Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Secret of the 12 Angles of Attack Revealed (to me)

You ever have one of those moments, those blinding flashes of insight, and once it comes, you think to yourself, "How was I too dumb to see this for so long?"

That was my week.  Fair warning - this is yet another one of those chock full o'geekery very specific to Arnis posts.

It does.  It really, really does.

We have new students at Mid-Cities Arnis and at Hidden Sword, so I've been teaching a lot of basics, including teaching the 12 Angles of Attack from Modern Arnis.

Like many Filipino Martial Arts, Modern Arnis has a striking pattern for training that is usually one of the very first things new students learn.  Essentially, this pattern - the 12 Angles of Attack - becomes a "short hand" while we train.

So, if I ask +Brian Johns to attack me with a #3 and he has the stick in his right hand, I know he's going to come at me with a forehand strike to my midsection on my left side (elbow or ribs).  Brian and I have never trained together in real life, but we both understand each other because we both do the same 12 Angles of Attack.  Saying "#3" is a lot more efficient than saying, "Forehand on my left side to the midsection, around the elbow or rib area".  By the time I finish saying all of that, Brian has me in a lock and I'm crying on the floor.

It's just more efficient to use the numbers in everyday training.

We will get the same result with every person on earth that uses the Modern Arnis 12 Angles of Attack.  If I am asked to deliver a #7 strike, the person asking knows I'm *not* going to deliver a low shot to the knee.  They'll get a poke towards their right shoulder, if I have the stick in my right hand.  We all speak the same "language".

Kang makipag-usap ba ang sakit?
There's a pattern to the 12 angles when you do them in order (which is how we generally introduce it). At least, there seemed to be one when I was a newbie and I was first learning this, and it's stuck in my brain ever since.

The strikes in order are, if I have a stick in my right hand:

#1 is a strike on (my) right head-high, #2 is a strike on my left head-high, #3 strike on my right middle (ribs or elbow), #4 strike on my left middle (ribs or elbow)...

Then we insert a poke to the midsection up the middle with the #5 strike.

Then, we alternate again - a poke to the right shoulder (#6), a poke to the left shoulder (#7).

And then we go back into strikes, but the two low strikes start on the left, nor the right (#8 is a low backhand strike on my left, #9 is a low forehand strike on my right).

Then we poke again - (#10) first one on the right eye, (#11) second on the left eye, and then we have an overhand strike to the top of the head (#12).

Did you spot the pattern that I did at first?  You strike to a target on the right then left, then new target on the right, then left... alternating, always on the right FIRST.  Makes it easy to remember which is which.

Until you get to strikes #8 and #9.  Those two "break" the pattern, which resumes again with the #10 strike.

It is common for new students to get these two low strikes confused with one another because they do seem to be "out of order".  I did too.  I overcame it by doing the 12 strikes about a billion times.

Necessity may the mother of invention, but repetition is the mother of skill.
There wasn't any convenient pattern I could build in my mind to overcome this "break" other than repetition.  My mind runs to patterns - that's why I'm pretty good at picking up sinawali patterns.  So it's always bugged me a little bit.

It turns out, there is a pattern there, but I couldn't or wouldn't see it.  I only discovered this for myself in the last week or so.

No, I'm not kidding.  This is an absolutely 100% true story.

I came to this discovery in two steps.

The first step was this realization:

Odd numbered strikes on an angle are forehands delivered to the same side that I'm holding the weapon (aka, a mirror image - same side). Even numbered strikes on an angle are backhands to the opposite of my weapon side.

Even numbered pokes not up the middle are to the same side, odd numbered pokes are to the opposite side.

#5 and #12 are anomalies as they are "middle" strikes - one a poke, one an overhand strike.

So, looking at the 12 angles another way, you can "group" #1, #3, #9, #6 and #10 (all being on the same side of your body as your weapon) and #2, #4, #8, #7 and #11 (opposite side of your body as your weapon).  #5 and #12 are in a category of their own.

But THAT'S NOT THE REAL PATTERN.

It's close, but it's not the real one.

Here's the second step:

This is directly related to my post "Four Hand" and this epiphany hit me while chatting with Brian Johns about this stuff.  I've been using that exact cue in class for the last week or so, so this is how I finally connected all of this.

All of the odd numbered strikes and pokes are actually "four hands", if you use that little cue I talk about using in "Four Hand". That is, you look down at your hand on the strike or poke, and you see your four fingers.

All of the even numbered strikes and pokes are "back hands" - that is, you can see the back of the hand if you are doing the strike/poke correctly.  Going by this criteria, the #5 strike is typically a forehand, and the #12 strike is a backhand.

There are only two "groups" in the 12 Angles of attack. Forehands and backhands at various targets.

That's the real pattern.  Evens are backhands, odds are forehands.  All we are doing is aiming at a variety of common targets, but it's just backhands and forehands, over and over. The numbering just tells you where the target is, and that isn't as important because that changes all the time in flow (for example, you learn the #6 strike at the shoulder but you can use it against many different targets).

That's it. It's that simple.


Now that I've finally figured this out, all sorts of new ways to approach teaching and practicing the 12 angles are coming to me.  It's pretty exciting, and it's cool that something so basic, so fundamental, something I know so incredibly well has presented something completely new to me, a new way of communicating a key tool in my art.

Thanks to working with new students - which I actually really enjoy.

I can't believe it took me so long to figure this out.

Have you have one of those "HOLY MOLY!!" events where a completely new way of thinking of something you know well presents itself?  I'd love to hear about those times where you shouted, "EUREKA!"