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Technique Breakdown: How to Control Distance with Raphael Cordeiro

Technique Breakdown: How to Control Distance with Raphael Cordeiro

With an extensive background in Muay Thai Kickboxing, Brazilian born Raphael Cordeiro fought in many international competitions as a fighter out of Chute Boxing Academy, becoming both a Muay Thai and Vale Tudo champion. After a decade of competing at the highest level, Raphael stopped fighting and started helping to coach his Brazilian teammates such as Wanderlei Silva, and Mauricio Shogun Rua.

From the moment Cordeiro started coaching he fell in love with it and decided to pursue a career in helping other fighters follow in similar footsteps as champion hopefuls. After moving to the USA, Cordeiro opened Kings MMA in Huntington Beach, California where he currently trains fighters in a variety of fight leagues such as UFC, Bellator, and more. While continuing to work with former teammates, Cordeiro has also coached multiple other champions and contenders, with a list that includes the likes of Cris Cyborg, Anderson Silva, Beneil Dariush, and Raphael Dos Anjos. With two coach of the year awards, and multiple champions under his tutelage, Raphael Cordeiro’s coaching resume speaks for itself. 

In this clip from Cordeiro’s Instructional, Muay Thai Fundamentals, he teaches strikers how to maintain punching distance on an opponent while still being in a relatively safe position from the opponents strikes. Cordeiro believes that “everything you do inside martial arts is about distance... if you have control of distance you have the fight in your favor.” 

The ability to win through distance control is one of the ultimate truths to martial arts. In a self defense aspect, distance means getting as far away from the attacker as possible if that is an option. If escaping the situations isn’t possible, then controlling distance most likely means to close off any space between you and the attacker and subduing them, by whatever means are appropriate for the situation.

In boxing, kickboxing, or MMA matches, distance means staying away from the barrier of the ring or cage, while gauging distance of the opponent. Fighters will need to create or reduce distance between themselves and their opponent depending on their offensive or defensive needs and abilities as well as other varying factors in that particular moment of the fight. 


In the video, Cordeiro shows a basic distance management drill starting with the highly utilized, jab, cross combination, then has the fighter use their front arm to control the distance of the opponent as both strikers traverse the ring, maintaining punching distance to follow up with a strike. The goal of the drill is to give fighters an ability to control after throwing the combination while managing the evasiveness or the pressure of an opponent by either moving toward a retreating opponent or moving away from an advancing opponent at proper striking distance.

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Cordeiro reminds fighters to stay in a prepared fighting stance, with the knees slightly bent, always ready to move their feet. After the initial jab, cross combination, distance is maintained by extending the jab arm and using it, not as a strike, but as a measuring stick. As the opponent reacts to the punches by defending and begins to advance, the fighter should place the jab hand out at the forehead of the opponent, and shuffle the feet backwards, landing in a proper striking stance. As the fighter shuffles backwards with the front arm extended, the backhand should be defending, at the side of the head, right around the height of the fighter’s temple, or eye level. By having the backhand prepared at the proper positioning, fighter will be ready to strike with a strong, technically sound, cross punch upon landing in a position where the feet are planted. 

If the defending fighter should retreat away from the initial strikes. The fighter who threw the jab, cross combination should extend their jab hand just as in the previous variation, placing it at the opponent’s head to maintain distance, and advance on the retreating fighter. The attacking striker should shuffle the feet forward towards the retreating fighter, keeping the jab arm out to continue control of distance between both fighters, until both fighters have planted their feet. Upon landing, the fighter will throw their back hand, which has been in the proper position to defend as well as strike, as a power cross punch. 

The fighters who are performing the drill will continue this movement, continuing to move forward and backwards, following a jab, cross combination. In a limited amount of space, fighters can simply move forward and backwards performing the movements in a repetitive fashion. If a striker is a beginner doing this drill, it is best to do the drill in this repetitive manner. For more advanced strikers, the fighters can move in a broken pattern, moving in a certain direction multiple times and then moving in the opposite direction. 

Distance is one of the defining factors in controlling and winning a fight. The fighter with the greatest ability to manage distance will always have the opportunity to attack or evade in a decisive manner. Learning how to take away, create, or maintain distance on an opponent will provide not only more opportunities for a fighter while staying in control of the fight, but it will increase a fighters confidence, as they know they are always able to stay safe, while maintaining offensive control of the fight. 

Muay Thai Fundamentals by Rafael Cordeiro

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