In many private lessons and classes that I have taught over the years, I have noticed that poor footwork will often negate good stick technique. Sub-optimal footwork has reared its head enough that new students are introduced to footwork on day one. I will go through some basic footwork and stance drills, often through the angles of attack, in order to ensure that good habits are established right away. With good footwork established, good technique will follow.
First of all, I start with two very basic footwork patterns/drills. The first is the one step footwork, illustrated below. As one can see, it’s done in a V-shaped pattern, stepping at a 45-degree angle either to the right or the left. Here’s the basic one step footwork exercise:
The purpose of the one step footwork is to drive home the need to angle off from an attack. This is just a basic footwork exercise.
Next, the second footwork pattern taught in Modern Arnis is the two step footwork.
The above sequence is somewhat akin to the ginga of capoeira.
YouTube video here.
While there are substantial differences between the Modern Arnis two step footwork and the capoeira ginga, having to do with the orientation of the feet, center line, and the rhythm/timing of the movement, the principle is similar in the sense of “stepping over the railroad tracks.” Consequently, I stress these two footwork patterns quite a bit.
When it comes to the two-step footwork, most have trouble with the second step, as illustrated below. A common mistake is to step with the right foot only and leave the back/left foot on the railroad tracks. As a result, they are vulnerable to a counter attack.
You can see the problem with this position. Anytime I see this, I get on the student’s case about this. This is, by far, the most common mistake with the two step footwork that I see. That said, this is a technical mistake that can have dire consequences.
Don’t leave that back foot in the middle of the railroad tracks.
These are the first two footwork patterns that I teach in private lessons and in my classes. That said, there are other kinds of footwork that we incorporate such as those associated with sweep strokes, body manipulation techniques, takedowns, and throws.
Once the one step and two step footwork patterns are learned and the technical mistakes rectified, the practitioner needs to go beyond robotic stepping and progress into being comfortable moving their feet around. This is crucial.
Usually, if the student remains stuck at the robotic stage, then execution of techniques will, likewise, be robotic.
I have found that it takes a considerable amount of practice to transition from robotic footwork to being light and agile on your feet.
Needless to say, a student should be as comfortable with moving around and using their feet as they are picking up their eating utensils. Make no mistake about it, this takes time, patience, and lots of repetition.
Let me repeat, it takes quite a while to transition from robotic footwork to being nimble, agile, and deceptive in your footwork.
If you do not move properly, you will not be able to defend. If you do not move properly, you will not be able to hit the other guy. Consequently, you will not able to effectively defend yourself. It’s as simple as it gets.
If you have time at home, practice your footwork for a few minutes every day. You’ll notice that you will become less robotic and more natural in moving over time. With practice, you’ll have nimble feet like the guy below. 🙂
Get a move on!