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Backpedaling is making short, quick steps backward to avoid an attack or attacks, sort of like pedaling the pedals of a bicycle backward. Backpedaling is a way to avoid an attack, but that does not mean you are retreating or running from the fight; if used correctly, it can create counterattack opportunities.

When an opponent is attacking, he or she is thinking about the attack, not about defense, so this is the best time to counterattack. When you are backpedaling, the opponent does not expect a counterattack and certainly does not think any attack you use would do any damage; however, this is not the case. See the Punching topic for an example of backpedaling knockouts.

Problems with backpedaling

  • Your opponent can move forward faster than you can move backward, so keep your guard up.
  • Sometimes you may not be able to move backward because of ring ropes or other boundaries. When in a ring, move backward in an arc to stay away from the ropes. Even if you are proficient at backpedaling, you must have backup tactics in case you are unable to backpedal. 
  • Psychologically, it is difficult to counterattack when backpedaling since, when you move backward, your mind naturally goes into defense mode, especially when the opponent is rushing toward you. This may be overcome through training.
  • Physically, it is difficult to counterattack since it is difficult to throw solid punches or kicks while moving backward. This may be overcome through training.

Training to backpedal

When working the heavy bag, give it a hard push to start a large swinging movement. Stand to the side of the bag and when it reaches the peak of a swing, step in front of it and backpedal and attack the bag as it swings toward you.
When sparring in class, experiment with counterattacking while backpedaling. Once you get proficient, opponents will become reluctant to rush in with attacks.

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