There seems to be an issue today with footwork in fighting. Everyone talks about the importance of footwork yet everyone seems to be approaching it wrong. When the wrong fighter steps they step with their weight….one…two. This seems normal until we finish a certain conversation. We examine a new way of stepping but more importantly, we then talk about why. Later when we understand this ‘new’ way, we need to test it, first with shadow drills, then with pads, then in shadow sparring (no contact-semi contact), then in sparring, finally in competition if that’s what you do. Later, we bring it back to the beginning, back to drills. But you can’t test it until the technique is a part of you, and it can’t be a part of you until you examine it wholeheartedly. This isn’t nonsense spiritual talk, its the nature of technique.
So first the new way of stepping, quite simple in theory but very difficult for the already trained fighter. Impossible for most that are already mentally stuck in the way they train and fight. Most go to the martial arts “gym” (dojo) in order to solidify what they already know, learning something they don’t know is next to impossible, especially if it isn’t the norm. Be curious, not skeptical. No one can force you to believe something you find out to be false. Explore it because the process of exploring is far more important than the finding. First, the body drops to shift the weight onto the back foot, that is the foot furthest from the direction you wish to travel. The drop and shift are so simultaneous that you neither move back nor drop, there is simply a shifting of weight. In reality it is easier said than done, but it is the ideal to be achieved in shadow. Releasing the front foot, or the foot closest to the direction of travel, the foot can now shoot unimpeded (perhaps leading ever so slightly with the knee) landing from heel to toe. Most importantly, we’ll see later, the weight of the fighter has not yet shifted.
Next the weight shifts from back to front, or better said from the direction we were, to the direction we are going. This is the crucial point, as we shall see later, and should bring up great controversy from any great or experienced fighter who hasn’t been explained this type of footwork. Do you see why? Next the fighter brings up the back leg. Earlier, the front foot was ‘lifted’ off the ground (as little as possible), now the back leg must drag (but as little as possible). That is, in general when we move in a direction whether backwards or forwards, we need to secure no friction in our ‘push’ of the front leg (the leg closest to the direction of travel). With the leg furthest to the direction of travel, we can cheat slightly and ‘drag’ it with as little weight as possible, and consequently stay slightly grounded in the ‘pulling’ portion of the step.
Lastly our weight sinks from the front to the back, much like the first movement in this description, in fact it is back to the first movement in such a way that the first and last movements here are the same. So there are those that argue the first task of shifting and dropping our weight is nonsense and useless. The truth is, for reasons better explained another time, the weight should be carried slightly more towards the back compared to the fighters of today, and in the ever flowing movement and moments of combat, will naturally return to that stage anyways. Sounds flowery maybe, but if you understand this, its just the cycle of a technique.
I could go on about this set of movements and how to practice them. I could talk at length about how to truly inquire into a movement but I think I need to move as quick as possible to why we would step this way. Because there is an obvious flaw to it that we need to address. Some may even have come to it intuitively without being able to put a finger on it. But I’ll expose my own shenanigans. The average fighter of today takes a step in two movements, step/step. The new fighter uses three movements to advance or retreat one step. That is, step/shift-weight/step. Theoretically, the latter is that much slower. Fighting ‘time’ is not within the realm of our time at all, each tick of a second in a fight happens with each movement. So literally in all aspects of ‘time’ the 2nd way is longer and therefore obviously slower.
So why would I suggest a slower method? In the tao te ching there is a passage about the long way being the short way, this will be an example. We take a slight disadvantage in order to secure a huge one. One so giant it can take down champions. One Ali knew, Bruce knew, Lyota, Gsp, Silva, so clear. Not all of them embrace the foot work so perfect but rather the game that comes out of the footwork they all used…the paper rock scissors of fighting. The true essence and foundation of fighting tactics.
The fighter steps back, with the new method, first the back foot, then the weight, then the front foot. He induces the opponent to follow. He does it again, the opponent follows. Finally, he steps his back foot back, gives the appearance that he shifts his weight, by slightly dropping his body, and then bursts forward with a jarring stop hit while the opponent is in mid stride. Every lame fighter knows this technique, its basic.
But…its different when the opponent steps forward with his ‘weight’ instead of his foot. He is committed, and suffers the sting of the addition of his weight to the hero’s punch. This doesn’t happen to the hero. He doesn’t shift his weight with his step. Furthermore, if he shifts his weight with his step he can’t ‘feint’ stepping backwards. He’ll have to step back and then step forward. With our new way, his foot moves back, but the weight is ready to propel forward. All the while, what the opponent sees, is the same. The opponent can’t differentiate, because he has never seen this footwork.
But that’s not the full reason, now we need the opposite technique, that is moving forward. All things have an opposite (until we get into zen). When we are shown one technique we can learn two. The fighter steps forward with the front foot, not shifting their weight yet, and pushes back, disengaging. This would be a (1/2) stepping jab with retreat. Its very well covered and unexploitable because its a jab and the weight and distance are very non committing. After setting the opponent up a few times, the fighter now steps in, fully committing their weight and his back foot. Hero pauses ever so slightly, just enough to draw the opponent to chase ‘the ghost of what they thought was going to happen’. And so they run into our stop hit.
We now have have 2 setups-this and that. Neither of these movements can be executed effectively without separating our body shift from our initial step. And now we have a created a game, that is, this or that.
The strategy of this or that can be applied and studied from advances in game strategies and game theory.
Later we can introduce ‘other’, …so we will have…. this, that, and other and can study the permutations of their combos. Without a decent mastery of the shifting of weight described above, one cannot begin to apply the articles I will extend from this writing.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mo5et7_f5l4 (david little 1-7)