protect yourself. The head is the most important part to protect because:

  1. of your eyes, which you need to see and pick shots.
  2. bleeding from parts of the face can stop a fight.
  3. concussions and other brain injuries, no matter how minor, are no joke and are key to being able to keep training and fighting.

To protect the face and head, you will have to get into a guard position. But which to use? Each combat sport, from Muay Thai to boxing to kickboxing and beyond, employs a unique guard for reasons specific to the nature of its respective sport.


Let’s examine first the boxing guard, as seen to the right.

This is the classic boxing defense: elbows in, palms together and on the forehead with little space between the forearms. This, for the most part, prevents anything from coming in towards the face, plus the elbows can block body shots.

In boxing, head movements are much more exaggerated than, for example, Muay Thai because one only needs to worry about the hands. Therefore, the fighter can afford to make slips and ducks in big movements, even being able to bring their own head down to avoid a punch. Also, the elbows being close to the body allow the fighter to generate more power via torque when they need to switch to be on the offensive.



Onto the guard of the kickboxer, who has a bit more to worry about than the boxer.

Many people use a boxing guard in kickboxing as well, but limit the range of motion when it comes to head movement.

This guard is useful especially since, often under kickboxing rules, kicks to the forearm count as a block. The tighter elbows also allow the fighter to throw many more punches since punches and kicks are often weighted equally.




Lastly, below is a popular guard for Muay Thai called the “long guard.”

The lead arm is extended forward, often in the opponent’s face while the other arm blocks incoming punches. The boxing guard is also used in Muay Thai, but it is not preferred for a few reasons. Unlike in boxing and kickboxing, Muay Thai can include elbows and long periods of clinching. A boxing guard is not a sufficient defense because an elbow can easily slice down the middle of the guard!

In addition, the tight elbows make it harder to block incoming kicks with the legs and be able to grab someone in the clinch. The long guard keeps the opponent at bay while allowing you to see and pick your shots. It prevents punches and elbows from coming in, but it is not without its flaws. Because both elbows are up and away from the body, the long guard opens one up to be susceptible to body shots. However, if you look at Muay Thai’s traditional scoring system, a fighter is usually more worried about incoming kicks than body shots.

Because of the nature of each sport as well as its scoring systems, there is no “best” guard. Each guard is best suited for its specific combat sport for a reason, namely because it supports the function of defense related to that sport.

Overall, a fighter has to decide which guard is best suited for them based on their weaknesses. Pick a guard, use it, and benefit from each for yourself. You can use the one that gives you the most defense as your base and use the other ones from time to time. You don’t need to limit yourself to just one. After all, a fight doesn’t just start and end with one technique!


Author Profile

Angela Chang
Plant-based fighter, foodie, and aspiring physical therapist. Angela is currently living in Bangkok and training full time.

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