Tag Archives: X-Block

Stances and applications

When a new student starts in a martial arts class they tend to focus on what their hands are doing. This is maybe linked to how me move in everyday life, we do more with our hands that we do with the rest of our body.

I was no different, but as I have continued to study the martial arts my focus has been taken away from what my hands are doing and more in to the hips and feet. This has also affected my teaching so that I now tend to teach a lot more stances and footwork than I used to. This has also shown that a large number of new students are disconnected with their bodies. This may have always been true in the martial arts or maybe it has become more of an issue with the amount of sitting that people do these days.

In a lot of TKD training that I have had been a part of, the stances were not really broken down. There was a lot of focus on footwork in a sparring sense but not in the traditional application of the patterns. Students are generally taught the dimensions and weight distribution of the stances but not the purpose so much.

Here I am going to break down 3 of the most common stance in the TKD curriculum, their uses and how they can sometimes hold the key to applications


‘L’ stance

This is largely a defensive stance, our weight on the back leg shows that we haven’t really committed to anything yet. We are finding a way in often using knifehand guarding block to clear and secure limbs. Our weight is lesser on our front foot to allow weight shifting forward when the time comes.

In forearms guarding block, we keep our weight back to help prevent being thrown and to better use the front foot to kick or trip our attacker at close range.

So we can maybe suggest that all movements in an ‘L’ stance are not completely aggressive in nature. For example are the punches in Hwa Rang really punches?


Walking stance

The most common stance we have and opposite of ‘L’ stance, walking stance is an aggressive committed stance. Any movement done in this stance even if is labeled a block should be seen as forceful. We are moving our body weight into our opponent. Most commonly in punching we can see this but it is equally true for double forearm block, even though it is called a block the nature of the stance that is it performed in changes the application quite dramatically. I discuss this more here


As you can see the difference in the application is more connected to the weight distribution than to anything else. So it should be studied in depth. The standard stances are not there to be copied exactly but to give access to this concept of weight back and weight forward.


Sitting stance

To my mind sitting stance is the most misunderstood of the basic stances. Often it is used as a strength exercise than a fighting stance. Often we see student being asked to assume this stance for a period of time to increase strength. However, when we see it isn’t the forms it is of a very different purpose. Certainly while in the idle of a fight is not the time to start strengthen your legs but dropping in to a sitting stance.


I think the demotion of the sitting stance to a strength exercise is mainly due to it’s static nature. With this particular stance we are pretty much rooted to the spot, which in a competitive TKD environment it is exactly what we don’t want.

In my mind sitting stance is a stance based on throwing, tripping and sweeping applications. These are times when we may want to have a stronger and maybe even a bit of a lower stance. If we look at the opening for Yul Gok, W-shaped block from Toi-Gye, and scooping block in Gae Baek, they can all be applied in tripping, throwing, or controlling the opponent. Not that these movements are exclusively for sitting stance, there are throwing application for many stances. However, sitting stance is particularly suited to the purpose.


So there you have the three basics stances as I see them. So what about the other stances? Well for a good deal of the time they are variations on the basic three, for example low stance, fixed stance, or rear foot stance can all be seen as variants of either walking stance or ‘L’ stance therefore the applications can be seen in the same broad terms i.e. defensive or aggressive.


For me, viewing the application from a stance perspective shed new light on some of the movements that I had been struggling with. I hope it does the same for you.



If there is a movement that is more derided and made fun of than any other then surely it must be x-block. I have lost count of the number of time I have seen, in person and on the internet, an instructor throwing his hands up in a mock X-block against a knife attack. This is usually accompanied with a loud theatrical kihap. Over time I feel that this one movement has become a representation of all traditional martial arts and their ineffectiveness. I have my own feelings about instructors that openly make fun of other styles for the purpose of making their style look superior but that is for another article.

The x-block is found in a number of different traditional arts. If you go with the idea that the patterns or forms were created by fighters then X-block has stood the test of time and was preserved in the forms for a reason. It is the modern interpretation of the movement that it wrong.

Even if you take a training partner and practice some short range striking and grappling you will find that there are times that your hands will naturally cross. Maybe in order to clear arms, get to the outside, strip a grab. All are applications of the different forms of X-block that can be found in patterns.

If for example we look at the rising X-block as it is found in Jhoong Gun. A high attack causes us to throw our arms up in defense, in the case of Jhoong Gun this would be our right arms. We then slip our left arm up in front of our right arm, and between our right arm and the attackers arm. The next movement is then to step round and at the same time turn the attacker away from us. The following movements are to secure the arm and counter attack to a target that is presented.

It is quite difficult to write down an application of a movement but I hope you follow it. This is just one example of an X-block application based on a natural motion or reaction. As I mentioned before there are many more, for example

Toi Gye, Stripping a grab from your wrist that has been seized in response to you trying to execute a throw.

Gae Beuk, Stepping back and catching a shove or double handed grab, before stopping the attacker with a kick.

I hope that these few examples lead you to start looking at X-block in a different light. It is much more that a useless relic but a very effective and natural motion for close combat It is deserving of in depth study.