Today we have a guest post from Jonathan Bluestein. The topic is fighting ranges. Enjoy.
Fighting Ranges in the Martial Arts
By Jonathan Bluestein
There are many ways in which martial arts define themselves, and the differences between their practices and those of other arts. One of these ways would be through the spectrum of fighting ranges various martial arts choose to specialize in. This subject brings up the following question: ‘What can a martial artist do at a given distance?’. Seems simple, until one realizes that there are actually 5 such fighting ranges, and each contains many possibilities. Martial arts literature is usually self-limiting with just three ranges: short, medium and long. To these are usually ascribed fixed tactics. Short is for grappling. Medium for bridging, initial contact and general striking, and long for kicks. A serious study of ranges in the martial arts reveals a far more intricate image, as I shall now elucidate.
Ranges according to where various martial arts stylists tend to feel most comfortable operating, without the use of weapons:
I should re-emphasize, that this chart does not determine by any means the full range of motion available in the arsenal of a martial artists who is trained in a given system. Rather, above are shown the ranges are which these arts tend to excel and find their best usage.
We see therefore that there are arts which attempt a very broad scope of mastery, while others focus on a more concise fighting game. I would like to argue that we can discern much from this kind of classification. Here are a few observations:
1. The breadth of technical focus does not necessarily determine the difficulty of gaining proficiency in a given art. Muay Thai is notorious for being able to yield some useful fighting skills within as short a time as even a few months of training, while Northern Mantis (Tang Lang Quan), which could be argued to work best through about the same ranges of combat, takes much longer to become good at. Bagua and Ninjutsu operate at a range roughly the same in width as Judo and Shuai Jiao, yet the former often take many more years to master than the latter.
2. Different arts solve range problems differently. Striking arts approach the closest ranges with a little light instant-grappling, but rely on the ability to use explosive power (fa jin) to break a grappling scenario before it becomes too dangerous for them. Grappling arts use the longer ranges as a set-up for the grappling game, and not as an even playing field.
3. The mechanics of different arts may at times be similar, but the tactics and strategies could prove different. Xing Yi Quan, Bagua Zhang, Taiji Quan and Yi Quan are all Internal martial arts. Their share a lot of similar and often identical body mechanics. Southern Mantis too is a very Internal art among some lineages, and Wing Chun as well. Nonetheless, we see that they may spread across differing ranges of applications and fighting, based on the style and lineage.
Thus, by way of comparison of fighting ranges, we can learn more of the similarities and differences in the great cultural landscape of martial arts. Though this sort of comparison is often ignored, it is worthy of deeper investigation…
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Shifu Jonathan Bluestein is the head of the Tianjin Martial Arts Academy, and teaches Xing Yi Quan and Pigua Zhang in Israel. He is also a martial arts author and researcher. If you liked this article, please ‘like’ the page of shifu Bluestein’s book on Facebook:
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