Taekwondo is known for its footwork. Using footwork is the easiest way to avoid an attack and to set up for making an attack. However, some use footwork in an attempt to impress others instead of for a useful purpose.
While sparring, most students are concerned about which technique to use, but few consider the importance of footwork. Without proper footwork, you may never have an opportunity to use a technique (either offensive or defensive). Therefore, footwork is an integral part of every sparring technique.
According to Newton's laws of motion, an object at rest tends to remain at rest and an object in motion tends to remain in motion. If you fight from a stationary stance, you must overcome inertia to attack or avoid. If you are already moving, you need only to redirect your inertia. If you stand still, you will get hit; while, if you move, you may get hit. The mobility furnished by footwork, give you an opportunity to attack and it helps you avoid an attack.
It is difficult to judge the location of an object in space if you are stationary. However, if you are moving around, it is much easier to judge an objects location. If you are stationary and directly in front of an opponent's guard, it is difficult to judge how close the opponent's lead fist is to you. However, if you are moving, it is easy to judge its location. Proper footwork keeps you moving so you may detect the range to the weapons of an opponent.
You cannot effectively use your hands or feet to block or attack until your feet have put you into position from which you can do so. Good footwork allows you to hit from any angle and to follow up your initial attack with more powerful finishing blows. Footwork allows you to get in and attack, and then get out. Footwork allows you to evade rather than block and to attack from angles rather than just straight in. Footwork allows you increase or decrease the range between you and your opponent quickly while maintaining your stability.
Components of footwork
Awareness of your opponent's movements. Being able to flow with opponents movements so opponent never gets an advantage.
Smooth, natural movements. Do not make jerky unnatural movements that draw attention to your movement.
Range awareness. Always knowing the range of:
- Your weapons
- Opponent's weapons
- Distance between you and your opponent
- This range is constantly changing
- Actual range is the distance between you and your opponent
- Effective range varies according to:
- Your reaction speed
- Opponent's reaction speed
- Your quickness of movement
- Opponent's quickness of movement
Stability. Always begin and end a movement from a stable position
Footwork does mean useless bouncing around just for the sake of movement. Footwork is used to advance, retreat, or circle. Every movement should be purposeful, either to
- Position yourself for an attack
- Avoid an attack
- Move put of opponent's range of attack
Footwork allows you to
- Get in, strike, and get out quickly; not just stay in range and pound it out with opponent until one retreats.
- Increase speed of offensive or defensive techniques.
- Adjust range.
- Close the gap.
- Attack from angles.
- Lure opponents into range.
- Avoid attacks without using arms, which free them to immediately counterattack.
All footwork is initiated from a guard position (fighting stance). There are many guard variations, choose one that is effective for you and that your are conformable using so you are not tense and may react instantly. The guard should have your strong side forward, hands up near cheek bones, with elbows tucked in. Lead shoulder slightly raised and chin tucked. Lead knee turned slightly inward to defend groin area. Both heels slightly raised for quick movement. Both knees bent as much as possible while still permitting smooth, quick movement. Bent knees permit quick jumping without have to telegraph a jump by first bending the knees.
Footwork in not merely bouncing or rapidly shifting stances. It is simple, natural movements that permit quick but smooth changes in direction or range. Footwork should enhance your body alignment and stability so you may deliver powerful block and attacks. Footwork allows you to lure your opponent into an attack or counter attack. Use it to setup your opponent and yourself for attacks. Footwork is not just for moving, it is also the delivery system that allows you to execute your techniques properly. Any properly executed kick or punch comes off the footwork.
All footwork starts with your basic fighting stance. Whatever stance you use, it must be stable and permit blocks and attacks by hands and feet, and you must feel natural and relaxed while using it. A common fighting stance has strong side forward, both fists just under the eyes (to protect face) with elbows tucked in (to protect midsection), lead shoulder raised a little with chin slightly tucked behind the shoulder (to protect chin), and lead knee turned slightly inward (to protect groin).
Step and Slide. The step and slide is used primarily to bridge the gap (close the range) although it is not normally used with an attack. However, it is effective in gauging and obtaining correct range from which to launch an attack. In the step and slide, the lead foot steps forward about 6 inches and the rear foot slides up to where the lead foot was at.
Push Step. The push step is used for bridging the gap combined with an attack. The step is works well with a punching attack. In the push step, lift the lead leg, push off with the rear foot, and lunge forward with the lead leg.
Shuffle Step. The shuffle step is more like a pulling movement than a stepping movement and it is quick since it has only one movement to it, unlike the previous two steps. The lead foot stays flat but with just light weight on the toes and ball of foot. As you move, the rear leg pushes off, the lead toes dig in and pull forward, and both feet shuffle forward. If is a subtle, deceptive motion but it is powerful when the body mass is instantly thrown in behind the attack.
Burst. The burst is also a push-pull movement. It is used for a quick advance while kicking and punching. It is used primarily to deliver a powerful kick, such as a side kick, or to counter an opponent's attack. It is also one of the hardest moves to learn because it depends on good coordination.
The forward burst is one deep lunge with lead leg. Sweep lead hand upward as you move to create momentum and distract your opponent to throw his or her timing off. While sweeping your hand upward, swing your hips forward simultaneously, while dragging your rear foot forward. In that split instant, your weight is heavily on your front foot. At this moment, your rear leg straightens out to thrust your body forward. The leap should be more horizontal than vertical. Try for distance while keeping your feet close to the floor.
For the backward thrust, push the ball of your lead foot to initiate the motion, which straightens your front knee and shifts the weight to the rear foot. Then the front foot leaves the floor and crosses your rear foot. Just before it lands, your rear leg, with its knee bent and acting like a spring, should thrust your body with a sudden straightening of its leg. You should land on the ball of your lead foot just a second before your rear foot touches the floor.
Dancing. Dancing is the term used for constant movement while of the balls of the feet.
If you are fighting flat-footed, you lose the added spring of the ankle muscles when moving. If your knees are almost straight, you lose the added spring of the leg muscles when moving. When on the balls of the feet with the knees bent, everything is pre-chambered for a jump or quick movement, without having to bend the knees first.
An object in motion tends to remain in motion and to keep moving in the direction of the motion. An object at rest tends to remain at rest and its inertia tends to keep it at rest and to cause it to resist motion. If you fight from a stationary stance, you must overcome inertia to start moving. If you are in a constantly moving stance, to change direction you only need to deflect the direction of the inertia of the movement, not overcome it. Therefore, it is easier to change directions of movements while you are moving than it is to start moving from a stationary stance.
Sidestepping. Sidestepping may be used:
- To frustrate an attack simply by moving every time an opponent gets set to attack.
- To avoid blows or kicks.
- To create openings for a counter attack.
The advancing steps may also be used in retreating. Everything just operates in reverse.
Pendulum Step. The pendulum step is used primarily to avoid an attack. In the pendulum step, the lead leg is quickly drawn back to where your rear leg is, while simultaneously pulling your rear leg backwards. All your weight should be resting on the lead leg at this point, with the rear foot barely touching the floor, and then you perform a forward push step, with a lead side attack.
To practice footwork, use shadowboxing. Shadowboxing teaches you how to relax when you move, how to explode when you move, how to throw techniques while in motion. It alerts you as to which techniques are assets and which are liabilities. You can bob and weave, move, kick, punch, kick/punch/kick, and you can also cultivate the coordination necessary to execute all of the above footwork successfully. It also teaches you how to regain your balance after throwing a technique or combination. Other activities, such as jump rope or running, will also train your neuromuscular pathways to handle your bodyweight better and enhance your balance.
Fighters who fight from a stationary stance are called targets. They are similar to a target that does move and must resist an attack's penetration as best as it can. They do not move except when changing stances or stepping, and when they do move, it is slow and deliberate. Rocks get hit a lot so they train to take punishment.
Some fighters move by shifting their weight forward and backward from one foot to the other, they are called shifters. While this is better than just standing stationary, it still hampers movement. When you shift your weight to one foot, that foot is locked and cannot move until the weight is shifted off it. A shifters mass moves primarily in a straight line using the muscles of both legs. When fighting a forward and backward shifter, if an attack is timed to fire just as the shifter starts the movement, the shifter's stance will be locked, making defense and counterattack difficult. Shifting is effective but it requires endurance. A shifter is similar to a butterfly that has a limited range of wing motion.
Some fighters move by bouncing forward and backward off both feet at the same time. The feet never become locked and the fighter is free to move in any direction instantly, they are called bouncers. A bouncer's mass moves primarily up and down in an arc using the muscles of both legs to make the movement. When fighting a bouncer, if an attack is timed to fire just as the bouncer starts the movement, the bouncer is able to land in a stance and immediately bounce in a new direction. Bouncing is highly effective but it requires high endurance. To be an effective bouncer you must have explosive, muscular strength in the legs and be in peak physical condition, but it is worth the effort. A relaxed, deep breathing bouncer is a similar to a butterfly that reacts instantly and moves quickly.