Combat Ranges in Sparring

When sparring, it’s very common to have a preferred range or comfort zone. If you’re a natural kicker, it’s common to prefer being far away. Meanwhile a natural grappler will be more comfortable getting as close as possible. While it’s always good to excel at something, it’s important to be at least somewhat proficient at everything. With that in mind, today we’ll look at drills that force you into different combat ranges.

Long Range Sparring

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In this drill, both participants start outside of kick range and reset back to this range after every exchange (whether a point was score or not). It’s important to start far enough away that a single step and kick would be just out of range. It’s also important to force the participants to reset back to this range every time, otherwise it will devolve into sparring at the participants’ comfortable ranges.

The benefit of this drill is that it teaches you to cover distance as quickly as possible. At this range, your opponent has a lot of reaction time, so you need to move both far and fast to score.

Another strategy to use is circular footwork. If you gradually spiral towards your opponent, they won’t notice the forward movement because they’ll be focused on the lateral movement.

Close Range Sparring

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Instead of starting far away, this time we’re going to start really close. Very close. Touching, actually.

At both the beginning of the drill and the start of every exchange the participants will have their arms touching. At this distance, whoever moves first has a distinct advantage. Reaction time is reduced and you can’t even see your entire opponent because of how close they are.

When you’re this close, it’s extremely important to control the centerline. Stay sideways, keep your hands up. Try to use multiple limbs simultaneously – block with one hand while striking with the other.

Variable Range Sparring

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Make sure you do the previous two drills first, as this drill builds on both. This drill requires an instructor or third person to call out ranges during the match.

Participants start at normal (medium) range and begin sparring. The 3rd person will then call out different ranges throughout the match. As soon as the range is called out, the two people sparring should proceed the same as they did in the previous drills. If “long range” is called out, participants immediately back up. If “close range” is declared, they immediately get to where their arms are touching. “Medium range” means sparring as normal.

This drill helps you put it all together. You can see what range feels best, and what range feels worst. That should help you know what to practice!

We All Have Strengths

But as always, it’s important to train the areas you’re weak in as well. I’m tall and lanky – I like to kick, but I’ve been scored on many times by shorter people who are really good at getting into close range and overwhelming me with speed. This taught me what range I need to work on, and hopefully these drills will help you work on your ranges too.

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