Body Templates, Angles of Attack and Targets

     All knife and stick systems have some form of template training, dating back to gladiator times. Maybe even back to smarter cavemen?Sticks, swords and knives. Hands too! And we sure do shoot a lot of paper targets, though live fire doesn't fit well with the following onbservations. 

     Remy Presas used a 12 angle of attack system in his Modern Arnis. He would say” Head-head, stomach-stomach,” and so on up thru eye-eye, top of the head. He would also at times just use the numbers, “one, two, three….” and so on. So would his brother Ernesto. Despite their differences in doctrine, they  still used the same 12 angle drill. But in regards to the body target approach, Remy also said once not to worry about landing onto and into those specific targets. He advised that the angles were meant to describe an attack delivery motion, an incoming direction, not just hitting those designated targets.      

     Remy explained in his entertaining broken English that the targets were named to help describe the angle. He (and others) would say that "Angle 12" for example, the downward strike, nicknamed “top of the head” could really land on any target, like a forearm strike on a weapon limb, or the back of the neck if the opponent was bent over from a previous hit. Angle 12 was any downward strike landing on any appropriate target down below. 
     Okay, glad he cleared that up, but I still thought this target naming was a bit misleading for all systems to generally name/associate body parts with angle deliveries. And I was happy to see Remy explain all this one afternoon. His explanantion worked for me, but the misleading approach for all continued and continues still in many systems. Some might dismiss my complaint as semantics, but I don’t. Then some other Filipino systems and fighting programs will describe their angle system as simple “high, high, medium, medium, low, low” and so on, avoiding the associated body part targets. I am not sure they all understand why, but they do it.

     Now if you are on the receiving end, training to counter against incoming attacks, I think it’s important to label the approaching attack as a “stomach” stab. And if you absolutely want to stab someone in the eyeball, that is a specific technique, that should be different from bigger, generic multi-delivery patterns.
     Perhaps I should list what I’m saying to best explain:
        1: Generic angles of attack training
        2: Working specific attacks training
        3: Countering specific attacks training

     To me, these are 3 different things. You don’t load 6 missiles on an Apache helicopter and say, “Missile one is for the walls of the fort. Missile 2 is for the oil tanker. Missile 3 is for any enemy aircraft….” Instead, you shoot whatever and where ever you need too. Nor do you say, “there are 7 angles of attack in my system because the name of my system has seven letters.” Huh? Such thinking is not clever or applicable. Should a tank be designed to only shoot 4 ways because there are four letters in the word “tank.” These are short minded, almost thinking disorder plans when compared with the demands of real fighting and combat, that you will find in martial systems. A certain…detachment.

     All this and a few other reasons are why in 1996 I converted over to the military combat clock for angles of attack. This way instantly is all about developing the delivery and not associating the delivery with a target. Basic training 12, 3, 6 and 9. Advanced training the whole clock 1-12. Thrusts or hooks. Standing, kneeling and grounded. This clock freedom is also a main reason why I had to retire from all the martial systems I was in. I could no longer teach these mandatory angles of attack in these systems, as ordered, as required. And, all other these angle of attack systems are vast in style and numbers and often illogically organized. And they are quite forgettable. You’ll never forget the clock  numbers.

Those other angle systems, and my chosen clock angle system are usually practiced, or should be practiced:
    1: in the air (to check for proper body synergy)
    2: hitting training objects like bags or war posts
    3: on the body parts of training partners in various training speeds
    4: sparring/dueling

Now, on to these pesky templates.
Template training shares many of the benefits and downsides as angle of attack patterns. As mentioned at the beginning, templates have been used forever. I get it. It develops knife manipulation and bonding time with your edged weapon. Great. Body chart templates also create familiarization with the body. Great. We see the charts new and old. 

     Some systems REALLY over use them and way overdo it in my opinion. The template fanatics spend copious amounts of time declaring tens and tens, if not hundreds of multi-step combinations like “stab the stomach, twist the blade up and to the right, then stab the heart,” etc. Chores like that. Many, many chores like that with many slashing and stabbing steps. 

      Might I remind folks that once you really stab someone, HE MOVES! There’s a very good chance he was already moving when the fight started, or when he sees the knife coming into him. And those damn, reflexive arms of his! How dare they get in the way! I think those second and the third targets are usually gone. Gone! Changed. They just won’t be there like the flat piece of knife target template. 

     And you know guts are guts. Guts are some soft stuff and some bones. But even of this soft stuff, a preponderance of soft stuff can get goopey and slow you down, so all your twisty, innerd cuts from here to there and up or down are not so easy. Forensics, confessions, victim, crime and military oral histories tell us that clothing, vests and various belts, be they civilian, police or military, also inhibit the classic template paths. In other words the lower intestine stab and subsequent climbing “c” cut  into the upper gizzards, might be thwarted by some sort of a belt, or perhaps, a body twist, or an arm. 
     The gladiators, and samurai, the knights in shining armor, et al, were very concerned with the clothing and body armor of their enemy, carefully constructing attacks that their cuts plunged into the weakest points of their opponent’s protections. Many of us know that a lot of classic, unarmed and armed martial arts have katas and techniques dealing with grabs and attacks that are unique to the armor and clothing of an enemy and their times. 

     Also slowing template combinations down are problems of blade evacuation from the stabbing wound, as it might get stuck for a second or more than a few seconds in ribs, bone, clothing again and gear, etc. 

bug target

     Any template practice, using the target label method that orders up, follow-up, second and third attacks should be taken very lightly, not over-worked and at very least come with these explained caveats. We shouldn’t have novice instructors and students walking away thinking that they can stab and deep slash/cut specific targets in two, three, four or more exact places. Perhaps more time on the wooden or rubber war post would be more beneficial? After all, we all can’t work at a big animal butcher shop.
(By the way, much of this pertains to shooting paper targets with guns too, as people that need to be shot are often moving before, during and after.)
     Targeting formats aside, emphasizing knife manipulation skills allows a practitioner to keep the blade moving for all AVAILABLE targets after the first stab or slash. That is why I prefer a "Solo Command and Mastery" military combat clock instructional approach for handling a knife, versus doing so by naming targets and insisting on a series of follow-up targets.   

     I know you might still consider all this semantics, but I don’t. I worry about foundational doctrine and where it all leads later in courses, brick by brick.


     The end goal of the training format is to develop angles of delivery with good, smart body synergy, free from specific targets. They land where they land. The targets change and move. Hitting moving targets is another form of training. Then the idea of actually hitting multiple, moving targets as template training suggests is still very tricky. All do bolster knife manipulation, which is a good thing, but might I suggest you consider and worry about over-doing  the angles-to-target approach and the template, combination conundrum. 

     May all your enemies remain completely flat, face-forward, and without any motion.


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This is an excerpt from the upcoming Addendum to the Knife

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