Sparring>Tactics>Bridging the gap

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Bridging the gap


Once you have “entered the void” between you and your opponent, you must “bridge the gap” and move from your out-of-range position (safe range) to an in-range position (where you may hit or be hit). This transit of the void is a crucial time. If you do it right, you get to hit; if you do it wrong, you get hit. The deciding factors are usually speed and deception.

Ways to bridge the gap

Deceptive penetration using an angular attack

This method uses footwork and body motion to confuse the angle of attack. This may confuse the opponent so he or she becomes flat-footed and unable to react quickly.
  • Assume a left side, closed, fighting stance at a realistic range from your opponent.
  • Determine what target you want to open.
  • If you use a three-punch combination, your open target will be on the left side of your opponent, which should be the side from which you lead. 
  • If you want to attack to the right, then step out on a forward 45-degree angle to the right. If you are convincing, your opponent will follow.
  • Once you have completed your step in this direction you will immediately shift your step to a 45-degree angle toward the left. Your opponent will follow and should be anticipating your attack to the new angle of attack.
  • With a quick shift back to the right, you should now be close enough to strike simultaneously.
  • As you make contact, you may follow up with a combination of techniques.


This method relies on pure speed so you must stay relaxed and loose.
  • Assume a closed fighting stance at a realistic range from your opponent.
  • Keep your strong side to the back since it is generally faster.
  • Your lead hand will act as a shield.
  • To bridge the gap successfully using speed, you must catch your opponent off guard. To do this, you want to get your weapon, for example, your fist, as close to your opponent as you can before he or she even sees it.
  • Plant your back foot firmly and without showing any movement in your body, extend your reverse punch as far in front of you as you can. Nothing moves until you reach this point. The instant you reach this point, everything fires.
  • Rotate your body so your reverse punch becomes a front punch. At the same instant, surge forward off the rear foot as far as you can. You must follow up with either a combination or a clearing technique to be effective. 

Off-speed timing

With this method, you make your opponent think you are going to fire before you do. This is a fake, except you fake with your intended strike. Since it is a fake, some over-acting works to your advantage. As a defender, if you see someone lead with his or her back shoulder, you probably expect a reverse punch. This can be used to your advantage.
  • Assume a closed fighting stance at a realistic range from your opponent.
  • Execute a reverse punch to a mid-section target to force a block with the arms and not just a body shift.
  • To convince your opponent that a reverse punch is coming, you must totally commit to the technique.
  • However, at the last instant, stop the punch, wait a split second for the defender to complete the block, and then continue forward with the punch to the target, which is now open.
  • The method may also be used with kicks.

Reactionary gap

To properly react to an attack, you must be able to read your opponent's telegraphic moves. The reactionary gap is the time you have between identifying an attack and reacting to it. To decrease your reactionary gap, decrease the time you need for each of these steps, or find a way to give yourself more time for each step.

Since the hand is quicker than the eye, this information must be dealt with in an unconscious, reflexive, instinctive manner, rather than in a conscious thought process, because the thinking process does not function that quickly. To minimize reaction time and deliver the appropriate response, the human body must be programmed to respond immediately without the time-consuming burden of thinking. Like it is with most things you want to learn to do, you achieve this through training.

Train yourself to not focus on any one area of the opponent’s body but to look at the opponent as a whole. Relax, use your intuition, and let your instincts take over. Just as your eyes instinctively blink when they detect even the smallest particle coming toward them, you want to instinctively react to potential attacks. You can’t make yourself learn this; you just allow it to happen. As the attacker, you should practice closing the gap until you can instantly close on an opponent without telegraphing your intentions.


  • Hee, D. (1992). Tae Kwon Do Fighting Strategies: The Ring Tactics of an Olympic Gold Medalist. Black Belt Magazine, August 1992.
  • Prime, N. (2001). Bridging the gap. Niagara North Newsletter, Volume 30, July 2001. [Online]. Available: [2003, February 20].
  • Turtle Press. (2002). [Online], Available: [2002, October 21].
  • United States Taekwondo Union. (1999). [Online]. Available: [1999, December 4].
  • Verstappen, S. (2002). Fight Smart I & II Chinese Strategies For The Sparring Arena.
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