Distance: The Donut of Danger
The following article is from the KAT Handbook and reprinted in Taekwondo: A Practical Guide to the World's Most Popular Martial Art (Amazon). Taekwondo has often been called a ‘game of distance.’ Indeed, a few extra inches can be the difference between a crushing blow and a complete miss. But how can your effective striking distance be measured, visualized, and extended?
A simple geometric approximation
of striking distance can be formed by fixing one leg and
rotating the other leg around the hip joint. The farthest
point you will be able to hit will be at your hip level.
If you raise your leg to hit higher, you will decrease your
kicking distance. Thus, you will be able to hit your opponent
from farther away if you hit to the height of your own hip.
The shape that is made is called a torus, but commonly referred
to as a donut.
commonly happens in a sparring match is that both players
go to a distance where they can comfortably strike the opposing
player, which is usually the flurry distance, where both
players can strike each other well. In this situation the
player who is faster will be able to score more points,
although he will have to take significant punishment if
the other player is stronger. If one player is faster and
stronger, then he will be successful as long as he does
not stay in his opponent’s optimal distance.
Figure 3. Flurry
distance, where both
Figure 4. The clinch position. The players’ chests are touching and neither player can strike the other.
In order to have an advantage, one player must keep the match in his optimal distance. This distance varies depending on who has a longer range.
As long as there is a difference in range, there is a point where you will be able to strike your opponent and he cannot strike you. This is usually at the outside or inside edge of your range. For example, in the left part of figure 4, the blue player positions himself at the outside edge of his range and is able to strike the red player, while the red player is too far away to strike him back. In the right half, the red player goes inside and is able to strike the blue player, while the blue player is too close to strike the red player effectively.
This should lead each competitor to ask 2 fundamental questions:
1. How can I extend my ‘donut of danger’? – You must extend your effective striking distance both inwards and outwards. The only way to do this is to practice striking targets closer and closer or farther and farther. The kicks change as the distance changes. Crescent kicks are good in the inside, and roundhouse kicks are good to extend distance. Also, the torus was drawn with the hip at a fixed point in space. By moving your hip you can shift your entire torus in that direction. For instance, to hit in a clinch, fold your hips back and you will be able to strike closer to your body.
2. How can I keep the match at my optimal distance? The simple answer is that you must have excellent footwork. You must be able to quickly get to the desired position and from there counter your opponent’s movements. For example, if you are at your optimal distance and your opponent moves forward, you must move back to keep the distance the same. You must also be able to move laterally and diagonally to cut off distance quickly. The player with the longer range naturally has an advantage because the shorter player will reach his striking distance before he will reach the shorter player’s striking distance.
Drawing Out Kicks- You will have momentary safety immediately following a kick by your opponent. This is the best time for a shorter player (red) to enter the donut of danger of a larger player (blue). Red can inch into blue’s optimal distance and cause blue to strike. Red then slides back and avoids the kick, and then rushes in to strike and take the match to red’s optimal distance.
Extending Range with Steps- Although each time a player steps the donuts shift position, if a player steps and strikes immediately, he may be able to extend his range. This holds true for kicks like hop, back leg roundhouse kicks and double kicks.