“Fighting Success: Fighting Distance and Developing your Fight Strategy,” by Kevin Leavitt

“The biggest determining factor in a close fight is space or distance between you and your opponent or opponents. Seems obvious really if you think about it. Either you can touch someone or you can’t! If you cannot effectively touch them or if they cannot touch you, then there really is no fight! Lets talk about distance and how it affects the fight.”

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  1. Kevin

    The whole “21 Foot” thing needs a lot of clarification….

    first, I would quibble with the idea that if the guy cannot touch you, there is no fight. The “fight” may have started long before that, and you just don’t know it. Too many people wait until they get touched before they start to treat it as a fight. IMO, looking at Aikido from the outside, I think some its best applications for self defense would be in this “after the fight starts, but before contact is made” area.

    Now, as for 21 feet – it has unfortunately entered the law enforcement lexicon as the “21 foot Rule.” It was based on some drills that an officer named Dennis Tueller did, basically as an illustration/experiment on initiative. According to our rangemaster, who has met and discussed this with Mr. Tueller, the latter is actually apologizing to the training community that his experiment ended up taking on a life of its own.

    The gist was actually that an officer with a weapon in holster would not be able to draw and get shots on a subject charging (with a knife/contact weapon) from 21 feet. This was of course an officer not moving. Adding lateral movement changes this somewhat, but not appreciably.

    The problem is this really does not take into account so many other factors. Thinking in the tactical community now is that for this kind of thing, the actual distance could be 30′ or more – especially with handgun rounds and gun in hand, even multiple hits may not stop a charging subject.

    As well – so many other factors, such as terrain, cover/obstacles, suspect and officer factors, etc. come into play that an arbitrary “rule” of 21 feet pretty much goes out the window when circumstantial, situational dynamics are factored in.

    Good writing, though, it spurs some valuable discussion on issues like this.

  2. I think it is more complicated. There is actual distance and effective distance. They overlap but are not equivalent. If you increase the effective distance without changing the actual distance your response will be much more powerful as you can then more quickly decrease the effective distance. The other important factor is angle of approach. If you and the opponent have equivalent distance & you are skilled enough you can change the angle so the advantage tips in your favor.

  3. The answer for most LEO’s is the Taser…

  4. Kit Leblanc says:


    Yes… I think. You’d have to define your ideas of actual and effective distance for me with concrete examples.

    If I am getting the gist, that is what can happen in the 21′ drill.

    Assuming unimpeded ground, and utterly average people (because individual differences are important, another reason the “Rule” should be thought of merely as a drill), if an officer moves at an angle and laterally, it forces the attacker to track him. This may actually buy time. Depending on which way he goes, and depending on the proximity and the reaction-time-to-movement of the bad guy, he may in fact buy even more time.

    The nature of the terrain and ability to move within it usually don’t cooperate, unfortunately.

    Another issue is the effectiveness of the rounds. I could be on target and firing, but if my rounds are missing, or if they hit but fail to stop the threat, I can likely be seriously cut by a charging attacker even though I am successfully shooting him.

  5. Kit Leblanc says:

    I should add that applies to the Taser as well. They have overall spotty effectiveness.

    The police “answer” is NOT the Taser. Yes, many use them versus a knife, but this is not how they are trained. There are far too many variables with a Taser being effective for it to be the answer against a knife wielding subject.

    You shouldn’t bring a Taser to a knife encounter, you bring a gun.

    Now, adding additional officers changes things somewhat, because at least someone has a firearm.

  6. We had a officer attacked by knife…tased him and drew his Glock…fight over.

  7. Kit Leblanc says:

    So, he made a bad decision that turned out okay….?

  8. Actually the officer was reprimanded for not using his side arm first…Most LEO’s are instructed to shoot to kill and not to wound a attacker with a weapon.

  9. Kit Leblanc says:

    Officers are not instructed to “shoot to kill,” but rather to “shoot to stop the threat.” They aim center mass because that is the easiest to hit, not in an attempt to kill the suspect. If the suspect dies, so be it, if the use of force is justified.

    Thanks though, clearly you are not an LEO, which explains some of your statements here and regarding the Taser in the other thread.

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