Am I Too Far or Too Close? – Ranges in Martial Arts and Self-Defense

How close should I get?  This is a common question in martial arts and self-defense that seems simple enough to answer but unfortunately, it is not.  Range is the distance between you and your opponent.  What range you are in determines what tools are available to you to utilize.  These can slightly differ from person-to-person as some have longer and shorter limbs but in general follow these 4 distinctions.  Here we will explore the 4 ranges for fighting and self-defense and what you need to know in order to be effective at that range.

Weapons Range

The weapons range is any range further than you can reach someone with your hands and feet.  Weapons can be sophisticated weapons like firearms, more common weapons like knives or clubs, or weapons of opportunity such as a chair, stick, or something heavy to throw.  Even a ninja star could work!  The key here is that it is not about the physical contact but using another object to defend yourself.  If you are going to plan ahead to use a weapons such as a firearm or knife, you want to make sure you are comfortable in its safe use and that weapon does not get turned against you in a fight.  Another option in the weapons range if nobody actually has a weapon is one we regularly forget about, RUN AWAY!

However, if you are dealing with someone utilizing weapons you want to have a plan on how you will deal with it such as learning disarming techniques from your coaches.  If neither of you have a weapon but you don’t want them to get any closer, practicing using what is in your vicinity as a ranged weapon is a fun exercise!  I learned this lesson as Coach Eric picked up a chair and I couldn’t get near him without him poking me with it.  Get creative and have fun!

Striking Range

The striking range is where you can touch each other with your hands, feet, knees, elbows, head, shoulders, etc.  At Elite MMA we primarily train Muay Thai kickboxing and boxing to become proficient and master the striking range.  Knowing how to throw a proper punch or kick gives you tools to use in the striking range.  If you want to build a house with only a hammer you may struggle but if you have a whole toolset and know how to use it you have a much better chance of success.

Training defense in the striking range is just as important.  If you have never had someone swing at you or try to knee you it can be a very jarring experience, not one I would recommend you experience for the first time in a fight or self defense situation.  Learning what those strikes feel like when they land, trained safely, can be a benefit so it does not throw you off guard if you are defending yourself.  Get in our kardio kickboxing and Muay Thai classes to hone in your striking range!

Clinch Range

As someone once told me, the word “clinch” is just a fancy term for hugging. The clinch range is where you are still on your feet but so close to your partner that many strikes are nullified.  This range is where a lot of takedowns occur.  There are many types of clinches we practice regularly in class.  The Muay Thai clinch where you grab their head with both hands is very effective in controlling another person and allows the landing of strikes with the knees and elbows as well as takedown opportunities.

The wrestling and judo clinches takes many forms and set up a multitude of takedowns while simultaneously work to help keep you from getting taken down.  Training a combination of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Kickboxing will help get you comfortable utilizing and defending clinches so you can be comfortable in that range.  Keep building that toolbox!

Ground Range

The ground range is the one range that most people in the world are SUPER uncomfortable with.  It can be weird to practice the ground range as it involves wrestling on the ground with someone you may or may not know, sometimes in pajama looking clothes that we call a gi.  However, that lack of comfortability and knowledge by the general population makes it an area of opportunity to build a skillset that can turn the tide in a fight.  An FBI study noted that 80% of self-defense situations end up on the ground.  That is a staggering amount if you really think about it.  Knowing how to get someone off of you, get back up, or hold someone down so they can’t continue to attack you or your loved ones becomes an invaluable skill.  The ground training for wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu that we do at Elite MMA are a great place to build comfortability and proficiency in this range.

Smaller people are especially benefited by the ground aspects of BJJ.  My 5’4” wife told me that most of her first year if she was on top of someone bigger than her they would just bench press her off of them and throw her to the side.  As she learned the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu armbar technique she was able to take advantage of her small size.  When people would bench press her off instead of trying to stop it she learned to go with it and attack their now-straightened elbow to get the win!  If it was a self-defense situation she would be able to incapacitate their arm making it hard for them to attack her with that limb.  Come try a class to see where you can improve your ground range!

If you have any questions on the different ranges, please see one of your coaches at any of our locations and they will be able to point you in the right direction to build your toolbox of self-defense techniques.  See you on the mats!

Mixed Martial Arts Houston


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