Drill: Moving Around the Center Line

The purpose of this workout is to begin understanding the concept of the center line, which is a vertical plane between: 1) a vertical line running down the center of your body; and a vertical line running down the center of your opponent’s body.

It will involve side-stepping, body movement and distancing, and a variety of techniques depending upon exercise.

This center line plane moves as each of your individual center lines do, so that it is always connecting them regardless of where you move relative to each other. In other words, your center line will ALWAYS be connecting the two of you, readjusted with every step.

If A is your opponent (at its center line), then C would be the center of your body.

Our workout today will be comprised of 3 sections: 1) body position; 2) movement; and 3) technique.

Body position

Your body position is always relative to your opponent, regardless of stance.

Wrists should stay in a guard-up position on the center line unless involved in a technique. Even then, one hand (the one not attacking or blocking) should always guard the center line. In terms of goju techniques, think of kake uke (hooking block) deflecting while the back hand (at solar plexus) remains on center line.

Some stances make this impossible, such as a side stance (with your side to your opponent). In such a case, one wrist should be on the center line, while the other is across the front of the body, generally around chest level.

For our purposes today, assume a left foot forward 45 degree stance, high with knees bent and generally evenly weighted. As you become more proficient at the movements, you can try different stances and weighting so that you are able to adjust smoothly.

Body distancing

Body distance refers to the relative distance between you and your opponent.

Distancing is generally determined by your body type and fighting style. Nevertheless, the distance as which you START (from fighting stance) DOES NOT determine your body distance at point of contact with your opponent. Rather, that is determined by the nature of your defense and counter attack, which is more typically a factor of fighting style, ability and body type.

For instance, if your primary defensive action is to maintain kicking distance, then your movement relative to the opponent’s attack (against your center line) must be to a position where you can effectively kick with adequate extension and follow-through, allowing for 4-6 inches penetration beyond target for kicks.

If your style lends itself more to counter-attacking by punch or other hand technique, then your resulting body distance must be considerably closer (so you can have 2-4 inches of penetration).


As your opponent attacks your center line (either head-on or by a hook, round kick, or other attack from the side), you have to react. You essentially have these choices:

  1. Stay where you are and deflect the attack by block (think yoko uke) or interpose it as an obstruction through which it cannot penetrate (think Mohammed Ali’s rope-a-dope against George Foreman).
  2. Move out of the way.

For now let’s concentrate on moving out of the way. For this you have several options:

  1. Shift body weight and pivot so it passes you by;
  2. Side step forward or back, generally at a 45° angle;
  3. Step away from the attack so it expends its harmlessly in the air before it reaches your new body position.
  4. Step center line forward into your attacker (risking knee hitting knee) – not recommended.

Diamond Drill

The purpose of this drill is to practice the 45° side-stepping movements of #2 above.

From your fighting stance (hands/wrists on center line), step forward 45% to the right on a diagonal from your starting position so that your right foot is now forward.

From that position, then step forward 45° to the left, with the left foot.

Then step back 45° to the left into a right neko ashi dachi (cat stance), angled toward the place you just left.

Then 45° back with the right to your original starting position, into a left neko ahi dachi.

Now repeat it to the opposite side, starting with a left 45° forward slide step (into a left forward fighting stance), then step with right 45° forward, then back 45° right, then back 45° left.

The movement looks like this:

Think of it as if you’re moving between the candles in the picture below:

In practice against an opponent, the two forward movements would be along the outer diagonals by the defender (to the right), with the attacker moving straight line from the center of the triangle base (on the left):

Again, as you move to each new position, your center line changes, as does your stance direction and hand position so that your center line is always protected.

Adding technique

First, understand that you are moving relative to your opponent, so that the DISTANCE you move will depend on the type of block you will use and the opening you will counterattack to. Let us again return to this diagram:

For purpose of this drill, assume you are at the intersection of the lines, facing forward (toward the bottom of the screen). Start in ready posiiton (yoi).

Exercise 1. This is one you’ve probably done before. Side step (#3) with your left foot into a high, modified left zenkutsu dachi with the hips facing 45° to the right (TOWARD THE ATTACKER) (it can also be done facing 45° away from the attacking direction. Keep weight on left foot, upper body leaning slightly to the side. Block harai otoshi uke with the right hand, as if side-stepping and blocking a front kick.

From here your body distance is considerable, probably at kicking distance with the front foot. So add a front, side or round kick with the right leg toward the target (depending on your standing leg’s hip angle), attacking UNDER the outstretched attacking arm.

Repeat 5x. Then do other side.

Exercise 2. Step forward along line #5 with the left foot from ready position into a high stance like re no ashi dachi. You have just “closed” the attack, moving to the outside away from the original center line.

From here, block kake uke as the attack goes past to control the arm.

Step into your opponent with the right foot, pivoting the hips and applying a reverse punch to opponent’s face or floating ribs with your left hand. Then step back to yoi.

Repeat 5x. Then do other side.

Exercise 3. Here’s where things get interesting. Previous exercises were to close your opponent. Now we’re going to OPEN your opponent and move inside, where your reactions must be fast, but your options for counterattack are many.

Step forward 45° with your RIGHT foot to the inside (center line side) of your opponent’s attack.

You will now execute a TWO-HAND BLOCK.

Hand1: Block with your left hand with kake uke. However, in this case block palm up with the left so that you are deflecting with the thumb side of the hand.

As the attack slides forward past your block, your wrist will end in contact with his arm near the elbow.

Hand2: With your right, back hand, also block the attacking arm, this time at the wrist. Your hand position should look like this with the front hand palm up like holding a tray, with you in a high, right re no ashi dachi or other balanced position.

In practice do not block away from the body, but close in. Also use the back hand to block the wrist like the image below. Note that the image is reversed.

From this position, now slide step SLIGHTLY with the front (right) leg INTO YOUR OPPONENTS CENTER LINE.

Your right hand will be kept center line to block the attack that will surely come from opponent’s other hand (from center outward, also palm up), while SIMULTANEOUSLY STRIKING WITH A LEFT PALM STRIKE UPWARD TO OPPONENT’S CHIN.

Do not pull the left hand back (whether to chamber or otherwise) before striking. Learn to strike from wherever your hand is at the moment.

In this exercise, body movement is crucial. Feel your balance and weight shift with each technique.

Repeat 5x. Then do other side.


Again, this is not about stance or technique. You can use any technique that works at the appropriate body distance.

If you move inside, you can simultaneously strike and block as well.

But for now, concentrate on your movement and body position. Remain upright, balanced, and ready to react quickly to whatever happens.

Think movement, not technique. Technique will take care of itself.