Distance, Reaction and Timing: It’s The Seemingly Little Things That Matter
It was a great class; full participation and great spirit. We were now moving to a new part of our training – kumite. But before we moved into full jiyyu ippon kumite we worked on some drills that helped us with understanding the importance of distance, reaction and timing.
As we worked on the drills, I kept finding myself either too close or to far, too early or too late. Trying not to get frustrated, I took a few deep breathes and tried to relax. I loosened my shoulders, which I was told were tight and refocused. That helped.
Things were getting better, but I knew I still had a long way to go. But, the fact that things were getting better was encouraging and gave me something to work with in my individual practice.
Being able to move offensively, as well as defensively requires, among other things, an understanding and sense of distance, reaction and timing. Without the proper distance you can’t get full extension on your punches and kicks. This reduces the effective power and range of the technique being used. Also maintaining a proper fighting distance helps to keep you out of danger. Allowing someone into your space or safe zone without initiating your own attack is an invitation for your opponent to strike at will.
In regards to timing, being off even a fraction of a second can mean the difference between successfully executing a technique or being on the receiving end of an opponent’s technique. A person with good distance and good timing has the advantage of being able to move in, strike and move back out before his opponent has a chance to advance and perform his technique. Both Bruce Lee and Mohammad Ali had the ability to time their movements and strikes in such a way that it neutralized their opponents and left their opponents open and vulnerable to a wide variety of attacks.
The ability to maintain a safe fighting distance and use timing to advance, strike and evade leads to the area of reaction. Reaction is simply the ability to use the movement and/or intention of an opponent to determine your plan of attack or evasion. If your reaction is too slow, there is a good chance of getting hit. If your reaction is too quick or inaccurate, you’ve just given your opponent a view of your strategy He now has a tactical advantage.
These three elements, distance, timing and reaction can be seen as a three legged stool – remove one leg and the stool will fall. Practicing basic kihon and kumite drills with a sense of urgency and an understanding of distance, reaction and timing is vital to successfully moving into Jiyyu ippon kumite, which is controlled one step free sparring. Through focused training, both muscle memory, timing and environmental awareness (knowing where you are within your surroundings and your comfortable fighting distance from your opponent/partner) are trained.
A video, featuring Kanazawa Sensei, demonstrates what can be accomplished when proper distance, reaction and timing is used. You can view the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meo5CcJU6eg