CTS / Footwork Friday / Martial Arts

Footwork Friday: Side Step Revisited

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Twisting the hips is an essential human movement. It shows up in all martial arts, in dancing, in sports, everywhere but politics. Side stepping takes advantage of torqueing the hips. Today, we’re going to take a closer look at the side step, how it affects range and how it utilizes the hips. Get ready to twist again. Like you did last summer. (No, I’m not proud of that.)

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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.

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Range is weaved into the fabric of the martial arts, and most often, we discuss range as a distance between two bodies. But what if we started looking at range to different parts of the body. For example, if you step to your opponents left, you have changed the range between you and his right hand. In footwork, this is commonly referred to as angling. Take an angle is a common instruction. In the CTS pangamot curriculum block, we use our footwork to change the range between our body and the weapon that is attacking us.

Pangamot is empty hand versus single stick. Inherent in the drill, there is a range difference because person A with the stick can attack from greater range than the empty hand person B. So, B has to get close to hurt person A, which means that B has less time to deal with the stick. But if person B can create distance to the stick while maintaining range to strike person A, then B has a chance. Person B does this with the side step.

Side step allows you to stay close to your opponent while distancing yourself from the weapon. Instead of moving away from your opponent, you’re moving around the person. In the video below, you can see that the guys are moving side to side and yet still facing their training partner.

I start teaching this footwork linearly along a line. Then, we progress to a cheat step that turns the side step into a crescent, but it’s a shallow crescent. Instead of thinking of C, think of a parenthesis symbol, (. It’s just a slight curve, but it maintains range to be able to strike.

The beauty of the step is how the hips twist as you step. When you watch the video, pay attention to how the hips shift. Timing your strike with the hip torque is important for a powerful hit. This footwork is perfect for showing how to use your hips to add power to your strike. As I step, it feels as if a spring is loading and then uncoiling.

Learning to time your strike with the twist gives you power in that close distance. Thus, it gives you the best of both worlds: you’re far from the weapon but close enough to do damage with a hard strike.

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