This Friday, I’d like to look at the side step. In my short martial arts experience, the side step footwork is the most unique footwork that I’ve learned. Empty hand versus knife level one was where I first learned this. The side step allows me to move away from the knife while maintaining the ability to strike my opponent. As you move around your opponent, you can position yourself on the other side of your opponent’s body from his knife. It provides a measure of safety while allowing me to counterattack. This footwork took me a while to feel comfortable with, but it has become one of my favorite pieces of footwork. When pairing it with new techniques, I slow down and try to feel out the movements to determine where to combine them.
Disclaimer: The footwork discussed below is from Counterpoint Tactical System as I’ve learned it from Master Zach Whitson. Any errors or inconsistencies are mine. The spirit of this series is me studying footwork in more depth. I don’t claim to know everything, and I will make mistakes. But, again, those mistakes are mine. Also, this article is for reference only and should be used as a secondary source only. Please, see a Filipino martial arts instructor if you wish to really and accurately learn these techniques.
For this footwork, start on the middle dot. Step with your right foot out to your right side. Twist your body such that your back is facing the direction you want to move, i.e. face left. Draw your left towards your right. The left foot points in the direction from which it just moved. Both knees should be bent, and 90% of your weight should be on the right foot. Traditional martial arts call this a cat stance. To change, step out with your left foot and rotate it 90 degrees to the front. As you transfer your weight to you left foot, rotate your body so that you are now facing where you just were. Drag your right foot close to your left with the toes pointing in the direction you just came from. Now, 90% of your weight should be on your left leg.
As you turn from side to side, you’ll notice that the hips are integral to making the turn. Because the hips are so important, you can see how this footwork easily translates into power generation. I love watching students pair up their stick swings with this footwork. They are often surprised at how much force they are generating. Power comes from being rooted to the ground, transferring weight, and hip rotation. The side step contains all three elements.
This is a rather difficult footwork to learn just by reading or watching a video. Please, seek out a qualified instructor. It is worth learning this footwork if you train in close quarters combat.