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Control Presence
Controlling Attack Range
Controlling Where He Attacks
Criminals Counting Coup
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Writing Violence Vol: III
Hitting and Getting Hit
Marc MacYoung

Emotional Survival For Law Enforcement
Kevin Gilmartin
(Psychology, mindset, LEOs)

Advanced Body Language
Bill Acheson,

(Non Verbal communication)

Kill as Catch Can
Ned Beaumont
(Street grappling/wrestling)

Force Decisions
Rory Miller
(How LEOs decide force)

Warrior Mindset
Michael Asken, et al
(Mental toughness, Professional mindset)

Survive a Shooting
Alain Burrese
(Active shooters) 

Rory Miller
(Close quarter violence)

Human Animal
Desmond Morris
(Human behavior)

Meditations on Violence
Rory Miller
(Difference between MA and actual violence)



Who-so-ever desires constant success
must change his conduct with the times.
             Niccolo Machiavelli

Attack Range
(and Control Presence)

On This Page:
Assessing His Attack Range| Understanding Your Attack Range | Staying Safe in His Attack Range| Shadowdancing While Controlling The Distance

The main direct to this page comes from the violence professionals hub. Some of the terms used here as specific to those needs, don't let that bother you. The main idea is to show you how to keep from being successfully attacked by recognizing something that isn't commonly taught (much less understood by most instructors). At the same time this 'unarticulated knowledge' is what allows professionals to routinely face violent people with minimum injury.

Controlling distance is one of the most critical of the factors determining:
A) whether or not you will be attacked.
B) your ability to shadow dance (e.g. he steps into range, you step out).
C) you safety if he does attack.
D) the criminal 'counting coup' on you
E) you counting coup on him

If you do not understand and know how to control/frustrate attack range, you will fail A through E.

Assessing His Attack Range
First things first. By 'attack range' we mean the distance at which a person can effectively attack you without taking a step.

A person's empty-handed attack range is from about his eyebrows to the floor, then that distance laid on the floor between you.

Now obviously a weapon, especially a projectile or thrown item will change this distance. But to introduce you this concept we'll stick with bare hands and kicks. Once you have the basic idea down you'll be a lot safer in general as well as being able to factor in weapons.

A few points about that...

In essence, the person can immediately attack without additional (warning) movement. That extra movement means extra time. Time that would give you time to react. An attack launched from inside range (especially the initial attack) is likely to land before you can block it.

While with a single attack (followed by more shouting) you have a good chance of recovering from the blow, not so with a 'committed attack.' (Basically someone coming in hard and fast with multiple attacks to throw you a beating.) A blitz launched from inside attack range has a high likelihood to overwhelm you.

The eyebrow to floor idea is better than teaching any 'set distance' as attack range. Five feet is a commonly taught taught as 'this distances is dangerous – except someone who is six foot four can kick you into next week from six feet away. Also anyone taller than 5'4" can get you with just one move from greater than five feet.

If you take that distance and cut it in half, then the half farthest from him is kicking range. The closer half will be hands and arms (and low kicks). This usually means if you see him step closer that's him moving into range to attack with his hands and arms.

Cut that near distance again and you have elbow, headbutt and knife range. And that– not to put too fine a point on it is hell on earth.

If he moves in fast from the greater distance first prepare for a kick, if it doesn't materialize shift your focus towards countering an attacking arm. (Of course moving off line from all of it is a good idea.)

The greatest danger you'll face isn't from someone moving into attack range fast, but slow. That indicates someone who knows how to set up an effective attack and spring it before you can effectively react.

The second greatest danger is you stepping into attack range and not realizing you've done it. (Usually because you were trying to scare a potential attacker away).


A basic rule for not getting your ass kicked is don't let someone develop attack range on you (especially if you're arguing with that person). The reaction time it takes to shift from arguing to physical violence is usually what gets people overwhelmed by blitz attacks.

Understanding Your Range
In our book, Becoming a Complete Martial Artist, we discuss range in depth. What we're going to do here is give you a very abridged version. There are three basic components to range: extension (reach), travel (distance) and targeting.

Although for effective power delivery, targeting is far more complex, let's for brevity's sake just say the target is him. This allows us to focus on the other two elements, reach and distance.

Reach  is easily understood, it's how long you arms and legs are. It determines where you have to be in order to strike/kick him. That is not going to change in an altercation. Your reach is fixed (as is his).

From where he is now the space you have to cover and movement you have to do to reach your target is Distance (travel). It sounds like we're splitting hairs, but they aren't the same.

If he is in the reach of a particular technique all you have to do is move your body and extend your limb and you cover the distance and connect. If he is outside the range of what you want to do, you have to take a step closer and then cover the remaining distance with the technique's body movement. Both of those take time. The first less, the second more.

And, this is the subtle part, can you do this without him seeing it and being warned in time? (Incidentally, we have just given you the secrets of sucker punching).

If you can develop both the range and positioning of your move before you launch it, that attack is going to seem to come out of nowhere with blinding speed. Such attacks are very difficult to block.

That's the good news. Now the bad. The same can be done to you.

Staying Safe In (And Out Of) His Attack Range
Two things to start.

One: Time = Distance.

Remember that. But to understand it, know this: it takes time to cover distance. The time it takes him to travel that distance is the first warning that you're being attacked. You need to recognize aggressive movement during that time – instead of realizing you're under attack when his fist is inches from your face.

Two: There an old saying "Action beats reaction" – which is generally true. It's true because of what's commonly known as "reaction time." Realistically that lag  is more you recognizing the danger than it is about reflexes.

Generally speaking the easiest and best way to stay safe is to insist the person(s) stay outside his attack range. Establish and maintain that distance. While most times you can be polite and firm about it, if you have to, be fierce about it. Why? Simple: The time it takes for him to take the necessary step is where you put your 'reaction time.' Now it's action vs. action (instead of you playing catch up).

However, sometimes you have to work inside someone's attack range (e.g., an officer handcuffing a suspect or a bouncer trying to talk a drunk out in a loud and crowed venue). How do you stay safer' inside someone's attack range?

Well here are a few pointers using what we've discussed

1) Recognize the type of attacks that go with that range.

You're about four feet from the guy? You're in kicking range. Watch for the common weight shifts that go with different kicks. That specific body movement is the start of the attack that will cover the distance.

2) MOST people prefer to attack with their hands, therefore they subconsciously will step into their arm's reach.

Amateurs will do it fast (and sloppy) as they are initiating their attack. Pro's will often decide to attack, quietly set it up and then unexpectedly launch. (Realistically these guys are harder to handle than a howling berserk charging at you from across the room.)

3) Position yourself so he can only –immediately– attack with half his limbs.

 Let's say the situation dictates you have to stand in someone's punching range. (Save the macho, tacti-douche response of "I'd never do that," sometimes it's part of the job– other times he's just in your face.) Now, if you are nose to nose with him, with the same type of movement he can punch you with either hand and just as fast.  However, if you use subtle angles and move slightly off line (so your nose would be more in line with his shoulder) you– in essence– 'take half his weapons off line' by changing the distance.

Wait what? Okay, that brings us to...

4) Position yourself so he has to do something extra and specific to reach you.

Staying with the standing in front of him idea. Remember if your noses and shoulders are lined up, then he can attack equally fast with either hand. That's because both hands have to travel the same distance. Moving slightly to your right (his left) means his right has to travel a longer distance to reach you (time = distance). With half a step, you've turned his often weaker left into his fast hand.

But to reach you with his stronger right hand he not only has to turn his body more, but shift his weight in a very specific– and recognizable– manner. This all slows him down and gives you more time and warning.

5) Pose yourself to handle the fast attack. 

Is your right side your strong side? Then while in the slightly off- line location blade your body so your right side is closer (faster) left side. Now you're not just speed side to speed ,strong side, but your weaker left side is out of his reach. Do you carry a firearm holstered on your hip? (Cops). Simple blade present your left.

6) Practice strong countermeasures that disrupt his attack.

Basically, unless it's to stun him while moving to a different location, forget punching. That's just trading hits with the guy. You're action must jam his attack and make it hard for him to keep on attacking. For example, get a response that reliably knocks him to the ground.

Any time that you are within a violent offender's reach, you are in danger. But how often do you realize you are in danger because you are within his traveling distance? Knowing what that looks like and what he needs in order to attack are important parts of you staying safe by controlling range.

With a little practice, by simply controlling attack range, instead of shadow dancing you can make someone trying to set you up for an attack do the funky chicken. Sure he can still attack you, but, before he can, he has to do this, this, that and the other thing, too. And before he can do all those things you're going to land on him like a ton of bricks.

Shadowdancing While Controlling The Distance
This is going to seem pretty out in the weeds' for those who aren't violence professionals (cops, bouncers, etc). That's okay because it's some next level stuff about dealing with truly dangerous people. (Like the type that will stab you instead of punch you).

A major part of counting coup is for the criminal to slide in to and out of attack range, without you doing anything about it. If he can move into a location and a position (1) where he can reach you or with minimum travel launch an attack, you've lost coup points. A good analogy is that it is like the criminal pointing a loaded gun at your back. All he'd have to do is pull the trigger. This is not the kind of power you want a criminal thinking he has over you.

For successful shadow dancing, as he slides into range you either calmly slide out of it without interrupting what you are saying, or -- to let him know "where it's at" -- you slide away from his attack position and into yours, also while still talking.

Both of these responses send an important message. The first is that you know the game, but you're trying to be reasonable and still work with him. The second is that your patience is wearing thin and if he doesn't knock off this silly game, you're going to be doing the "who's your daddy" dance on him. Both are useful strategies depending on the circumstances.

Going back to the criminal pointing a gun at your back analogy, understanding and controlling range is like turning and holding up his clip. Sorry Charlie...not this time. Now whether you keep on working without turning around or you turn around and screw your gun up his nose depends on the message you need to send.

Return to top

1) As we said this issue is a little too complex to be easily covered on a Web page. For an effective attack, there are many factors that must be lined up. An example of this is knowing the difference between location, position and pose. A criminal can be in a "location" that would normally put you in reach of his extension, except that his "position" in that location (e.g., facing away from you) entails his first turning around before he can attack. This is extra motion that will warn you that he is attacking. His "pose," is not only how he is holding his body, but how he needs to hold it in order to attack. Using the example of the perp in an attack location, but not position, as he turns he's going to raise his hand to strike. That is an attack pose. But his ability to move into an attack pose is going to be seriously hampered if he is handcuffed. Think of this as a statue, where it is (location), which way it's facing (position) and what pose it is in. All three need to be present for you to be attacked. It's a triangle of which you never want him to get two sides, much less three. It's far harder to stop an attack (where these elements have aligned) than it is to control these elements to prevent him from attacking. That's where shadow dancing comes into play. He's trying to gain these three, you're taking them away. Return to Text

What You Don't Know Can Kill You
(How your SD training will put you into prison or the ground)

Why Me? LEO teaches how to avoid becoming a victim
Robert Bryan

Logic of violence
Rory Miller
(How violence and crime happen)

Explosive People
Albert Bernstein

Writing Violence
Vol: IV  Defense
Marc MacYoung

(Defensive action and failure)

Deadly Force
Massad Ayoob
(Rights and use of lethal force)

Effortless Combat Throws
Tim Cartmell
(MA, SD, law enforcement)

Training Sudden Violence
Rory Miller
(Training drills/physical)

Fighting Footwork
Bob Orlando
(MA, law enforcement, professional)

Man Watching
Desmond Morris
(Non-verbal communication)

Bouncer's guide to Ballroom Brawling
Peyton Quinn
(SD, street, bouncing)

In the Name of Self-Defense
Marc MacYoung
(Violence, crime & aftermath)
Read AFTER "What You Don'tKnow..."


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