Weapon Range

By Richard Matthews
Published on Aug 7th, 2009


Try to remember that the person you are training with may be more skilled or less skilled than yourself, so if speed and force are increased disproportionately to one of the training partner’s abilities then someone is going to get injured. Train intelligently and follow a couple of safety guidelines. Safety First will lead to a sustainable learning gradient in training.

Based around Mr. Parker's "Ten Commandments of Safety" when using weapons.

  1. Start your training without a partner.
  2. Practice in a spacious area free from obstructions.
  3. Always maintain proper grip for control.
  4. Start off with wide and exaggerated moves, before learning to condense them.
  5. Move slowly at first, and then gradually increase your speed.
  6. At first practice moves with minimal force, then gradually increase the energy exerted.
  7. To be in control of your actions,
    1. First practice Shadow Boxing type drills.
    2. Move onto equipment drills
    3. When your ready work interactively practice with a partner of some ability.
  8. Be conscious at all times of the weapon and its movement. You are responsible for its actions.
  9. Be flexible adjust to an ever changing environment.
  10. When you experiment with new ideas exercise caution.


When striking vital areas, manipulating or choking don't play "chicken" with a partners body.

When building safety into your practice, it begins with your safety, your partner’s safety, bystander safety, which leads to a development of "our" safety. Consider Safety First a priority.



The rolled newspapers is a Dennis Lawson idea and works quite well. (Dennis also gave me a valuable lesson on contact penetration with a set of nunchaku, which I will refer to later in this blog, when I relate E.P.s Traffic Cop story!))

Rolling up tabloid size newspapers then wrapping them in masking tape can produce some versatile and surprisingly long lasting "dummy" clubs.I say versatile because depending on how tight the clubs are rolled effects their density, so if the clubs are rolled in such a way that they are hollow in the center ( a tube) then partner work can take on a more realistic feel to it because of the degree of contact that can take place without any specialized protective equipment being worn.Be careful though when using the above method, because a tightly rolled and wrapped newspaper can produce a similar effect as a rattan cane (believe me).

Another old favorite Dummy Club is plastic conduit covered with foam insulation and finished off with electrical tape. These work ok but don’t stand up to that much real punishment and you should be aware of any sharp edges protruding from split or cracked conduit.

Be warned most "dummy" clubs will have detrimental effect on a training partner when the butt of the weapon is used in a hammering, thrusting or similar fashion.


Range is the distance between that exists between you and your opponent/s; distance is the degree of separation.

Critical Range or Distance is important because this is where interactive action occurs, even in a Dojo or training environment Black Dot Focus (which basically is total awareness of your environment) must be at its height in the Critical Range, this when things happen “extremely” fast and success or failure can be determined.
On the street your life can depend on your ability to embrace one of Kenpo's most important concepts, Black Dot Focus. Total Awareness.(as opposed to total paranoia)

The basic stages of range in a self defence situation are

  • out of contact
  • within contact
  • contact penetration
  • contact manipulation

I refer to these stages of range as basic because if more than one attacker is involved or if one or both of you are armed then the degree of separation may not be the same for all parties involved. If this is the case then immediate on the spot assessment (as always) is a massive priority and will be the crucial factor for response.


Weapon Fixation seems to be a unhealthy by-product of weapons training.

If you are armed with a club or clubs then your range of motion will be increased, directionally as well as dimensionally, but if you be come fixated with the weapons in your hands at the expense of the rest if your natural weapons (fists, elbows, knees, feet head, etc.), then I would suggest that your actual range, mobility as well as “your choices” have decreased.

You should be prepared to give up a weapon in an instant if it is going to give you the advantage that will lead to a successful outcome.

Just because you have a club in your hand does not mean that its use is the best course of action , a free hand may have the immediate answer to the problem you are faced with, also the use of a weapon in a situation may be totally inappropriate for that situation.

"Situations alter cases, broken noses alter faces"

The basics of range are easy to understand, but become complex to gauge and intricate to apply, this is the challenge of judging distance.
Judgement (on all levels) is a major factor that determines the outcome of a situation.

The unarmed challenges of range are heightened when you try to blend in the use of a man made weapon.

As stated above gauging distance can be a complex process, the danger is making important judgement calls complicated.

Complexity and intricacies are stimulating, complications are stifling and hinder assertive action, which is a priority in fighting, as Mr. Parker said

"He who hesitates, Meditates in horizontal position"

When considering range alterations, remember it applies just as much to your opponent(s) as it does to you, this may seem obvious, but it is often overlooked.

Freestyle* points fighting is one of the best training methods for developing the Judgement of Range and real timing skills. Range is not static, but is constantly altering both directionally and dimensionally.
Range change may not be instigated by you or be to your advantage.

There is a Kenpo self defence technique culture of standstill while I hit you, this is OK as a starting point, but to improve and to realistically develop your abilities to use range, a more realistic interactive approach to club (and unarmed training) training needs to be developed.

Freestyle practice does not have to be competition orientated, nor does it have to be stop start or with heavy contact. The method that I prefer is light continuous, any contact issue I have with my abilities are usually sorted out with varying types of bag work.


This is a position of relative safety, your opponent can't reach you and you can't reach him. I say relative safety because in the case of a weapon or object it can be thrown, which is a common "street" tactic used to distract attention when attacking. “be aware out of “contact” is not the same as out of range” RM
Out of contact Individual or Solo training (White Dot Focus, being mainly aware of yourself with minimal awareness of surroundings) is a mindset that can be adopted when practising The Set in the "air", with out fear of interruption you can concentrate on yourself,.
When practising forms in this heightened state of personal awareness you can get lost in the form, which is different than losing the sequence of the form, I have experienced this and witnessed it in others.

John Davis comes to mind, at Bethany beach 2007, when performing Form7 (Club Form), he wandered off the prescribed pattern of movement, because I am developing this Form as a Club Set progression I was focusing on what he was doing I realised that Johns unprescribed angle variations were not “an error of execution” but a release from the Kenpo burden of sequence completion.

If I did not thank you before, thanks for the lesson John.


At this stage you must be really switched on and in tune with your immediate

environment. Things happen extremely quickly, not only can you reach your opponent but he can reach you.

Within contact is a good starting point to begin interactive partner drills,e.g.

Simulate striking your partners wrist, elbow or other body part by striking your partners club.

Accuracy is a priority skill at any level of Kenpo, not just weaponry.

Speed accompanies Accuracy, build your Speed in proportion to your skill levels.

The Delivery Force of the club should be a little way down the list of priorities for the moment.

Be careful, lots of sore thumbs at this stage.


At this stage of range weapons can penetrate targets, which magnifies the injuries that can be sustained by your opponent or yourself.

Contact penetration is an extremely dangerous range and development of it should "at first", really be restricted to equipment such as bags etc.

There are types of body armour, which will allow for contact penetration practice; also a modified or "dummy" club can be used in a lot of contact penetration scenarios.

You can of course "Rip" into each other with the clubs to prove how tough (or stupid) you are, but that's not for me as I have to get up for work the next day.


This range can be sub divided into another 3 basic categories, which are,


At the contact manipulation stage contouring and leveraging are employed to twist, sprain, lock, dislocate, choke, strangle take-down etc.Once again extreme care should be taken at this range when working anti joint maneuvers with a partner. The rules of “tap out" should be followed rigorously.

DO NOT mess around with club manipulations; you should not attempt them unless you know what you are doing and what the consequences can be.

Your tactile sensing is enormously reduced when applying an arm bar with a club, so the temptation of the untrained is to exert too much pressure to a compliant partner’s elbow, which could result in injury, and then you'd have no body to work with.

Chokes and strangles are only for the more adept and should only be performed under supervision.

DO NOT play "chicken" with some one else's throat or neck Do not put any pressure at all on a partners wind pipe.


Control manipulation involves moving an opponent who is under control to a more suitable position.

Basically once you have locked him up, you can then walk him away. A “come along" is an example of control manipulation.


Control maintenance involves employing a method of restraint while you maintain a stationary position of dominance, while in this position you should be able to prevent any further retaliation from an opponent, by limiting his range of motion and / or creating a pain centers.

These Four Basic Stages of Range OUT OF CONTACT, WITHIN CONTACT, CONTACT PENETRATION and CONTACT MANIPULATION must begin to blend together, so that an opponent’s actions becomes less of a surprise and your counters more immediate.

In armed and unarmed Self Defence Technique “scenarios” to successfully apply a manipulation it is a good idea to precede the move with a penetrative strike.

To get a lock or leverage on some one the concept of misdirection can be very useful.

Creating a pain centre in one or more areas of the body with a strike, then immediately following up with a lock to another area can be viewed as a valued use of misdirection.

Filed under Techniques and Tutorials

Author Bio :: Richard Matthews

Richard Matthews is currently a 7th Degree black belt in Ed Parker's Kenpo. Richard is Director of Operations for Europe for The Martial Arts Learning Community. Mr. Matthews can be contacted at

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