"What kind of guard position should my hands maintain?" "My traditional fighting styles style doesn't always have a guard position..." "My traditional style doesn't guard the head..." "Always hold both hands at head level..." Questions and statements born of a confusion typical to many young martial artists. Meanwhile within the traditional martial arts of Baguazhang or Zhaquan we may be thinking which it seems sort of funny to fret a great deal concerning your guard that you loose sight of the more important things - i.e. making your attacker worry a little more about his guard.
Actually this confusion demonstrates one of the big issues that is due to a common misunderstanding of latest mixed martial arts (MMA) in addition to our wish to have instant gratification. Someone learns some boxing, some wrestling, some BJJ, some Muay Thai, Bagua, Zhaquan, or a number of whatever and then mixes them all together. But what they end up with is, as they say, "a dog with a monkey's tail." Put simply, things don't really fit together properly. The problem occurs if you never learn the real "nuts and bolts" of these systems - but only a little piece of them. Because of this, you won't ever learn any one system well enough to recognize what sort of guard techniques sound right compared to that style. You won't ever understand that what might be brilliant in one style, may simultaneously be ludicrous when used inappropriately poor a different style. Although that may be acceptable for those that train just for sport or entertainment value - it is just plain dangerous when it comes to real self defence and longevity.
The truth is, MMA is nothing new. Actually most traditional martial arts are derived originally from a assortment of borrowed techniques, and have been thoroughly modified and refined with time. In many traditional styles the job of determining how to deal with the entire scope of fighting techinques is done. People have for many years died, surrendered their own health, and be crippled when discovering secrets plus hunting down poor training and fighting methods. You don't need to re-experience these processes for yourself. Alternatively traditional styles are old. They are handed down by way of a large amount of people, by the time they arrive at us it might seem very much is lost and misinterpreted. To feel that even these "complete" arts aren't complete anymore. And when that is true, it makes you wonder in regards to the worth of studying a regular style too! Quite a quandary.
The quandary isn't so bad, as those truths which define a regular style will never be buried very far underneath the surface. This is because the forms and training methods within a style are often huge in scope, but always centred around a really succinct set of core principles. To create a long story short, it is by design very unlikely that anyone can learn the majority of a complete system while at the same time never recognizing the main concepts which can be central to everything they've got done. Even though nuance and deep truths can indeed be lost, the main principles that lead to these are always present and waiting being rediscovered. It's actually a question of guidance, work, and diligence to get there.
Obviously many effective styles exist with completely different core concepts. And really, no style is inherently the "best" as that is always decided by proficiency. With that said, some arts are clearly more refined and comprehensive than others. Still it is usually a highly developed group of core principles that sets the good ones up to now in addition to the rest. Adding more disjointed strategies to your practice is never the path to great martial art. Proficiency in the correct core material, no matter how simple it may appear - is sure to point you within the right direction.
Once core proficiency has been achieved, the standard strategy is to fight/spar and experience as numerous different styles that you can in order to understand their methods yet still time learning how to utilize the principles of your style to defeat them. By doing this (in case you are finding worthy matches) at first you will lose as much when you win but that's normal. Gradually you may work at mastery. The reality is, that to excel, you must create a depth of understanding and skill that goes well past core proficiency. That takes a lot more are employed in regards to coaching, training, and experimenting, to produce.