Among the first things learned when starting out in Filipino Martial Arts are the twelve angles of attack.

A demonstration of the Modern Arnis 12 Angles of Attack.

Many Filipino Martial Arts use their version of the twelve angles of attack.

The Modern Arnis 12 angles of attack are as follows:

  1. Left temple;
  2. Right temple;
  3. Left arm;
  4. Right arm;
  5. Poke to abdomen;
  6. Thrust to left chest;
  7. Poke to right chest;
  8. Strike to right leg;
  9. Strike to left leg;
  10. Thrust to left eye;
  11. Thrust to the right eye;
  12. Downward strike to the coconut!

Regardless of which FMA you are studying, the concept is that we are dealing with motions/angles of attack rather than methods of attack.

We are more concerned with the angle of attack rather than the method of attack. For example, an attack that targets the left temple of your head, whether it be empty hand, knife, stick, tote umbrella, a broken bottle or any other implement, would be considered an angle one attack.

It does not matter what kind of attack it is as long it’s a recognized angle of attack.

Learning the angles of attack simplifies the learning curve. Rather than learning separate techniques for each method of attack, you only need to respond appropriately to an angle of attack.

For example, do you need to memorize 50 defenses against a knife attack and 50 techniques against hook punches?


You only need to address the angle from which the attack is coming.

In some cases, you will need to slightly modify your self-defense techniques and footwork depending on the weapon being used by your opponent (shorter blade vs. longer blade, for example).

Once you have angle recognition, footwork becomes paramount.

Correct footwork increases the chances of a successful defense and counter. Needless to say, sloppy footwork or improper body positioning will lead to an adverse outcome.

How do I have the students practice the twelve angles of attack? There are various fun ways to practice the twelve angles.

  1. Have them perform the twelve angles backward (12, 11, 10 and so on).
  2. Practice the twelve angles left-handed.
  3. Train the twelve angles as a two-man set.
  4. Call out the angles at random in rapid-fire fashion and see if they hit the correct angle.
  5. Have the beginner student feed the twelve angles to a senior student.

Of course, there are more ways to practice them!

Learning the twelve angles of attack in Modern Arnis in my classes is stressed from day one. To put a spin on a quote by Morpheus from “The Matrix” “You learn the twelve angles, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”

Over to the instructors, how often do you have your students practice the twelve angles? In what ways?

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