The on-guard position or ready position is the fighting stance. It's the platform from which all of your attacking, counterattacking, and defensive actions are launched. The ready position is a firm yet highly mobile base, designed for speed, mobility, and balance; capable of being shifted in any direction on a split-seconds notice. In the on-guard position you’re braced against attacks from any angle, yet in a balanced position from which you can attack, counterattack, or defend without any preliminary movement.

"Strong-side forward" Principle -- The principle of placing your strongest side forward. For example, if you're right handed, your right side will usually be stronger, faster, and more coordinated than your left side. This being the case, you would place your right arm and leg forward. The opposite would apply if you're left-handed. This idea goes against the traditional concept followed in boxing and most styles of martial arts, in which you’re taught to keep your power side back. Placing your strongest side forward moves your dominant arm and leg closer to the opponent, where they can be used with greater frequency and do more damage. At the same time, keeping your weaker hand and leg back allows you to  generate more power with them, thereby giving yourself two strong sides instead of just one. Instead of the opponent having to put their attention on only one side, they have to focus it on two.

It is important to remember that there is no “set” or solidified fighting stance in JKD. The on-guard position should always be alive and moving (small, purposeful movement), never static and dead. It’s like when your automobile is turned on and idling in neutral. You only need put it into gear and it’s ready to go. When you're in an on-guard position, sometimes your heel is up, sometimes it is down. Sometimes your rear hand is on the left side of your face, sometimes it is in front of your chin, sometimes it's on the right side of your face. Your hands are always in small motion, constantly threatening the opponent.

Your upper body can be moving, slipping left, right, up, and down in order to confuse the opponent. Your head is in constant small motion, making it difficult to hit. Even if you are stationary for a moment, you are not static.

Finally, keep in mind that the on-guard position is not just a physical stance. It should communicate to an opponent that you are not only ready physically, but mentally and emotionally as well; the opponent should know that you are serious and mean business.

Q: Do all JKD practitioners fight out of a right lead stance?
A: No. Many people mistakenly think that JKD people only function out of a right lead. However, in Volume 7 of Lee’s notes “Commentaries on the Martial Way” he lists both (a) JKD Right lead Ready Position and (b) JKD Left lead Ready Position. An individual who was left-handed and left side dominant might choose fight out of a left lead. In the same notes Lee also comments on the necessity of being able to fight out of the opposite lead. 

The ready position or fighting stance (bai jong) is referred to as a “small phasic bent-knee position”

Small – small quick steps to allow for speed and controlled balance – not over-extending in insufficient length of stepping.

Phasic – Not still or static but continually moving, changing, adjusting

Bent-knee – ensures ability to move at all times – if your legs are straight you will have to bend them in order to move.

The following are some major points to remember concerning your on-guard position:


  • Should be a neutral, non-committed position. You should havea “poker-body,”which means the opponent should be unable to read your intentions.

  • Should be a relaxed yet alert position that allows you to move in any direction quickly and easily.

  • Should allow you to defend against attacks from any angle at all times.

  • Should keep you in balance at all times so that you can “explode” with an attack the instant an opening presents itself.

  • Should be constantly shifting and adjusting in relationship to an opponent (small phasic bent-knee position).