Fighting dynamics has to do with mass, space, and time in combat. Many of these topics overlap. See also my section on Security.


While many people focus on the attack itself, much of the fight is really about the positioning that happens before hand. It is hard to overstate the importance of this. EGs:

Along similar lines violent crimes are sometimes said to occur in 4T's:

A distinction must be made between fear and risk. An earthquake can generate fear, but it is less likely than slipping in the bathroom. However fear is harder to quantify than risk so it not as easy to take into account during risk assessment. When fear drives security controls, the result can be security theater where the controls may not improve security much while incur great costs. On the other hand, security theater may be provide security assurance to settle fears since fear itself can be paralyzing and costly.

Once the threat is imminent and all means of prevention have been exhausted, then choices must be made to fight, flee, get help, regroup, relay info, etc. It is best to prepare for the different options, especially the option to fight. It is important to avoid fatigue and discouragement. One technique that rakes the fire is indignation and fighting others. EG: You may be tired and will settle for a loss, but if your child is at stake, then for a parent, a loss is not an option.

Positioning has to do with the relative position and orientation of object. Positioning or maneuvering involves things like about flanking (attacking on the side or rear), controlling the center, gaining the gravity advantage, controlling the lines of attack and sight, achieving better momentum, controlling attacking strong versus weak, setting up a faster attack, preparation, anticipation, flexibility, better psychological and physical fortitude, etc. It is the scale (in space and time) of the positioning that really determines whether the positioning is self positioning, martial positioning, military positioning, or political positioning.

In an ideal world, everyone would be so well positioned that a peaceful political stalemate or equilibrium would be reached. In an ideal world, fights would be prevented in the first place. However, in real life, things don't go according to plan and the different people, in different roles, using different tools will want to be prepared and practiced in the positioning of the scale that they work at. Different positions/postures/postae/guards/guardia allow different options. Superior positioning is a key component for superior attacks. Positioning must by dynamic, otherwise the opponent can achieve superior positioning.

Knowledge of positioning involves not only knowing different positions and the advantage of each, but also how to recognize different positions, how to react when exposed to different positions, and how to achieve superior positioning —all in real time. Fighting without this insight is like fighting blind.


Range (aka attack distance) has to do with the distances from which you do an attack. As with stances, attack distance may be measured in absolute units (EG: cm or inches) or relative units (EG: measure). However attack distance is also described in other ways.

Tactically, a fighter must be intimately familiar with the range of his available weapons and techniques. As the range changes in a fight, the fighter must know what what weapons and techniques are available. Because range is related to weapons and techniques, ranges are frequently described in terms of weapons and techniques. Here are some general ranges, but in actuality each particular weapon and technique has its own particular ranges.

The psychological ranges pertain to the psychological ease with which a fighter may fully attack (especially kill) and also the psychological recovery. Longer range attacks are generally psychologically easier for the attacker to do and recover from, while nearer is psychologically harder on both the attacker and receiver. [Ref: On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society (1996) by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman]

One of the most important distinctions in attack range is called "measure" (maai in Japanese; misura in Italian; mosse in period German).

Techniques by Kind

The basic martial techniques by kind. In my basic model, the two major categories of techniques are Free Movement and Smothering.

Free movement


In Chinese: shuai. In German WMA: ringen = "struggle" = wrestling; kampfringen = combat wrestling. In Italian WMA: abrazare; arte dell'abbracciare; prese = press.

Execution of Techniques

The basic variables in the execution of martial techniques.

Kinetics. Kinetics is the branch of dynamics concerned with bodies in motion and the forces involved. Units of Force, Energy, and Power are often involved.

Kinematics. Kinematics is the branch of dynamics concerned with bodies in motion and the geometry involved.

Statics. Statics is the branch of classical mechanics concerned with bodies in static equilibrium.

Yin (陰 or 阴) v Yang (陽 or 阳). The influence of Chinese Yin Yang theory is almost inescapable in martial arts because of the wide influence of CMAs but also because it so easily applies to just about anything. You do not have to believe in the whole I Ching (易经 Simplified, 易經 Traditional, Yi1 Jing4 in Pinyin) to utilize Yin Yang theory (roughly balance of opposites & acceptance of change). Yin Yang seems to have a very flexible model which can sometimes be helpful in viewing the world but can be artificial to some degree. While a binary tree can approximate a non-binary reality, graphs like Venn diagrams might be more accurate. This is often more a matter of "how" a technique is done instead of "what" kind of technique is done.


Timing has to do with the time of attacks. The terminology for the timing of techniques come primarily from the Italian and the Japanese.

Tempo = time (Italian; plural is tempi). A tempo is movement in measure, hence a tempo is an opportunity, a time/movement that the opponent may utilize.

Sen = Initiative (Japanese). Sen is concerned about the initiation of attacks.

The German Liechtenauer school also discusses timing with its Vor, Indes, und Nach = "Before, During, and After". The Germans acknowledge three initiatives but their preference is to take the vor and keep the opponent on the nach. Their meisterhau = "master blows" are indes techniques that tend to force the opponent to nach even if they started on vor. Ueberlauffen = "overrunning" is when your opponent aims for a target on you that is further than a closer target available to you.

See It's All in the Timing: Concepts of Combative Timing in Historical Italian Swordsmanship ['s_library/pages/Timing.htm].

Some points about tempo.

Rhythm. Recurrence of techniques.

Tommaso Leoni has noticed that the Fiore described his positions = postae (Italian) with terms used in medieval music:

When many people refer to the "pace" or "tempo" of a fight/match/game, they are usually referring to the overall fight/match/game. Its not the finesse of the fighting times discussed above but a "cruder" more athletic sense of the speed and rhythm of a a match. Just because a match has a faster pace, more techniques, does not necessarily make it better.


The tactics of combat are concerned with the "what",  "how", and "when" but especially "why". I will try to cover topics here that do not neatly fall into any of the preceding topics.

The Englishman George Silver had excellent tactical points:

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