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Techniques>Movement>Stepping

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Stepping

Intro

Stepping is moving the entire body by taking a step, usually to avoid an opponent's attack or to set yourself up to attack the opponent.

Important points

Here are several important points to remember that apply to almost every stepping technique.

For this discussion, the person is stepping forward from a left front stance to a right front stance.
  • The front knee and ankle bend toward the target, the front leg pulls the body forward, and the rear foot pushes forward.
  • The moving leg should move lightly and quickly. The support leg should remain in firm contact with the floor.
  • As the moving leg (rear) passes the support leg (front), the support leg should begin to thrust downward and backward, to begin driving the hips forward. At the same time, the moving foot travels lightly and quickly to its new position on the floor. The upper body should remain perpendicular to the floor during this movement.
  • The center of mass should move forward in a straight line. This means the hips should not bob up and down, or sway from side to side.
  • The moving foot should move smoothly and continuously, with the foot remaining close to the floor throughout the movement.
  • The muscles of the lower abdomen should remain relaxed throughout the movement to maintain a firm connection between the upper and lower body. This also makes it possible to change directions and intentions in mid-step according to changing circumstances.
  • The moving leg must be kept relaxed during its movement forward, but it tenses when it contacts the floor. After impact, both legs should relax into the new stance.

Push vs. pull

When stepping forward from a front stance, should you push forward with the back leg or pulling forward with the front leg? Or, should you do a combination of both? Let us try an experiment.
Face a wall in a front stance and push against the wall with your arms. Lift the front leg. Notice that the forward thrust is essentially the same. Now, lift the back leg and push. The forward thrust is greatly reduced. In fact, you may find yourself falling backward unless the weight of the body is shifted forward. This illustrates that the push of the back leg is more important than the pull of the front leg.

Next, stand away from the wall in a front stance and step forward with the rear foot. Notice how much you pull with the front leg while stepping. If you practice this for a while, you can see that active involvement of the muscles of the front leg can provide a definite improvement in the speed of the forward movement of the body during stepping. Notice how the forward motion of the rear leg helps pull the body forward once it passes the torso while at the same time the front leg begins pushing the body forward.

One of the primary determining factors in figuring out the relationship between pushing and pulling is the distribution of weight forward or backward. Try the second experiment again with the weight shifted further back than usual and then further forward than usual to feel the effect the front foot plays in moving the body forward. While the weight is behind the front foot, this can be considered a pull. After the weight passes the front foot, the function shifts to that of push.

Also affecting the contribution of the push from the back leg is the amount of flex in the leg. If the back leg is straight, very little force can be applied by the leg, since the only forward thrust comes from the ankle and foot, unless the leg is momentarily bent before the forward movement, which of course takes time and may telegraph your movement to the opponent. If the leg is slightly bent, then more forward thrust may be generated.

Crescent walking vs. direct walking

In crescent walking (C-walking, moonwalking) the stepping foot moves in a crescent shape when stepping in a stance, such as in a front stance. Direct walking is just simply walking, the stepping foot moves straight forward. In crescent walking, the stepping foot moves forward and inward until it is no less than a shoulder width from the base foot (to prevent double foot sweeps) and then it moves outward and into the next stance.

Crescent walking shifts the body into a stable position, so it may resist a pushing/pulling force at mid-step, but it takes longer than the direct step. The direct step is quicker, but the body is unstable throughout the step: in effect, you are falling throughout the step. If anything interferes with the step or the stepping foot lands on a slippery surface or an unseen object, you may fall. The crescent step is useful in street situations since the stepping foot clears its path of objects and the body weight lags the step until the stepping foot has a firm footing.

In crescent walking, the accentuated movement of the moving foot toward and away from the stationary foot makes the step more dynamic. With a greater overall movement and all else held constant, the larger range-of-motion may help make the movement stronger. It also lets you step inside an opponent's guard more easily. Also, when using kicks, such as a rear leg front kick, the moving foot will move toward the stationary leg anyway. Although it is less stable, direct stepping does provide a wider base if things should go awry during the movement.

Single step

A single step is when you only step once.
  • Single-step, while in a front stance (or similar stance). To move forward, slide the back foot forward, slightly bending the leg, into another front stance with the back leg now becoming the forward leg. The rear foot moves in a crescent shape movement. It starts at the rear corner of the imaginary square, moves forward and inward until it is a minimum of 12-inches from the front foot as it passes it (the point of minimum stability). It continues moving forward and outward until it stops at the forward corner of an imaginary square formed with the other foot. The hips stay level during the movement (no movement up and down or side to side). Gradually shift most of the rear foot’s supported weight to the supporting leg and, as the foot reaches its stopping point and has a firm grip, gradually shift 70-percent of the weight back to the new forward leg. To move backward, reverse the process.
  • Single-step, while in a back stance (or similar stance). To move forward, slide the back foot forward into another back stance with the back leg now becoming the forward leg. As the rear foot moves by the front foot, the front foot pivots 90-degrees away from the rear foot. As the rear foot passes the front foot, they are only a couple of inches apart. Since the feet are so close together, stability is very weak. The hips stay level during the movement (no movement up and down or side to side). Gradually shift most all the rear weight the rear leg has on it to the supporting leg and, as the moving foot reaches its stopping point and has a firm grip, gradually shift 30-percent of the weight back to the foot. To move backward, reverse the process.
  • Single-step, while in a riding stance (or similar stance). To move forward, slide the back foot forward into another riding stance facing the opposite direction with the back leg now becoming the forward leg. The rear foot moves in a crescent shape movement. It moves forward and outward until it is a minimum of 12-inches from the front foot as it passes it (the point of minimum stability). It continues moving forward and inward until it stops in a riding stance facing the opposite direction. The supporting foot must pivot 180-degrees away from the moving foot during the movement. To move backward, reverse the process.

Double step

A double step is when you need to step twice. When advancing toward or retreating from an opponent, you seldom need more than two steps. If more than two steps are needed to advance you are too far away to attack. If more than two steps are needed to retreat, you should be running way, not stepping.

Double steps are used to shift from a right stance to a right stance or left to left. From a front or back stance, move forward as in the single step, but at the point of minimum stability, stop the moving foot and put it down. The other foot then continues the movement, ending in the same stance as at the start, except closer to the opponent. To move backward, reverse the process. From a riding stance, the rear foot slides up to the supporting foot and plants while the supporting foot continues the movement into another riding stance facing the same direction.

Step through

Used to cover a wide distance quickly. Same as the double-step except the moving foot moves past the point of minimum stability before stopping and planting.

Sliding

To execute the slide, extend the base of the stance and then contract it. The lead foot moves forward a certain amount and then the back foot moves forward the same amount. This maintains a wide stable base for the stance. If the trailing foot moves forward first, the stance is weakened. To move backward, the trailing foot moves first.

Slide-step

Used to cover a wide distance quickly. Slide the lead foot forward and then execute a forward singe-step with the rear foot. To move backward, the trailing foot moves first.

Aero step

The aero step is a newer innovation in martial arts footwork. It confuses your opponent as to which leg you intend to kick with. Because the aero step resembles the chambering motion for a round kick, it tricks the opponent into counterattacking too soon. It is a deceptive way of covering extra distance when kicking, by shifting your weight forward or backward while stepping. The aero step increases the speed and power of kicks.

It is performed by lifting your front or rear leg and kicking with your other leg before stepping down. The aero step is intended to carry you forward or backward, not upward like a jump. To perform the kick, start to camber the non-kicking foot (either the front or rear foot) as if starting a kick. As it starts to move, execute a kick with the other leg. The stepping foot is rarely more than twelve inches above the floor and sometimes it only skims the floor. The step works well with front and round kicks, but it may be used with most kicks

SOURCES
Turtle Press. (2002). [Online], Available: http://www.turtlepress.com/library.asp [2002, October 21].

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