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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

12 Angles or 12 Targets?

Here comes another one of those super-nerdy style-specific posts I do from time to time.

One of the very first things I learned when I started in Modern Arnis was the 12 Angles of Attack.

This is basically what I learned originally:

Today, I teach it like my teacher, Mark Lynn, does. You can see that here:

As you can see, they are nearly - but not totally - identical.

Did you spot the difference?

Look again, I'll wait.

Hint: footwork. Look at the footwork. They're different.

The 12 Angles of Attack used universally throughout the Modern Arnis world, as well with closely related arts, even if there are footwork variations here and there. It's awesome, because I can visit, say, Modern Arnis friends in Florida or Texas or Germany or the Philippines or Canada, and we'll call for one of the Angles of Attack and we all understand what that is, without knowing each other at all.

I just think that's cool.

Anyway, the 12 Angles of Attack are literally the first thing Modern Arnis newbies learn, more often than not.

The great thing about the 12 Angles as a drill (because it IS a drill) is that it gets a new person more comfortable in manipulating a stick without hitting stuff just yet, introduces the idea of moving the feet and hands at the same time, and it's got lots of variants to keep the student engaged.

Really, there's tons to riff off of there, and it's plenty of material for new students to work with.

However, just as you can see in the footwork above, there are variants in the 12 Angles, from training group to training group. Heck, some have a different "newbie" version with fewer strikes, and then they introduce the 12 angles deeper in training.

In teaching the 12 Angles, I'm pretty sure most of us tell newbies to aim for certain parts of the body initially, to help them learn each angle. I've even put little tape markers on our Wavemaster to help students get these targets right.

However, the point of the 12 Angles is NOT to go only for those targets. Otherwise, it'd be called the 12 TARGETS of Attack.

It's the angles that ultimately matter.

Let's take Angle #1. It is a forehand aimed high and passes across the body diagonally.

The arrow shows where the stick will go when I deliver the complete strike.

We tell newbies to aim for the temple or ear for Angle #1. It's the best place to place that strike to get to the angle and it's easier for the newbie to memorize versus "high diagonal". It also helps us get them used to placing the stick where it's supposed to be for future training.

We typically teach the 12 Angles initially with the right hand, but since we highly value ambidexterity, we quickly introduce the 12 Angles for the left hand.

How do the 12 Angles of Attack change when you go to the left hand?

Well, there's two ways you could legitimately do that:

Yes, it looks weird because I didn't film these angles left-handed. Thanks, "Flip" tool!

You could mirror, where the Angle #1 Strike is still a high forehand moving down diagonally, it just hits the target from your left instead of your right.

Or you could have a high strike to the same target - your right hand side - by changing the high forehand to a high backhand (basically, what looks like Angle #2 if you mirror).

I strongly prefer mirroring vs. using the same targets.

Here's why:

After the very basics, the actual targets will *change*, based on where you are in relation to the target.

A high forehand delivered diagonally against, say, an arm or a hand, when you're knocked down or on your knees, is still Angle #1.

There's a reason it's called "Angles of Attack". Because you can and should and will use those angles against a variety of different targets, with both right and left hand.

Thus, a high forehand that travels diagonally is a #1, no matter the target or which hand is doing it.

Finally, I mentioned that we value ambidexterity above. Mirroring means that the 12 Angles work identically no matter which hand is holding the stick.

So the 12 Angles of Attack of Modern Arnis are:

1) High forehand

2) High backhand

3) Middle forehand

4) Middle backhand

5) Centerline poke

6) Medium poke, same-side

7) Medium poke, cross-body

8) Low backhand

9) Low forehand

10) High poke, same-side

11) High poke, cross-body

12) Overhand strike, coming straight down

No matter which hand is holding the stick, and no matter what the target is.

Do you prefer to emphasize the targets vs. the angles? Why? If you play a different FMA style, what are your basic strikes and how do you think about right/left and targeting? I'd love to know what you think!

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1 Comment

Dec 26, 2021

That was a difference between our class in Texas and the DAV in Germany; they teach with #1 always on opponent's upper left so the left-handed strike is a backhand. The explanation was that it is safer since the person struck knows where to block without having to think if the striker is using left hand or right.

I get that it is safer (unless you're an outsider taught the other way!), but I am used to the mirror way. Since every empty-handed technique is mirrored, I like that the stick strikes also are mirrored. Though it is hard to argue with the safety consideration when swinging a stick at someone's head.

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