The Octagon

One of the most fundamental conceptual elements of the Tensoku Ryu system is the Octagon. We use this concept to help define movement directions in multiple ways. The most fundamental use is to imagine the Octagon projected onto the floor. Now we can establish some common movement patterns and points of reference.

The Octagon Model

The Octagon

The Octagon

The first thing to notice is that each of the eight angles of the Octagon is numbered. We use these numbers to help us define and communicate specific directions. To understand this consider that the Octagon is lying flat on the floor. Now further imagine that you are standing exactly in the middle where all eight lines intersect. Now turn so that you are looking directly along the line toward angle one. This is the most typical way (but certainly not the only way) in which the Octagon is employed.

The second thing to notice in the diagram above is that the angles are represented in both Arabic and Japanese numerals. This is simply to help students begin to recognize numeric depictions in both forms.

When you are standing facing angle one you will notice that angle three is to your left while angle four is to your right. Angle two is directly behind you. Angle seven is forty-five degrees off to your front right side.

One use of this arrangement might be to consider how to avoid an incoming strike of some sort. If an opponent launches an attack from the direction of angle one then you might step back and to the side toward angle six to avoid it. This creates some distance and moves you out of the direct line of attack. This might be employed as a simple escaping pattern.

Using these angles we might describe a kick toward angle four or a right-hand strike toward angle five. The Octagon proves very useful for describing and communicating a specific movement or direction.

We use the Octagon in many different ways. The two most common are to think of the Octagon as a global reference and as a local reference. We’ll discuss these a bit more.

The Global Octagon

When you walk into a room you may decide to arbitrarily say that a specific wall or another point of reference is now defined as angle one. The remaining parts of the room naturally fall into place as the other angles of the Octagon. If you turn and face angle four, it remains angle four. Angle one will now be off to your left. The original angles never change their position.

This is useful for describing sequences of movement. We often use global angles to help define how to move or where to strike when performing a Kata. It also proves useful in a training area environment where everyone understands that one end of the room is angle one. All movements can then be described relative to that point.

One small area of confusion that can occur with new students happens when students face one another. Since the two persons are facing different parts of the room it can be confusing to say, “step to angle seven.” To alleviate this problem we use what we refer to as the Local Octagon.

The Local Octagon

Usually, when we generically refer to the Octagon we are referring to the Global Octagon. But there are times when this can be confusing or when it is not relevant. In those situations, we employ a concept called the Local Octagon. The Local Octagon is not relevant to the room in which you are located, but rather is local to where you are facing at the moment. In this model, if you are facing angle one and then turn to face angle four, then angle one moves with you. What had been angle four is now angle one. What had been angle one is now directly to your left, so it is now local angle three.

This can be initially confusing, but it helps to think of positions and angles relative to how you are positioned or located. This allows you to be anywhere and still understand how and where to move in a specific situation.

Both of these Octagon models, and some others that Tensoku Ryu students learn over time, are useful in varying circumstances. It takes a bit of time for new students to become generally familiar with the Octagon, but once this fundamental concept is mastered it offers a fantastic method for conceptualizing movement patterns, escaping strategies, and manipulation techniques. During instruction, it is an excellent shorthand tool for communicating movements. For example, an instructor might say something like, “Pull your right hand in and rotate toward angle seven” as a way of suggesting how the student might take advantage of a training partner’s current anatomical structure.

The Octagon is the first conceptual model that students study. It is a vital learning and communication tool that students will encounter in every lesson throughout their Tensoku Ryu studies.

Angle References

Here are abbreviations you will find used throughout our site when we talk about movements relative to the Octagon.  These abbreviations provide an effective shorthand for describing how to move in a specific situation. Please take a few moments to study these simple conventions. You will encounter them often.

In the following list, the ‘#’ symbol is a substitute for a particular angle. So the abbreviation L# might be presented as L3, which would indicate to move your left leg to angle 3.

  • L# – indicates the angle to which the left leg should move.
  • R# – indicates the angle to which the right leg should move.
  • F# – indicates the angle to which you or your stance should face. This is usually the angle at which your center is directed.
  • T# – indicates a movement or action toward a specific angle. You might kick, punch, or block toward a particular angle of the Octagon.
  • A# – indicates a specific angle. This might be used to offer a reference to a specific angle of the Octagon. For example, it might suggest that an attacker is approaching from angle 5 (A5) or that you might use a weapon to strike in the direction of angle 3 (A3).
  • CW – Clockwise. Indicates a rotation which, when viewed from above would appear to move in a clockwise direction. This would suggest you are rotating from local angle one toward local angle seven (or four).
  • CCW – Counterclockwise. Indicates a rotation which, when viewed from above would appear to move in a counterclockwise direction. This would suggest you are rotating from local angle one toward local angle five or three.
  • V# – indicates an angle on a vertically oriented Octagon. The vertical octagon is normally considered to be positioned such that angle one is toward the sky, angle two is toward the ground, angle three is to the left, angle four is to the right, etc. This Octagon representation is most often used when considering weapon movements.

You may find these abbreviations used in combination. For example, you may encounter a sequence such as, “step R7L1R7,” which would suggest a rapid and continual sequence of steps in which you move your right leg to angle 7, then step with your left leg to angle 1, and finally step with the right leg again to angle 7. This form of movement is often used to describe evasive or escaping actions where you move to bypass someone who is standing in front of you or approaching you from directly ahead.

Understand that these abbreviations are utilized extensively in descriptions of Kata and within various examples of methods and movements. You must learn these shorthand description methods early for you will encounter them often.

Octagon Axis

Another common method of reference regarding the Octagon involves identifying a specific axis. If you examine the octagon you will notice that there are straight lines that flow completely through the Octagon. For example, the line between angles 1 and 2 is one such line. The other lines are between angles 3 and 4, 5 and 6, and 7 and 8.  There are exactly four such lines in the octagon.

Each of these lines forms what we refer to as an axis. You may find  a reference such as “on the octagon 3-4 axis.” This refers to the line between angles 3 and 4 on the octagon. This is a quite common method of reference in Tensoku Ryu.

It is used for many purposes, including but not limited to the following:

  • It might suggest that an opponent is striking along the 3-4 axis (or possibly the 4-3 axis). This is less frequently used because it is usually more descriptive simply to say an attack is coming from angle 3. But you may encounter such references at times where the distinction is somehow relevant.
  • You might be asked to position your feet so they are on the 7-8 axis. This would indicate that your feet should be aligned so that the toes (or heels) of both feet are on the line between angles 7 and 8. This is a very common method of reference in Tensoku Ryu.
  • The proper hip and shoulder alignment might be specified by saying your hips and/or shoulders should be oriented along a specific axis. A reference might suggest that your hips and shoulders should be aligned along the 3-4 axis. This would mean one shoulder and hip points toward angle 3 while the other side points directly to angle 4. Normally this would mean that your center is aligned along the 1-2 axis, which is another common method of reference.
  • A movement might be identified by specifying an axis. It might be suggested that you or an opponent could move along the local 7-8 axis, for example. This would indicate that someone is moving to or from one of these two angles.  In some cases, you might find a reference to the 8-7 axis, which would suggest a direction of travel that is different than what would occur along the 7-8 axis.

By far the most common way these axis references are utilized is when defining orientations. Usually, this mechanism is used to define foot positions, shoulder and hip orientations, knee positions, and center positioning. But you may well encounter any number of other ways in which axis are utilized.

Another thing to note is that at times it will be convenient to identify a global octagon axis reference. At other times it is more relevant to discuss a local octagon reference. The two methods identify the same orientations, the only difference is whether you are using the local or global octagon as the basis for the reference.

The Octagon and Centering

We should also point out that the axis model can help you with centering. For example, if you stand in a stance such as Sochin Dachi or Zenkutsu Dachi with your feet aligned along the 7-8 axis then your center will be aligned along either the 1-2 axis or the 3-4 axis. The same occurs if your feet are placed along the 5-6 axis. Your center will be aligned along the 1-2 or 3-4 axis. Here are examples of these alignments.

If your feet are on the 5-6 axis such that your left foot is closest to angle 5 and your right foot is closest to angle 6 then your center might be focused at angle 1.  This would be a natural orientation from which a right-handed person might face an opponent located at angle 1. But a left-handed person might more naturally be positioned in this orientation when facing an opponent at angle 4. You might find it beneficial to focus at angle 1 one moment, and then focus on angle 4 the next. This can be easily accomplished without stepping because you can use these centers to readily focus between angles 1 and 4 by merely moving your center orientation. There is no stepping or other action involved. This is a key lesson in the very first Kata (Kihonteki Shodan) that we teach.

If your foot positions were reversed such that your right foot is closer to angle 5 and your left foot is closer to angle 6 then your center would naturally point to either angle 2 or angle 3. Again you can shift your orientation between angles 2 and 3 without stepping. You could be in Hidari Sochin Dachi facing angle 2 or Migi Sochin Dachi facing angle 3 at any moment without having to move your feet.

If your feet are aligned along the 1-2 axis such that your left foot is closest to angle 1 and your right foot is closest to angle 2, then your centers will naturally align with either angle 7 or angle 6. If your foot positions are changed so that the left foot is closest to angle 2 and your right foot is closest to angle 1 then your centers will naturally align with either angle 5 or 8.

And finally, if your feet are positioned along the 3-4 axis such that your right foot is nearest angle 4 and your left foot is nearest angle 3 then your centers will naturally align with angles 5 or 7. Reversing foot positions so the right foot is nearer to angle 3 and the left foot is nearest angle 4 then your centers will naturally align with either angle 6 or 8.

If you step back a moment you might notice that while in a stance like Sochin Dachi or Zenkutsu Dachi your center is always focused at 45° to the axis on which you have aligned your feet. You would want to deliver all of your striking and manipulative efforts along this 45° angle that represents your center.

We should note that when you stand in a stance such as Heiko Dachi[glossary] or [glossary]Kiba Dachi where your feet are parallel with one another then your center will be aligned at 90° to the axis on which your feet are aligned. So if you are in Heiko Dachi with your feet on the 1-2 axis then your center will be at angles 3 or 4 (depending on which way you are turned). If you were standing with your feet on the 7-8 axis then your center would face either angle 5 or 6, again depending on which way you are turned. So your center is naturally aligned in the direction you are facing. This is of course pretty straight forward, but we thought we would mention it for clarity. Your center is not always 45° to the axis on which your feet are aligned.

The Octagon Video

See Also

The Concept of Center
Escaping Patterns

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