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Footwork

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STANCES AND FOOTWORK
 

In stickfighting, as in all fighting arts, it is essential to use body positions and ways of moving about most appropriate to attack and defense. These must be consistent with the requirements of balance, coordination, accuracy, speed, timing, and power.  Mobility is perhaps the most important attribute for attack and defense. Power becomes much more effective when coupled with mobility; static power is of lesser value in fighting. A good stance should, then, allow two things: mobility and good balance (stability) in both attack and defense. As long as a stance complies with these two requirements, it is a good stance. There are literally scores of "good" stances. For this reason, in stickfighting we teach only three basic training stances or guards, with the understanding that each fighter will develop his own. This is what actually happens in boxing, kickboxing, and karate. Classical guards are taught; but very few people actually fight in a "classical" way.  Good footwork enables one to move about for attack and defense with the greatest speed, economy of motion, and balance. Below, special emphasis is put on the footwork from left guard 3.

 

 


Advance. Start by moving the rear foot first, so as not to tip off the opponent. The right foot is brought up against the left heel, right toes facing to the right. The left foot then slides forward on the floor and stops at the same distance as for the left guard 3. Nothing else changes (Figs. 30-32).


Retreat. In this case the forward foot moves first, because it is the target closest to the opponent and it should be moved away from his reach. Lift the left heel and bring it up against the right ankle, sliding the ball of the foot on the floor, toes always pointing at the opponent. Shift your weight to the ball of the left foot, push away and retreat by sliding back the right foot to the normal guard-3 distance. Nothing else changes (see Figs. 32, 31, 30).

Jumping Advance. Stomp your right heel on the floor against the left and propel yourself, jumping forward. Land on the left foot, always pointing it at the opponent (Figs. 33-35). Adjust the right foot to the normal left guard-3 distance. Nothing else changes.

 


Jumping Retreat. Stomp the ball of the left foot near the right heel and push away, jumping to the rear and landing on your right foot. Adjust the distance of the left foot to the left guard 3. Nothing else changes (see Figs. 35, 34, 33).

 


About-face. From the left guard 3, about-face without taking a step by pivoting on your heels to the right, bringing the left hand close to the chest and extending the right arm as for a right guard 3. During this action, switch grip as in the sliding hands exercise (Figs. 36, 37). Return to the left guard 3 by reversing the process.

 


Sidestep (toward the right). Slide the left foot to the right, toes always pointing toward your opponent, about the same distance as the width of your shoulders (Fig. 38). Adjust the right foot as for left guard 3. For a sidestep toward the left, slide the left foot to the left and adjust the right as before.
Pivot. Turn to the left by pivoting on the right heel. The left foot slides on the floor describing an arc at normal left guard-3 distance. Reverse instructions to pivot to the right.


Cross-step. This is a form of advance used in special situations. Cross the right foot behind the left. The ball of the right foot is resting on the floor, toes pointing toward the left side of the left heel. Both knees are slightly bent (Fig. 39). Revert to left guard 3 by sliding the left foot forward and straightening up your legs.


Adjusting Distance. When you are so close to the opponent that a distance adjustment of less than one full step is required, slide the left foot forward and attack immediately. After the attack, the right foot may return to the left guard 3, or may be set forward for a right guard 3. Such an advance with a change of stance from left to right may be necessary in order to follow a retreating opponent.


Jumping Foot-Switch. This is used for delivering certain kicks used in stickfighting. Although spectacular kicks are involved in some forms of footfighting, stickfighting mainly involves techniques performed with the feet kept as close to the floor as possible. Indeed, jumping high in order to deliver a kick places the attacker in a vulnerable position, particularly if he is caught off balance while landing. The very purpose of jumping is to gain distance toward or away from the opponent. This can be achieved with proper footwork, which minimizes the danger of being caught off balance.

 

 

 

Here is a very useful technique. From left guard 3, take a big step with the right foot and set it ahead of the left, its ball is in contact with the floor, toes pointing well inside toward the left foot (Fig. 40). This is very important because it lines up the right hip with the target you are about to attack with your right foot. Should you not be in the proper position, your attack will be off the target and you will need a special effort to readjust it. In the process of taking that step, bring your right arm in a wide rounded motion, slightly bent at the elbow, in line with your right side so that it provides it with some protection. Hop and switch feet so that the left foot is now where the right was, while the right is positioned at the ready for a kick (Fig. 41), usually, a side-of-foot kick (see p. 64). After delivering the kick, the right foot comes to rest behind the left, returning to guard 3. 

 

Training in footwork is absolutely essential for proficiency. One can never train enough in this area. The ability to evade attacks and to counterattack powerfully and in full balance depends on fast and accurate footwork. Even proper judgment of distance and the ability to create an opening are of little benefit without fast foot movements, which enable one to take advantage of the opportunity. Good footwork enables you to advance without tipping off your opponent, to retreat without losing the ability to counter, and to maintain the initiative at all times.

 

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