Beginners (and some veterans) of sparring fall into the trap of relying solely on a direct attack in one particular strike zone. They fight as if they are standing on a tight rope and stick to one category of strike. They move back and forth side-kicking each other or punching each other’s gloves in an attempt to break through. This limited sparring technique can permeate self-defense technique and this limited defense can put the fighter in danger.
When one of these limited technique fighters face a fighter that can flank them and transverse multiple strike zones, that fighter has trouble defending himself and striking back. All the limited fighter’s effort is put forth to protect from and project attack from the front. This leaves the flanks open and leaves the fighter vulnerable to different strike zones. These fighters usually get shut out when sparring until they learn to utilize the zones and vectors effectively. In a defense situation these fighters find themselves getting into trouble quickly, since they have vulnerabilities from different zones and vectors.
One of my teachers is a veteran of the armed forces and has studied several forms of martial arts. He is a little older than me, soft spoken but has no qualms punching you in the face if you put your guard down when sparring. He was the first martial arts teacher I had that discussed fighting zones and attack vectors. He also taught developing strategies using these concepts. These concepts were new to me in the context of my martial arts experience. Since then, I have studied these concepts and have observed the use of zones and vectors in sparring.
Strikes are tools. Having the right tool for any job makes the work easier. It is hard to drive a nail with a screw driver and it is hard to remove a screw with a hammer. It can be done but it is harder. It is the same with strikes. Certain strikes work better in different zones and some don’t work at all. Zones are variable and can change depending on your strike reach and your opponent’s reach.
The strike zones I have been taught are concentric circles and are based on striking distance. See diagram below.
Safe Zone: The zone outside of the circles is the safe zone where neither fighter can strike the other.
Kick Zone: Inside the first circle is the kick zone. This zone is a distance where the most efficient strike is the kick. One may be able to punch but punching would leave the fighter vulnerable to a counter attack.
Punch Zone: The second zone is most conducive to punches. Very flexible people can kick in this zone but elbows and knees would be too much of a stretch.
Knowing where you are and the best strikes to use will help your fighting. Kicking from the safe zone will just waste your energy since you can’t reach your opponent. Punching in the kick zone forces you to reach and will leave you open to counter attack. Trying to kick in the elbow knee zone will at best reduce your power and only if you are extremely flexible and at worse leave you open to attack. Know your body size and flexibility and practice your strikes. That will help you will define your zones. Also, practice your sparring. The more you spar, the easier it will be for you to size up your opponents and determine their zones, so you can counter them.
Next week we will review attack vectors and in week three we will bring it all together and develop strategies.