We utilize features of the head to help us decide where we are in the midst of a chaotic struggle. If your opponent steps forward with his or her right leg and punches with the right arm (an Oi Tsuki), then two of the many possible directions in which you might move would be forward and to your left (local octagon angle 5), or forward and to your right (local octagon angle 7). These are not your only options but will serve our explanatory purposes well.
If you move to local angle 5 then you will see the opponent’s arm stretched out to your right side. If you look to your opponent’s head the most prominent feature you will notice is their right ear. You are on the “Ear Side” of your opponent.
If you had moved to the other side (local angle 7) then you would see the opponent’s arm stretched out to your left side. Looking again at your opponent’s head the most prominent feature you will notice is their facial structure. You are on the “Face Side” of your opponent.
Why does it matter? One reason is that it gives you an immediate visual clue about which weapons, defenses, and strategies you might employ against your opponent at that instant in time. If you are currently on the ear side of the body then in another quarter of a second you could find yourself on the face side. As you gain experience you will come to know what tools and skills you have available to take advantage of your opponent’s current relative position. Whenever you work with others always note which side of the body you are on whenever there is any movement on the part of yourself or your opponent.
Let’s look at this concept in a little more detail. Assume for the moment that you had, in our example, moved toward local angle 5. You will be on the ear side with the opponent’s extended arm on your right. If the opponent now retracts his or her right arm, rotates, and strikes in your direction with the left hand, you will find yourself immediately on the opponent’s face side. You have done nothing, but you have in effect moved from one side of the opponent’s body to the other.
So what benefit does this knowledge offer? First of all, this simple visual clue can suggest possible options you have at your disposal. What you might be able to do depends to a large degree on what is accessible to you. You have different options depending on which side of the body you are currently located.
If you are on the ear side of the body then you will likely have direct access to the attacker’s extended arm or leg. They have in effect gift this to you. You will also likely have access to the person’s back, ribs, head, and nearest leg, though your opponent’s current position and posture may limit some of these opportunities. But in general, you can strike, manipulate, or control anything you can access when you are oriented roughly 90° to your opponent. You do not need to think about what you can do. You know, that because you are in the ear side you could strike the head, kidneys, back, or abdomen. You may also have the opportunity to manipulate the person’s nearest hip, leg, arm, and his or her head. You know, because you are on the ear side, that these things are accessible.
What you do not have is direct access to many vital organs. You can strike to the kidneys, pinch the skin, and assault the brain, but you do not have direct access to most other organs. Yes, you can strike into the abdomen and perhaps impact one or more vital organs in that manner, but this is not a direct attack against any specific organ. This is something of a nuanced argument here. You can strike a vital organ in the abdomen. But your targeting and power options are somewhat limited.
An advantage you have when on the ear side is that you can check or guard the front arm or leg to prevent the opponent from rotating their face side toward you. This does not mean your opponent cannot strike at you. It simply means you can limit the methods by which they can make such an attempt.
When you find yourself on the face side you have direct access to most vital organs. The only vital organs you cannot access are the kidneys. You also have access to other important sensitive areas of the body including the face, abdomen, throat, and groin.
Being on the face side subjects you to some increased risks. The opponent’s opposite side does not need to rotate much to strike at you. It is therefore critical for you to use some form of Thwarting Action to ensure that the opponent does not employ this side against you. This thwarting action needs to be performed immediately if you wish to avoid being struck.
There are a great many different applications that can be employed on either side. As you practice with others notice which side of the body you are on and how the skills you are working with can be employed on that side. This is an essential cognitive action. You want to begin to appreciate what you can do on one side versus the other. Eventually, this will become second nature. You will know where you are and therefore what is possible.