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Shifting is the changing or shifting of body position by stepping, sliding, turning, ducking, bobbing, jumping, spinning or any combination of these movements. Since you can’t punch or kick with shifting the body, shifting is crucial to the performance of martial arts.

Purposes of shifting

Shifting is a the movement of the entire body or parts of the body to:
  • Make the body a constantly moving target.
  • Avoid attacks.
  • Cause an attack that is targeted to a vital area of your body to strike a non vital area.
  • Camouflage your attacking movements.
  • Add speed and power to your defensive and offensive technques.

Types of shifting

  • Ducking. Ducking is dropping the target of an attack below a lateral attack, such as a hook punch. It is primarily used to protect the head. Do not duck a vertical attack, such as an uppercut punch, since you will be moving into the attack. Ducking is not done by bending the neck to drop the head; it is done by bending the knees to drop the entire body, which includes the head. To duck a punch, keep the head and guard up, bend the knees and move the torso and head downward, over, and then upward in the same direction from which the attack came. Do not move downward and upward in the same direction the attack is moving or you may come up in front of the attack or a follow-up attack.
  • Slipping. Slipping is leaning the head, or the entire upper body as a unit, to the side or backward to avoid an attack. The goal is to move just enough to clear the attack without leaving yourself off balance or vulnerable to a combination attack, and to allow you to mount your own counterattack.
  • Weaving. Weaving is a rhythmic moving of the upper body (above the waist) from side to side. When the body is in constant movement, it hides any attacking movement you may make.
  • Bobbing. Bobbing is moving the head side-to-side and up and down, to avoid an attack or to make the head a constantly moving target. When bobbing always keep your eyes on the opponent; don’t nod the head. Never lower your eyes or look away unless it is a purposeful glance as part of a deception.
  • Dodging. Dodging is the movement of portions of the body, or the entire body, to avoid an attack and possibly prepare for a counterattack. Although foot work is limited to the movements of the legs and feet, dodging involves dynamic body movements that require shifting of position.
  • Weight shift. Shift body weight to the rear leg and lean the entire body backward, without moving feet, to avoid a high or middle section attack.
  • Pull-In. Shift body weight to rear and pull middle section of body backward, sucking it in, to avoid middle section attack.
  • Jump. When the attacker begins forward motion, execute a jump to the side or rear to avoid the attack.
  • Slide. The first foot that moves takes a step away while other foot slides into position. For example: to step backward, rear foot steps backward and front foot then slides backward into position. Don’t make the first step toward the other foot; this narrows your base and decreases stability. Always keep the feet at least a shoulder width apart.
  • Stepping. Stepping is moving one or both feet to avoid an attack. See the stepping article for more information about stepping. The following are some one -step dodges:
  • Step the front foot straight forward and then step the rear foot forward into position.
  • Step the rear foot straight backward and then step the front foot backward into position. 
  • Step the rear foot to the side while pivoting on the front foot until the rear foot is outward toward the side.
  • To step the front foot to the side, it must be followed by a second step in same direction with the rear foot; if not, you will be exposed to attack.
  • Step the front foot straight back to turn the upper body 90-degrees toward that side.
  • Step the rear foot straight forward to turn the upper body 90-degrees in the opposite direction.
  • Step the front foot diagonally backward to turn the upper body 90-degrees toward that side.
  • Step rear foot diagonally forward to turn upper body 90 degrees in opposite direction.
  • Step front foot in a circular 180-degree motion in front of the body while pivoting on the rear foot until the front foot is now the rear foot. Guard will now be facing the opposite side.
  • Step the rear foot in a circular 180-degree motion behind the body while pivoting on the front foot until the rear foot is now the front foot. Guard will now be facing opposite side. 
A second step may be added to a one-step dodge by initially stepping with the other foot in the same direction as the foot making the stepping dodge, such as in the third movement of the pattern to-san. Steps may be performed in sliding or jumping motions.


While shifting the body:
  • Don’t just move around to be moving, move with a purpose. Any movement uses energy and you should never waste energy on useless movements.
  • All movements must be natural and flowing, and not predictable. If you move in a predictable manner, your opponent may anticipate the point to which you will be moving and attack that location, catching you unexpectedly. Movements should be quick, but smooth and natural.
  • Maintain balance and stability. Minimum stability occurs when the two feet are at their closest point.
  • Smoothly shift the body weight, don’t shift weight until supporting foot has a strong grip.
  • Maintain a proper fighting posture.
  • Maintain your guard throughout all movements for added protection.
  • Attacks or blocks may be used during the movement.
  • Don’t move the hips up and down. Keep them level and only moving linearly. Remember, move naturally with no wasted movement.
  • Lightly slide the feet; in most shifts, you don’t raise or drag the feet, you slide them. The sliding foot is feeling for a clear path, such as the foot pushing bottles out of the way in an alley, and it is feeling for a firm place to stop, such as not on a magazine laying in an alley.
  • When shifting your stance, such as shifting from a left hand/foot forward (orthodox) fighting position to a right hand/foot forward (southpaw) fighting position, always make your shift from outside of the opponent's range. If the shift is made while inside opponent's range, you leave yourself vulnerable to attack.
  • For maximum protection during a movement, precede it with an attack. For example: before stepping backward, precede it with a lead leg front kick.

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