Distance or range in martial arts is very important. Distance, also known as range, may be understood as the gap between point A and point B, or in martial arts as the distance between one person and another person.
There are many ways of classifying distance; however, broadly, the distance may be classified as follows:
Projectile range is also known as a weapons range. It is a range from where weapons like darts, arrows, bullets, missiles, bombs, knives, stones, etc., can be fired or thrown as projectiles.
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Long-range is also known as a kicking range. It is a range from where a punch cannot make contact, but a kick can make contact, as legs are longer than arms.
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Medium/Mid-range is also known as a punching range. It is a range from where punches can be delivered more effectively than kicks.
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Close range is also known as a grappling or clinching range. It is a range from where wrestling, grappling and clinching techniques like throws, chokes, joint locks, head butts, elbow strikes, eye jabs, knee strikes, etc., can generally be executed.
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Distance in martial arts
Many martial arts use weapons like knives, spears, arrows, staffs, shurikens, and more, which can be used as projectile weapons; however, generally, martial arts focus on fighting without weapons, and thus the projectile range is normally excluded in training sessions. The body parts are conditioned to serve as weapons and therefore, distance in martial arts normally signifies long-, mid-, and close-ranges.
TaekwonWoo video “Taekwondo Roundhouse Kick in 3 Different Kicking Range | TaekwonWoo”:
Distance is grasped with practice
Theoretically, the different types of ranges provide an analysis of distance. The types of martial movements like kicks, punches, throws, etc., which can be employed in different ranges, offer many options for practicing them. However, in practical terms, a martial artist usually finds all the ranges collapsing in a single feeling of distance as a whole. Thus, the martial artist only feels the distance without thinking whether it is long-, mid-, or close-range. By simply feeling the distance, the martial artist automatically knows which move to make. The move may be a kick, or a punch, or a block, or any other move, but it is executed without any conscious thinking of the types of ranges. At such moments, the moves that are practiced most come first. Hence, the feeling of distance, regarding how far or how near is the opponent to strike to, or to defend from, is most fully grasped only by practice and practice alone.
Martial X video “Kan-Ken: Seeing and Feeling in Martial Arts”:
Distance can close very fast
Generally, a normal healthy adult can run about 21 feet in less than 2 seconds. If the adult is a trained martial artist, then the distance can be covered much faster. And if some vehicle like a car, motorbike, horse, etc., is used, then even a very large distance can close very fast. Therefore, martial artists need to accurately measure the distance in a fraction of a second; thereby, enabling them to execute effective moves with perfect timing. Moreover, martial artists are always in motion, so one has to correctly judge distance while the opponent is in motion, and also while one is in motion. Distances can close very fast, which means that a martial artist has to have perfect timing, and timing largely relies on correct judgment of distance, besides a suitable opening and an appropriate angle of attack or defense.
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Footwork can control distance
A fight presents changing circumstances, and the martial artist has to successfully adapt to the changing circumstances. For this, the martial artist has to employ different martial movements with different distances. Distances can be controlled with efficient footwork. The martial artist needs to remain on the toes while moving around and has to weave in and out of the different ranges. Such kind of excellent footwork is shown by the great boxing legend Muhammad Ali, who was famous to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Nimble footwork helps to shorten or widen distances, as and when needed.
BOXING VIEW video “MUHAMMAD ALI’S AMAZING FOOTWORK”:
Closing the distance
To strike an opponent, the distance needs to be closed, which means that one has to enter the striking range – long, mid, or close. When any fighter closes the distance by coming within the striking range, then that fighter can strike the other fighter, but this also means that the other fighter can also strike. Thus, when distance is closed by any fighter, then both fighters have the chance to strike and this scenario presents the following general possibilities:
– One fighter strikes very fast in a decisive manner
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– One fighter delivers a flurry of strikes. Consecutive strikes, one after the other are given, so that the other fighter gets no chance to strike back.
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– One fighter strikes, then the other fighter strikes. One fighter strikes, but the strike is avoided, or deflected, or blocked by the other fighter. Then the other fighter moves in and delivers a strike.
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– Both the fighters deliver strikes simultaneously. Such strikes may result in both the fighters getting knocked out.
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To correctly judge the distance in any fight, a martial artist needs both central and peripheral vision.
EyeSmart — American Academy of Ophthalmology video “Peripheral Vision and Central Vision in the Retina”:
In central vision, a person who is close appears as close, and a person who is far appears as far, so there is no problem in judging the distance. But, in peripheral vision, a person who is close appears a bit far. The distances that appear in central vision and in peripheral vision are not the same. In peripheral vision, a person who appears to be two feet away, may actually be one, or one and half feet away. For example, a side view mirror in a car makes objects appear farther away, but in reality, they are actually closer.
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Peripheral vision is important, especially if there are multiple opponents. Due to this illusionary change in distance in the peripheral vision, a martial artist needs to train the peripheral vision, so that peripheral distances can be judged correctly. Different martial arts train peripheral vision in different ways; however, a common way is shown in the following video.
ZHealthPerformance video “More Peripheral Vision Training”:
Besides correctly judging the distances in the central vision and the peripheral vision, a martial artist should also understand that fluid footwork makes both central and peripheral distances change, continuously and constantly. Therefore, the mind needs to process a lot of information within about a fraction of a second or so. This processing is easily done with feeling rather than thinking. Hence, while fighting, a martial artist who thinks, generally loses, while a martial artist who feels, generally wins. When the body feels, then the mind acts like a mirror and reflects everything, which makes the body move on its own, without any conscious effort from the martial artist. Such movements can come automatically only if they are practiced earlier.
In conclusion, it can be said that to correctly judge distances for execution of martial techniques, the only way is to practice, practice and practice.
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