I’ve said many times that BJJ is a fantastic sport and fitness activity, but that at it’s core it’s a martial art. And it being a martial art means that you have be able to use it to defend yourself.
Now it’s pretty hard to beat BJJ and submission grappling as a martial art at close range.
The ability to move up the positional hierarchy, getting to more and more dominant position, is a HUGE advantage in a real fight (click here to get a complete breakdown of the BJJ positional hierarchy concept).
But much as I love grappling it’s important to recognise that it’s only one of 5 ranges of combat.
The 5 ranges of combat are…
- Projectile range
- Handheld weapons range
- Striking range (punches, kicks, elbows, knees, headbutts, etc.)
- Clinching range (overhooks, underhooks, collar ties, lapel grips, sleeve grips, etc.)
- Ground fighting range (mount, guard, side control, rear mount, etc.)
Projectile range can include any art that uses weapons that fly through the air.
Projectile weapons include firearms and rifles in a modern context, archery and javelins in a historical context, and flinging rocks and other improvised weapons at someone in a streetfight.
Next, closer than the projectile range but still not at the hand-to-hand range, comes the handheld weapons range.
Some martial arts that specialise in this range include kendo, fencing, some traditional Japanese bujutsu systems, the Filipino martial arts, and many more. Weapons used at this range include sticks, swords, clubs, knives, staffs, and many more.
If the combatants move a little bit closer they end up in striking range.
In the striking range we’re into the hand-to-hand combat that so many martial arts specialise in. These arts include karate, boxing, kickboxing, kung fu, karate, etc. Typically the goal for these martial arts is to end the fight with punches, kicks, elbows and knees.
Past striking range we end up in standing grappling range, otherwise known as the clinch.
This is the range of judo, wrestling, sambo, the Thai clinch and many other standing grappling systems. Most of the time in these martial arts the goal is to establish grips and throw your opponent to the floor.
The closest distance is the ground grappling range.
Ground grappling is the home of BJJ practitioners, submission grapplers, newaza specialists and catch wrestlers. Here they’re usually fighting for positional dominance and submissions like chokes, cranks, leglocks and armlocks.
Now of course this 5 zone approach isn’t a perfect categorisation system. There can be overlap and exceptions for sure.
For example, if you’re fighting with sticks you can still punch the other guy in the face…
Just because you’re grappling on the floor doesn’t mean that your opponent can’t pull out a knife and try to stick you with it…
And just because you’re a wrestler in the Olympics doesn’t mean that your opponent isn’t ‘accidentally’ head butting you while shooting and clubbing you with his forearm during snapdown attempts (hence the picture at the very top of this post).
But as a first order approximation, these 5 ranges of fighting are pretty good!
Now here’s the important thing…
If you have any interest in self defense and self protection then it’s important to not have giant blind spots for anything that could happen outside of your preferred range.
You need to have at least a basic idea of what to do at every range!
If you’re mostly a ground grappler that’s great but you should also have one or two basic takedowns and an understanding of the clinch range.
And be able to throw a stiff jab and cross at striking range.
And know how to swing a stick and stay outside the arc of a knife in handheld weapons range.
And maybe have fired a handgun or shotgun a few times in your life just so you understand how those weapons work.
There aren’t enough hours in the day to become an expert on every weapon and every art at every range. But a basic familiarity with the main attacks and main defences at each of the 5 ranges of fighting could quite literally save your life some day.
Master one range at least, and then develop a familiarity with all the other ranges too.
One additional resource on this topic is my other website, Selfdefensetutorials.com.
As the name implies the focus of this website is the martial arts, self defense and self protection end of things. On it I share many tips and techniques that would seem a bit out of place on Grapplearts.
Please check it out if you haven’t done so already!
Also I go into to more detail about the ranges of combat in the video at the very top of this post. That video was first published on my Self Defense Tutorials youtube channel by the way.
But I also addressed this topic in my podcast. (Did you know that I host and produce a podcast?)
The topic of martial arts ranges was covered in episode 178 of my podcast (hence that episode being called ‘The 5 Ranges of Every Martial Art’).
You can subscribe to the podcast at the links above and check out episode 178, or listen to the embedded audio below.
Hope you find this and all the other episodes and topics I’ve covered on the podcast useful!