The students at the recent Force On Force class will recall a vociferous student making an issue about the importance of controlling distance, and our response that distance was not something you could control in our study.

Anecdote Number 1: The call was of suspicious circumstances…screaming and glass breaking at a house.  On arrival, everything was dark and no answer when we knocked on the door.  I moved toward the back of the house and moved quietly as possible as I scanned and tasted the air.  There was something here…I didn’t know what, but I could sense it.  As I moved toward the garage, my back up continued to knock on the front door.  I could hear them announcing “Police Department…open the door”.  I soft checked the garage door, and it opened.  Suspect at three feet. As much as it would have been great to be thirty feet away, there was no way I could increase my distance…but I could change my angle.  Problem solved…one single shot to the face.

Anecdote Number 2:  Someone was using the laundry at an apartment building…someone that didn’t live there.  A bullshit call about well, bullshit.  I was telling the dispatchers the name of the man I was talking with, as well as his date of birth.  “10-1 - 3 Lincoln 7 – 10-2 Adam - 918“.  The dispatcher was telling me in code that the man in front of me was wanted and armed and a dangerous dude…a wanted parolee at large. 

I tried to be poker-faced, but he sensed something and made a reach for my holstered weapon.  Distance – four feet.  I suppose some might suggest running away to increase distance, but guys like that never allow their asses to leave their seats.  Life happens at whatever distance life chooses to happen and you, my dear student have no control over it.  The bad guy?  He went down hard with a broken leg.

Martial students have a misunderstanding of distance interval because they train at artificial distances.  It shows up before the drill even begins, because the combatants in a sport agree to a starting distance, then their focus becomes one of moving in and out of distance to gain an advantage.  So managing and overcoming distance is always a factor in combat sports, but distance is already decided in a fight where you do not have the initiative.

This is an important distinction.  You either have the initiative or you do not.  Its not a sparring bout, it is a street fight where one party decides to ambush the other.  Nothing consensual about it.  There is no opportunity to change the distance.  If you have that opportunity, you also have the initiative.  In fact, attempts to increase distance of ten play directly into the adversary’s line of attack.  No, the solution in events where you lack the initiative is in moving to the flank…to the angles.    

The two concepts are  – Distance and Timing.  In Karate they are called Maai, and Hyoshi.  But in a real street fight and not a competitive event, the distance is determined by the adversary as well as your perception of him.  If you realize the attack is coming at thirty feet, you may have options not available to you if you realized the attack was coming at three feet.  The point is simple – in the real world, the adversary often determines the distance, and that is only affected by your perception of the attacker and his plans.

Timing (and the physical manifestation of it – angular movement) is something you can control.  That control comes via correct training in context to an attack.  If you are no longer where the adversary is attacking, you have changed the timing, in essence, you have stolen the timing from him.  And if you do that, and hit him well, the fight is won.  But only patient students will learn this.