Range of Attacks/Defense

“If you can Touch it you can be kicked”

What separates a beginner from an intermediate student? Is it the total number of techniques and forms they can perform? Is it the hours of practice they have put in? Is it their mindset and ability? Yes, yes, and yes to the above. But something else separates beginners from intermediate students, something much more basic. We already touched on it briefly in the lesson on angles of attack. An intermediate student not only knows the techniques and forms, much more importantly, they know their limitations.

Understanding your limitations is a key to being successful in any thing you do – not just martial arts. In the martial arts, knowing your limitations means you have something to work towards (improving your limitations) as well as knowing what you can do really well. There are no limitations within martial arts that proper training and practice can not over come. The mantra in Kenpo Budokan Karate is do what works – and this means, based on your limitations, do what works for you. This does not mean that if you are bound to a wheel chair martial arts will suddenly make you able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but what it does mean is that you will be able to defend yourself as effectively as someone who is not wheel chair bound – because you are working within your limitations.

To be truly effective as a martial artist, you have to throw your strikes at just the proper distance in order to get the most effective use of power out of your techniques. Too close and you end up jamming yourself, too far you either miss completely or overextend yourself. This lesson is all about understanding the proper distance for your techniques.

David vs. Goliath

Martial arts, like many things in life, is all about the numbers game. Knowing your numbers can really help improve your chances of success. The first part of this is understanding where you fall on the scale of “average height” within the country you live in. If you are taller than average, your chances of being attacked of someone taller than you are much smaller than if you are shorter than average. Being taller is not always advantageous. While you might have a great distance game, your short game is going to be off considerably against a shorter opponent. Being shorter is not a death sentence, but rather, it means you need to get into your range – and when you do, you will most likely be too close to your opponent for them to have full power in their strikes (you end up jamming them by default). The rule of thumb is that if you are taller than someone, if you can touch them, they can’t touch you, but if you are the same size or shorter, if you can touch them, then they can definitely touch you. What this means, when translated into self-defense, is that you need to operate under the thought that if you are close enough to touch your opponent, then they are close enough to hit you back.

Gauging Distance

A good rule of thumb when practicing, if you can touch the target with the tips of your fingers, you should be just far enough out of range that you can hit with an effective kick. Taking a half step in from there and you should be close enough to execute techniques with both your front and rear hands. It all comes down to practice, and it is why we emphasize practice so much. With the proper practice, you will start to understand how far you need to be from a target in order to hit it, not too close, and not too far – the Goldilocks distance. When practicing you should be at least one whole step outside of the range to the target – practice getting into and out of range of the target from various distances, so that you start to learn the limitations of your range. Some people are much more flexible than others and can kick much higher than others – however, it is up to you to start understanding this limitation. As you see, most kenpo kicks are below the waist, and most individuals have the flexibility to perform these kicks. However, some people have very limited flexibility, and as such will need to modify their techniques. Practicing your range and distance to your target is a vital exercise so you understand both how far away you can be, and how close you need to get in order for your strikes to be effective. In addition, the practice of getting into and out of range, enables you to better judge distance to target, effectively giving you an edge in a combat situation. And although we don’t teach sparring drills as part of our online curriculum, we do go into sparring in heavy detail in our in-person lessons. It would benefit both yourself and your partner to practice sparring drills so you can start working on dynamic range and motion that can be applied in a combat situation. In a later lesson we will discuss the fighting stance and rudimentary sparring drills, but for now work on understanding your limitations and the range you need for your strikes.

Closing Thoughts

Understanding proper range and distance to your target, as well as where you need to be in order to properly perform the technique is vital to your progress and study as a martial artist. One of the reasons we consistently ask you to send in your videos for review, is so that we can ensure that you not only have proper form on your techniques, but also are maintaining the proper distances and ranges for the self-defense movement. Without this practice and focus, your techniques are not as likely to be successful against an opponent, and without understanding your proper range, you will either be too far outside of the target that you miss or over-extend yourself, or wind up being too close and jamming yourself. In the later lessons on range, we will go over things to do if you wind up too far or too close – remember, Do what works. This means that you need to dynamically adjust your techniques to ensure proper coverage at any distance. Proper practice, both alone and with a partner, are vital to ensure you start understanding these ranges.

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