Hunter B. Armstrong

Adversary combat includes three vital components - APPROACH, CLOSE, ENTRY. These three components are inherently contained in classical combat training systems (i.e., pre-modern, non-pop fighting arts), and are vital parts of military small unit tactical training. However, the integration of approach, close, and entry are usually lacking in the more recently developed fighting systems, from self-defense training to recreated or reconstructed systems, whether empty-hand, handheld weapons, or firearms. For the most part, the modern-based systems tend to ignore everything up to the moment of impact on the adversary entry, ignoring the other two thirds of the combat engagement - approach and close.

APPROACH begins at the point where one becomes aware of the threat/risk presented by the adversary. It is at this point—around 20 ft (7 meters)—that one should start movement towards the adversary in preparation to close and dominate the situation. In essence, approach refers to the direction one takes in approaching an adversary. Approach is always a part of every combative scenario, and is a particularly important aspect as it is based on and takes advantage of combative awareness and dominance. It is the main stage in which to either avoid/avert the potential for physical confrontation or make decisive the assault. In military tactics, it is the tactical maneuvering used in setting up a military assault.

CLOSING is the phase of nearing the enemy to gain striking range, e.g., just before the final movement made to contact - entry. It should be understood that there is an interplay between approach and closing; that is, direction can change as one nears the adversary. The close can be made at any speed or varying speeds. The combination of effective approach and close can determine the outcome of a confrontation before actual contact is made, or even obviate the need for contact.

ENTRY is the final step of the attack and includes the physical contact of striking/grabbing, (or shoot), that is, to cause a physical effect upon the adversary.

While the pre-modern, traditional combat training systems generally include and train approach-closing-entry as an integrated whole, most modern arts, self-defense, and recreated systems start at entry, almost always neglecting closing phase, never mind the approach. Regarding the rapid closing-in upon an opponent, research by both the military and ethologists show that the rushing in upon an adversary (animal or man) has a strong disruptive effect on an adversary’s equilibrium. Rapidly moving in upon an opponent is extremely effective at “setting up” the adversary for the strike, allowing considerably more control and dominance in making the strike. This is something that is inherently understood and utilized in many classical martial arts, but again is lost or neglected in the modern arts. That neglect is likely due to lack of combative feedback.

In the case of the recently developed combat systems, including modern combat handgun systems as well as recent attempts at recreating classical systems, the systems have been developed for the most part in artificial, i.e., non-combative environments, with no combative feedback. They have been further distorted by their over use of competitive formats and sport functions.

In this regard, it’s important to note that in the great majority of pre-modern, traditional combat training, the predominant form of training was in structured, but flexible, pre-arranged movement patterns. It was in the structured context that the vital aspects of approach and close could be effectively taught and learned. In contrast, the great majority of combat sports, whether empty-hand (boxing, wrestling, judo, karate, taekwondo, etc.) or weapon (fencing, kendo, etc.) start at about one step out from the entry.

The entry is, of course, the area of combat that is most exciting and interesting, which is the driving function behind sports combat. However, in real combat, neglecting approach and close — two of the three components in adversary combat—can result in fatal consequences for the wrong side.

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Hunter B. Armstrong, Director ~ The International Hoplology Society
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