The Sequence of
"Step to the left, beware of
"Step to the front, guard the
In the ancient lexicon of Tai
Chi Chuan, these principles govern all movement.
Beneath all, there is rooting.
After rooting, there is the art of movement. Between
rooting and the art of movement is proper sequencing of
Proper sequencing incepts with
the mantra, "eyes, feet, hands."
In essence, your eyes move
first, your feet second, and your hands last. The
caveat, "Step to the left, beware of the right" further
establishes the sequence by emphasizing once a tactical
movement has culminated, the "eyes, feet, hands" cycle
kicks off once again with the eyes immediately scanning
the horizon for the next threat, or opportunity.
While the rule is simple, the
realization can be difficult. Complicating
implementation is the fact this rule, like all rules,
does not hold true all of the time (including the rule
just stated). There are exceptions to everything. Our
concern however is developing
clean habits. A clean habit is one that becomes
automatic, transitions into personal reflex, and, in
time of crisis manifests as automatic response. Ideally,
when threatened, you are responding from instinct and
reflex. Thinking in the midst of crisis and threat, is
like driving a car with brakes on. You can do it, you
may even get to your destination, but eventually, you
will pay the price.
"Eyes first" means you
perceived the threat, "feet second" means you have
understood the threat and identified optimal position to
defend and counter, "hands third" means you have
responded. Yes, there will arise moments when you have
no option but to act outside the sequence. That's life!
The sequence is about strategic focus. The more
consistently you move properly, the further the scale of
victory tilts your way.
Discussing the skill is one
thing, actualizing it is quite another.
In Gun Fu, we have numerous
exercises targeting proper sequencing of movement. In
the Iron Crane Dojo, we have found the following method
to be extraordinarily effective, particularly when
introducing the concept.
As a foundation for teaching
sequencing, we use the Taikyoku Shodan form from
Shotokan Karate. Bear in mind, we are not a Shotokan
Karate school. We adopt what works, and what helps us to
perfect concepts. As every martial arts teacher
understands, we're not each reinventing the wheel.
Wherever possible, we stand on the shoulders of those
innovators who preceded us.
Taikyoku Shodan's utter
simplicity belies the profound lessons it contains
regarding sighting, stance, balance and power. When
someone performs this form, the skilled observer
immediately recognizes their strengths and weaknesses.
Within the simple framework of Taikyoku Shodan, there is
simply no place to hide your flaws. Quirks in balance,
timing, and movement will scream out for your teacher's
immediate attention. This form, said to have been
created by Gichen Funakoshi, was named "first cause"
(sometimes interpreted as "Kata of the Universe"),
leaving no doubt as to its significance for Funakoshi.
This is where we take students
when its time for them to learn sequence of movement.
Taikyoku Shodan is the "Bible" of sequential movement.
Scan, step/root, block/punch, then scan...over and over,
throughout the form, until it becomes second nature. The
look...step...block...counter cycle sets up, and then
repeats. The form drills this cycle amidst several
breaks in timing and changes in direction, mimicking
conditions under which the movement sequence will have
to be applied in actual self defense. Combine that with
rock solid stance and committed forward movement, and
your show is ready for the road.
This is Karate's drinking
water, the snake with no legs, the empty mirror.
Below, I’ve included a
video. It starts with two clips of students
performing the Kata. They are executing at a relaxed
pace, for viewing purposes. Take a moment or two and
view the form, being careful to note its layout in the
pattern of the letter "H". Within the Kata, the student
visualizes an alleyway. He/she imagines a wall behind,
and an opposing wall immediately to the front on the
other side of the alley. In effect all action and
movement takes place between two walls.
After several viewings,
you'll begin to see the emerging sequence to be as
Start with back to the wall.
1. Block and counter to the
2. Turn 180 degrees, block
and counter to the right. Note, you never turn into
the wall. There is no need! The wall is a constant,
you know what's there, and you know there is nothing
between you and the wall. Since you just turned to the
left, you must beware of the right! Within the context
of the form, your eyes always turn in the arc which
takes your eyes through the center point of the form,
or the midpoint of the "H". This guarantees you have
maximized your visual survey.
3. After addressing the
attack from the right, you break to the center. You
just neutralized the left and right, the wall is
behind, your open exposure is now the center. While
the attackers you just neutralized are regrouping, you
evacuate the hazard zone by moving 90 degrees away.
4. You execute several
strikes across the middle, and cross to the opposing
wall. There are potential attackers to your left and
right. You break to the right, again taking the path
(counterclockwise) where your eyes define an arc
crossing through the center point of the form. This
ensures you have completed a full visual scan of the
entire fighting arena, while you move against the
attacker on your right. Turning in this fashion also
angles your body slightly away from the threatening
right side attacker. The person you were striking on
the way across the "H" is left in position between you
and the threat to the far left.
5. After neutralizing the
attacker to the right, your eyes swing clockwise
through the center of the pattern, and lock onto the
next attacker who is now 180 degrees behind (this
sequence is the same as #2 above). Again, your eyes
have scanned the entire field of action.
6. Now you once again cross
the center of the circle (same as #3).
7. Sequence 4 & 5
repeat in bringing the form to conclusion.
Now that you are comfortable
with the general look and layout of the form, let's view
it once again, this time with the demonstrator
articulating the sequence of movement as the form is
Demonstrated Followed by Detailed
After several viewings, you
will be ready to apply the concept in your own training.
You can adopt the Taikyoku pattern as we have done, or
you can experiment with forms from your own system.
Again, doing it first with basic movement is what makes
Taikyoku Shodan an ideal framework. However, mastery of
sequential movement means applying it in all your forms,
until it becomes second nature and part of your
As a final suggestion, once
proper sequencing is established, give some
consideration to the Ground Rules of Sequential Movement
(see below). Once your body has mastered sequence, train
your mind to incorporate the ground rules in setting up
the most effective response, consistent with your newly
emerging and personal awareness of proper movement.
Rules of Sequential Movement
- Step to the left, beware of the
- Move forward, cover your rear.
- Execute high, observe the low.
- Defend low, strike high.
- Defend outside, slip inside or go
to the rear.
- Protect inside, flow outside or go
any number of the above. For
example: "Move forward, Execute
high, cover your rear, observe the
low"; "Defend outside, defend low,
go to the rear, strike high"...etc.