The Clock-face Method in Martial Arts (Wa-Dokei)
Part of the beauty of Martial Arts lies in the evolving angles and changes between symmetrical and asymmetrical movements of the body. At times, one single position can have both feet facing different angles; hips and shoulders entirely juxtaposed; and the different joints in the arms attacking or blocking to different angles as well. Here lies a very complex facet of the Martial Arts, particular for the beginner, but even for the most experienced Martial Artist: direction.
Of course, as your tenure grows, you no longer need to consider the angle of the foot in a front stance or a horse stance, as this becomes instinctual and sub-conscious. However, you still need to consider the requirements of the movement when angling your body as a whole, for example, when studying a new kata or dao-lu.
This can be daunting task: a combination of vertical and horizontal positioning, varying degrees of speed and power, breathing, and momentum. To make matters even more difficult, you can practice hundreds of times in your Dojo, staring at the same Instructor and the same wall, but when you perform your pattern elsewhere you realize that your orientation, along with your compass, has been reset. Now there are trees, or people, or judges… everything is different!
There is a solution that I have found can assist, especially when learning a new pattern. Consider the ground as a large clock-face. Below I have given a very basic example of a pattern that will exclude stances for the sake of simplicity:
Begin: Bow (12 o’clock).
2: Front kick, head level punch (12 o’clock)
3: Turn right, upper block, punch (3 o’clock)
4: Right side kick (6 o’clock) knife-hand block to front (12 o’clock)
5: Left side kick (9 o’clock) knife-hand block to front (12 o’clock)
Finish: Bow (12 o’clock)
To begin, you could start utilizing this through the angle of your stance only, or through the angle of your hips, but as you become more comfortable and confident with this virtual clock-face method, you can start considering angles of individual strikes, kicks and blocks, generation of power through legs and hips, and direction of evasion from incoming opponents.
You are not limited to the 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock, but you can use any time to find your positioning. Furthermore, you may instead find it easier to use the points of a compass rather than a clock-face – North, South, East and West. I chose the clock-face method because it is more universal in the modern age – as some younger students may not have experience with a compass.
Remember that, as you are performing your patten, even if you imagine yourself on a large clock, do not watch the ground to try to navigate, as always in Martial Arts you need to be mindful of your surroundings: it is still important to keep your eyes focused in whichever direction the pattern requires.