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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

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?"

Yeah, this is what happened when I personally experienced one of those moments. Fair warning - this is yet another one of those chock full o'geekery very specific to Arnis posts.

I had this epiphany at a time when we'd had a LOT of new students in our programs, so I was 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. It's the A-B-C's of what we do.

Thus, 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 convenient 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".

The 12 Angles of Attack of Modern Arnis, as demoed by Mr.Chick

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.

Look at the image above - do you see it?

You strike to a target on (your) right then the same "level" on the 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.

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 that this alternating pattern exists in the 12 Angles, but not... perfectly.

Unless, well, alternation ISN'T the actual pattern.

I only discovered the actual pattern for myself after, ohhhh, training for almost 7 years or so, and having taught dozens and dozens of people this stuff, and having done it myself about one jillion times personally.

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, being on the center line.


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

Here's the second step:

This is directly related to my post "Four Hand".  I've been using that exact cue in class for a week or so and I was discussing it with a friend, and BAM! It hit me.

All of the odd numbered strikes and pokes are actually "four hands" (forehands), 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.

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!"

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