Use of the Zone notation system

A key aspect of sharing knowledge is to have a common notation and set of terms that can convey more complicated ideas. So for example, in our stepping drill we have a sequence of steps, each with a name. In teaching, I can use the name of the step as a shorthand to convey a complex set of movements that involve changing of stances, movement of the feet, body angles, etc.

The 9 Zones for targeting

One of the important notations that I was taught (and use when I teach) is the Zone system. This can be used to either describe targets or to describe the trajectory of a strike (either empty hand or with a weapon.

To the left, you can see an illustration of the nine zones. Here, the zones delineate the areas of an opponent, not yourself. Eg, Zone 4 includes your opponent’s right side of the chest and upper arm. Zone 9 includes the opponent’s left hip.The areas of the body in zones 2-5-8 are along the centerline; strikes to any of these zones tend to cause significant harm. Strikes outside of these zones, can still cause damage but are generally less severe and/or fatal.

The direction of a strike can also be described with the zone system. For example, a right hook punch to the head would have the path 3-2-1. An upward strike with a long staff, intended to disarm the opponent’s weapon in their right hand, might have the path 7-4-1. I use these zones extensively in my personal notes for edged weapon and staff techniques.

As an exercise, take the punching drill and ask yourself – what zone is your intended target of each of the strikes? Or conversely, which punches would you use to attack each of these zones? Share your thoughts below – any surprises?