Understanding Clockwork in Self-Defense

The “clockwork” principle in self-defense is a way of visualizing and describing movements and techniques based on imaginary clocks. It helps students understand how to react and defend themselves in various situations by providing a consistent framework for describing direction and angles.

Here’s how it works:

1. Two Imaginary Clocks:

  • Front Clock: This clock is always in front of you, regardless of where you’re facing. It helps describe the direction of punches, kicks, blocks, and other techniques. Think of it like a compass on your chest. 12 o’clock is straight ahead, 3 o’clock is to your right, and so on.
  • Floor Clock: This clock is always on the ground wherever you stand. It helps describe your footwork and movement. When you’re facing 12 o’clock, your back is to 6 o’clock. Imagine a giant clock painted on the floor beneath you.

2. Freeze and React:

  • When someone attacks, the “clock” freezes at their initial position relative to you. This creates a snapshot of the situation, allowing you to understand the direction and angle of the attack.
  • Your defensive movement is then based on the frozen clock. You use your footwork and techniques to move out of the attack zone and counter effectively.

Benefits of Clockwork:

  • Simplicity: It provides a clear and consistent language for describing complex movements.
  • Visualization: It helps students visualize the direction and angles of attacks and defenses.
  • Adaptability: It can be applied to a wide variety of self-defense techniques and situations.
  • Practice: It allows for structured and focused training by breaking down techniques into smaller, clockwork-based steps.


  • Punch to the face: The attacker’s punch is at your 12 o’clock. You step out to your 2 o’clock and block with your forearm.
  • Grab from behind: The attacker grabs your shoulder from your 6 o’clock. You turn 180 degrees and execute a takedown technique.
  • Kick to the legs: The attacker kicks at your 3 o’clock leg. You check the kick with your shin and counter with a strike to their body.


  • Clockwork is a tool, not a rule. It’s meant to guide and clarify, not restrict your movements.
  • Practice is key to mastering clockwork and applying it effectively in real situations.
  • Your instructor can help you adapt and personalize the clockwork principle to your own body and style.

We hope this explanation clarifies the use of the “clockwork” principle in self-defense. It is a valuable tool for instructors and students alike, providing a common language and framework for understanding and practicing self-defense techniques.