When It's Time To Go Hand-to-Hand

Too close for guns. It's time to switch to other choices.

posted on April 10, 2024
No reaction zone

I had the opportunity to spend more than 20 years as co-owner and manager of our Mixed Martial Arts gym called Fusion Fitness & Mixed Martial Arts. We had youth and adult programs where 120 students trained with us per month. My husband, Brian, and I had to make a tough decision in 2020 and close the doors of the gym due to COVID.

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a fusion of full-contact sports that support a wide array of fighting techniques, history, experience, principles, styles, decisions, and skills. MMA is usually a combination of jiu-jitsu, muay thai, karate, taekwondo, judo, and wrestling, (just to name a few) that make up a cohesive fighting system.

I trained in striking/basic groundwork/decisions and in 2015, I became a coach in our Force Readiness and Close Quarter Decisions classes. Both training and managing our gym was a very educational part of my life and was what truly made me fall in love with distance management. I got to see firsthand what pre-planning and what following through with that plan looked like.

I think that now is a good time to mention that knowing your state’s laws/codes on the use of force for self and in defense of others is very important. I would print that information, fold it up, and place it in your purse or wallet. If something happens, there is a high chance that you will know more than the on-scene officer. 

Throwing A Strike Means Something Different In This Game

PunchedThis article will focus on striking, the close quarter decision, which is usually inside of 6 feet, depending on the technique. When it comes to striking, distance is the key factor to hitting or not getting hit. Muay Thai is probably the most common style of striking in MMA because it includes knee, kicks, punches and elbows. In a MMA fight, this is an effective way to cause damage, especially when paired with other martial arts techniques. This style of fighting can also be very effective in self protection but only at the correct distance. Brian says “there are three distances in striking. There is long, middle and short. Without movement, “long” is around the 6-foot mark where kicks would be best fitted, “middle” would include, but not limited to, punches and palm strikes, and “short” where knees, elbows, upper cuts and in-close fighting would be the best fit.

While in the gym, I also got to see great decisions and poor decisions. How did I know the decision was poor? They had their egos crushed by getting hit, taken down, tapped out or they “went to sleep” aka choked unconscious, none of which was in their game plan. How did I know their decisions were good? They were able to remember their pre-fight strategy, manage their emotions, get back in the fight when things did not go their way and bring that master game plan back in play for the win.

I watched hundreds of training sessions in our octagon and I started to study our fighter’s moves and distances. I recognized that offense and defense had a different body language, stance, and distance goals. I also looked for repeatable pre-strike “tells” that would help me understand how much time their partner had to react. If you are a highly trained professional and you are at the correct distance, you can see it coming, react and respond.

I coach Force Readiness and Close Quarter Decisions and honestly, the bad guy’s body posture is very similar to the postures I saw in the octagon. The main difference that I see is how a normal, everyday person off the street responds. We are not trained professionals and our reaction time is slower, or none at all. 

You're About To Get Hit. Now What? 

In our Reactionary Zones, we call the distance of six feet and under the “No Choice” zone. It’s not that you don’t fight back; it is that you probably have no choice but to fight back. If they choose violence, then you have no choice but to manage that violence with an answer of your own.

Why “No Choice?”

  • A healthy person can close a 6-foot distance from you in under one second.
  • The average length of a person’s arm is 3 feet. The average length of a person’s stride is three feet. Do the math. A person only has to take one step to reach out and grab you.
  • A non-trained adult can throw one to three punches in 1 second. The world record is 13 punches in 1 second.
  • If the bad dude is 6 feet or shorter and has violent intentions, you do not have enough time to recognize danger, understand that it is actually happening, make a decision to do something, go into action and then get clear of the threat, all in less than one second.
  • Brian said “Striking fights often end up entangled with a loss of balance, putting one or both, people on the ground. Do you have ground fighting skills?”
  • You do not have time to get to your gun (on or off body), let alone use it, in under one second.
  • You do not have time to run away.

Now that we have covered “why” we call it the “no choice” zone, let’s cover a few options that you may have:  

  • Per Brian, “You can greatly influence a striking fight by keeping your hands up (also known as a fence or frames) and being in motion. This will help manage the distance in a fluid manner.”
  • If there is any way to put an object between you and the bad dude, this will buy you some time to get to a defensive tool or even run.
  • If you saw them coming from a further distance, and pre-deployed a “tool”, you may be able ward them off or use that tool if necessary.
  • If you have professional training, you may be able to stop a big fight before it escalates or moves to the ground.
  • The bad due chose you for a reason and is “banking” that you will be an easy target so surprise him and be an unstoppable force. God forbid, you are in a violent encounter, never stop fighting. Kick, scream, elbow, knee and punch them (and whatever you can muster) as much as you can. You may be able to earn enough space to run or be such a handful that they leave you alone.

For some, this can be a very difficult distance to manage but the good news is that if you pay attention to changes in your environment, understand pre-assault cues, have a few short verbal commands memorized and have a master game plan; you just may be able to avoid an issue all together.


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