Green Belt Stepping Patterns

In the first belt material we discussed a variety of stepping pattern movement sequences that we referred to as Escaping Patterns. These stepping sequences were presented as a way to quickly avoid someone who is aggressively approaching in your direction. These patterns provided a simple yet elegant way for someone, particularly someone with little training, to both conceptualize and effect an escape.

Later in your training you were introduced to the concept of Neutral Stepping Patterns; patterns of movement that allowed you to remain at a relatively constant distance from a moving opponent. These patterns afforded you with the ability to buy some time, assess your opponent and surroundings, and then decide whether you want to escape or deal with the opponent is a more direct manner.

Now it is time to discuss those stepping patterns that deal with gaining a positional advantage over your opponent. We will discuss a variety of ways in which you can move closer to your opponent while limiting your risk of being struck or destabilized as you close on your opponent. These skills are all merely logical extensions of the stepping pattern concepts. As with all things in Tensoku Ryu, the movement or behavior is nearly identical, it is only how you think about things that change the outcome.

Entering Stepping Patterns

These stepping patterns involve methods by which you may, via your own movement, move closer to your opponent. These patterns generally require that you be at Ittoma Ai, or intermediate distance, from your opponent. From this distance you can usually gain a positional advantage and be in direct-contact range within two steps.

Entering PatternsAttack Angle

Generally speaking these patterns involve an initial evasive movement (step) that both moves you off of the opponent’s line of attack, and concurrently moves you closer to the opponent. A subsequent second step then moves you directly toward the opponent on either the ear side or face side and at either 45° or 90° to the opponent’s center line.

As the second step or movement begins you will transition from a guard position (typically used during the first step) into some strike or manipulative maneuver. The choice of offensive behavior will depend on a mixture of the situational risk, your intent, the opponent’s condition or attitude, and what opportunities you notice as you move in on the opponent. The exact nature of what you might do when you close on the opponent is purely dependent on your mental state at the time. It is best if you are not overly agitated or hostile. You do not want to be more injurious than is generally necessary.

Most of these entering patterns assume the opponent is approaching directly from your local octagon angle one. But these patterns also often work well on a relatively stationary opponent also. The only difference is in the size of the first step (a short versus long step) and perhaps some slight variation in the angle utilized for the second step so that you close on the opponent from the proper angle. Otherwise these patterns are equally effective on someone whether they are moving forward or maintaining a somewhat fixed location. These patterns do not work well when the opponent is retreating.

In a few rare cases you might elect to move directly toward angle one and therefore directly in along the opponent’s line of attack. These are represented in the table above by an attack angle of zero degrees. This is typically done only when the opponent is imbalanced, rotated off center, noticeably exhausted, or otherwise unable to strike as you approach directly from the opponent’s local angle one. This type of entering pattern might also be used if you notice a significant manipulation opportunity that might not be available in another moment or two. You’ll need to be careful with this approach however. If you think about it, you are now the person attacking. If the opponent is not sufficiently weakened or disabled he or she could use one of the other strategies in the table against you.

Stepping patterns that have a negative 90° angle suggest that you are turning backward between the first and second step. This may provide you with an opportunity to deliver a spinning strike of some type or use your turning momentum to derive increased inertia for a manipulative movement. These movements involve turning your back on the opponent, which is generally not an ideal strategy. But this type of maneuver can be quite effective if done quickly and will often surprise the opponent. This strategy is also often used when increased ferocity is necessary.

Stepping patterns that involve a negative 45° angle of attack might best be used with an aggressive opponent who is approaching rapidly. These entering patterns might then be used to initiate something like Kaiten Nage or another manipulative technique that utilizes the forward momentum of the opponent to your advantage.

Stepping patterns utilizing a positive 45° angle of attack might be employed if the opponent is either at a slightly increased distance or if the opponent has already begun retreating as you initiate your first step. Your movements would then be targeted along your center line, but at 45° to your opponent’s center line (assuming they have not begun to rotate, which would probably be to your advantage).

When performing these stepping patterns it is often advantageous to pull both feet together into a temporary Heisoku Dachi between the first and second steps. This is only a momentary transitional state and the stance is not held for any duration of time. You simply move through the Heisoku Dachi on your way to the final leg position. This not only allows you to avoid contact with the opponent’s front leg while stepping, but by doing the movement in this manner you may be able to place your second step behind the nearest leg of the opponent, providing you with an excellent manipulation tool. This will not always be the case, but in about 50% of cases you will find this works out to your advantage (if the opponent’s front leg is nearest to you). In that case the stepping pattern becomes a destabilizing pattern that may serve to destabilize the opponent’s front leg as your arms work on the opponent’s torso and/or head.

Inducement Stepping Patterns

Entering patterns can be quite effective but with some opponent’s they may be difficult to employ. This may be because the opponent is very adept at movement or because the opponent is reticent to attack. When these situations occur a different stepping pattern approach might be considered.

The goal with this next set of stepping patterns, which we will call Inducement Patterns, is to provide an incentive for the opponent to attack. These patterns involve a bit of theater as well as the simple movement pattern. The goal is to make the opponent think he or she has a strategic advantage that must be exploited. In other words, we will make ourselves a very tempting target.

In most situations we will move back initially using a movement that will be easy for the opponent to follow. This could involve a single step, or perhaps two steps at most. The goal is to make the opponent believe you are vulnerable to an attack. This might suggest you lower your guard, turn your back, or otherwise expose some vulnerability the opponent may seek to exploit.

Perhaps the easiest inducement pattern is to suddenly raise your head, relax your shoulders, lower your guard, and step back to your local angle two. Your goal is to look especially vulnerable. If your opponent is intent on striking you this is when he or she will attack. Moving back has moved you out of range and provided you with some improved timing. The opponent will need to close distance to strike you. As he or she moves forward you simply employ one of the earlier Entering Stepping Patterns to take advantage of the opponent’s error.

Another inducement pattern is to move back and to the side as an opponent attacks. For example, if the opponent strikes with Migi Oi Tsuki, you might move L8R8 to position yourself outside of the strike, but in a location where the opponent can readily see you and will still consider you to be a viable target. This is where the acting comes in. You appear either dazed and confused or perhaps more effective, you appear to mock the opponent’s feeble attempt to strike you. Invariably the opponent will rotate his or her center and attempt to strike you immediately with the opposite hand. Before the strike can be initiated you move to the outside of what will be the next strike. In our example we would move R6L5 to at first avoid the second strike and then close on the opponent after the strike has missed. In this case we have induced a second strike in order to close on the opponent. In some cases you can accelerate the return of the opponent’s first strike to help insure the second strike misses inside. This entire sequence works extremely well.

Another form of inducement that might be utilized against a Migi Oi Tsuki or Migi Mae Geri would involve stepping R6L5. This moves you back out of the way of the first strike while remaining a potential target in the opponent’s mind. As you step forward L5 you would want to strike into the opponent’s left shoulder or somehow manipulate or control the first strike to prevent a strike originating from the opponent’s left side. If you fail to stop this second strike you will be struck immediately. This inducement pattern gets you in close to the opponent, but may require that you expend your first movement to curtail a potential second strike from the opponent. This can be avoided if you can prevent the retraction of the opponent’s first strike. If that can be done then your first strike could be directed toward a potentially damaging target.

In reality Inducement Patterns are little more than a combination of Escaping Patterns and Entering Patterns mixed together with a bit of acting. All three are usually required to make the inducement pattern effective. The key is to remain relaxed, aware, and prepared to take immediate advantage of your opponent’s flawed thinking.

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