The 6 ranges of combat and their use in defending yourself against a violent attack: Part two

Understanding The 6 Ranges Of Combat and their use in Self-Defense

This is the second part of the article as there was a lot of information to get through. To resume.

We discussed that in general terms, there are 6 ranges or distances in a combat situation or violent confrontation. Learning what they are is another important piece of the Self-Defense puzzle. Part one you can find here. Now we look at using any knowledge of the ranges.

Using knowledge of the 6 ranges

Understanding what is happening is one of the key elements of Self-Defense. If you have clarity in reading a situation, you can then be clearer in how you deal with it. Some form of order in the chaos, so to speak. A clear understanding of the 6 ranges helps you plan how to deal with something and act according to each different problem.

So, for example, you are having problems with someone being aggressive in the street, but they are at least 5 metres from you.

With knowledge of the ranges of combat you can..

  • stay relatively calm to create the appearance of confidence, knowing that you have time to deal with any rush attack
  • prepare your response ( e.g. a driving front kick to the solar plexus or right cross or picking up a makeshift weapon ) should he rush at you
  • move to a safer space as you talk to the aggressor, knowing you have time to do this
  • prepare to deal with any long-range weapon attack as you make sure you can see where his hands are
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Dealing with a close range threat

Another example could be that you are far too close to someone as they have bridged your “fence” quickly and they are in your face. You are in range 5 and 6. You can use this knowledge as the aggressor has decided to get close to intimidate you but in so doing has nullified his own punching power by getting too close. Because you are aware of where his hands are you know he isn’t armed, you could:

  • Anticipate any move he makes to strike or grab by using a pre-emptive strike or trapping and then taking control with grappling
  • If you see an opportunity, you could explode out of the closed space by pushing him away to get him on the end of your hand strike techniques ( range 5 ) or an improvised weapon you have seen available
  • You could pull your aggressor in close if you have excellent grappling skills and dominate the exchange. You will also have checked that he has no “friends” that would get involved and the terrain suits going to ground if necessary
  • Adjust your body shape to guard against a head butt or close strike

My personal experience

From personal experience, I can say that understanding and knowing how the different ranges work can be very useful. The previous example about ranges 5 and 6, is something I have personally used to nullify an opponents threat. The man was bigger than me ( not uncommon! ) and had made up his mind that he didn’t like me.

We were in a tight space in a bar as he started the verbals. Rather than backing away, I closed the space down. This did two things. He was surprised as it showed that I wasn’t scared and also took away his reach advantage. I could anticipate any action from there and act accordingly.

Happy ending

As it turned out, it worked out for me and I gained the advantage with a pre-emptive strike. What is most important is that my training and experience helped me choose a good option in a difficult moment. Sometimes things don’t work out, but any tactical advantage is always welcome!

To conclude:

A good quote to illustrate what knowledge of the ranges of combat is all about can be found in the book Zen in the Martial Arts by Joe Hyams, writing about a martial arts lesson with Bruce Lee that involved marking out the combat space with a circle…

Bruce then stood some distance from me on the edge of the circle and made some feinting and aggressive moves. I stiffened, awaiting his attack.
“You’re tense,” he said, “but why? From this distance, I can’t possibly cause you any harm.”

Joe Hyam

Knowing the 6 ranges of combat is a tool that gives clarity in defining a given combat situation. To be more specific, a threatening situation that can fluctuate very quickly. By knowing where you are and how a specific range works, you can train to stay as calm as possible under pressure and develop techniques that work effectively in the various ranges.

Author: Andrew Johnson

I trained many years in Kung Fu, fought in full contact competitions and am a qualified instructor at The Combat Academy in the UK. The aim of this blog is to look at what modern self-defense training actually is and what it most probably should be.

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