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:
Boxing: Focusing on fitness, measure, and timing, as opposed to just hitting the heavy bag.
Rapier: Focusing on controlling the line of attack, as opposed to just practicing on the lunge.
Guns: Focusing on approaching a target safely, as opposed to just target practice.
Judo: For nage waza (throwing techniques): Usually tsukuri (making, positioning) comes after kuzushi (off-balancing) and before kake (attack, execution).
International conflict: Focusing on diplomatic, social, economic, political tools, as opposed to using the military as the primary tool.
Along similar lines violent crimes are sometimes said to occur in 4T's:
Target. A criminal sets up the time, location, number of targets, and circumstance to select a target. The psychology of preventing an incident is vital. Two key strategies are epitomized by green frogs (camouflage, voiding) and orange frogs (visible deterrants, reputation, warnings).
Test. A criminal evaluates a target in a harmless fashion. EG: What's the time?
Threat. A criminal intimidates a target, i.e. assault.
Touch. A criminal engages in physical violence, i.e. battery. Most people focus on this stage but it is wiser to avoid getting to this stage.
Take Off. A criminal will leave.
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.
Weapon range. Weapons can provide advantages such as leverage, mechanical, chemical, biochemical, nuclear, etc.
Ranged weapon range. Aka missile weapon range.
Chemically propelled weapons range. Like rockets, artillery, guns.
Mechanically propelled weapons range. Like catapults, bows, slings.
Thrown weapons range. Like spears, knives, rocks.
Melee weapon range. Aka non-missile weapon range.
Large weapon range. Like poles or two-handed weapons.
Medium weapon range. Like arming swords, eskrima sticks.
Small weapons range. Like knives, yawara.
Hand-to-hand range. This is not so much a matter of absolute distance but a matter of what techniques are likely or possible in certain ranges.
Free movement range. Opponents are able to position freely without much smothering. Striking dominates since this is the only range that allows full use of hips and body into blows. Voids and redirects are not smothering.
Clinch range. Opponents are in upright and smothering. Striking is possible but mostly trapping, wrestling, upright grappling, trips, and throws.
Ground fighting range. Opponents are on the ground and usually smothering. This includes ground grappling, ground striking, and submissions. Unterhalten = "holding down" in German.
Mounted and armored range. Variables here include traveling range, tactical combat velocity and agility. Usually a gain in one area involves a cost in another. EGs:
Bomber planes have longer traveling ranges than jet planes.
A man on horse can cross a battle field faster than a man on foot.
An unarmored man is more agile than an armored man.
Group combat range. Generally speaking larger groups require larger areas. The kind of combat is also very particular. The U.S. military has three levels of war:
Grand strategy. Military strategy on a national level taking into account all of a nation's resources and political issues.
National and theater level.
Operational warfare. A level above combat tactics, but below a strategic level where production and politics are important.
Tactical. Ranges from maneuvering brigades to platoons to tactics for individual soldiers. EGs:
Close quarters battle (CQB). Team tactics in close quarters such as room entries by SWAT teams.
Urban warfare. Warfare in urban areas. Military Operations on Urban Terrain (MOUT) in the U.S.. Fighting in Built-Up Areas (FIBUA) in Britain.
Guerilla warfare. Small groups using mobile and surprise tactics.
Maximum range. Bombers, artillery. The targets, not victims. Mechanical assistance is needed to even see the target. Often a team is with the attacker.
Long range. Snipers, anti-armor missiles, tanks. Special weaponry is needed to hit the enemy.
Mid-range. Rifle. The enemy is visible but effect is not visible our audible.
Hand grenade range. The enemy is not visible but sometimes audible.
Close range. Rifle, pistol. Ranged kills where the killer sees cause and effect. "Personal kills".
Bayonet range. Spear, sword. Large to medium melee weapons range. Can often strike without touching the enemy.
Knife range. Small weapons range. Often strikes while in contact with the enemy.
Hand-to-hand combat range. Bare hands, clear contact.
Sexual range. Intimate, steeping violence (violence as sex) as well as rapes and sexual slavery (sex as violence).
One of the most important distinctions in attack range is called "measure" (maai in Japanese; misura in Italian; mosse in period German).
No measure or out of measure (misurafuori in Italian) means your opponent can be in weapon range by closing distance in two or more beats.
In measure (nelle misure = in the measures, in Italian) or in play (gioco in Italian).
Wide measure (misura larga = gioco largo in Italian) means your opponent can be in weapon range by closing distance in one beat. Usually this means that you opponent can hit you only if they adjust distance with a foot or feet.
Narrow/close/tight measure (misura stretto = gioco stretto in Italian) means your opponent is in weapon range already. Usually this means that your opponent can hit you without having to adjust distance with a foot or feet.
Gripping/grappling measure (misura stretta = gioco stretta in Italian) means you and your opponent are close enough to grab each other.
Adjustments. Voids, evasions, slips, ducks, footwork, and positioning.
Adjustments of the body.
Adjustments of the weapon. EG: In rapier, it is common to free the sword by changing lines with a cavazione.
Run away. Flee.
Parrying and blocking. In Italian WMA: coverta = to cover or blanket an attack.
Before your opponent's blow starts or as it starts:
Jamming. Stopping the blow.
Hitting them at initiation has a similar effect but that is discussed in the section on timing.
During the opponent's blow. In Italian WMA: parrata = parry.
Late jamming. Stop opponent's technique.
Beating block. Deflecting a blow with a blow. In Italian WMA: rebater.
Divert, redirect, deflect, pass.
Practically after the opponent's blow is spent:
Let it go. Usually you do something else.
Smother it: Lead it, control it, bind it, etc.
Taking it on the arms or legs.
Toughening the body.
Rolling back with a blow.
Falling. Breaking falls. In Japanese: 受身 = ukemi.
Rolling. In Japanese: 捨身 = sutemi.
In Chinese: shuai. In German WMA: ringen = "struggle" = wrestling; kampfringen = combat wrestling. In Italian WMA: abrazare; arte dell'abbracciare; prese = press.
Positioning and defensive moves.
Trapping. Striking while engaged in entangling smothering usually involves shorter strikes or acquiring clearance for medium length strikes.
Upright trapping or clinch fighting is a specialty of Muay Thai, Wing Chun, and Jeet Kune Do. Some limit the word trapping to refer to a more free range kind of trapping with an emphasis on sensitivity
Horizontal trapping is common in Mixed Martial Arts, especially with the "ground and pound" strategy.
Wrestling. Throwing and tripping. Take downs. The word "wrestle" comes from ME wrastlen, wrestlen, from OE wræstlian, wræstan. In Japanese: 投げ技 = nage waza = throwing techniques. In Filipino: dumog.
Standing throws. Throws where the thrower remains standing. In Japanese: 立技 = tachi waza = standing techniques.
Sacrifice throws. Throws where the thrower goes down to the ground as well. In Japanese: 捨身技 = sutemi waza = sacrifice techniques.
For nage waza (throwing techniques): Usually tsukuri (making, positioning) comes after kuzushi (off-balancing) and before kake (attack, execution).
崩し = kuzushi (Japanese) is concerned with off-balancing or breaking balance.
roppo no kuzushi = six directions kuzushi. Left, left-back, left-front, right, right-back, right-front.
happo no kuzushi = eight directions kuzushi. Like ropppo no kuzushi but with front and back too.
hando no kuzushi = reaction kuzushi. Magnify the reaction to a push, pull, blow, etc. for kuzushi.
Points of control. Grabbing wrists, pushing chins, sweeping ankles, tripping ankles, etc.
Points of pain. Blows, pressure points, etc.
Push-pull. Straight, esp. resisting and then boosting the opponent's reaction. Opposing pairs can create circular movement (a couple or moment).
Triangle points. A standing man is a two legged stool: He is unstable towards an imaginary third leg that would create an equilateral triangle
Wave. Up & down (or down & up) while moving linearly. Breaks balance/connection then controls/moves.
Spiral. Rotating while moving linearly (usually downwards). Especially when cascading from one imbalance to the next.
Grappling. Holding. Catching. The word "grapple" comes from ME grappel, from MF grappelle, a diminutive of grape = hook. In Japanese: 固め技 = katame waza = gatame waza = "hardening techniques" = holding techniques. In Chinese: 擒拿 = chin na = qinna = seize/trap lock/break, and sometimes just na.
Upright grappling. Clinching.
Ground grappling. In Japanese: 寝技 = ne waza = ground techniques.
Pins immobilize opponents usually by using a surface. In Japanese: 押込技 = osaekomi waza.
Joint locking. Hyperextensions of joints. In Japanese: 関節技 = kansetsu waza. In Chinese: cuo gu = disordering bones.
Arm locks. Shoulder, elbow, or wrist.
Leg locks. Hip, knee, or ankle.
Small joint manipulation. Twisting, pulling, bending on the fingers or toes.
Neck obstruction holds. In Japanese: 絞技 = shime waza. In Chinese: bi qi = sealing the breath, also applies to wringing.
Chokes obstruct air flow in the neck causing as asphyxiation or suffocation.
Strangles obstruct blood flow in the neck causing cerebral ischemia. In Chinese these terms refer to interrupting blood or qi flow: dian mai; dian xue; dim mak
Wringing. Aka compressive asphyxia; chest compression. Compressing the body in a way that makes breathing difficult.
Pinching. Aka compression locking; muscle lock; muscle slicer; muscle crusher. Usually targeting muscles and tendons. In Chinese: fen jin = dividing the sinew; zhua jin = grabbing the sinew.
Pressing. Nothing magical like dim mak or death touches, but pressing, gouging, or raking into sensitive spots such as eyes, orifices (commonly fish hooking), etc. These point may of course be struck as well as pressed. See Targets.
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.
With projectiles, the issue is a matter of fairly straight forward physics.
With the human body, the issue is more complex.
One general idea is to move parts so the effect is additive and each part is moving at maximum velocity. The slowest and rear most parts are usually moved first. The idea is to create a chain of additive third class levers. EGs:
In a whip, the movements of the parts add up, starting from the grip, so that the tip can exceed the speed of sound.
A windup followed by a sequence of leg, hip, spine, shoulder, elbow, and wrist is used by both baseball pitchers and practitioners of Shotokan karate.
A possibly complimentary idea is to align parts so that the forces appliy in the appropriate direction.
In a staff or arrow, the rigid body must be aligned.
In a Fabris-style lunge sword, arm, and body are aligned and extended, and then driven in with the legs.
It is helpful to use concepts and terms from stress mechanics. Here are four basic stresses:
Compression. Push together.
Tension. Pull apart.
Shear. Apply force parallel or tangentially to the surface.
Hard v Soft. Weych v Hert in German. A hard technique is fast kinetically but it is not always the best tactically. EG: A hard block is sometimes good but sometimes instead of merely knocking a weapon away, you want to control it, and for that you need a soft yielding sort of block. EG: It is hard to modify a hard attack once initiated in comparison to a soft attack.
Kinematics. Kinematics is the branch of dynamics concerned with bodies in motion and the geometry involved.
The idea here is usually that the closest distance between 2 points is straight line. Here are two common examples.
The shortest path for a kick is a straight line from the ground. However cocking (aka chambering) the leg enables the muscles to expand first, thus making their contraction more extreme. Chambering also positions the leg first.
If a sword is pointing at an opponent, then a thrust may be the shortest path to the opponent. However cocking the sword first and swinging with rotational velocity as well linear movement can have the tip moving faster at impact.
Linear v Circular.
Linear techniques are geometrically expedient but sometimes you need circular techniques. EG: A circular technique may allow you to conserve momentum and reuse it for a follow up technique as when your block brings your weapon off-line for a thrust but a simple circular movement will allow you to reuse the movement of your block in a follow-up circular strike.
Linear techniques are very dependent on muscularity. Circular techniques can take advantage of leverage and pivot point. EG: Instead of simply pushing or pulling against your opponent, the linear motion combined with circular motion like a twist or turn may allow a smaller person to throw a larger opponent.
Statics. Statics is the branch of classical mechanics concerned with bodies in static equilibrium.
Understanding leverage and torque is key in acquiring advantageous positions and mechanical advantage.
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.
Soft (ju = 柔) v Hard (go = 剛). Flowing/blending with force versus resisting force.
Internal (neijia = 内家拳 = inside sect) v External (waijia =外家拳 = outside sect). Almost mind v body.
Circular (en) v Linear (sen)
Relaxation v Tension
Whip v Staff
Contraction v Expansion
Rest v Active
Here are other common Yin Yangs that are not necessarily martially applicable:
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.
Fuori tempo = out of time. A tempo you take not during your opponent's tempo. This can be dangerous since this gives your opponent a tempo. This can result in aiuchi (Japanese)= simultaneous hits.
Ken no sen. Attack on your own or out of the blue.
Prendere il tempo = taking the tempo. A tempo you take during your opponent's tempo. This is safer because your opponent may be busy.
Dui tempi = two times. Aka double time. Two techniques, one done after another. Usually a parry then a riposte, but may be a feint then an attack, etc.
Go no sen = Late/reactive initiative. The opponent attacks and you react in dui tempi with a parry/void then a riposte.
Stesso tempo = self time. Aka single time. Two or more techniques at the same time.
Sei te. One hand defends while the other attacks.
Mezzo tempo = half time. Aka stop thrust; teishi suru (Japanese). An attack as your opponent's attack begins.
Sen no sen = Sen = initiative. An attack as your opponent's physical attack begins.
Contratempo = counter time. An attack done during the opponent's attack. If the opponent's attack has developed beyond a certain point, a mezzo tempo would be unsafe and a contratempo done in stesso tempo with a parry/void/cover and an attack/riposte would be needed. This is the specialty of the rapier.
Colpi di arresto = stop hit. A contratempo done in stesso tempo with a void/cover and an attack/riposte.
Hen te. One hand defends and attacks at the same time.
Lin sil die dar (Chinese). Simultaneous defense and attack.
Sen sen no sen. An attack as your opponent mentally commits to the attack. This is a particular kind of "pre-emptive" attack and may look like ken no sen, but it's not. This requires pretty good intuition.
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.
It is advantageous if the tempo of your attack is shorter than your opponent's tempo.
It takes experience to be able to recognize and act upon tempi in real time.
It takes experience and cunning to be able to create tempi.
Finding, making, and seizing opportunities to attack when in measure.
Catch them in mid movement, esp. in wide measure.
Use a range longer than theirs.
Hide your range.
Denying your opponent the same.
Controlled or small movements in weapons, techniques, or footwork.
Staying out of measure except for when you will attack or you are sure of your defense.
Attacking while defending. In rapier this is attacking while closing the line.
Athletic v Tactical Timing. Martial artists should do both and the difference blurs.
Yu no sen. Attack intuitively, on the fly. Athleticism, spirit, and luck are primary; tactics are secondary.
Tai no sen. Attack from readiness. Tactics are primary; athleticism, spirit, and luck are secondary.
To parry is to ward off a blow. A riposte (French, from Italian riposta = to answer) is a counterattack after a parry.
Here is a simple model of tempo:
No need for an attack.
Deterring attacks with defensive or offensive potential.
Attack 1st. Pre-emptive.
Attack while defending.
Defend then attack.
Rhythm. Recurrence of techniques.
Beats of techniques in an exchange.
A fight can be over in a single beat.
One attack and the fight is over. A perfect fight, very rare.
Simultaneous attacks where one or both kill.
One attack with simultaneous void and attack.
Double beat exchanges are very common.
One attack then a counter attack.
A double attack.
Exchanges with a beats of 3-6 are common.
Exchanges with beats greater than 7 are rare.
Tempos in a technique. EG: A swing frequently involves 2 tempos (a cock/windup and a swing), while a thrust frequently involves 1 tempo (a thrust).
A beat alone is often sufficient if your opponent cannot defend at that moment. Catching them in mid-step, chambering, etc..
An irregular beat (pauses, half-beats, etc.) can be very disconcerting and hence successful. Similarly, a technique executed with variable speeds (EG: Accelerates, slows, accelerates) can be disconcerting.
If you control the tempo, the measure, and the beat, then the fight is yours.
Rhythmic activity is used in many areas including music, sexual orgasms, and fostering seemingly mystical states such as self-transcendence, religious experiences, satori, and trances.
Tommaso Leoni has noticed that the Fiore described his positions = postae (Italian) with terms used in medieval music:
Pulsatina or pulsativa = smite: A strong resounding note.
Stabile: A note that flows with the current rhythm.
Instabile: A note that interrupts/alters the rhythm.
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.
Set up techniques enable finishing techniques. EGs:
Attrition. Wearing down the opponent with his movements, your own peppering blows, etc.
Feints and distracting techniques.
Recon and anti-recon. Awareness of the situation and denying it to your enemy is important.
Finishing techniques finish fights. These can be blows, throws, or holds that knockout, cause a submission, severely injure, or kill.
Sometimes combat is more a matter of who strikes first (which involves speed), instead of who hits with the greatest power (which also involves speed). EG: I pop you in the throat while you wind up for a big swing.
All things equal, an attacker move forward faster than a person moving backwards while defending.
These are common combinations of tactics that have arisen in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).
Smother and Submit. Takedown and focus on submissions.
Ground and Pound. Takedown and focus on strikes.
Sprawl and Brawl. Avoid being taken down and focus on strikes.
Common styles in boxing:
Inside fighters move in close and fight close.
Outside fighters fight from afar.
Brawlers rely on few blows with raw power.
Swarmers rely on a flurry of techniques.
The Englishman George Silver had excellent tactical points:
Four True Times:
Hand. EG: Jab. Tactically fastest.
Hand and body. EG: Jab while leaning.
Hand, body, and foot. EG: Jab while leaning and shifting your front foot.
Hand, body, and feet. EG: Thrust while leaning and passing step forward.
Four False Times:
Foot. EG: If you move just your foot before you do your technique, you are providing your opponent with information. Most people do this mistakenly. Some people do this as a feint, but a better feint would be a "real attack" with cover and a back up plan.
Foot and body. EG: You've just moved your foot and body closer to your opponent while your opponent jabs. Result: you've been hit.
Foot, body, and hand. EG: You move in with foot and body, then your hand comes into play. This will only work if you are confident that you're controlling the lines of attack or that you are going to change your technique as you come in.
Feet, body, and hand. (Tactically slowest)
Judgment. Monitor and control the distance between opponents.
Distance. Optimum distance is close enough for you to hit but far enough that your opponent cannot.
Time. Optimum time is a moment when you can hit your opponent but he cannot hit you. EG: Your opponent is mid-step.
Place. Opening in the opponent's defense where you can attack while your opponent cannot simultaneously counter attack.
Judgment. Know when you can hit your opponent and vice versa. Perceive and evaluate the lines of attack.
Measure. The optimum distance where you are safe and yet you can attack if need be.
Pressing in. Attack quickly and vigorously.
Flying out. Retreat and disengage simultaneously. You must always have an option to fly out before you press in.
The True Times demonstrate offensive advantage: Apply the weapon as soon as you can. Do true time but don't let your opponent do so.
The False Times demonstrate defensive advantage: Avoid putting your body in danger. Don't false time but get your opponent to.
The Times have to do with the fastest kinds of techniques. Clearly if you are both in range but you merely have to jab while your opponent has to jab and shift, then your technique will be faster.
Many people mistakenly interpret the Times as merely the correct sequence of moving body parts. It would be wrong to jab and then shift in because before you've even reached your opponent, they will know what you are doing and can defend against it. Instead a jab and shift should finish simultaneously. Some people even shift in and then decide on the kind of technique or change their technique.
Some techniques require that certain parts be in the right position before force is applied. EG: A throw has a greater chance of succeeding if you kuzushi/(off-balance) before hand.