Monday, 14 March 2011

The Law of Footwork

The law of footwork states that ‘a desired objective beyond ones immediate reach requires practised skill in the steps toward its achievement’. The necessary steps are what we call in the martial arts ‘Footwork’ and good footwork is important in the accomplishment of all athletic endeavours and in martial arts in particular. Some endeavours are particularly planned in their steps such as dance, hurdling and the like. In martial arts the subject is complicated by the fact that the objective is trying its hardest not to be achieved. Ones opponent wants a similar objective which obviously conflicts with ones own plans. What steps are needed, how and when?

In combat we take baby steps forward; that is half steps as every step could take you into the path of an oncoming attack. Caution is the watch word when moving toward danger and speed is the same when moving away. When we move forward in attack we do so cautiously unless we are using overwhelm or surprise as our strategy but when retreating we can happily move backwards at speed.

The same happens in life depending on the level of risk, whether it be physical or emotional. Imagine asking out a potential new partner, one rarely steps up and blurts out ‘marry me!’ in the first encounter for one the person will think you are crazy and that would blow out any chance you had before you start and secondly what would happen if they said yes and they turned out to be crazy? You’d certainly need good footwork to get out of that one! In business we act the same way – taking greater care when the risk is higher. Only experience can teach one the right approach and in goal setting of any kind we learn early that ‘fools rush in where angels fear to tread’. With experience of taking the same action over and over again we can be more confident of our steps but with any goal that leaves one potentially vulnerable we are always wise to exercise caution.

It seems obvious that footwork would be toward ones goal however depending on what level of surprise, deception or caution might be necessary, for instance whether the target will fight against ones conquering of it a more subtle approach might be necessary. Side steps, oblique steps, back steps and the like even ‘no steps’ are applicable as the situation demands. Good footwork is involved in all 5 of the DELTA sequence; that is the 5 key essentials for martial combat and life achievement. DELTA stands for distance, equilibrium, leverage, timing and acceleration and as I mentioned footwork aids all 5 elements. Distance is controlled through footwork, balance is achieved through it, leverage is improved or impaired by it, timing can often rely on it and acceleration can rarely do without it.

Not much can happen without good footwork and it is therefore an essential skill to develop. In the AEGIS system we utilise 5 step types, there are more but 5 is sufficient for most tasks. We also work on 5 direction types: forwards, backwards, left right and oblique angles. Once one understands and learns the steps one can practice and develop mastery of ones footwork thereby having the tools to use in ones strategy. With expert footwork any goal can be attempted but without it little can be achieved. Often we see novices who have developed fast in technique only to be let down by poor footwork. Footwork mastery allows technique to be delivered efficiently but one has to understand which steps support which technique or combination of. Footwork is essential in setting up and launching attacks and defences, it allows us to be spontaneous and to react fast with opportunities or against challenges.

The equivalent life skill in footwork are the steps we take in our strategy toward our goals, our game plan is composed of a series of steps planned in advance of our start. Just as with launching a kick or punch we plan the strategy to land the shot and our skill shows when we have to react and adapt to any misjudgement or change in circumstances. Skill in goal achievement means we get better at choosing our steps toward it and just like babies taking their first steps one starts with ‘baby steps’, possibly using others or objects for support. Gradually our balance improves and our steps become more certain until we can march confidently.

The baby step analogy is useful also to help us understand and judge our progress in life and martial arts. Just because we are adults doesn’t mean we can’t take ‘baby steps’ when we are unsure of the ground. With a new life goal it is useful to have someone else for support, to lean on or to even catch us when we fall. Just like a baby we can eventually achieve independence but every new challenge will test the confidence we have in our steps. If however we understand how the steps work we can better use them in more different situations. If we understand the laws that govern our steps we can apply them toward the achievement of many more goals in more and diverse areas. The true master of martial arts and therefore by implication life well understands the law of footwork and how to apply it.

Thank you for reading today and I look forward to speaking again soon. I have almost finished blogging on the laws of combat with only 2 more of the 25 laws left to cover. Those of you who are already a part of the AEGIS system will be taught how all these laws work and interact as part of our Leadership or Certified Instructor Training Programs so you have a lot to look forward to as you will learn how to apply the laws not only to your combat skills but to your life, specifically how to improve your life with it. The martial arts were developed exactly for that: first to survive and then to thrive. Unlike most martial arts systems the AEGIS system focuses on martial arts at the holistic level rather than just the physical survival model or those that seek to achieve higher intellectually and spiritually but offer little guidance on the journey except to encourage one to practice. Whilst practice will bring understanding eventually one can achieve deeper levels through being guided by ones mentor/instructor. Sure it’s the journey not the destination that matters but what’s wrong with understanding more, faster? The spiritual levels are so deep anyway there is always more to delve; digging deeper is always more rewarding if one knows what one is looking for. 

For more information on the AEGIS system you can take a 30 day free trial by booking online at and I know that it’s a decision you won’t regret. Do it now and open up to a whole new world

Best wishes

Tony Higo
Chief Instructor
National Martial Arts College
0800 0920948

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