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Tips for mastering the 8 Ranges of Combat

1. When you face your opponent and engage him at a distance, it will be clear that ideal distance means to utilize sufficient space in which to move easily.

2. It is not uncommon to see fighters stand relatively still in the ring, then very telegraphically launch their attack. Just as common are fighters who, without changing the rhythm or tempo of their movement, initiate their attack on cue with the beat they have established. It is simple to read the intentions of either type of fighter, and their attacks can be easily evaded, defended and/or countered. Bruce Lee liked the way that the fencer quickly and non-telegraphically closed the distance on his opponent. Directness means that the attack should take the shortest route to the target without any preparatory, or telegraphic, set-up movements. As Bruce Lee would say, "Use the longest weapon to the nearest target!

3. There is always a danger that you will get caught in a range that you are not familiar with. To avoid falling into this pitfall, you should take it upon yourself to learn as much as possible about each of the 8 ranges of combat. Sometimes that means that you have to put aside your ego (I am the master) and become a student again.

4. The centre of the fighting  environment belongs to you. If your opponent gets you concerned and you are put on the defensive,  you will have fewer options and fewer chances to use your  reach.

5. A larger opponent can hit you from a much greater distance than you can hit him – and with more power. He will also have sufficient size to shake off some off your punches and kicks. That means he will not mind taking two hits from you in order to get one strong blow that will take you down. Take advantage of your own natural attributes. Depending on the height of your opponent and whether he is armed or not you should also vary the distance between yourself and your opponent.  If you have long legs and arms, kicking distance  and the arts that encompass this range will be the best choice for you. If you are the opposite, trapping and grappling range are the best bet. No matter what your physical makeup, you must learn to use your body to the highest level of efficiency.  Each fighter must determine his preferred fighting range and close the gap accordingly.

6. Defending against kicking attacks is easier than defending against punching attacks, because the distance between the opponent is greater. The increased distance means  that a kick will take longer to reach than a punch will.

7. Most opponents will try to close the gap by using combinations. A combination can be used to set you up for another technique. Use combinations to do the same.

8. Once a confrontation is inevitable, you must assume the role of the attacker at the first available chance. However, this does not mean charging in blindly like a bull and trading blows with your opponent.

9. Modern–day  competitors often allow themselves to be hit once, even twice, to lull their opponents into a false sense of security and then attack. When you are fighting for self-defense you cannot afford to do this. A blow could be fatal. Ancient Japanese swordsmen were very careful when they fought. Instead of blasting in and flailing away wildly, they learned to be patient, keeping the proper distance,  waiting for a brief suki (opening), physical or psychological and then the fight ended, very quickly. They also learned not to provide their opponents with the same suki. As a result, equally matched opponents could stand facing each other for minutes before making an attack, knowing that to attack without a suki would probably fail, and worse, would open a suki for the opponent. Waiting, waiting. Waiting … then one or two moves, and it was all over.

10. According to Bruce Lee, mobility is one of the most neglected attributes of martial arts training. The essence of combat is the art of mobility – to seek your target, while at the same time, avoid being one. A moving target is definitely harder to hit than one that is stationary. 

11. The further you are from your opponent the safer you will be; however countering will be more difficult. If you are closer to you opponent you will be in a more dangerous position to be kicked but your counter will be more efficient. By moving slightly out from the safety range, your opponent's blows will fail to land at all. Don't step too much, but judge your opponent's reach, and stay in close enough for you to be able to move swiftly in to attack.  

12. In order to keep the proper distance, you have to be able to read your opponent's telegraphic moves (what he does before he attacks). The reactionary gap is the time you have between identifying an attack and reacting to it. To increase your reactionary gap, decrease the time you need for each of these steps, or find a way to give yourself more time for each step.

Since the hand is quicker than the eye, this information must be dealt with in an unconscious, reflexive manner, rather than a conscious thought process, because the human brain doesn't function that fast. To minimize reaction time and deliver the appropriate response, the human body must be programmed to respond immediately without the time-consuming burden of thinking. You can achieve this with proper training.

Increasing the time available is a matter of distance. If you give yourself additional distance between your body and potential attacks, you give yourself additional time to identify those who might do you harm. "Distance" in this discussion really just correlates to time--the time it takes for your assailant to cover that distance and attack you (also the number of steps he has to make in order to reach you).

11. This is the main rule for keeping good distance when fighting: always keep your distance, if he attacks, get out of the way and counter-attack. When the enemy starts to collapse you must pursue him without letting the chance go. If you fail to take advantage of your enemy's collapse, he may recover.(Miyamoto Mushashi)

This article is a compilation of various articles found in magazines and on the internet.

Copyright 2003 by Gus Fanta for Fightingmaster.com