IntroThe ideal range for sparring is where you are just out of range of a lead leg kick by your opponent. This means for your opponent to kick or punch you, he or she must move his or her body toward you (or get you to move closer). This ideal range gives you more time to react to an attack, but it also means you are also probably out of kicking and punching range of your attacks. To get with yourself in range for an attack quickly, you must learn to lunge.
Why lunge?In sparring, time is critical. The more time it takes for you to move, the more time the opponent has to react to the movement. Therefore, you must learn to move not only quickly, but also to be able to block or attack effectively while moving.
Stepping is slow and stepping forward with the rear leg is very slow, just as rear leg kicks are much slower than front leg kicks. Stepping with your front leg is quicker than stepping with the rear leg, but it is still relatively slow. For example, from a standard fighting stance, to step with the front leg to bridge the gap and fire a reverse punch the opponent’s head, you must first lift the front foot, then you step it forward as you push off the rear leg and shift your weight forward into the reverse punch.
This is a lot of movement (four distinct movements), so it takes lots of time to complete and gives the opponent time to react. The opponent sees the front foot lift and knows something is about to happen. When the front foot begins its step, the opponent now knows a step is happening and an attack will probably follow. It mind reacts quickly to movement. The fastest way to advance or retreat is to lunge.
How to lunge?In the lunge, the rear leg is the first to move. To lunge forward, the rear leg explodes forward, and, as it does, the front foot lifts slightly and is propelled forward by the rear leg. The weight is also propelled forward and behind the reverse punch. Everything occurs as one movement.
The only indication the opponent has of an attack is your whole body appears to be getting larger as you get closer. It takes a few milliseconds before the opponent’s brain detects this type of movement and those milliseconds may mean the difference between you scoring and the opponent moving away or blocking the punch. Also, during the lunge, the front leg may kick, since it is pre-chambered by the motion of the lunge, or the rear leg may continue its forward movement into a kick after the front foot contacts the floor.
To lunge backward, the movement is the same except the front leg begins the lunge by exploding backward. In a backward lunge, your rear leg cannot be used for kicking, but the front leg may fire a kick immediately after it starts the lunge. Then after the rear leg lands, you may immediately explode into a forward lunge that may lead to a front or rear leg kick. To further aid you in setting up for a counterattack, you may lunge backward at angles to the attack so the attack slips by you; this puts you within range to launch any type of counterattack.
To increase your chances of scoring, stay just out of range of a lead leg kick by the opponent, and use forward lunges to bridge the gap. If the opponent lunges, lunge backward and counterattack, and maybe then counter with a forward lunge and launch counterattacks.
To increase the speed of your lunges, practice them a lot and work on exercises that build explosive leg strength, such as doing deadlifts and leg presses, running up and down stairs, working on a stair climber machine, doing plyometric jumps, practicing all your patterns using very low stances, and using low stances in all your training exercises.
Sparring matches do not last long so, while it is good to have, endurance is not much of a concern. Being able to do a hundred kicks in a round, which may or may not score, is not as important as being able to explode into a few attacks that do score. Therefore, instead of concentrating on endurance exercises, concentrate on explosive strength exercises so you will be able to bridge the gap in an instant with a lunge.