Merry Christmas, everyone. My gift to you is another entry in my Footwork Friday series. To this point, we’ve looked at footwork alone. Today, we will start to match some basic striking with the reverse triangle. This is an introduction to moving and striking; it does not cover the mechanics of striking itself. See a qualified Counterpoint Tactical System or other martial arts instructor for more detailed information.
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 accurately learn these techniques.
We’re going to usereverse triangle as a base for looking at the proper execution of strikes. These concepts can be applied regardless of the pattern, but I recommend starting with a simple one at the beginning. Reverse triangle is the first footwork pattern that I learned, and it is the first that I teach. We’ve also used it frequently during our footwork Friday posts. So, it’s a natural basis for increasing complexity with footwork. As you read, focus on the timing of the step and the strike.
We start off with a basic striking pattern for this exercise as well. The CTS angle one is a forehand, diagonal, downward strike that goes from shoulder to opposite hip, and angle two is a backhand, diagonal, downward that goes from other shoulder to opposite hip. This is a common pattern among the Filipino martial arts, and the strikes cross in front of you to make an X. We start with this pattern because by now, the student has trained and trained and trained these two basic strikes. So, we can focus on the correct timing.
The first and most important basic in striking is to have both feet planted and not in motion. Since power comes from being rooted to the ground, it’s important that when moving, you set before swinging the stick. The biggest mistake that I made and that new students make is that they’re swinging the stick too early. Make sure that motion is stopped and that feet are planted firmly on the ground first.
Swinging early also means that you’re off balance. Good footwork moves from a balanced position to a balanced position. When you are in balance, you’re using your entire body to generate force in your strike. Correct movement aligns your body and takes advantage of multiple muscle groups, such as your hips, core, and arms. If you’re out of balance, the strikes tend to come only from the arms because the other muscle groups are being used to maintain stability. Not only do our feet need to be planted on the ground, but you also need to be in a balanced position.
By now we’ve established that striking comes after both feet are set and after we’ve achieved balance. At the moment, these are the two main aspects to target. By improving these two attributes, you are creating a physical structure to maximize the impact of the weapon. Newton’s third law says that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This means that the force you are generating to hit your opponent with is also acting upon you. The stick is simply the delivery method. Correct body positioning provides the structure to react your strike. If you do not have a foundation, the force you strike with will knock you off balance. Try standing on one foot, and punching a focus mitt as hard as you can. You’ll fall over because there is no frame for the punch to react against. In order to ensure the force you’ve generated goes where you want it to, you have to have a framework that reacts the force.
By definition, striking is simply a method for transferring force. As martial artists, we want to maximize our ability to transfer force, but we cannot always be stationary. Moving is essential to get to the correct position to deliver force at the right time. Without proper timing, you lose an effective foundation to maximize your striking force. Practicing these transition moments is part of my teaching and my personal training. I like to start by focusing on foot placement and balance. Most of the time, these corrections are made by simply slowing down. By going slow at first, you develop muscle control and proper mechanics. Speed and power are added in last because those attributes require the least complexity. As you become proficient with the basic strike and basic footwork, you can mix and match to create new patterns. The principles hold true regardless of the attack or the movement. Build yourself a foundation for efficient strikes.
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Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear how you mix striking and footwork.