In combat, the first problem that confronts the fighter is how to bridge the gap between him and his opponent so he land a blow. There are basically just two ways of closing the gap: it’s either you charge toward your opponent or let him charge toward you. The following are generic methods of bridging the gap.

Simple attack

A simple attack employs a single technique to score a hit. The term simple attack is actually a misnomer because of all the different kinds of attack, it is the most difficult to accomplish. The ability to hit with a simple attack is a mark of an expert because its execution requires highly developed combat attributes. A simple attack will only land on its target if it’s delivered with perfect timing, speed, accuracy, power, footwork and economy of motion.

A simple attack is a largo mano (longhand or long range) strategy employed when there is an opening in the opponent’s defense. After a target was acquired from afar, a simple attack is executed in one continuous motion and therefore necessitates swift footwork.

A simple attack can emanate from a serrada (close) or abierta (open) on-guard position. An attack launched from a serrada posture is backhand in orientation while an attack launched from an abierta posture is forehand in orientation. Strikes can be delivered snapping or follow-through regardless of orientation. Snapping backhand strikes are faster than snapping forehand strikes because of the hinge-like structure of the former.

Commitment and recovery are the two important components of a simple attack. A simple attack requires an aggressive commitment in its delivery and yet there must be margin for recovery at the end of the motion just in case you missed your target.

Forced entry attack

A forced entry attack is an aggressive tactic, which suits well a big fighter with a heavy weapon. While a direct attack is aimed at an anatomical target, a forced entry attack is composed of two moves; the first strike is directed at the opponent’s cover with the intention of taking it out of the way by sheer force to insert the second strike aimed at an anatomical target.

Forced entry attack is common in double-stick fighting. In such a fight, some fighters would use the stick in his weak hand as a shield while that in his strong hand he would use for hitting (sword and buckler mode of fighting). Using a forced entry attack on such an opponent means attacking his defensive stick (the buckler) first to get it out of the way so you can get a clean shot on your opponent’s head and body.

Raw power and sheer aggressiveness are two important attributes required in doing a forced entry attack. As previously stated, this strategy works better for bigger fighters because their large mass makes it easier for them to barge into an opponent’s defense.

A photo showing the beginning of a knife fight. (From Dan Inosanto’s book The Filipino Martial Arts)

Stop hitting

Stop hitting is a universal combat concept applicable to both weapons and empty hand fighting. The difference between simple attack and stop hitting is that in the former, you catch the opponent flat-footed with your offense while in the latter, you allow him to initiate a move and then stop him dead on his track with a technique.

Stop hitting is among the most highly esteemed concepts of Western fencing. Bruce Lee’s jeet kune do (literally the way of the intercepting fist) was founded on this Western fencing concept.

Aldo Nadi, one of the greatest fencers of the 20th century has this to say on the skill of stop hitting: “Thus your attack is launched upon your adversary’s initiative (his advance); but the moment you succeed in starting it within the frames of the conventional rules, the initiative – at least temporarily – becomes your own. Here then you have the first glimpse of one of the fundamental fencing dogmas, to wit, that the best moment to attack from immobility is when your opponent advances toward toward you. More specifically, strike as soon as he moves, so that you will reach his target before his left foot completes the advance, thereby making it impossible for him to retreat. This should give you an idea of how fast your attacks must be.” (Nadi on Fencing, 1943)


Drawing means you intentionally create an opening in your defense to draw an opponent’s attack.

Drawing and stop hitting could be used in combination. You draw an opponent’s attack with an intentional opening in your defense and once he bit your bait and lunges toward you, you employ an appropriate stop-hit technique.

If stop hitting failed to halt your opponent’s charge, you need other tools to win the fight. Big opponents would almost always rush in to bring the fight to the ground where their superior mass will give them the advantage. If this is the case then you must know how to use your weapon in conjunction with grappling and throwing skills (you can use the stick to choke or as a lever for throws). Close-quarter empty hand techniques like elbowing, headbutting, eye gouging, biting and pinching would also help you break the hold of a bigger attacker so you can resume the fight in the stand-up mode.