Advanced Footwork Drills
Getting faster feet
This is a list of drills that you can incorporate into your training.
They are to get you to move better and faster. Note that you might have
to work up to them. Some of these are bona
fide hard and it is better to start slow with control. Speed
will come gradually. A few things to remember.
The most common type of knee injury is caused by someone who is out of
shape trying to do some explosive change of direction. You can work up
to it with no trouble, just take your time. It is a skill just
like any other.
- Don't put a premium on speed initially. Although you will get
very fast as time goes on, you should start out slowly so you get it
- Always have your hands up. It is very, very easy to start using
your hands as counterbalances (and natural too, e.g. while running) but
unless you are
careful, this will train you to drop your guard as soon as you start
moving fast -- the last thing you want. If you really have a problem
with this, a nice trick is to grab your lapels or collar while you do
the drill. This will take your hands out of the system and keep them
occupied. Once you are able to move this way, then practice putting
them back where they belong.
- Keep facing in the right direction for the drill. When you are
learning, it is fine to look at your feet until you start to get the
pattern (if you must always look at your feet, your are substituting
eyes for balance, hint, hint. Slow down). However, you do not want to
practice taking your eyes off your target when you have to move.
- You should not just go for broke on these drills until you have
very solid squats (all types) and lunges -- which are the best
conditioning to protect your knees from torque and shear. Especially if
you have a history of knee trouble or if you do not have much sports
background, do your conditioning and add these drills in slowly at
- Efficiency is your goal. That is to say, conserve momentum as you
move. In practice part of moving well is knowing how to bleed off extra
energy in the right way with your footwork so you can move fast when
needed and slow down when needed. If you find that your drills are
"bumpy" this means that you are arresting your momentum too much.
Figure out how to make it smooth and effortless.
By a "line drill" I mean an exercise where you straddle a line. The
advantage is that you can practice moving around it so you can learn
how to control your body along your main axis of movement. Make
sure you look straight down the line no matter which way your body turns
- Hop down the line, alternating sides, feet together. Do it
forward and backwards.
- Ditto the last one, but turn your hips so you land at 45 degrees
to the line
- Ditto the first, but now turn a full 90 degrees (so each time you
land your back is to the line)
- Ditto previous, have your feet wider. Also practice squatting
with the landing
- Walk down the line, feet crossing over, e.g., left foot on right
side, right on left side etc.
- Carioca (named for a dance from Brazil where the movement is
prominent). This is a lateral movement. Just alternate stepping in
front and behind. As you do this, you can also rotate 180 degrees. Do
this upon occaision (but not constantly or you'll hurl).
- Start standing on the line in a wide stance. Move exactly down
the line pivoting 180 degrees each time. In particular, do while
- Straddling the line, twist your hips as if throwing a reverse
punch, step. Add a squat on the step. This does double duty as strike +
evasion as well as a hip throw.
These require a small
box. A couple of inches high is all that is needed, a foot would
be the absolute upper limit for someone very tall. You are not
practicing step-ups or some type of lunge.
- Step across: Start beside the box. Step up with one foot, bring
the other up (so feet are together), step down, bring the other foot.
Reverse. Repeat until you can do this very fast. Works side to side,
forward and backwards (although backwards is tricky to get as fast as
- Ditto previous, just do not have your feet together, viz., at most there is on foot on
the box or the floor.
- Stand in front of the box. Start lightly jogging in place and tap
the box with your toes when your feet come up. Work your stance a bit
wider then return it to being normal. If your box is not wide enough,
do it against a wall.
- Hop over the box, front and back, side to side with both feet.
Also do tucking knees up and being in as tight a ball as possible.
- Repeat, but have the path of one foot over the box, the other
not. This gets you used to obstacles.
- Now you are going to hop over the box with your hands behind your
back, keeping your legs straight and folding in the middle. This is a
lot harder than it sounds, so you probably want to begin this with no
box and work up to it. This is a calf exercise.
There are various squats and lunges. A lunge is really just a step + a
squat. The difference is the the body's momemtum must be arrested.
Therefore, one normally starts with the various squats: standard,
splits (going to one knee), side and rotation then starts stepping.
These are the basis of all ducking, bobbing and weaving as well as many
dynamic throws so it is always a good idea to incorporate them. These
are the best way to condition your legs for general sporting activities.
Essentially any footwork drill can have a lunge or a squat added to it
and I heartily encourage you to do so.
Shuffling for fun and profit
Shuffling aka tsugi/okuri ashi
is one basic way of moving. To shuffle well you need an
appropriate stance to start with
Again, taisabaki are body movements and there are 3, irimi, kaiten, tenkan = irimi+kaiten.
(viz., enter, turn, enter+turn/turn+enter). These, however are side-effects of
footwork rather than the footwork
itself. Said more plainly, of the half dozen or so footwork patterns I
have ennunciated, all of them
can be used to do each of the basic taisabaki.
So for example, you can do irimi
by walking, shuffling, pivoting, turning etc. I don't know how many
times I've seen people confuse the footwork with its effect. If you do
not have a clear understanding of how your feet are
working you will likely always "start off on the wrong foot" for doing
your techniques. Then you will lack balance, power and general
- Stance: This is the position you should feel comfortable with.
You will be square to your opponent with your lead shin oriented on his
center line and your trailing foot at approximately a 45 degree angle
(to permit pivoting on it for power). Weight is distributed
evenly between the feet. This is, in effect a very shallow front
stance. Hand should cover your mid-line. Generally you would want to
mirror an opponent's position. If his/her left leg is forward, e.g., your right leg is forward.
This allows you to more easily pivot away from their power hand.
- Basic movements will be tsugi/okuri
ashi. What are the advantages of this type of movement? It is
quick and, unlike walking, you have a limb bracing you so if your
opponent advances as you do and you meet in the middle it is less
likely you will lose your balance.
We start with shuffling and combos. Since shuffling is linear, it must
be combines with some movement to allow for changing direction. The
pivot serves this role well. Ducking and lunges are incorporated.
Remember to keep your back straight when you duck or lunge or you might
be off balance and fall over.
- Shuffle forward and back
- Hop forwards and back
- Shuffle or hop forward and back ducking and with a lunge.
- Double shuffle forward and back, also ducking
- Double shuffle one way with a single shuffle back. E.g., shuffle
back twice, then immediately reverse and come forward (this practices
evade + counter attack).
- Shuffle forward and back with a 90 degree pivot aka a quarter
turn with a hop. With left leg forward, it is easy to pivot CW. To turn
CCW will require a step with the right foot to 3 o'clock or a long
step, so this is slower.
- Shuffle side to side (lateral). Do double shuffle. Add ducking
(these will be either squats or lateral lunges)
- Shuffle back and turn, covering with elbows (important drill!)
Teaches you to recover after retreating.
- Shuffle back and to the right (if in left lead) and switch feet
step back to left lead.
- Start with a quarter turn to move in on your opponent.
- hop back then immediately fire a jab. Can also advance on the jab.
- With left leg forward, move to the right by step with the right
to 3 o'clock, step back to 6 with left foot then to 3 o'clock with the
right and back to 12 with the left. This lets you move back and to the
right (idea is to move up on someone's power hand and not get hit).
Mixing and matching
Now that we have a lot of basic types of movement, here is a good list
of combos. You can add squats, lunges etc. to these at any point. You
can add falling as well.
- step forward or back and pivot.
- move laterally and pivot
- do a twist, dropping to one knee, step forward
- shuffle forward twice, then back and do a shoulder roll (in
various directions). Face other way, repeat. This drill should keep you
more or less in one place.
- back roll, lateral lunge, pivot as you rise (emulates getting
knocked over, coming up, ducking something then off-lining)