7 Ways to Retreat

Somehow we are pre-built with the instinct to back up when something dangerous approaches. In Kempo this translates to retreating straight back when the opponent attacks. Though effective in the most basic and primitive of confrontations, it isn’t the ideal way to retreat.

As the title of this post suggests, one should retreat forward. Now I don’t necessarily mean directly forward, though that is a valid and often useful way to jam an attack, I mean going forward to either side. Step forward and to the left side or step forward and to the right side. An example of this is Combination 3 and Kempo H. They both step off the line and past the opponent. The mirror technique can be done to the right and past the opponent.

Here are the seven directions you should retreat and why they are helpful. This assumes a right punch so adapt it to left punches as homework.

  1. Left and 45° forward — Not great for a hooking punch, this direction is ideal for straight punches and lunges. It gets you off the line and near the rear of the opponent. A great position for counter attacks to their weak side.
  2. Right and 45° forward — Great for getting into the weak zone of the punch but it puts you in range for a left punch. Like the previous one, you are off the line and near the rear of the opponent.
  3. Directly left — Great for getting off the attack line but now you’re not in great position for counter attacks other than legs.
  4. Directly right — Again, this is great for getting of the line of attack. It opens up the opponent, exposing the vital targets of the trunk but it also puts you in range of the left-sided weapons.
  5. Left and 45° backward — We often call this a fade to the left. This direction is ideal for large, lunging opponents. It gets you off the line and away from their loping arms. A little outside the optimal range for counters but it allows for springing attacks.
  6. Right and 45° backward — This is a fade to the right. This direction is also idea for large, lunging opponents. It gets you off the line and sets up targets for spinning kicks towards the trunk.
  7. Finally, the trickiest and often most effective direction is straight in. The advantage of coming straight in is you jam the strike by beating it to its optimal zone of power. (See my article on that) Secondly, you actually strike after they start but before they land their attack. This is a great demoralizer. Finally, it breaks the understood personal space rule and makes them uncomfortable. If the attack is coming fast, you might add a duck or a slip to the movement forward. This direction is only for the brave and cocky.

Retreating is just a fancy word for getting out of the way. I like to think of it as defending the space not under attack. Imagine you own a castle that is coming under siege by your enemy. The enemy gets all set up with his forces. They’re dug in, the heavy ladders are all built. The catapults and breach towers are all set. Just as he’s ready to begin the assault, you move the castle to the other side of a big river. The weapons are now useless and your defenses remain intact.

Now I know that is impossible situation. It was an analogy to make the point — a story to make the concept clearer. Move to a position that provides more defensive value and allows you to attack.