Know Your Zones

street fight

Knowing your zones in a self-defense situation will mean the difference between going home to your family or being zipped up in a body bag. Your fighting space is roughly divided into 6 separate zones. In this post I will discuss each zone, from the outside zone working my way in, and explain what tactics & techniques to employ as well as any precautions to be aware of.

Zone 6 – Weapons Range

Zone 6

This is the most dangerous zone to be in because weapons are involved.  If your attacker has a weapon (especially a knife), you will want him to stay out of striking range.  At this stage of the encounter you will need to decide whether to A) escape or B) disarm your assailant.  This range involves too many issues and variables to cover in one post, but here are a few basic criteria that will determine how you proceed:

  • What weapon your attacker has
  • What weapons you have, if any
  • Any obstacles you can place between you and the attacker
  • Are you in a position to safely escape?

Zone 6 is a “Bump Zone.”  You want to spend a little time in this zone due to the inherent risk.  Either escape from the attacker or disarm the attacker and move into another zone as quickly (and safely) as you can.

Zone 5 – Kicking Range

Zone 5

Ah, my favorite range.  OK, yes…I am a little biased since I study primarily Taekwondo.  At this range you will be focusing on throwing devastating kicks to your opponent’s lower body.  You have a little less time to react here, so stay light on your feet.  Be prepared for a rush.  Throw kicks to the:

  • Groin
  • Outside of thigh (dead-leg them)
  • Inside of thigh (a big ole bundle of nerves)
  • Knee
  • Shin

Your 2 main kicks at this range will be the roundhouse and front kicks.  They are easy, fast, powerful, and allow you to maintain a defensive position.  Don’t throw anything above the hips as it will be too easy to catch & trap your leg.

Zone 4 – Punching Range

Zone 4

Boxers will naturally gravitate toward this range in a fight.  You might still be able to throw some lead leg kicks to areas like the knee, but punches and hand strikes will be your primary arsenal at this range.  Nothing fancy needed; jab, cross, hook, and uppercut.  Get proficient at these 4 strikes and be sure to keep your guard up.  Some good targets for this range include the:

  • Jaw
  • Nose
  • Throat
  • Ribs/Kidneys

Be careful with your punches if you’re not conditioned to fighting with closed fists.  One wrong shot to a hard area like your opponent’s forehead and you will have a broken hand.  Another alternative is to employ open-handed attacks like palm strikes to the face.

Zone 3 – Trapping Range

Zone 3

I view this zone as more of a transitional zone.  Due to the nature of most traps and locks, you will not stay in this range for very long.  You will either trap the opponent and pull them in closer/throw them on the ground or you will force them away and resume punching and kicking.  Aikido and Hapkido practitioners will put this range to good use.

Zone 2 – Standing Grapple Range

Zone 2

At this range you are most likely locked up with your opponent.  Because you are so close to your attacker, it will be difficult to see strikes coming from your peripheral nor will you have much time to react.  An aggressive offense will be your best defense.  Clinch your opponent’s head and unleash a flurry of elbows and knees.  Great target areas are:

  • Groin
  • Temple & Jaw
  • Eyes, Nose, & Throat

In addition to elbows and knees, biting is also very effective.  Be sure to growl as you tear into your attacker (seriously… it’ll most likely cause them to panic and do whatever they can to get away from this crazy, possibly rabid, “victim”).

Zone 1 – Ground Grappling Range

Zone 1

Another “Bump Zone.” No, I don’t care how awesome you are at BJJ or “Ground and Pound” from MMA.  You do not want to be tied up wrestling someone on the ground.  You need to be prepared for if your attacker has friends coming to help him out.  The last place you want to be is on the ground and immobile so some thugs can curb stomp your face into a pulp.  Get really good at escaping from the ground grappling range and spend as little time as possible in this zone in a real fight.  Being mobile in a self-defense situation is your best asset.  Again, biting is extremely effective at this range.  Pull them in close, and tear into their neck while screaming and growling.  They’ll be pushing YOU off!

I will be covering some of these zones in more detail in future posts.  This article is to serve as a primer to help you understand what you will need to be on guard for at different points within an encounter.  You will move in and out of these zones and there will be some overlap.  The best advice I can give to you is practice, practice, practice.

  • Learn to recognize the ranges of each zone and what works best for you in each range.
  • Be able to fluidly transition from one range to another.
  • Focus on a few simple attacks for each range and become as devastatingly powerful as you can be on each of those attacks.  Simplicity is key in self-defense.
  • Know when to be aggressive and when to hang back.

*For the sake of simplicity, I have left out the use of guns in this discussion.  The weapons range pertains to melee weapons (sticks, knives, etc)*


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