Bridging - How to Close Distance in a Fight

"You charge in, filled with the hope that you can capitalize on that opening you spy in their guard. As you are about to land your punch, suddenly, without warning, BAM!!!! POW!!!! SMACK!!! A strike has met you mid-stride and square in the nose. As blood begins to rush down your face you pause and wonder...'Why was I unable to hit that giant hole that was wide open, and they were able to hit me'?"

If you have fighting experience then you are likely all too familiar with the above scenario. After countless bouts, sparring matches, fights, most of us have found tricks of the trade that allow moderate success at gaining the advantage as we move in on our opponent (bridge).

Alternatively, some have decided to become counter-fighters, and instead of risking the in-fortuitous disaster, patiently await their opponents charge knowing full well the advantage will be their's.

To help avoid circumstances such as these, here are some solid tactics to incorporate into your training so that you may gain control over this most unsure of moments in fighting; the moment when you go from out of range, to in range. The moment we call - 'bridging'.

The following are a few definitions:

'Bridging' - the act of moving from outside of striking or kicking
range to inside striking or kicking range.

'Critical Distance' - The line that separates the two ranges. Critical Distance is determined by the range just outside the reach of your opponents longest weapon - their rear leg.

'Bridging Tactic' - a method of occupying the enemies mind, body, or both, so that they are unable to move or launch a counter attack the moment you cross the 'Critical Distance' line.

As we explained in above scenario - the danger with bridging is vulnerability when moving or transitioning. Timing (another bridging method) works in this regard. If you are in the midst of steaming headlong into your opponent's waiting defense, while preoccupied with striking, then you are vulnerable. The solution is to incorporate Bridging Tactics into your fighting toolkit to give you the advantage.

Here are some examples for executing an advantageous bridge:


These tactics involve rushing style attacks that overwhelm the opponent.

Pi Quan

  • Circle and Chop

  • Beatdown Chop

  • Chopping Fist Advance


  • Flying Palm

  • Mandarin Duck Kick


  • Sān sài bù - 3 Section Step


Distractions rely on proper timing to execute. These can vary and you can certainly add more to this list. Here are the primary ones we cover.

  • Fake Leg Attack Hand

  • Flag Hand

  • Smack Hands

Experienced practitioners will also focus on more advanced bridging methods such as:

  • Feints*

  • Fakes*

  • Hiding Motion in Motion

  • Range Manipulation

*Note: according to veteran coach I worked with, that had been in many fights, these bridging methods have less of a chance of working on people in a street fight situation, who have never been hit. They do not respond as expected because there is no correlation of the fake attack with the actual end result.


A body movement that simulates a move or shift in one direction while then moving in another direction. This works as a great precursor to an attack when used at the proper range. As the enemy flinches, plants, or reacts in some regard, they are locked into their movement and unable to react to the real attack that immediately follows the lie.

Example on how to Feint-
Pretend to move left with your body and then quickly move right. When your opponent moves to gain advantage or reposition themselves for defense they create openings in their guard. Strike the targets now available, or shoot for the takedown on the exposed side.

Common Pitfalls -

  • Body movement is jerky and unrealistic. Opponent doesn't believe it.

  • Feinting, and then moving in the same direction you feinted. This gives your opponent warning of where you are going to move and nullifies the tactic.


A false strike that triggers the opponents block or counter. Again, as the opponent flinches, you immediately follow the flinch with your real strike to a different target.

Example -
Throw a forward punch (jab) but do not follow through with it. Done properly the opponent should emit a jerk-type response and attempt to block the non-existent punch. More experienced fighter's may resist the temptation, but may blink or twitch instead. Immediately strike the opponent in a different target right after they jerk, blink, or twitch.

Common Pitfalls -

  • If there is too much of a time break between the fake and the real attack the opponent will have reset and snag the actual strike.

  • If you try to attack the same target as the fake attack then the opponent will likely block because their hand is already in that region and they previously witnessed an attack to that target a split second before, so they are now expecting a real one.

  • The fake doesn't look real. You have to sell the fake, as if it is the real deal, without over exposing the limb for them to grab, or seize.


An act of motion, sound, or use of surroundings that will trigger a response from your opponent; causing them to momentarily flinch or become distracted.

Example on how to Distract-
Make a loud noise by yelling, stomping, or banging your gloves together. Upon witnessing your opponents twitch immediately bridge and enter past the critical distance and attack. In a street situation, the distraction may be throwing an item such as keys, coins, sand, or an object.

Common Pitfalls -

  • Too quiet, or not convincing.

  • Too much lag time between the distraction and the bridge.

  • You have tried it too many times without following up with a live attack. The opponent is not appropriately conditioned to it and will not respond, making them dangerous if you try to enter.

When bridging, the tactic either works, or does not work. This is immediately determined by whether or not they blocked your attack, moved out of range, or sprawled before you got there. If unsuccessful, the bridging tactic needs to be corrected or refined by training your ability to perform a realistic fake or feint so your partner believes the lie.

Range Manipulation

To be continued...

Randy Brown

MISSION - To empower you through real martial arts training. Provide you a welcoming atmosphere to train in a safe manner with good people that you can trust.