This legend explains the notation in my footwork diagrams. Most of my diagrams assume that the top of the diagram is North.


Left and right is denoted by the shape:
Footwork legend: Denoting the left foot from the right

Opponents may be denoted with different colors.
Footwork legend: Denoting opponents

Diagrams concerned with weight distribution will denoted it by shade or color saturation.
Footwork legend: Denoting weight distribution

Body and head orientation are denoted by ovals.
Footwork legend: Denoting orientation of the head and body

Movement is indicated by arrows. Movement perpendicular to the page may be indicated with spirals using the right-hand rule [W].
Footwork legend: Denoting movement with arrows. Perpendicular movement indicated with spirals.

Relative Directions

One particular pet peeve of mine concerns how instructors describe the width and length of stances. An instructor will commonly say something like "Widen your stance", then the student will shuffle his or her feet around in different directions, then, after some irritation on both parties, the instructor will grab the student's foot and move it. This is very easy to avoid! You have to explain your system and use it consistently.

See also Anatomy.

Units of Measurement

Stances are not usually measured or described in absolute units, but rather in relative units. EG: You don't usually say that the stance is 50 cm or 20 in wide, instead we might say that the stance is 1 "body width" or the distance of 2 of that person's feet. Relative units are used because the width and length of a person's stance should be proportional to his or her body.

I used to say "shoulder width" but then I realized that it was male-biased. A natural stance for a man is as wide as his shoulders. A natural stance for a woman is as wide as her hips. Saying "body width" is an accurate term that is also gender neutral.

Common relative units of measurement.

Moving multiple people in parade/formation is a situation where fairly absolute units are used in order to keep people in sync.

Probably the most famous absolute units used in the martial and military arts are the ancient Roman units because these units were wide spread, well documented, and widely used for all sorts of things besides military uses. The Roman units were in turn derived from Egyptian units. There are many other units of measurement, but for military and martial purposes, the Roman units of length were most applicable.

Distance and measure is very important in Fighting Dynamics and tactics, but that involves other terminology.


Describing movement becomes complex very quickly given that there are different parts that may move in different ways, directions, and times.

There is a distinction between motions of the whole body versus motions of parts of the body. In the latter case anatomical terms for movement may be helpful.

There are three basic kinds of movement:

  1. Translational, i.e. linear, straight line movement.
    • Relative to facing:
      • Tait-Bryan angles (aka Cardano angles or nautical angles) are used which are relative to standard movement.
        • Forward is +X, bow.
        • Backward is -X, stern.
        • Right is +Y, starboard.
        • Left is -Y, port.
        • Down is +Z.
        • Up is -Z.
      • For moving multiple people in parade/formation:
        • Advance. Front.
        • Retire. Back.
        • Left. 45 degrees left is Half Left (U.S.) and Left Incline (U.K.).
        • Right. 45 degrees right is Half Right (U.S.) and Right Incline (U.K.).
      • Other common descriptions:
        • Not 90 degrees: 45° right, traverse forward and left, slope backward and right.
        • Various: On the compass (EG: Current facing is north), on the clock (EG: Current facing is 12:00).
    • Absolute (regardless of facing)
      • On the compass (EG: Geographic North or map north)
      • On the clock (EG: The street is designated 12:00)
      • On the landmark (EG: Toward the street)
      • GPS coordinates
    • For crafts in relation to each other and the environment more complex systems such as Euler angles may be used.
    • The body facing, the head facing, or the angle of attack may be different from the direction of body movement.
  2. Rotational, i.e. spinning movement. The orientation of an object in 3D space is its "attitude". This is somewhat confusing because the "usual" orientation of a human is vertical, while the "usual" orientation of an airplane and many animals is horizontal, hence pitch is the same but roll and yaw are confused. Also the rotation of a part of the whole may have different axis from the whole.
    • Pitch is rotation on the lateral (side-to-side, transverse, or Y) axis.
      • An airplane dives up (+) or down (-) by adjusting the horizontal elevators on the tail with the stick.
      • Rotates about nautical y axis.
      • Your shoulder can pitch front and back vertically by roughly 240 degrees.
      • Your body pitches forward or backward if you tumble.
    • Roll is rotation on the longitudinal (front-and-back or X) axis.
      • An airplane banks right (+) or left (-) by oppositely adjusting the horizontal ailerons on the wings with the yoke.
      • Rotates about nautical x axis.
      • Your shoulder can roll up and down with the elbow forward by roughly 180 degrees. (Test this with your elbow bent.)
      • If vertical, then your body/spine rolls left or right like a cartwheel to the side.
      • If horizontal, then your body/spine rolls left or right like a dog.
    • Yaw is rotation on the vertical (normal or Z) axis.
      • An airplane faces right (+) or left (-) by adjusting the vertical rudder on the tail with the rudder pedals
      • Rotates about nautical z axis.
      • Your shoulder can move left and right horizontally with a yaw of roughly 180 degrees.
      • Your body/spine yaws left or right if you are spinning like a top.
  3. Vibrational, i.e. back and forth movement largely in place. This applies more to stuff like snapping, impacting, tensing, relaxing, internal energy, etc.

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