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.
  1. 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 right.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 first.
  5. 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.
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.

Line drills

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

Box drills

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.

Lunge/squat drills

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 effectiveness.

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.

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.