Armed Fighting: The 4 Step Matrix

4 Step Matrix

The 4 Step Matrix is a training and fighting matrix based on the Covered Blast, but designed specifically for contact weapons. It trains practitioners to make a covered entry, covered follow ups, and a covered exit in order to attack or defend successfully and without getting injured in the process.

The matrix can be used with any contact weapons: sticks, machetes, knives, palm sticks, bats, canes, etc., and should be trained with a variety of weapons against a variety of dissimilar weapons. For example, try using a shoe against a stick, a hammer against a knife, or even a pen against an iron. Training with everyday objects against common weapons will help ensure your training is applicable in self defense. You can see examples of this in the video on my weapons page.

How It Works

In order to hit your opponent you must enter and exit his weapon range. The purpose of the first step in the matrix is to strategically get you inside your opponent's weapon range without getting hit. The second step is a follow up that targets the opponent's head or weapon bearing limb in a way that stops his weapon from hitting you with a secondary attack. Ideally, the second step disarms your opponent. The third step is a power shot, generally to the head or neck, aiming to take the opponent out. And the fourth step is a covered exit.

A Simple, Staged Example

Facing Off Attack Begins

White shirt steps in to hit gray shirt in the head. Gray shirt steps in with an 'attacking blocks' entry, getting to a superior position.

Entry Follow Up

Gray shirt follows up with a strike to white shirt's head and/or weapon bearing limb, preventing the follow up strike and potentially injurying white shirt. Gray shirt also jams and controls white shirt's arm after the hit.

Control Follow Up 2

Gray shirt hits white shirt in the head while moving even further away from the weapon, and then steps behind and away from white shirt, hitting him in the back of the head with a covered exit.

Each step in the matrix is a concept rather than a predetermined tactic or technique. Therefore, it is not necessary to use a technique for each step. For example, if the opportunity exists and you can simply stab or nail your opponent in the face with one shot, that's fine (even possibly better), as long as you're taking account of his weapon. Similarly, if you've nailed your opponent and he falls on the floor with his weapon falling a few feet away, you've already got your covered exit. It may also be that a single step requires multiple techniques. For example, if you enter with your opponent backing up, or attempt the second step to no effect, you may have to use multiple strikes to accomplish the goal of a single step.

The Components

The 4 Step Matrix provides a way to train and teach functional weapon use and defense without having to memorize 1000 different combinations. Instead, you've got a few basic techniques and tactics, and one easy-to-train method with tons of adaptable applications. The matrix consists of a variety of strikes, footwork patterns, entries, follow ups, and exits. Below are the fundamental components:

Strikes, Slashes, & Thrusts

  • 6 Basic Angles
  • Straight, inward, and outward thrusts
  • Vertical strikes and watiks
  • Reverse angles and redondos

Footwork Patterns

Strategic Entries


  • Attacking strikes (stick)
  • Fake to draw (stick and blade)
  • Covered advance (stick and blade)

Defensive / Counter-Offensive

  • Evade and Enter (stick and blade)
  • Attacking blocks (primarily stick)
  • Interception (stick and blade)

Covered Exits

  • Single opponent follow throughs
  • Multiple opponent spins
  • 90 degree pivots
  • Close range/limited space returns

Training the 4 Step Matrix

The 4 Step Matrix can be trained in a variety of ways, from solo drilling and flowing to isolated partner drills, to application in full on sparring. See our training page for more information on good training concepts.

With a partner it's possible to choose particular entries, footwork patterns, exits, and strikes, and isolate those patterns against prearranged attacks for full speed and power repetitions with no protective gear. This type of training helps to engrain techniques and become used to full power attacks. Alternatively, against a specified attack different counter combinations can be trained. For solo training, particular prearranged combinations can also be worked, or the practitioner can flow keeping the matrix in mind.

See my stick and sword page for examples of the 4 Step Matrix used in sparring.