One Step Footwork

Previously stationary strike training was introduced. This article expands upon that by describing the “one step” or “line stepping” footwork pattern. Keep in mind that the details discussed in the previous post are still relevant – practice on both sides, mindful repetition, focus on application, proper body alignment, use of eyes, development of a whole body force, etc.

As for the one step method, it uses a left then right zig-zag footwork pattern. (Figure 1)

  1. Begin feet together facing twelve o’clock with the arms at the sides or held loosely behind the back.
  2. Lift the left foot and step so that the medial aspect of the foot is facing 1:30 and the toes are facing 10:30 (a 45 degree angle).
  3. Bring the right foot up to the left foot, and without placing it down, step straight out toward 1:30. You are now in a horse stance facing 10:30. (Figure 2)
  4. Now repeat on the right side. Open the right foot 90 degrees so that its medial aspect is facing 10:30.
  5. Bring the left foot up and then step out as before. You are now in a horse stance facing 1:30.
  6. Repeat.
Figure 1 – Stepping Order
Figure 2 – 90 degree stepping

Pay attention to how the feet rotate and at first try to rotate the feet around their own centers. Later experiment with different points of rotation, for example the toe or the heel. You can rotate and then step, step then rotate, or rotate while stepping. Which method is appropriate will depend upon the application being considered.

It is also useful to experiment with where the foot is placed with respect to its previous position as well as the path that it takes between positions. There are many possibilities, and as with rotation, application will dictate what is appropriate.

Get some familiarity with the footwork using the method for stepping into a horse stance that was discussed in the stationary striking article  (i.e. step, feel, look, adjust, feel), and then start adding a strike to each step. It is supremely important that you do not build a habit of looking at your feet while stepping.

Also consider the following points.

First, the hands and feet must move in harmony. One rule of thumb is that each time a hand moves a foot also moves, and vice versa. Moving the hand while moving the foot allows you to use hand techniques to hide the intent of your footwork and to set up subsequent strikes. Similarly, moving the foot while moving the hand changes your position and makes you more difficult to hit.

Another aspect of hand-foot harmony is that the strike should land approximately when the foot does. This sometimes means that the strike hits precisely when the foot drops, or slightly before or slightly after. When beginning, focus on making these two things happen simultaneously. As you progress the timing can be altered based upon the application being considered.

Next, be sure to pick up the feet and place them firmly. Don’t pivot, and don’t drag. Also beware that you do not lift the feet too much. The space between the bottom of your foot and the ground should be slight. The feet glide just above the ground, and the toes should lightly grip the ground when the feet are placed. This deliberate lifting and placing of the feet helps develop the ability to dynamically adjust your footwork to an opponent.

Movement of the feet should arise from the core and be refined by the extremities. This means using the waist and hip to originate the movement of the feet and to refine the movement with the knee and ankle. This concept applies equally to the upper body.

Finally, focus on having the eyes of the hips face the same direction as the toes. For Lion system techniques this allows for a strong square base upon which to root the Lion system’s circular force, and keeps you from being easily pulled off balance. It also provides a structure that is capable of effectively attacking an adversary’s legs and root.


There are many possible variations to the basic method presented above. Two common variations of the third step are shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3 – Two stepping variations. From top to bottom: 1) stepping around; 2) stepping directly.

The first variation variation consists of stepping around in an arc and then coming back with the heel to complete the step. The second variation has the foot moving directly to its position. Depending upon which way you are facing both of these can be used to step either in front of or behind an adversary.

Obviously many other variations are possible, including the use of different stances. The main points are to be precise and to ensure that each step has an appropriate meaning for the particular strike being drilled. The upper body and lower body must work in harmony to accomplish a particular end.

Finally, regardless of the type of step, footwork and stepping should be seen as an integral aspect of any attack, and not merely a way to propel the body. The legs must be actively used to attack an adversary, disrupt him, and break his root. This mindset includes but goes beyond kicking, which is just a particular application of the more general principle.

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