Square with feet.
by Steve Spano
The purpose of this article is to describe the use of the square in self defense work. This application is so important and powerful that the image of the nine cell square has been adopted for the logo of the Wuwei School of Movement.
        All self defense situations occur within a physical space. Each physical space has optimal areas and less optimal areas. For example, on a sidewalk there may be clear areas as well as slippery areas covered with broken glass or oil. There may be a curb to fall off of or a parked car blocking the way. There may be accomplices of the attacker waiting on the sideline for an opportunity to join the assault.
        An important part of developing your self defense art is developing an understanding of the space in which self defense occurs, as well as an understanding of how best to utilize that space. An attacker will tend to press his victim into the less optimal areas. The reason for this is that the victim has less options for movement in the less optimal areas, while the attacker gains more and more advantage.  The more skilled and dangerous the attacker, the more effective will be the pressing.
        Use the square to cultivate a sense of space and of your surroundings. Imagine it to be a 9 cell square as shown to the left. The center cell, colored red in the illustration, represents optimal space. This means that with one foot in the center cell, there are 360° of movement angles available to respond to an attack.
       Middle edge cells are less optimal. There is space available to move into only to the right and to the left.
       Corner edge cells are least optimal. There is no available space left to move into.
limit line of the square represents those dangers mentioned above, broken glass, oil slick, parked car, wall, curb, accomplices and so forth. All movement during the session should be performed using these limitations. This way of practicing achieves a number of goals. In the first place it forces the practitioner to become skilled in turning and flanking an attacker, and in using the available space in the most efficient way. This is essential in avoiding severe injury in a self defense situation.  Furthermore, this approach develops a heightened sense of your surroundings under severe stress, another survival essential.
       For the
size of your square, I recommend approximately three paces to a side. This creates a square with the desired characteristics. With one foot on the center cell, the practitioner can take one step back and still be in optimum space, with 360° of movement options. Two steps back brings the practitioner to the edge of the square. If one is at a middle edge cell, one has only the option of moving right or left. If one is at a corner edge cell, one has no options of movement.
Winter, 2009