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Book article » CORE PRINCIPLES

CORE PRINCIPLES by Tommy Thompson and Rocky Sondhi

Footwork principles

In martial arts, and in boxing in particular, the role of feet cannot be underplayed. Without the use of the feet there is limited movement, if any, and the range of options open to the fighter is severely restricted. Therefore, it is crucial that all martial artists and boxer's develop their ability to move quickly, swiftly and also, unexpectedly.

The boxer's ability to move and hit with power is dependent on the maintenance of balance, which is developed through the use of feet. The feet ensure that as the boxer moves, his ability to hit with optimal efficiency is not compromised.

All footwork movements in all directions need to feel intuitive to the boxer, and this is best achieved by the development of short gliding movements, thus ensuring that the feet are in contact with the floor at all times. At no time should the boxer be caught with his feet too close or too far apart.

The key to ensuring fluid movement, and thus maximizing hitting power, is to remember to keep the upper part of the body relaxed. If tension exists in the upper body this may severely restrict movement below, as the centre of gravity of the body will be compromised. The punches may still land, but they will be less effective.

Role of the front foot

One of the most important, yet neglected, things about stances is the misunderstanding of the role of the front foot. The front foot essentially has two roles:

a. Range Finder - if your front foot is not in distance, i.e. underneath or close to your opponent, whilst                               ensuring head is out of range, you may possess the best left hook since Joe Frazier,                               but you will never land the punch.
b. Shock Absorber – with the front knee bent, the front foot also acts as a shock absorber when hit,
                                  allowing a timely response to the attack.

Role of rear leg

There are several roles of the rear leg, with the back heel off the floor at all times. These are:

a. Power Driver – the rear foot allows the hitter to transfer his body weight towards the target, with any                              shot.
b. Acceleration Enhancer – the rear foot allows explosion, through the combination of elastic muscle                                               and tendons in the leg.
c. Springback – the rear foot allows instant reaction to come back at an opponent.

Common difficulties with stances and footwork

Many boxers and fighters share common difficulties where the movement has to be achieved through stances and the feet.

Some of the more common errors in achieving stances are:

1. Feet too close together
2. Feet too wide apart

The drawbacks of the feet being too close together are:

a. Loss of movement in both directions
b. Defensive options become severly restricted
c. Lack of drive off the feet, thus limiting hitting power

The drawbacks of the feet being too far apart, but still in range are:

a. The right hand has further to travel to the target
b. Defensive options become severely restricted
c. Difficult to move at speed as initial drive and reaction time are lost

The most common difficulties in footwork are:

a. Moving to the right – though it is relatively easy to move to the right, moving with speed and balance                                        is difficult to achieve due to the fact that this is not a programmed movement.                                        Moving to the left encourages the closest foot to move first, whereas moving to                                        the right is an unnatural response for most people. However, this is not unique                                        to boxing, as all sports have similar problems, for example a footballer who has                                        to move to the outside.
b. Moving to the rear – similarly, moving to the back involves the furthest foot moving first, but the                                          tendency is for most people to move the nearest foot first, thus unbalancing                                          the boxer.
c. Crossed feet – this is largely a problem experienced by the novice.

Drills to improve footwork

The Sidestep

Why Sidestep?

The primary purpose of the sidestep is to change direction quickly in an explosive manner, maintaining balance and posture. This ensures the opponent is pulled out of position and needs to readjust his stance, thus providing an opportunity to gain advantage.

The sidestep is particularly useful against an opponent who is fully committed to his attack.

How to sidestep?

1. A slight pullback off your front foot
2. At the same time or possibly before step off with your rear leg to write, bring your front foot back on guard to its original position stock movements should be a short balanced movement.

Moving forward

Push the back leg, front foot sliding forward, bring rear leg up to guard position

Moving backwards

Push off the front foot, back leg leading, bring front foot to the guard position.

Moving left

Left leg moving to left with the rear leg following up

Moving right

Right leg leading with left leg following up

Suggested Drills

Suggested drills to encourage advanced footwork and movement are:

1. The use of four marks on the floor has proven invaluable to encourage small gliding steps and      encourage foot movement prior to punching. (see diagram)

Start at position 1 in traditional stance, boxer glides forward to position 2, then moves on balance to position 3, and then explosive push back to position 4, and follows up with a sidestep back to position 1.

2. Stamping Feet Drill

Boxer A in stance attempts to step on Boxer B feet with his front foot, for a two minute round. Boxer B needs to move rapidly to avoid having crushed toes!

Boxer B then attempts the same.

This drill is particularly useful for boxers and martial artists who lack nimbleness and movement on their feet.

3. Range Finding Circle

Movement is encouraged through the development of understanding of the ranges of motion.

A represents thinking distance, X represents striking distance.

Boxer moves around the circle in both directions within thinking distance, and on command, suddenly moves into striking distance, and then straight back into thinking distance.

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