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Pivoting is when you rotate your body around one foot. Pivoting is a much slower motion than spinning.

Purposes of pivoting

The pivot serves several purposes:
  • It provides a way to change the orientation of a stance without taking a step by rotating the body's center of mass around its body’s centerline. For example, to move from a forward facing left back stance to a rearward facing right back stance you pivot 90-degrees to the right on both heels while turning the body the 180-degrees to the right into the new stance. 
  • It adds power to a kick or hand strike by rotating body mass about a fixed point; thus adding the rotating mass to the attacking foot or hand. The rotation of body mass also adds angular acceleration to strikes and kicks to increase their striking force.
  • It allows you to increase or decrease range when needed in defending or attacking without having to take steps.
  • It allows you to rotate the body in a way that protects vulnerable targets and draws attacker into your counterattacks.
  • The rotation of the pivot may deflect a blow as it slides over the rotating body mass instead of making a direct impact.

Ball or heel rotation

When the foot rotates during a pivot, the rotation may occur on the ball of the foot or on the heel. Each method has advantages and disadvantages.


Pivoting on the ball of the foot allows one to maintain a strong tendon connection between the ankle and leg, so the leg is stronger in resisting a foot sweep. People with limited hip flexibility may find upper body rotation easier when pivoting on the ball of the foot. A disadvantage is that there is a tendency to fling the body mass forward while shifting onto the ball, which may cause a loss of balance. Examples of a ball pivot are:
  • When pivoting in preparation for a rear leg kick, such as round kick or a hook kick, the pivot is made on the ball of the lead foot with the heel slightly raised.
  • When pivoting from a front left cat stance to a rear right cat stance, the pivot is made on the balls of both feet with the heels of the feet slightly raised.


Pivoting on the heel permits greater thrust off the ground and helps maintain spinal/pelvic alignment for superior balance; however, the ankle/tendon connection to the leg is lessened, making the leg more vulnerable to sweeps. A disadvantage is that mobility is lessened because of the loss of the springing action of the ball/instep. Another disadvantage is the weight must be transferred to the ball before lunging. People with poor waist flexibility may find upper body rotation difficult when pivoting on the heel. An example of a heel pivot is when pivoting from a forward left back stance to a rear right back stance, the pivot is made on the heels of both feet with the balls of the feet slightly raised.

How to pivot

If you tell beginning students to pivot on their supporting foot, they will all do it. However, not all of them will do it the same way. Some will pivot on the heel of the foot and some on the ball. When we step forward, the heel strikes the ground first, the foot presses flat as it keeps rotating and then it pushes off the ball into the next step. When we step backward, the sequence reverses; the ball strikes first, the foot flattens, and then we push off the heel.

Along with these movements come the weight shifts that must occur at the correct position of the pivot. A pivot may occur at either of these foot contact points as long as the weight is kept centered over the pivot point.The pivoting knee must be kept flexed during the movements so you may maintain the ability to push explosively off the pivoting foot into your attack.

When in hand-to-hand combat with another person, we normally do not take steps; we slide the feet into position. If we step in a combat situation, we may step on a rock, stick, bottle, water, etc. that may cause us to fall or a least hesitate for a second to regain our balance. That moment’s hesitation could mean the difference in living or dying. Therefore, during a pivot, the non-pivoting foot lightly sweeps across the ground to clear away any debris, and to allow immediate firm contact with the ground if needed.

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