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What's Your Attitude

Dan 'Wic' Kanagie
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What is attitude?

Your attitude, when speaking of English Pugilism, is the posture you adopt when coming in to box. It is made up of your stance and guard. It's how you held yourself. Pugilism doesn't have a real "fighting stance" per say.

How you stood was more personal. It was based on a combination of things like your height, weight, reach, type of fighter, etc. While there were some that were more popular and commonly used, like the one used by Richard Humphries, there was at one time as many different attitudes as there were boxers.

Many top boxers were actually known by their attitude. Daniel Mendoza, considered to be the "Father of Scientific Boxing", was known for the refinements he added to the art, in particular his attitude. Let me explain first what exactly stance and guard are. Your stance is how you position your lower body, from the waist down. Your guard is how you position your body from the waist up. It's a little more then just your hands and feet. Let's start by looking at your stance.

Stance: First let's discuss the oldest question concerning stance, left foot forward or right foot forward. Strong side or weak side forward. Well here's what I have to say, it shouldn't matter which foot is forward. You want to be comfortable with both. Learn how to fight and strike effectively from both sides.

In fact, there are certain techniques which require this, such as switch step punching. Not to mention some attitudes have opposite hand and foot forward, meaning that if your left foot is forward you right hand is in the lead. So whatever stance you adopt, you want to be comfortable on both sides.

Now with that being said, let's move on. There are three basic stances; slim profile, medium profile, and square profile. This refers more to your hips then feet. Modern sport boxing uses an extremely slim profile. Pankration uses a square stance, meaning the hips are almost facing straight forward.

Next is height. Your can stand in a high, almost standing straight up manner, a semi-crouch, or a deep crouch. The taller you stand, the slimmer your profile usually is. Adversely, the deeper the crouch, the more square your stance.

What you want is to always have a secure base. Your balance is very important. You want to keep proper distance between your feet for the height you stand at. If you are in a high, slim stance, you want your feet to be about shoulder's width apart. In a deep crouch, you want them about one and a half the width of your shoulders.


Now onto your guard. Some guards are dependent upon your stance. meaning that it is only good to adopt certain guards with certain stances. Not all the guards are this way. Some can be used with more then one stance.

Your guard is dependent upon the type of fighter you are. Arms held extended out is preferred by defensive fighters who like distance. Arms held tight in are used by those who like to close in for inside fighting and clinch fighting.

The main thing about your guard is that your guard should be defensive while still allowing for effective striking. What you want to do is hold your arms in such a position that they cover as many of your weak and vulnerable spots as possible, while still being able to reach and hit your opponent. While some of these will appear to you to be odd and not good for fighting, once you see how to strike in Pugilism plus what you just read, they will make more sense.


Modern High and Tight:

This attitude is popular today with Olympic boxing and now in MMA. It is a slim, high profiled stance. The guard is high up and tight in protecting the jaw.


This is an ancient attitude from the Greek sports of Pankration and Pygmachia. The stance is a high, almost semi-crouch with a square profile. The Guard has the arms held extended to keep distance. This protects from the clinch and wrestling, while allowing for powerful forward kicking.


This is an attitude made popular with fighters from Philadelphia around the turn of the 20th century. It is a slim semi-crouch stance. The guard is held in tight to protect the jaw and body.


This is an attitude developed by the author. It is a semi-crouch, with a slim profile. The guard is held tight in to protect the jaw and body. The rear hand is held across the solar plexus, ready to strike.


This is the attitude used by the Heavyweight Champ, Jack Dempsey. This is a medium profile with a semi-crouch. The guard is held in front of the face. The rear hand is held about three inches in front of the chin. The lead hand about four inches in front of the rear hand.


The attitude used by the "Father of Scientific Boxing", Daniel Mendoza. It is a semi-to deep-crouch, with a square profile. The guard is held extended in front of the chin. This promotes having two equal leads instead of one rear.


Attitude used by English Heavyweight Champ, Richard Humphries. It is a high, medium profile. The guard is held extended out, one hand in front of the chin, the other over the solar plexus.


Attitude used by the "Father of Boxing", James Figg, in a portrait. A high, slim profiled stance. The hands are held extended in front of the body.


Attitude used by French Heavyweight Champ, Georges Carpentier. It is what he called his "Adaptable" guard. It is a medium profile, with a high stance. The hands are held extended in front of the body. From here Carpentier could change his attitude to adapt to his opponent.

Carpentier's Crouch:

This attitude was used by Carpentier when he came in for inside fighting. It is a squared, deep-crouch. The guard is held in tight to protect the head, and to counter with tight hooks.

Remember, this is just a short list of different attitudes used throughout history. I teach these, plus others, to my students. I have them get a feel for each one. Find what works best for them. Everyone is different. What works for some, may not work for you. Personally, I take the advice of Georges Carpentier. Be adaptable. I like to change attitudes according to what my opponent does.

Once you have learned to properly generate power, throw a proper punch, and the basic strikes, try cycling through the different attitudes. Either shadow box or strike the bag, or both. Get a feel for each one. Are you comfortable? Can you get a solid strike from there? Are you able to move around easily? If you aren't comfortable, you won't fight well.