Two weeks ago we discussed Strike Zones and last week we discussed Attack Vectors. If you missed either of those articles you can read them at PART 1 PART 2. To be an effective fighter we have to be cognizant of the distance to our opponent and know what attacks to which both you and your opponent are vulnerable. We also need to understand that if we are going to be effective fighters, our use of space and the direction of attack or retreat can and should be varied as a fight progresses. In this week’s article we are going to put together Strike Zones and Attack Vectors into Distance-Directional Strategies and give you some examples to experiment with.
For simplicity I am going to use point sparring for the examples of working with Distance-Directional Strategies (attack vectors inside strike zones). These strategies also apply to grappling and street fighting. The techniques employed will just be different. A direct attack from the Kick Zone in a point sparring match may be a side kick, for a grappling match it may be a high fake ending in a two leg take down or in a bar fight it may be a thrown bottle or swung chair. The techniques you use will be dependent on the style you study and the situation you are in. These strategies can be applied to most martial arts styles and even to a battlefield situation using a macro view.
To apply these Distance-Directional Strategies you need to understand your capabilities and level of competence as well as the situation you are in. If you are a poor kicker, you will either need to improve your kicks or learn to get safely into the Punch Zone. If you are a grappler rather than a striker, you will need to adapt your style to the situation. There are three factors common to all fighting styles that apply to the use of these Distance-Directional Strategies.
1. Situational Awareness. You need to know your surroundings. In point sparring this is important. The ring is a fixed area to contain the match and you can be penalized for leaving that area. You need to know where you are in the ring as well as your distance from your opponent in order to execute your attack and to avoid having the match stopped for leaving the ring. As you get more advanced you can start tracking the position of the judges, so they are more likely to see and score your strikes. If you are actually in a boxing ring or a cage, knowing where you are is important too so you don’t get trapped against the cage or in a corner. If you are in a bar, knowing the location of tables, booths and other obstacles is important for keeping yourself out of traps.
2. Level of Aggression. Your level of aggression should change depending on the situation. Using point sparring again, it is strategic to be more aggressive in the beginning of the match or if you are behind on points. After you are ahead, especially if the fight is close, it can be better to fight less aggressively or even defensively. This can carry to other situations. If you are in danger but have no escape, being aggressive may be the best posture. On the other hand if there is a possible escape, being less aggressive or even defensive could be the best strategy.
3. Technique. If you are a puncher and you are fighting a kicker, you need strategies that allow you to cross the Kick Zone while mitigating the risk of eating a side kick to the face. You can also identify areas that you need to improve. If you are getting kicked, you need to improve your block/avoid and counter. If you are being punched, you may need to improve on your ability to attack from different zones.
Consideration of these three factors can help you determine the start and ending positions as well as your direction of attack. We have developed three examples of Distance-Directional Strategies to give you some guidance on your strategy options. The three examples we are using are:
1. Avoidance. Low Risk – Strike Difficulty
2. Cautious. Moderate Risk – Strike Potential
3. Aggressive. High Risk – Strike Rich
As the name implies in this attack strategy you are focused more on defense. As detailed in the diagram below your evasions and retreats are all in the Safe Zone. As long as you keep moving, you are difficult to hit. Since you are being cautious, it is harder to be aggressive and attack. You need to cross strike zones in order to be able to strike your opponent. Crossing these zones leaves you open to being blocked and vulnerable to counter attack. This strategy would be used in a point sparring match if you are ahead on points and you want to tire out your opponent without expending a lot of your energy. In a street situation this would be used to give you time to analyze the situation and find safe escape routes.
This strategy starts you in the Kick Zone, as detailed in the diagram below. You are vulnerable to strikes but this placement gives you more opportunities to block then counter. In point sparring you are feeling out your opponent or you are trying to get into position for a specific attack. You can attack from here but a fast opponent will be able to block and counter or strike first. This is the typical position you see in point sparring. On the street, this could be used to hold off an opponent if you see help coming. If you are boxed in at a bar and you see the bouncers coming up behind your opponent, this can hold your opponent off until the bouncers stop the fight.
Starting in the Punch Zone, as detailed in the diagram below, this strategy is the most aggressive of the three examples. You would see this strategy at the beginning of a point sparring match. The head judge has just confirmed that the fighters are ready and as he pronounces the “F” in fight, one fighter blitzes the other and grabs a quick point. Starting in this position takes decisive action and speed. If you waffle on what your technique will be or if you are slow in execution, you will get hit. It a street altercation this is the spot for you to disable your opponent and get away. Being this close to an attacker makes you very vulnerable to a variety of strikes and weapon attacks. You need to get in and get out.
Execution of Strategy
In point sparing you will see fighters start in one strategy and continue through others as a point session progresses. The fighters may start in the Safe Zone. They move around and one fighter pumps out kicks as he enters the Kick Zone. As they continue to move around the aggressive fighter then fakes and flanks until he is in the Punch Zone at which time he blitzes, gets the point and ends that point session. As the fighters continue in the next point session, the aggressive fighter feels more confident; he starts on the edge of the Kick Zone, starts a blitz too early and catches a defensive side kick as he crosses the Kick Zone. Now our aggressive fighter is down 2 to 1 and he is feeling pressure to score. In this session he starts in the Punch Zone and as the judge says fight, he blitzes but telegraphs the blitz and falls victim to a high block – reverse punch.
The scenario above demonstrates how different fight strategies can work when you take the three factors (Situational Awareness, Level of Aggression and Technique) into account. There are more combinations of zones and vectors. I just gave you three to give you an idea to expand on. It takes practice to find your sweet spot in sport karate and to be able to defend yourself. Looking at a few circles and lines is not enough. Experiment with these fight strategies using your martial arts style. See what works for you and let us know your experiences by commenting on this article.