Distance is generally considered the internal measuring tool which our brains calculate where we can hit and where we are safe from being hit. This internal measure dictates where attacks and decision happen from. Those whose distance is “off” will be attacking from the wrong positions with the wrong tools usually. Also it is quite common to see inexperienced competitors constantly missing with their initiation shots by a foot or so. This is completely due to a misunderstanding of distance and usually is a hit and hope strategy as opposed to a calculated conscious effort to accurately measure the correct tool and method to land a particular shot, weather this is a single shot or a follow up based on a “set up shot”. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
A major aspect of being able to recognise range and interpret distance is to have an understanding of your own true abilities in terms of attacking and defending. To maximise distance for attacking its important to understand your own reach. The ability to understand cognitively that you are able to land from a certain range is something which requires experience and a lot of “mat time”. With this comes a concept known as “chunking”. Chunking is a term used in sports psychology which is the chunking or combining of information from well practiced individuals in any sport. This information gathered over rounds on rounds in training and competition. build cognitive awareness. This awareness can be then often mistaken for “feel” or reactions. However, chunking is the subconscious calculation in the brain based on information gathered to date. This information aids in the calculation of distance in sparring, of course as contributing to other aspects and skills such as timing etc.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Despite the skill of distance is something developed over time it not as easy as riding a bike and constantly needs to be maintained. Fighters need to keep their “software” up to date with regular updates. This means you need to be actively engaging with live opponents who are manipulating distance and range themselves. This is why you might hear fighters mention “their distance was off”. Essentially their brain was not able to accurately calculate the space between them and their opponents. This may happen due to nerves or anxiety but it can also be a result of ineffective training, where the software was not being properly & consistently updated.
We can update the distance software through opposed training. Any occasion where our training partners have a task of their own will help train representative distance as opposed to having a passive training partner . When both people have a task, the distance is genuine, representative and transferable to performance.