Article – The Combat Clock

How to Master the Angles of Attack Regardless of Weapon
How to Cure the Angle Fandango

by W. Hock Hochheim



combat clock hock hochheim Article   The Combat Clock

 The clock points with regard to the angles of attack. I was familiar with military terminology and concept from my Army experience. If you were on a foot patrol and the point man suddenly shouted, "enemy at 2 o'clock!" Everyone would instantly look in that direction. The same for pilots – who also have both a vertical clock and a horizontal clock. "12 o'clock high!" Simple. Quick. Effective. Unforgettable.

Yet, scores of differing police and martial arts training systems are not clock-based. Their elaborate weapons angles of attack were disjointed and forgettable, a major problem in this frustrating rat race of systemologies, and the various lines of attack protocols each used for hand, stick, knife and gun tactics. Each try to outsmart or out-do each other, rather than focus in on maximized education. The worst in my opinion are the two extremes – the over-simplified and the over-complicated. I began to ask myself, how are all these directions of combat the same? It became clear that attacks universally come in from the center, high or low, or right or left sides, whether standing or on the ground.

 No matter the weapon, the angles/directions are the same. I returned with trust to the simple military “combat” clock. The clock face is an imprinted image in our minds since early childhood. The simple angle of attack pattern is right on your wrist, work or play. I discovered, or better said, I re-discovered the simple, military clock method as a training foundation. Stand it up or lay it down, you have an unforgettable pattern to teach, memorize and work from: combat clock air force hock hochheim Article   The Combat Clock

  Basic Hand, Stick, Knife, Gun Combat Clock Training:

  •  12 o'clock from axis to above (anything to or from above)
  •  3 o'clock from axis to the right (anything to or from your right)
  •  6 o'clock from axis to below (anything to or from below)
  •  9 o'clock from axis to the left (anything to or from your left)

- Axis point is the center of the clock

 – vertical clock or horizontal clock for footwork

  Advanced Hand, Stick, Knife, Gun Combat Clock Training:
From the axis center point out to all 12 numbers of the clock
This offers more precision training if needed

 The Combat Clock is used to:

  •  Learn hand, knife, stick and gun manipulation and solo command and mastery skills
  •  Maneuvering – organize attack and defense footwork if laid horizontal.
  •  Target Spotting – direct fire and locate enemies with a vertical and horizontal clock.
  •  Delivery system – use to deliver angles of attack.
  •  Organize attack striking, hooking/slashing strikes if set vertically.
  •  Organize attack shooting/stabbing/thrusting points if set vertically.
  •  Defensive system – used to block or defeat angles of attack and footwork moves.
  •  Timetables – the preparation for, and length of, an encounter. Coordinate mission timing.
  •  Other – the clock can be used numerous ways, such as the below photo/chart on how pistols are removed from the hand.

 combat clock pistol disarms hock hochheim Article   The Combat Clock

  The clock can be used numerous ways, such as with this photo/chart on how pistols are removed from the hand. This is from the perspective of the disarmer.


 In the last 20 years I have taught thousands of people from utter novices to experts, from cadets and rookie cops to vets and martial arts black belts, from all over the world, and I can get them to interact with each other in mere moments by using this simple basic Combat Clock format. Remember I did not invent the Combat Clock, it is a military concept, free for us all to use.

combat clock footwork hock hochheim Article   The Combat Clock

 More Notes on The Combat Clock

 You know I go to a number of differing schools each year and some are Filipino based. Each one has a stick and/or a knife numbering system. Some use 5. Sometimes 12 or more angles. Almost all are different. The same angles, because there are only so many possibilities, but ordered differently. After doing many FMA systems since the mis-1980s, I had to learn all these angles too. Actually, it all drove me crazy. Many systems also have within themselves, numerous other angles of attack systems really compounding the problem. Angles of attack upon angles of attack upon…etc.

 These classical systems require, by way of name and tradition, that people learn THEIR particular numbering systems. Is there a rhyme or reason to these angles selections? Usually NO. For example – one very popular master uses a 9 angle system. Why? Because the name of his system…has 9 letters in it. Okay! What? What does that mean? There are 8 letters in my last name, then should I use 8 angles of attack? Of course not. Does that mean that a tank torrent should only move 4 ways atop a tank because there are four letters in the word "tank?"

 This is not just a classical problem. New people starting new systems have a propensity to invent their own angle of attack system. Why? Just cause, that why! As they usually make the same generic mistake. Seeking something different, they may make an even more unusual numerical progression.

 In a way, this is a thinking disorder. It makes zero sense. Many of these angle attack systems are constructed in this haphazard manner by people with no tactical training or knowledge in scientific efficiency or practicality. Many if these guys have no college or no high school. Or, no education on how people learn things. They just…make up angles.

In the mid-1990s I began to ask myself. Do we really need all these redundant and different angles of attack? Why not use the military combat clock? When a point man on military patrol spots the enemy and declares,  “enemy at 225 degrees!” No one knows where that is!

 If he shouts out,” enemy at 10 ‘clock!” Everyone knows where that it. The magic and beauty of the clock.

 Use the clock. I do and it works. Since about 1996, when I arrive in these places and teach the simple, unforgettable combat clock, I can put total, novice strangers together hitting each other with hands, sticks and knives in the opening minutes of a session.

 This training involves civilians, cops and soldiers. Imagine getting in front of 100 cops and making them memorize “Quintof's  18 angles of attack” to start their first day off before they can interact with each other. Bubba, that is a slow day of unhappy cops (and soldiers and citizens). Many instructors that are "embedded" into their family systems also like my idea of the clock, it's just they can't officially do it.

 As a result some of these host instructors have decided to use the Combat Clock as a teaching and work out tool. It helps retention and gets folks busy fast. Basically they tell me that they are handicapped and stymied with beginners who cannot function in a class without memorizing their family system 6, 8, 10, 12 or however many angles. Class time is wasted with these new people trying to get them to learn the 10, 12, 14 whatever angles systems they MUST traditionally know before they can move on to the next step. The instructor often assigns some other senior student off to the corner to teach the new guy these angles.

Complicated angles taught in nonsensical patterns can even run your students off. You know, these angle systems are essentially katas. I find it ironic that many modern stick systems (many wanting to sound so modern and tactical, and even in their black tact pants of many pockets, etc.) make fun of katas, laugh out loud at them, then turn right around and do a 12 angle drill with footwork. Dude! Guess what! You are doing a kata with a stick in your hand.

But with the simple, basic combat clock of 12, 3, 6, 9 clock (high, right, low, left) you can get them interacting within minutes. And the fun begins faster. Happy students mean happy customers.

You can later learn the traditional angle systems for the esoteric stalwarts who wish to learn them. I understand the interest. I really do. But with the Combat Clock many of these "embedded" instructors now have a quick trick for teaching and can better interact with the civilian, police and military that they so much want to attach themselves to.

Anyhow, my point is that a number of these people are now also teaching and exercising through the combat clock for class work, and getting the students on board, in action right away, with the named system angle of attack required. Then they memorize the classic, mandatory angle, fandango later.

knife dueling hock hochheim Article   The Combat Clock Order Crossing Blades Now

W. Hock Hochheim is a military, police and martial arts vet, who teaches hand, stick, knife and gun seminars in 11 allied countries around the world. He can be reached at

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