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The Range Ladder
Developing Adaptable Time and Measure for Hand-to-Hand Mayhem
© 2016 James LaFond
It is a common bit of knowledge among boxers, stick-fighters and contact blade men, that people from the “posing” arts, such as FMA as currently practiced in the U.S., non-contact or traditional [body contact only] karate programs and fitness-based white collar boxing have difficulty transitioning to contact situations which are fluid and/or continuous.
Certainly, an aspect of this problem is the lack of contact, but it goes much deeper than that. In many of the FMA drills which I have struggled through like a retard, trying to be communicative in this form of cross-training and striving also not to let it degrade my real combat ability—always failing on this latter account if I learned the drill correctly—I have noted that we work always in-range. There is never a time in any of the two-person feeder drills I have been walked through by FMA masters in which I was “out of range.”
When I take to the floor to spar with an FMA man he usually has trouble with entry range, which is a result of this in-range training and also of non-contact training.
There is another aspect of FMA, as typically practiced in the U.S., that retards time and measure, which is the #1aspect of mastering combat with hand-to-hand weapons. If you have this and he does not, then it is like you are in a fighter jet with radar and he is flying a jet in which such systems have been disabled. This is the more so the more deadly the weapon is.
The two standard weapons in FMA are a 26-31 inch stick, which is sword length, and a 5-12 inch knife or dagger. The difference in the length between the bottom range of the long weapon and the top range of the short weapon is greater than the maximum length of the shorter weapon. Consequently, no matter how much one trains with these weapons in contact sparring, there remains a poorly known mid-range across which each fighter must operate to touch the other and within which his sense of time and measure is compromised compared to his ability at stick or knife range.
This mid-range is machete range, the weapon that has been removed from these sets as crude and not art worthy. We have used machetes from the beginning, along with the short boken from bushido and the baton, or “pin” after the belaying pins that sailors fought with for hundreds of years and which were used by more than a few American and British boxers in waterfront scraps of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Our weapon lengths are:
Knife: 5-12 inches
Big-knife: 14-16 inches
Machete/pin: 18-22 inches [also tomahawk]
Stick/sword: 26-31 inches
The middle two ranges are the length of many practical improvised weapons, such as hammers, spades and hand umbrellas one might find at hand in a survival situation.
Even so, simply practicing with these weapons does not maximize your adaptability in terms of knowing when and where you can hit and be hit, which is the intuitive combat sense the ancients called “time and measure.”
We have typically begun sparring with knives and move up the range ladder. Yesterday Charles decided to reverse it and we found ourselves reaching with the knife after starting with long weapons. Typically we have used the knife to start with because the need to stay tight is so great with the knife that it helps keep you from swinging and reaching with the sticks once you transfer up in range. When Chuck and I began Modern Agonistics in 1998 we went from shinai [kendo stick] down to boxing gloves over 11 weapon sets.
After our experience yesterday it is obvious—from our current vantage of understanding far above where we began—that we should just mix it up, going up and down the ladder and also beginning in the middle, in search of a greater command of the combat space.
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modern agonistics
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on the overton railroad
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the combat space
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the greatest lie ever sold
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Sean     Aug 2, 2016

Interesting and very true. The shorter the weapon the more comfortable I feel and also feel I can generate more power. Even now in sparring it takes a focused effort to undo the points based style I grew up with.
Shep     Aug 4, 2016

Somewhat OT, about time and measure!

The first gold-medal winner of the Olympics!
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