The 5 Gates

Out of the corner of your eye, you see something coming towards your head… with malicious intent. Is it a fist, bat, blade, or… a magpie? (At least in Sydney, AU, yes that’s one potential attack Yi need to be aware of the possibility of). You don’t have time to discern what it is exactly, nor the precise angle or trajectory of the attack.

Depending on how close and sudden you’ve perceived the threat to be, you may instinctively shield your head with your arms before anything else, in order to protect your brain. If the threat is a bit further away and you’re actually paying attention, observing your environment, it would tend to be a bit less of a surprise, as you’re afforded the luxury of space and time. If you’re not actively observing your surroundings however, then it doesn’t matter how close or sudden an attack is because by that stage you’ve likely already fallen victim. Awareness is by far your strongest power base for self-defense.

However, if someone is deceptive enough, or sudden enough and with enough violence of action, you can still be caught unawares, at least to a degree. And that can potentially induce some kind of instinctive reaction in relation to the perceived direction of the object (weapon) you feel is getting too close for comfort. Now that weapon (presuming hand / edged or impact weapon) will be traveling along a certain trajectory, or line of attack. And so the logic goes that you needn’t learn a counter to this, this and that move, but rather one counter that will effectively neutralize any attack originating from that angle. And so on for all the angles of attack.

The Filipino Martial Arts describe up to 12 angles of attack, generally. The problem is that most people simply will not have the time to recognize subtle differences in angle like this. And at the end of the day, the variation in your response to any one of those minute angles is insignificant; your response will not really change in essence.

Therefore if we were to simplify the Filipino 12 angles of attack, we might come up with four areas, zones or gates, ala Wing Chun, from where an attack might travel along. From this perspective, anything that comes from the general area of “Gate 1”, corresponding very roughly to the Filipino “Angle 1”, can be dealt with using the same or similar response (whatever that may be for you). And so on for Gate 2, 3 and 4. What Gates 1-4 all have in common is that they travel AROUND centerline. And given that, they can all be dealt with utilizing the same defensive concept, taking into account whether the attack is coming in in the high line (gates 1 & 2), the low line (gates 3 & 4), from the left (1 & 3) or from the right (2 & 4).

In the JKD school of thought, there is a 5th gate, and in contrast to gates 1-4, the 5th gate trajectory is linear, coming not around but THROUGH the centerline. Gate 5 attacks can be high or low, but they are all linear.

In this video, I explain the “Five Gates” and give examples of counters and follow ups for the context of street self-defense. Enjoy.


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