Yes for sure you are only as good as your footwork and there
is no other way to say it. History has proven this time and again by being displayed
in all the professional footwork from the world’s top fighter’s and teachers.
It was without a doubt the secret to their success and it can be yours.
Footwork provides you with the freedom of motion, allowing
you to improvise and adapt to any given situation. It fuels your technique and
provides your set weight a moveable landscape to play freely on.
Do not take the word
footwork for granted, it applies to stand up as well as grappling. It has no
limitations and is free in form. It can move from a solid to a liquid and even
into a gas state allowing your personal axis full range of motion.
It moves you in and out of the line of fire and creates
distance as well as closing the gap. It provides you with the silence and
softness of the most delicate step while also creating the tremble of instability
in your opponent’s foundation similar to an earthquake.
It allows you the ability to use your natural surroundings
to your advantage, even in the toughest of terrain while giving you the fluidity
to control and manipulate the under carriage of even the most balanced of men.
Yes for sure, footwork is the key to one’s success.
How do we develop it? How can we refine it? How can we
capture its energy and make it our own?
There are many different drills and training devices to help
develop your footwork and I’d like to bring some of them to your attention in
hopes to increase your footwork’s efficiency and effectiveness.
First, let’s start off by talking about your footwork’s
floor pallet. In Kenpo, we refer to this as the “Clock Principle” and is displayed through the “Universal Pattern.” The universal
pattern is both horizontal as well as vertical; it has height and depth and
represents your free range of motion from any single position. It is made up of
a series of linear and circular lines that offer an endless opportunity of
angles and directions. It utilizes all your natural weapons and natural
defenses and is limitless in form. We refer to this natural range of motion as
our personal zone. To touch me or make contact with me, you will have to be in
my zone and on the reverse end for me to be able to make physical contact with
you. I’d have to be in your zone.
Different natural weapons have different zones, for instance,
if I wanted to back fist you to the floating ribs, I’d have to be closer or
further in your zone to make contact to that area than say a roundhouse kick to
the floating ribs. The reason is, is that your leg is longer than your arm,
which means that you could be at a farther distance from your opponent but
still make contact. Understanding distance and depth perception is crucial in
understanding zoning. Your arms at full extension has more reach in a
horizontal position then if it was angled up in a 45 degree position or and
other angle for that matter. The reason is in the arms total length, when an
opponent is standing directly in front of you, by extending your arm out horizontally
straight in front towards them, your length is at its greatest when it comes to
reach, but when you extend it upward, downward, outward or inward, even though
your arm technically is still the same length your reach is compromised. Why?
Because your depth is affected and for you to make contact with the strike your
distance must draw closer depending on the degree of angle you extend your arm
in. Your arms angle, in this case, is based off the technique you choose.
This applies to kicks as well or any part of your body for
that matter and it is important to observe these depths and angles from defense
positions. Practical application is the key in studying these concepts. How
does one close the gap to allow this theory of the universal pattern of motion
to work? Footwork! The universal pattern also outlines your footwork theory as
Now the clock principle is your basic understanding of
direction, providing you with a visual map of directional ideas of where you
footwork could and will lead to. The nice thing about the clock principle is
that it provides the newer student with different options on where their
footwork could lead and encourages them to cut on angles instead of always
stepping just forward, back or side to side; like most beginners tend to do and
even some of the most experienced martial artists seem to be limited to. These
angles naturally close the gap for you and allow you to position yourself in
the blind spots of your opponent’s field of vision, which creates new secured
openings for your attack.
By cutting these angles and the ability to apply these
principles and patterns will alone gain you added knowledge to the geometry of fundamental
application by adding a new perspective when it comes to the height, depth and
width of your opponent and your opponent’s range of motion. This theory of
course also applies to you on the reverse end too.
A drill used in Kenpo is simply continuous application of
technique on others of all sizes and structures. This along with kata practice
combines advanced footwork drills in itself, but you must look inside of this
practice to really understand its importance in application. Another way to
gain advances in your footwork is by practicing the set out line drills, for
students, including all the open drills and set out weapons training. This type
of training combined with sparring and kumite, whether it is one on one, two on
one or many multiple attackers will build up your timing, stamina and strategy.
There is so much to learn off footwork and its applications are endless.
In Ninjutsu, their footwork is very silent, but beyond
stable. They become their surroundings, whether by using the natural free
standing structures around them or the ground underneath them. Sometimes the
terrain can be rough, so the ability to become one with the earth is essential
in one’s security toward victory. Learning to be able to move your footwork on
the ground, meaning to never leave to ground only to glide across it like ice
skating, gives you the ability to keep your set weight stabilized throughout
your motion, a free moving foundation. This idea allows you to always maintain
your balance, which means you will always have power in your technique at any
This idea will also allow you to adapt to situations by
improvising with your opponents technique in turn feeding off their energy. The
freedom of motion your footwork creates can move with the power of their
technique which could allow you to turn their energy against them.
A great drill for this type of footwork is a two man drill
in which the two hold on to each shoulders and try to incorporate the foot
maneuvers on each other. This will be exhausting and informing. Feel your partner’s
strengths and struggles, capitalize on their weaknesses and try to don’t only
flow with their footwork, but try and foresee their direction of motion. Do not
get caught up in only seeing this drill through your eyes only, but see it also
through their eyes and also observe others from an outside point of view in
hopes of new ideas to enhance your footing. Also observe other’s mistakes to
remind you first hand of what not to do or even what is necessary to do it the
Another great drill is to take a freestanding heavy bag and
leap behind it on angles and to keep repeating this process all around the bag
placing yourself in different positions for striking. In this drill you will be
leaping, lunging, shuffling and applying all the different types of long
distance stepping. This will come off as more or less as a ply metric exercise and
is great cardio work along with building up your footwork by getting used to the
new areas that you find yourself in.
From the Philippines, with styles like Kali, we can increase
are footwork by adopting offensive and defensive triangle steps, which allows
you to either move out of the line of fire to then return in the line of fire
or to move in to then return out. This type of footwork can be attained through
drills like around the river, which you stand in front of an object like a
heavy bag and move all around it using these triangle steps. Always facing the
object and always staying in its zone and line of fire.
This type of footwork in a sense is like dancing; in fact
all footwork can be compared to this in some way or another. Like a “Jinga” in Capoeira,
which is based off a dance, footwork offers more than just practical application;
it also becomes quite a great work out.
Try getting back on your feet from various ground positions.
Rolls, springs, pull-ins, leaping steps, etc. will allow you access to your
stand up game, but you have to experiment to get comfortable with each. Being
able and feeling comfortable in moving in and out of these positions will allow
you instant access to any of these appropriate moves and the freedom to move
accordingly into a follow up technique.
Pad drills also help in modifying your footwork, assisting
in understanding ranges so you can adapt your distance to set you up for
maximum power behind your technique. Whether you use hand pads, kick shields or
a plain old heavy bag all these forms of pad training will give your footwork
the kick it needs to spice it up a bit by each of them offering a different
approach in application.
A double end striking ball is another great tool for the
martial artist in developing great footwork and timing as well. This tool seems
to have a mind of its own and moves accordingly to your strike, it is important
that you study the balls course of motion and response from a strike. The bag,
like a human being has a reaction for every action you move with, so placement
of your body is important to you in the means of your safety from being struck
by your opponent, or ball, by placing your body into vulnerable positions.
Your muscle memory will increase in time and your speed will
also increase. This increase in speed in turns speeds up your upper body
technique as well. The benefits of good solid footwork, is invaluable to the
serious martial artist, for they know this is the secret to their success. By
being able to adapt, flow, redirect, misdirect, control, manipulate and improve
with your opponents motion allows you full access to their game, in turn making
it yours. If you own his game you own the fight and it all stems from your
knowledge and application of footwork.
Like a spider who dances on its web, practicing his footwork
while waiting for its next meal, he patiently waits for his enemy to come into
contact with the zone of his web. Once the contact is made he dances around his
prey forcing them to panic by entangling them into his trap. Now disabled and
helpless the spider can do whatever bidding he chooses. His understanding of
his zone, his use of the universal pattern and his advanced footwork all
combine a natural control for his game. One word - Success!
There are many drills
out there designed in promoting your footwork, explore them search for
knowledge. Use knowledge as your key by expanding your vocabulary, knowing more
than the next guy and by always bettering yourself. Respect