7 Basic Skills #1: Stance

Seven Basic Skills of Wrestling, Skill #1: Stance"Without a good stance, you don't have a chance." - OK, it's pretty corny sounding, but very, very true.As with many aspects of wrestling, there is more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to a good stance. Is there a textbook stance that is "the" correct stance? No. BUT... there are things that all good stances have in common. I will describe a very "vanilla" stance, and expand from there. (*Note: the stance I describe is for folkstyle and freesyle. In Greco, it will basically be the same thing, but much more upright. I'll defer to Todd, a.k.a. Samooborona for particulars of Greco).1. With feet a little more than shoulder width apart, do a slow squat with back STRAIGHT, until your elbows just about touch your thighs a few inches above your knees. You will need to find exactly how you are most comfortable in terms of the width of your stance. But keep this in mind: width of stance is about trying to find a happy medium between mobility and stability. If my feet are extremely widely set, I've got a very stable stance, but poor mobility. If my feet are close together, I've got good mobility and can move my feet quickly, but I don't have good stability. You need to get comfortable in a stance that provides "the best of both worlds."2. Unlike boxing, where you want to keep your guard up, you want to keep your guard down because your opponent is most likely to attack low (leg attacks and shots). Make sure that your elbows are in tight to your sides. I like to exaggerate this motion and actually turn my palms up. This forces my elbows in tight, and is defensively sound because when/if he shoots in, my hands are in good position to shoot "the hands between the bodies" and pry off of him while I sprawl. 3. I keep my neck "bulled" up (almost like doing a shrug) with my head up. Keeping my head down just invites him to beat on my head. When he does try to beat on my head, my bulled neck makes my head more stable and less susceptible to his attacks. 4. Eyes - I tend to keep my eyes on his hips/torso. There is just too much movement going on to watch each foot and leg and hand and arm and where his head is, and on and on. Just keep your eyes more or less centered on him, and learn to "watch" his other body parts through peripheral vision.5. Feet – Make sure to stay relatively light on your toes and the balls of your feet. If I'm back on my heels, that means my feet are planted firmly and I can't move very quickly. 6. Leaning forward or backward is bad, mmm'kay? If my head and shoulders are extended far forward from my hips, I'm inviting him to do any number of unpleasant things: snap downs, front headlocks, and ankle picks to name a few. If I'm leaning too far back, such as my head and shoulders being in the same vertical plane as my hips, I'm planted on my heels. This makes my offense difficult because I can't change my levels and move my feet quickly to take shots. Also, it makes defending against his shots difficult. It's tough to sprawl when your weight is leaning too far back and your heels are planted. Much like point #1, you need to find a happy medium where your center of gravity is not too far forward or backward. As a general guideline, my shoulders will be slightly forward of my knees. That is a very basic description of a stance. Now, let's introduce some other ideas...

Types of stancesThere are three basic types of stance: Square, Staggered, and Sugar foot. A Square stance is where both feet are essentially next to each other. They are both the same distance from your opponent and you aren't "leading" with one foot or the other.
A Staggered stance is where you are leading with one foot or the other.
A Sugarfoot stance is similar to the staggered stance, but much more exaggerated. Your feet are split wide in terms of the forward foot and back foot. There is obviously some subjectivity to this. For example, just when does a staggered stance cross the line and become a sugarfoot stance? It's a little fuzzy. Personally, I wrestle with something that is somewhere between a square and staggered stance. I guess you might call it a slightly staggered stance. I like this because I feel like I have good mobility. Also, since I am a big believer in being "ambidextrous" (training to use the same attacks to either side) I feel like I can quickly switch up my lead legs to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. But that's just me. I'm not saying everyone should have that stance. John Smith for example, was famous for his very sugarfooted stance that he used to hit his low single with lightening speed. As your development progresses, you will find yourself settling into a stance that works well for you and is very comfortable. Since most people tend to wrestle with a more or less staggered stance, let me throw in one piece of advice. I made myself get into the habit of always bringing my arm down to protect whichever leg was forward. For example, if I was leading with my right leg, I would make sure that my right arm was low and that elbow was in tight to protect that leg. If I switched up to lead with left foot, my left arm would come down and tight to my side to protect that leg, while my right hand was free to work set ups. There is obviously some fluidity to this when you will be using both hands for set-ups, but it really helped me to think of the same side arm as the "guardian" of the lead leg.

Working on your stance is certainly not the "glitziest" aspect of wrestling, but it could well be the most important. Even wrestling in college, we would spend anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes a day just working on basic stance and proper motion. Think of how often your stance should be used when you may not even realize it. Obviously, you're going to be in a good stance when you're squared off on your feet. But what about other times? Let's say you shoot a head inside single and come up to your feet with his leg and your head is in his chest – if you freeze the motion, you should basically be in a good stance. Your arms are tight to your sides, hugging his leg tight. Your head is up and facing into his chest. Your feet are a little more than shoulder width apart, knees bent, your back is straight and your hips are under you. Let's say you're on bottom and hit a stand up. Once you're up on your feet, and you do another "freeze frame," you should be in a good stance while trying to fight out. If the top guy in this situation is halfway decent, he should also be in a good stance behind you trying to get you back down. Get the idea? The components of a good stance can be (or should be) found in just about any situation in wrestling. Many of my matches that I won or lost in college came down to simple positioning: I was able to rattle him and take him out of position while maintaining my own position, hence: I won. Or he rattled me and compromised my positioning, hence: he won. Most wrestling matches don't come down to one guy hitting a double-backflip-flying-crucifix-backarch or some such nonsense to win the match. They come down to the guy who's more intense and does the basics better. That's it. Once again: "Without a good stance, you don't have a chance."

From: whitfield very good explanation but i am a firm believer that out of a square stance you will not be as successful because it is more defensive. offensive wrestlers are generally more successful than counter wrestlers From: Chip Cochran I guess it's a matter of opinion in some respects, whitfield. I wrestle in an almost square stance (leading only slightly with one leg or the other)and am very aggressive. In fact, in "my style" of wrestling, I feel like I can be more aggressive that way. I feel like I can quickly change up lead legs to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. I guess it depends on what you do with it. P.S. - I wasn't really endorsing one type of stance or another, just explaining how I wrestle. I know that's not going to work for everyone. Everyone needs to find what type of stance suits them best.

From: Tim Morrissey Great idea for a thread Chip!! I definately agree that the basics of wrestling is essential to learn and re-iterate. Stance, A few things I would add to Chips comments are: 1) On mobility and attacks. Maybe this is taking this thread where it is not intended to go, but I will continue until told otherwise. A good stance sets you up for all offense and defense. The distinction between the good wrestler and great wrestler is how well he stays in his stance without getting into trouble defensively and how well he can attack offensively. Setups and angles are most important for successfully taking someone down. They all stem from the stance. Ability to move side to side, forward/backward while working on getting your opponent out of position and you staying in position is what you are looking for. The hand fighting drill mention earlier is great. other drills are finding the angles.
Step ONe: Assign Offensive and Defensive roles.
Two: Defensive guy starts in good stance but with his hands behind his back. Hips down, head up, eyes on the hips, on balls of feet. Offensive guy, in good stance, and he will be working the D-guy's head, pushing, pulling, side to side, forward/backward. O-guy is looking for the angles he is creating (scoring opportunities) created by generating motion. O-guy is focusing on staying in good postion, using his head to move d-guy's head, going for underhooks, two-on-ones, drags, ect. also tapping the leg when you see an opening to acknowledge the opening he created. D-guy is focusing on keeping O-guy in front of him, if you get out of position, snap back into position, but don't over-compensate because that will create another opening for O-guy to capitalize. (AGAIN, your hands (d-guy are still behind your back. You need to do this for 30 seconds to a minute. Switch roles. Continue the drill the d-guy's hands behind his back 2-3 times. Then move into the d-guy keeping his hands in good postion (not behind his back) but d-guy will still only focusing on keeping in position. O-guy will continue to do the same as above. Do this 2-3 times for a minute a piece. Then both guys will be o-guy and d-guy, working each other over to find openings, creating angles, creating motion, snapping back into position, finding more openings. Do this 2-3 times, for a minute a piece. This entire drill will make you tired and sore but if done correctly and routinely will produce a hard-nosed, black-eyed, bruised forehead, animal on your feet. After all isn't that what we are all striving to be??? P.S. this drill is not meant to be done in a little cirle, work the whole room, drive your partner into the walls if you have to, make him stay on the mat with you. GET PHYSICAL, no time-outs for real wrestlers!

From: TheGrapplerHK Excellent job again Chip! One good drill we do is called the "handfighting drill" or "stance drill". The object is simple, knock your partner out of his stance. Theres 2 different ways to do the drill. One is passive-aggressive, where one man is aggressively trying to move his partner out of his stance, using set-ups such as head snaps, underhooks, arm drags, russian 2 on 1s, etc, while the partner only tries to maintain good stance/position. The second way is aggressive- agressive. BOTH wrestlers battle for position, while trying to get your partner out of his stance. It's a position contest. (Though there is no shooting in this drill, wrestlers still must try to maintain a good low stance) This is a popular Iowa/Dan Gable drill. Push/shove/snap your opponent, wear him down, get him out of position. Gable liked to finish his practices with this drill (sometimes for 20-30 mins straight), to make sure his wrestlers can keep position/stance when late in a match, when tired. From: Chip Cochran HK, that's an awesome drill! I've heard it called many different things...handfighting, positioning drill, stance drill, even the senseless beating drill (lol). There's not much I can add to that. Great explanation of both the passive-aggressive and the aggressive-agressive! Excellent drill! From: noshame love the drill! no shame