If you watch World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) Olympic style sparring, the competitors hold their arms at a low guard at best and usually just let them hang at their sides (this may change as a result of the 2005 rule change that permits a point to be scored by a punch to the body protector). If you watch International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) style sparring, the competitors hold their arms at a high guard. Some martial arts hold their guard hands low and outward, some hold them high and outward. I know of no art that advocates holding guard hands low and close in. So, which is the best guard, hands held down or up, hands held outward or inward?
If you watch modern boxers, they hold their hands near their cheeks with the elbows held close to the body to protect the ribs. Look at photographs of 19th and early 20th century bare-knuckle boxers and you will see they hold their guard low and outward. Is the modern boxing guard an improvement in the older version?
Guard hand position is not so much dictated by the style of martial art or by modern improvements, as it is by the rules of the game. Fighters hold their guard in the most effective position as dictated by the rules of the game under which they compete.
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