Cuban Square Stance (diary entry)

Hook Punch (close) darker27.09.2022

My client’s seventh hour exploring boxing with Cuban/Soviet influences brought in the square stance. This is very early days and it’s a challenging concept. The Cuban square stance completely contradicts most other combat sports, including conventional boxing. When it comes to striking a square stance, most martial artists just mean putting your hips forward. Nak muays and wrestlers do this when they stance up. The unusual peek-a-boo style, still regarded as unconventional in boxing culture, also takes this approach. However, Cuban boxing takes this a stance further by using what I would describe as a neutral of parallel stance. Although it is true that wrestling uses a “Japanese stance” as a form of defence and you will find versions of this in sumo and as a defensive positive in stand-up grappling, parallel stances are usually only taken a fighter is performing a quarter squat and dropping their weight low. Outside of these specific areas, wing chun has it pigeon-toed parallel stance and there is the horse stance found in Chinese, Japanese and Korean traditional martial arts. However, even within these systems a standard neutral position is usually only used as an “at ease” posture or ritual starting position. The stance isn’t usually used for mobility and only with specific adaptations, such as lowering its centre of gravity, is it used for stability.

The only time I have seen it used by a mobile fighter to a high level is through the greatness of Willie Pep. However, I have often consider Pep to be an anomaly, much like Muhammad Ali, who had the attributes to be able to break the rules. Just as we teach people to “never cross their legs” when fighting on their feet, we also know there are exceptions at a higher level. Nevertheless, Cuban boxers not only use a parallel/neutral stance they do so as part of their mobility and within the framework of a boxing style that dominates amateur boxing. Amateur boxing places a very heavy emphasis on sharp technique rather than knocking out opponents, which is more favoured in the professional ranks.

We used the square stance for lateral movement, which I admit is much faster than the conventional staggered stance version. As is the case with any stand-up art not concerned with grappling, short foot movements are encouraged. The guard adopted is the same that was taught to me when I first learnt Muay Thai – high and parallel hand positions – although, as I have since discovered, not always used in this particular martial art.

Basing their principles on natural movements, forward attacking is done using contralateral movements (moving opposite side limbs). This is similar to MMA blitzing techniques first taught to me by European vale tudo champion, Matty Evans many years ago and traditional reverse punch walking I learnt in tae kwon do. Their backward attacking uses ipsilateral movements (moving same side limbs). We also covered their pivot off using the lead leg to throw a hook.

I then went back through the catch and shoot, and catch and counter punches on the focus mitts.

This was followed by 4 x 3 minute rounds of sparring.

Round 1 – Jab for jab

Round 2 – Jab versus counters

Round 3 – Jab versus counters

Round 4 – Free sparring