The Octagon Revisited

The angles of the Octagon[/glossary] can be described in general directional terms in Japanese. These angles are described in the table below together with their English equivalents. The word “Mae” is shown in parenthesis where it is optionally used. Mae is generally assumed unless it is important to indicate you do not mean Ato. In some discussions or diagrams you will see Ushiro used in place of Ato. Either is acceptable. Ushiro generally means “rear, back, or behind”. Ato can have the same meaning, but can also mean “remainder” or have the connotation of time; meaning “after” or “later”. You should not be confused by words having multiple meanings in Japanese. This is also quite prevalent in the English language. See how many different general definitions can be associated with the English word “behind”.

Octagon AngleJapanese TermEnglish Equivalent
1MaeFront
2Ato (Ushiro)Back (rear)
3HidariLeft
4MigiRight
5Naname Hidari (Mae)Front left diagonal
6Naname Migi AtoBack right diagonal
7Naname Migi (Mae)Front right diagonal
8Naname Hidari AtoBack left diagonal

Looking at the octagon from a more mathematical or geometrical perspective, the interior angle between any two sides of a regular octagon is 135°. The sum of all these angles is 1080°. If you measure the angle between any two adjacent lines intersecting the center it will measure 45°. The sum of these angles is 360°. Any triangle consisting of two adjacent corners of the octagon and the center of the octagon will have angles of 45°, 67.5° and 67.5.

The various Japanese Kosho Ryu Kempo martial arts (of which there are several) use the octagon to denote angles, philosophy, and patterns of movement, throwing, and striking. The Octagon and the many ways in which it can be utilized are key elements of these martial arts styles.

The Chinese philosophy of Ba Gua (eight symbols) uses the octagon as a fundamental shape upon which various attributes are mapped. For example, the octagon may be used to represent different directions (north, south, etc.) various body parts (hand, ear, etc.) or conditions (in motion, creative, receptive, etc.). The Ba Gua philosophy has been adopted as a core element of the Chinese practice of Feng Shui. It is also used as the guiding principle of the martial art of Bagua Zheng. A common practice in Bagua Zheng is to walk around the perimeter of the octagon while performing a variety of often deep stances and stance transitions. This is commonly called “circle walking”, but in fact the perimeter of the octagon is being used to define movements. How would you use your knowledge of stepping patterns, stances, and stance transitions to allow you to move from one position to another while remaining on the perimeter of the octagon?

An MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) cage is usually in the shape of an octagon and this shape is often used as an iconic representation for MMA fighting. The octagon is seemingly everywhere. You will encounter it throughout your training and in many different contexts and applications. Keep an open mind, there is much more to this simple diagram than you may initially surmise.

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