Range is one of the most important aspects in controlling an opponent. Unless you are in control of the opponent, either physically or psychologically, you should never be in striking range of the opponent. To gain physical control of an opponent, you must decrease the range while simultaneously blocking, checking, jamming, or attacking. Control comes when the opponent cannot gain the balance and leverage needed to attack or when he/she has lost control of an extremity, such as an arm. If the opponent is skilled, control may only be maintained momentarily, so you must immediately immobilize the opponent or retreat to a safe range.
A skilled defender may gain control of an opponent by psychological means. This may be accomplished by giving the opponent an opportunity to attack you (baiting) and then countering the attack. This manipulation allows you to gain physical control. A skilled opponent may not take the bait and may fake an attack so he/she may counter your counter attack. Combat is a game similar to chess. Each opponent is trying to out fox the other. You must correctly access your control of an opponent so you may adjust your range accordingly. Psychological control is harder to assess than physical control.
The exact safe range is difficult to define since it depends on several changing variables, such as the reach, quickness, and velocity of your opponent's attacks. Safe range also depends on your reaction time, reach, and quickness, which may vary from day-to-day. Finding the proper distance for a given combat situation requires awareness of yourself and your opponent. This kind of awareness comes from experience.
The defensive sphere is the invisible barrier one erects around the body. It has two aspects, the physical and the mental, that combine to protect one from harm. The physical aspect is dictated by the distance one may reach with the arms or legs to defend oneself. The mental aspect is the area around oneself where one believes defense is possible. This area changes in relation to the circumstances and ones capabilities. The physical aspect is limited and obvious to others but the mental aspect may change due to the circumstances. Speech, posture, and body language project the range of the mental aspect to others; they detect the level confidence displayed.
As in other close quarter sports, such as fencing and boxing, range is also important in Taekwondo. Depending on the opponent, your fighting range will change. The best range for you is the range at which it is easiest for you to both block and attack, your comfort range. Range will constantly change during the course of a fight. Increasing range when attacked may be considered a retreat or it may be a shrewd move to draw the opponent off balance. Strong opponents will follow you no matter how much you retreat, so sometimes it is best to stay within you comfort range and fight to your fullest. Use range changes to draw your opponent into your attack.
Controlling range while sparring helps you avoid being hit and avoid injuries from blocking. It lets you strike the opponent and it may be used to frustrate your opponent. Controlling range also helps you conserve your energy.
Types of ranges
- Hard to defend, but easier to attack.
- Allows throws, chokes, grabs, sweeps, and pins.
- Immobilize opponent's leading leg by staying inside it
- Used once you have a "feel" of the opponent's style.
- Far enough away to avoid attacks easily.
- Outside reach of attack.
- Used when you are fighting an unknown fighter.
- Defender has the advantage at long range.
- Kill spot is the range where the opponent is least capable of attack and is most vulnerable to attack. It is usually just outside the opponent's leading shoulder.
- Sweet spot is the range where you may reach the opponent, but the opponent may not reach you.
- Dead spot is the range where the opponent may reach you, but you may not reach the opponent. Where the spots are located depends on the body structure of the two competitors.
- Close Range. At this range, an attacker may grab, throw, use chokes, or use arm/wrist locks. Elbow, knee, and head attacks may also be used in this range.
- Middle Range. Punches and hand strikes are effective at this range. Lunging close range techniques may also be used.
- Long Range. Kicks and lunging mid range techniques are effective at this range
- Close Range. At this range, effective blocks are grabs and close in arm blocks.
- Middle Range. Effective blocks are all standard arm blocks.
- Long Range. Leg blocks are effective
- Combat Range. Both fighters are able to strike each other.
- Attack Range. You may strike your opponent but opponent cannot reach you.
- Defense Range. Opponent may strike you but you cannot reach opponent.
Range may also be expressed as combat range. Combat ranges are the ranges at which different combat strategies must be employed due to the distance, timing, reach, and rhythm of the opponents. Distance must be enough to allow you to counter your opponent's moves and launch attacks. Timing involves who can close that distance first and strike before the other may successfully block. Reach is determined by each opponent's height and limb length. With rhythm, the distance may be correct for an attack but the start of the attack is late, this means the timing will be off. There are 8 ranges of combat:
- Safety Range. Both opponents can just touch each other's fingers. To launch an effective attack, an opponent must make a small step. This range changes if one of the opponents is armed.
- Kicking Range. Both opponents may kick each other. Low kicks are very effective at this range.
- Punching Range. Both opponents can deliver punches. Knee attacks and low kicks or axe kicks are still a danger.
- Blind Spot Range. One of the opponents has managed to get behind the other so that, for a moment, he or she has an advantage.
- Trapping Range. Opponent may tie up or trap the arms of the other.
- Wrestling Range. Opponents are able to grapple while standing.
- Ground Fighting Range. Opponents grapple on the ground.
- One Up - One Down. One opponent is standing and the other is lying on the ground.
Optimum Range for Power
For every punch or kick, there is an optimum range that will allow for generation of maximum power. This range is a couple of inches short of the proper natural of the arm or leg during the punch or kick. If the range is too close, the hand or foot will not have enough distance to reach its maximum velocity. Thus, the striking force will be reduced and will be converted into more of a push. It the range is too long, the maximum velocity will have already been reached and the hand or foot will be decelerating when it or if it makes contact with the target. Once the optimum range is exceeded, the puncher or kicker tries to compensate for the loss of power by reaching or pushing the technique. While the technique may strike the target, instead of damaging the target, it merely pushes it.
Closing the Range
Closing the range (gap) between you and your opponent is possibly the toughest part of sparring, but is one of the most important parts. If you are not in range, you cannot score. The more time you are in range, the greater your chances of scoring.
Most people try to close the gap with a great burst of speed or they let the opponent close and then try to counter the attack. However, charging requires explosive power in the legs and counter fighting gives the initiative to the other fighter. Another way to close the gap is to use inertia to your advantage and to recognize when it is being used against you. Inertia, as you may recall from science class, is the tendency of an object in motion to remain in motion and an object at rest to remain at rest.
As discussed above, sparring opponents try to maintain a comfort zone between themselves. This is the distance at which they think they may safely detect and defend any attack. The width of this gap depends on the physical reach of the opponent and his/her preferred method of fighting. For instance, taller fighters and kickers tend to stay further away so they can use their reach. Smaller fighters and punchers like to fight in close to compensate for their lack of reach. If you close at a specific speed, your opponent will back away at an equal speed to maintain his/her comfort zone. To use inertia to close the gap, you need to take advantage of this tendency to maintain a comfort zone.
Ways to close the range
Speed Trap. A speed trap causes your opponent to move at a specific rate of speed. To use it, you close at a moderate speed, allow your opponent to match that speed, and then attack at full speed. Your opponent will be trapped using the slower attack speed and will not be able to change speed quickly enough. For example, take a step or two toward your opponent and then execute a jump kick at a speed greater than your stepping speed. If your initial movement is too slow, the opponent may counter you as you close. If it is too fast, the opponent will retreat at the same speed and be out of range. Use a moderate speed that forces the opponent to retreat in a controlled manner.
False Start. A false starting is when you start to attack, back off a little, and attack then again. As you back off, your opponent will move back toward you to maintain his/her comfort zone. However, once the opponent begins to move in, inertia locks him/her into a forward motion, there is not enough time for him/her to stop forward momentum and evade your attack.
Freeze. When you attack your opponent, at some point, you should pause, just for a second. Your opponent will stop when you stop and possibly move back toward you. As soon as the opponent stops, attack again while he/she is frozen by inertia. Remember, an object at rest tends to stay at rest!
Continuous Motion. Many fighters get hit because they do not move; they just stand there, an object at rest. To attack or defend quickly, you must stay in constant motion. One cannot go from a dead stop to full speed, but, if you are already in motion you can increase your speed and direction more easily. Boxers do this by bobbing and weaving, a mostly upper body motion with very little footwork. The upper body motion disguises your initial attack, does not give the opponent a stationary target, keeps the opponent thinking defensively, and let you close the gap more easily. Foot work may get opponent so caught up in what you are doing that he/she forgets about attacking. For example, bounce in place two times and then execute a jump side kick on a third bounce. On the first bounce, your opponent will jump away slightly and simultaneously realize you are just jumping up and down. By the second bounce he/she will have moved back into position and may even be matching your up and down motion. When you attack on the third bounce, the opponent trapped.
Disconnection. Moving so the opponent loses the ability to use one of his/her arms or legs is called disconnection. In general, a fighter should try to close upon the opponent in such a way as to disconnect the opponent's weapons and to keep all his/her weapons free. For example, if you move rapidly to the side, your opponent becomes uncomfortable and must turn to keep properly guarded. This disconnects the opponent's pivot foot. Grabbing the opponent's arm disconnects it, and, if you have move correctly, all of your weapons will be free.
Defending against kicking attacks is easier than defending against punching attacks, because the distance between each opponent is greater. The increased distance means that a kick will take longer to reach the target than a punch would. The further you are from your opponent the safer you will be; however, counterattacking will be more difficult.
If you are closer to your opponent, you will be in a more dangerous position to be kicked but your counter to the kick will be more efficient. By moving slightly out from the safety range, your opponent's blows will fail to land at all. Do not step too much, but judge your opponent's reach and stay in close enough for you to be able to move swiftly to attack.
Tips on using range
Remember range and do not waste energy on a useless technique. For example, you attack with a lead leg side kick/spin side kick combination. If the opponent backs out of range of the side kick, then the opponent will also be out of range of the spin side kick. The spin side kick will be a waste of energy unless you are aware of the range problem and leap forward with the lead leg after the side kick to close the range before using the spin side kick.
Controlling range while sparring helps you avoid being hit and avoid incurring injuries from blocking. Range also determines whether you score or not. To score, you must be within range, but this also usually means you are in range to be scored upon. The following are some tips on using range:
- Avoid training to fight at the wrong range (pre-conditioning).
- Correct range will force opponent to commit him or herself to reach you, but does not deny you the opportunity to attack.
- Stopping short of the target will not score a point and being too close increases the chance of excessive contact through bad control, which may injure the opponent and result in your disqualification.
- Range cannot be improved through practicing basics. With step-sparring, the distance between opponents is kept large for safety reasons. In floor and pattern training, techniques are usually locked out and held on the target. Therefore, range must be practiced while free-sparring at the true range for actual combat.
- Use the correct stance and position for long/close range and snapping/thrusting techniques. Vary distance by moving within a stance or changing stances. Use the hips, stance, and body rotation to increase reach and find the exact distance needed to extend a technique fully.
- Develop sensitivity to gauge people's reach, and then adjust the range to allow them to miss just barely. This will help you not to flinch because things are flying at your face, and it will give you the posture and positioning needed to score with little adjustment on your part.
- Do not always try to stay out of opponent's reach or you will always find opponent out of your reach. Train to slip and bob to stay in range and make the punch miss so you will still be in range to attack. However, do not weave too much.
- The power of a punch or kick is at the very end of the arm or leg, so for maximum power, you must have the proper range. The real art comes in catching the opponent at the right time and place when your range is perfect for your chosen attack. It is like catching a bus. To get on the bus, you have to coordinate things so that both you AND the bus are at the station at the same time. When sparring, both of you are on the move, so achieving the right range at the right time takes timing and finesse.