Breaking the Plane

March 9, 2018

Breaking the Plane

By Shihan Ken Smith, Advanced Martial Systems N.W.


Movement against an adversary is a complex subject and is best served through an individual break down of those processes as we learn and then, implement those lessons.

Those processes include but are not limited to; stance, ranging, timing and footwork.


Breaking the Plane is a movement concept that is used in conjunction with a visual concept called, the Three (3) Gates of the Body.


First, the Gates of the Body are divided 3 ways, approximately, as shown (See Fig. 1)
1 Head to Mid-Chest

2 Mid-chest to Hips

3 Hips to Feet
















                         Figure 1


When advancing, making an attachment or striking, we target or seek out, not just by the object, i.e. the head, wrist, arm or knee, but also by use of these Three Gates. This connection to their body, provides information to us on our and their next course of action. As you develop your sensitivity, awareness and tool kit, getting to that Gate will be your first stop on the path to their destruction.

We attack the three different Gates by moving our body in a way that either raises or lowers it, in relationship to the opponent or to our desired target(s) and then executing the strike(s) and moving on. This is called Breaking the Plane.


Breaking the Plane allows us to advance either High and or Low into an opponent. This allows us to be not only be deceptive, but to assure full coverage of our strikes on the opponent, targeting and controlling their weapons, vision and mobility.


Conceptually, we can also attack multiple gates simultaneously. This means when two or more weapons strike at different levels while you are advancing and Breaking or Changing the Plane of your attack. It’s a philosophical idea and applicable.

Breaking the Plane also produces power in striking, as one will either drive down or power upward with their strike as they transition between the Gates and their targets.


Our weight adds considerable energy to the surging motions and dynamics of the overall encounter and force you can apply. It combines movement, strength and finesse, making it very hard for the opponent to orientate in any way. It is this element that truly enables a double leg takedown, a driving uppercut or low strike by using your weight.


Additionally, the fighting footwork from Western Boxing, fencing, wrestling and the Filipino Martial Arts, Bridges the Gap between ourselves and the opponent.

It is the Bridging that gets us close enough to effectively Break the Plane and use the weapons we choose. Breaking the Plane is a fighting method, that applied correctly, produces a striking line that doesn’t reach or stick your head out in a negative manner.



Breaking the Plane is also an important function in avoiding strikes by ducking, rolling, bobbing etc.

Those defensive attributes tie right into what can be an in and out, up and down, surging and plane breaking domination, the opponent cannot cope with. Sound offensive to you? It should. That’s good fighting movement.


Working with the conceptual Gates and Planes will show you the path to throws, takedowns, wrist locks, come along’ s and other manipulations.

As you learn and experiment with them through linear movements and by circling, kneeling and or coming back up high after being low. You will begin to see more about the effectiveness of lowering and raising as you apply yourself.


The Gate’s themselves also define how the body may move. A push or a strike to one of the three Gates gives a very distinct reaction in the opponent. A push to the forehead or to a locked out knee shows that the body will fold in multiple ways. That same action from the opponent’s front, back or sides just reverses the result and we should experiment and be aware of this. These are called Push Points.


Understanding the Gates will improve your ground and standing ground work. The information alone of the Three Gates applied to our thoughts during contact strengthens the effectiveness by knowing where to apply pressure, where to dissolve, how to trip or throw and generally control their body.


So then, essentially, Breaking the Plane exponentially opens the Gates of Opportunity.

It allows you to be high or low in a seconds flash. It will be deceptive, unbalance them, drive to the ground and lift them off their feet.


  1. * All images and graphics courtesy of Google







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