Distance: A Key Aspect in Sparring


Distance is an important aspect of sparring.


In sparring, the winner knows to take advantage of their best skills, their opponent’s weaknesses, and distance.  Everyone generally talks about improving skills to become better at sparring; and on most occasions, they also talk about how to take advantage of an opponent’s weaknesses.  But it is rare that anyone discusses distance and how important it is in sparring, or for that matter, real life self defense (we’ll save that for another topic of discussion).

This article will discuss distance and why it is a very important aspect of sparring.  Through the proper use of distance, one can achieve the following:

  • Gain enough reaction time
  • Prevent an opponent from scoring
  • Help you score

Gain Enough Reaction Time

This may be as plain as the nose on your face, but you can gain reaction time simply by increasing the distance between you and your sparring opponent.  Now, you can go all out and stay back 15 feet from your opponent, but that would be too extreme, as it would make it impossible for either person to score.  The only thing you can cause by doing this is make the referee warn you to “fight”.

The right distance is such that the opponent cannot reach you without taking at least some motion to close the distance then executing their attack.  The motion to close the distance is your cue that he’s on the move.  This should give you enough time to adjust your distance for a counter attack.  Give this a try during any of your sparring sessions and see h0w it works out.  You’ll see that you’ll have that extra warning time to make adjustments to your position before your opponent delivers their attack.

Prevent an Opponent from Scoring

Through distance, you can prevent your opponent from scoring.  It is obvious that going further back from your opponent can guarantee that your opponent cannot score when you aren’t ready to counter.

It is also true when you close the gap to the point of jamming your opponent.  By closing the gap, you keep your opponent from making contact with their foot on your scoring area.  The closer your are to within the length of your opponent’s leg, the less likely they can score.  After all, olympic sparring is a sport, and all sports have rules on how one scores; you might as well take advantage of rules to prevent your opponents from scoring against you.

Help You Score

The right distance can help you score.  For attacks, if you maintain just the proper distance, you can apply proper footwork to close the gap and score with your kicks.  The distance should still be far enough so that you can see them coming when they attack, but short enough to close the distance using fast footwork and executing the appropriate attacking technique.

For counter attacks, you must maintain just the right distance so that you can move away without getting hit, yet reach your opponent when you deliver your scoring kick. This means that your opponent’s kick should just barely reach you!  This distance is just perfect for your counter.


Distance is a major factor in sparring.  It can help you gain reaction time, prevent your opponent from scoring, and most importantly, help you score.

Who would have thought such a simple factor could have such a major effect in sparring?

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