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#236727 - 03/06/06 10:27 PM footwork mechanics
Ed_Morris Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 6772
lets get into a discussion on the mechanics of footwork.

The application could be for sport as equally as self-defense with just a change in range, plus that opens this up to everyone. Forget about what the arms are doing and lets talk about getting our center from point A to point B.

starting with simple forward stepping as in either launching an attack or heading off an attack. we need to agree on a starting position. how about just standing, or a sparring ready position if you like. either case we want to change our center (hara) to a point towards an opponent in front of us.

we could start with what doesn't work well enough: relying on only gravity to fall forward. gravity only effects at a certain speed, which is too slow for a quick attack. the push-off has to come from legs (not only the feet).

hopefully, we aren't caught flatfooted, because in the time it takes to shift weight to the balls of the feet, you could already be well on the way to being we'll assume from whatever position you start from, that you start with your weight already on the balls of the feet and not flat-footed and not knee locked.

what are your mechanics/training methods for launching yourself forward?

#236728 - 03/07/06 04:14 PM Re: footwork mechanics [Re: Ed_Morris]
MattJ Offline
Free Rhinoplasty!

Registered: 11/25/04
Posts: 15634
Loc: York PA. USA

what are your mechanics/training methods for launching yourself forward?

I generally try to maintain a fairly compact stance ie; relatively narrow and slightly lowered. Weight on balls of the feet, but not bouncing or tippy-toed.

Long distances are covered in a series of short steps either straight in or angled, depending on which way I am moving relative to the opponent. I may use low kicks to cover larger distances if I am so inclined.

Moving forward may involve stepping with the front foot first to keep from telegraphing to the opponent. Center of gravity will be lowered slightly to compensate for the "rise" in height that generally accompanies forward acceleration, again to minimize telegraphing - but also for stability. Feet generally stay as close to the floor as possible.

That's what I got.
"In case you ever wondered what it's like to be knocked out, it's like waking up from a nightmare only to discover it wasn't a dream." -Forrest Griffin

#236729 - 03/07/06 08:41 PM Re: footwork mechanics [Re: MattJ]
JustGuess Offline

Registered: 03/07/06
Posts: 72
Loc: Indiana
I'm glad I found this, there is a question I need answered about footwork. Is there a way to smoothly transition from a boxers type of footwork to a Filipino triangle based style. More specifically, I'm having trouble for when I want to step diagonally forward with my back leg.

#236730 - 03/07/06 09:20 PM Re: footwork mechanics [Re: JustGuess]
Ed_Morris Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 6772
try thinking about getting your center there before your leg. by 'center' I mean center of gravity or the point just a couple inches below your navel within your core.

the way you launch is from the balls of your feet...but don't think about the balls of your feet, think of what your knees are doing. watch short distance runners take off from starting position. initially, their rear knee drives back and right at the correct moment, the other knee continues the thrust. Make sure you maintain the same height, if you are popping up, it's wasted movement. also don't lean forward, get your core there first.

try that and see if it helps.

#236731 - 03/07/06 11:16 PM Re: footwork mechanics [Re: Ed_Morris]
JustGuess Offline

Registered: 03/07/06
Posts: 72
Loc: Indiana
Thanks for the tips Ed. My concerns mostly center around the amount of time it would take to make the transition, but any advice that will make the process faster and smoother is appreciated.

#236732 - 03/08/06 06:16 PM Re: footwork mechanics [Re: Ed_Morris]
butterfly Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 08/25/04
Posts: 3012
Loc: Torrance, CA
Ed hit it pretty much on this one. Maintaining one's center is critical to defensive and offensive movement, however some students seem to have a problem with initially moving body mass. In this regard, I often see people cant their hips instead of twisting and using the quads and legs to control body motion prior to attacking. I have seen students who hike their hips up from side to side in sort of a hula dance look when trying to rotate the hips evenly.

For instance in punching, the back leg has to push the body forward, but it is the lead leg's postional job to stop the mass of the body and have the hips rotate this forward movement (much like a car's transmission) into the punch. Motion outside this even plane of the hip will cause you to lose power in your strikes. One's center has to move forward evenly or your risk compromising your ability to translate this forward movement into the punch well. This also means looking at how a sprinter kicks off and making sure you have good and relaxed movement using the lower body to control and move the upper body. If you are connected with the ground, this has to be the starting poing for your movement and techniques.

One other point, as long as you can maintain your center, I see no reason that you can't crouch or bend the torso a bit into the a boxer.


#236733 - 03/08/06 09:12 PM Re: footwork mechanics [Re: butterfly]
wristtwister Offline
like a chiropractor, only evil

Registered: 02/14/06
Posts: 2210
Loc: South Carolina
Probably the most forgotten aspect of movement is the structure of movement of the knees. Karate turns the toes inward toward the body centerline to deliver power along a straight line triangulated by the hips and shoulders, or else in line with the "punching shoulder" (depending on style). "Crescent stepping" or "triangle stepping" is practiced to keep the balance in the center of the body, and movement is precipitated by bending the knees.

Aikido and jujitsu use a different method. In hanmi, the center is again moved by bending the knees, but it is in a circular or directly linear way, depending on whether the player is stepping "off line" or making a "sword step" to draw themselves parallel to their attacker. Being an old judo player, I move almost flat-footed in most of my arts, but what's important is that you use "correct footwork" for what you are trying to accomplish.

There are a lot of aikidoka that fail to study their footwork, which in most cases, makes or breaks their techniques (along with body position), and they don't pay attention to the teacher's footwork because if they're wearing a hakama, they can't clearly see their feet. If you're doing aikido and having problems, it's probably because of one of two problems... either your footwork sucks, or you're breaking your center at the hips. Pretty simply, huh?... just not all that simple to correct on your own.

Most students that I've seen struggle with trying to do the Frankenstein walk in karate while doing kata, and with trying to lean their bodies without moving in aikido and jujitsu. Clearly, both situations can be cured or helped by proper footwork and movement, so the value of learning to move correctly is extremely valuable to martial artists of all ilks. Until you get the footwork right...

What man is a man that does not make the world a better place?... from "Kingdom of Heaven"

#236734 - 03/08/06 11:36 PM Re: footwork mechanics [Re: Ed_Morris]
Borrek Offline

Registered: 01/05/06
Posts: 501
Loc: Ann Arbor, MI
to help get students used to some easy foot work we start off as white belts with a simple drill. Everyone assumes a kumite stance and kind of bounces back and forth a bit (bouncing is bad but it actually helps in this drill) The sempai will kiai at random intervals and as soon as the students hear that, they have to rapidly switch feet as quickly as possible. The bouncing helps them mentally figure out what they need to do when it is time to move and their body isn't in the ideal spot to accomplish that. You may be in mid air, or you may have your weight on the front or back foot. The timing between kiais is random and often there will be 2 or 3 in quick succession.

Then we do a simple stepping drill where the student will drive with the back foot twice and then step through all on one kiai. the goal here is to not bounce and move as quickly as possible but not changing heights.

The poster who mentioned knees hit one of my main points. I never really thought about it but when heading in for an attack I will bring my back foot up and basically bring my knees together first. My weight is pretty evenly distributed on each foot which lets me alter my path if I need to retrack my attack. So, a majority of my attacks end with the same foot in front that started in front.

Also I think it is important not to have too low of a center of gravity. Footwork is much faster and less noticeable when you dont have transfer a ton of weight from one foot to the next.

#236735 - 03/09/06 10:31 AM Re: footwork mechanics [Re: Borrek]
Ed_Morris Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 6772
good comments.
ok, now what about tension in the legs when stepping? not an excessive amount of tension of course, but heres what I mean: If you were to practice stepping as everyone has described nonstop and at full speed, for lets say, 1 full hour or more, no doubt our legs would tire (or at least mine would). what leg muscles would most likely be a little sore the next day? (assuming ideal technique was practiced).

for me, my inner thighs are most sore (don't know muscle group names, sorry). Assuming I'm doing things right (bad assumption, but humor me), this appears to indicate I have as much tension between each leg as well as the 'push/pull' of the top and bottom muscles of the legs.

so in addition to the push/pull effect of the legs, like described, there is also a sort of invisible connection (ie tension) between each leg. The feeling of it you can imagine both of your legs are opposite polarity magnets, the rear leg zipping toward the front... then at just the right time, the polarity is switched and the stepping leg is repelled forward. this naturally creates a slight arc in the step.
This is what (I think) makes the difference between 'frankenstein stepping' as was mentioned, and really dynamic stepping.

focus on that for a sec and lets hear your thoughts...

#236736 - 03/09/06 06:09 PM Re: footwork mechanics [Re: Ed_Morris]
Borrek Offline

Registered: 01/05/06
Posts: 501
Loc: Ann Arbor, MI
I think your polarity analogy is a good one (and it appeals to my physics side =). there are a few students in our class who exhibit what I would call bad footwork and it looks very similar to a crab skittering. There seems to always be tension between their legs and never the attraction phase that quickly pulls their knees together. The smooth arcing motion never occurs.

I think probably the most simple way for me to describe good footwork is to say that good footwork is a stepping pattern that allows you to change direction or speed at any given point as seamlessley as possible. Bad footwork requires stopping the pattern and starting a new one when confronted with a new stimulus.

So I think good footwork will differ from student to student, but there are certains ways of stepping that are always bad.

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