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The Circle and Line In Kenpo

Circular Vs. Linear Attacks

Attacks normally fit into two categories, circular or linear, regardless of the direction or type of strike. It does not matter what style a practitioner studies, strikes must travel along one of these paths to reach the target. A skilled martial artist can modify the attack by hiding intent, changing up suddenly, using fakes, etc. to make it harder to avoid the strike, but in the end the strike will come in a direct or circular path to the target.

Circular Attacks

The circular path is used for two reasons, one is power and the other is avoiding blocks. Circular strikes generate more momentum than direct strikes, so the power produced is greater. Beware though, generating more power also costs you more energy. The second benefit of circular strikes it the ability to go around, under, or over a block. The Hook Punch is a great example of a circular strike designed to not only go around the guards, but also generate a substantial amount of power in the process. The two main concerns with circular strikes is the time it takes to complete the movement and the amount of energy required to move the strike farther and with more power.

Linear Attacks

Linear strikes are designed for economy of movement. They travel the shortest route to the target. In martial arts, we us jabs and punches, as well as, Snap and Side Kicks regularly. These are all linear strikes. They produce power and speed with the least amount of movement. Linear strikes require combinations, speed, or deception to hit the target; since they don’t have the option of going around the guards or blocks. They generally take less energy than the circular strike, and are much faster.


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How To Address Each Attack Path

Circular attacks take time, so we use time to defeat them. The time commitment to complete the circular attack will normally produce enough space for a martial artist to strike the attacker with a linear strike. Responding with a fast Direct / Linear Attack in a straight line uses economy of motion and can hit the target before the attacker’s circular attack hits you. Attacking in a direct fashion is performed by moving straight into the opponent along the Line Of Attack (direct path from you to the attacker). This is shortest distance between yourself and the opponent. This is normally accompanied by Initial Speed and Independent Movement techniques.

Linear attacks a fast and many times multiple, so attempting to block them can get you into trouble regardless of your skill level as a martial artist. The best way to address a linear attack is to avoid it completely. Respond with an Off Angle movement. Off Angle attacks are performed by moving or stepping to the left or right of the opponent; normally at a 45 degree to the Line of Attack. This step pattern takes you out of the way of the linear attack while still keeping you close enough to strike the attacker. The attacker must stop his forward movement and adjust to your sudden off angle movement. This gives you the advantage for a moment, so make the best of it with your own fast targeted linear strikes.

The Law of the Circle and Line is one of the 10 Laws of Kenpo. After reading the above you should have a basic understanding of how it works and its usefulness. You can learn more about by joining our on line classes at

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