Blogs / Boxing / CTS / Empty Hands / Footwork Friday / Jack Slack / Martial Arts

Footwork Friday: Why Angles?

Today’s Footwork Friday is an answer to the questions: Why angles? What is angular footwork for? Each were asked in order to expand upon the basic footwork training. Due to the complexity involved, it’s difficult to provide a sufficient explanation in type only, but the following essay will attempt to do so. For a more complete answer, visit the nearest Counterpoint Tactical System school. Effective use of angles is such a subtle concept that multi-media is needed to approach an understandable answer. The best way to learn it is through interactive training with an instructor mixed with sparring. Now, it’s time to find those angles.


Disclaimer: My reference for footwork is from Counterpoint Tactical System as taught by Master Zach Whitson. Any errors or inconsistencies are mine. The spirit of this series is me studying footwork in more depth. I don’t claim to know everything, and I will make mistakes. But, again, those mistakes are mine. Also, this article is for reference only and should be used as a secondary source only. Please, see a Filipino martial arts instructor to accurately learn these techniques.

Footwork Friday Logo

In Counterpoint Tactical System, we learn a variety of footwork, and which particular footwork pattern is used depends on what is required to accomplish your goal. While we study footwork patterns as individual components, they are, in reality, mixed, matched, and scrambled together.

FMA Footwork Pattern

Before we begin, let’s look at some linear footwork so that we have a baseline. Fencing is a sport with phenomenal linear footwork. The two combatants advance and retreat masterfully. If you were to watch a fencing match from directly above the fencers, the whole thing would take place on a straight line. In CTS, this is represented by the shuffle line above.

This type of footwork gives your opponent equal chance to strike at you as you have at them. That is what makes fencing such an interesting skill and fun to watch. Also notice the fencers stance. The fencer’s body is torqued so that one side is more dominant than the other. This minimizes the body’s profile for straight on attacks. Since the saber in fencing extends the reach of one side of the body, it makes sense defensively to present a minimum area. For self defense purposes, we want to maximize our ability to strike while minimizing our opponents. Because of this, we use a more squared off stance so that we can attack and defend with all of our limbs.

09-13-14 Seminar 20a

If we want to keep all our weapons aimed at an opponent but also want to minimize our exposure to our opponent’s weapons, the simple choice to get offline. Angle off and face the opponent. We covered this in a previous Footwork Friday post: Combining Move Up the Circle. Notice how Kyle has all his weapons pointed at Connor, but only Connors right side is within range of Kyle. This is how angling out is effective for defense.

But angles also make great offense. Iron Mike Tyon is known for his devastating power, but boxing analysts love his footwork. It was his use of angles to be in position to deliver that power in unexpected ways that confounded and, ultimately, KO’ed his challengers. The great Jack Slack created this breakdown of Mike Tyson’s angles, which is worth studying for how Tyson’s understanding of movement made him so formidable.

Tyson’s ability to position himself for maximum power delivery is one of the greatest in sport fighting, and we, for our own self defense, can make use of these lessons to position ourselves for maximum offense within an acceptable use of force framework. In self defense, we don’t have twelve rounds to jab our opponent into submission. We are looking to create a pathway to escape as soon as possible, and using angles opens pathways to escape. But they also open pathways to deliver appropriate force required to create a pathway as well.


Taking an angle, getting offline, moving away from centerline, whatever you want to call it, is a strategy that every efficient self defense practitioner needs. It is a concept that is understood intellectually but remains sorely underused in practice. Watch how many sport fighters choose to wade right into a fight and ‘bang.’ The greats vary their footwork from linear to angular to circular. Some, like Mike Tyson, to enormous success. These are lessons that we can, should, and do study. Filipino martial arts (FMA) understand this, and angular footwork is required in the study of FMA. The knowledge of angular footwork makes FMA such a formidable self defense system. Find a FMA school and start learning how to move on angles.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s