Body shifting is the changing of body position by stepping,
sliding, turning, ducking, bobbing, jumping, spinning or any combination of
While shifting the body:
When shifting your stance, such as shifting from a left hand/foot forward (orthodox) fighting position to right hand/foot forward (southpaw) fighting
position, always make your shift from outside When shifting your stance, such as shifting from a left hand/foot forward (orthodox) fighting position to a right hand/foot forward (southpaw) fighting position, always make your shift from outside of the opponent's range. If the shift is made while inside opponent's range, you leave yourself vulnerable to attack.
- Movements are quick, but smooth and natural.
- Maintain balance and stability. Minimum stability occurs when the two feet are at
their closest point.
- Smoothly shift body weight. Do not shift weight until supporting foot has a strong
- Maintain proper fighting posture.
- Maintain guard throughout all movements as added
- Attacks or blocks may be used during the
- Do not move hips up and down. Keep them level and only moving linearly.
- Lightly slide feet over feet (in most shifts do not raise or drag the feet). The sliding foot is feeling
for a clear path (such as the foot pushing bottles out of the way in an alley) and
a firm place to stop (such as not on a magazine laying in an alley)
- To move quicker when stepping, initially use the muscles on insides of the
legs to bring legs together, and then switch to pushing with support foot.
For maximum protection during a movement, proceed it with an attack. For example: before stepping backward, proceed it with a lead leg front kick.
Upper Body Movements
Upper body movements are used to make the body a constantly moving target and to camouflage any attacking movement you may make. Do not just around to be moving, move with a purpose. Any movement uses energy and you never waste energy on useless movement. All movements must be natural and flowing, and not predictable. If you move in a predictable manner, your opponent may anticipate the point in space to which you will be moving and attack that location, catching you unexpectedly.
Ducking ~ Ducking is dropping the target of an attack below a lateral attack, such as a hook punch. It is primarily used to protect the head. Do not duck a vertical attack, such as an uppercut punch, since you will be moving into the attack. Ducking is not done by bending the neck to drop the head; it is done by bending the knees to drop the entire body, including the head. To duck a punch, keep the head and guard up, bend the knees and move the torso and head downward, over, and then upward in the same direction from which the attack came. Do not move downward and upward in the same direction the attack is moving or you may come up in front of the attack.
Slipping ~ Slipping is leaning the head, or the entire upper body as a unit, to the side or backward to avoid an attack. The goal is to move just enough to clear the attack without leaving yourself off balance or vulnerable to a combination attack and to allow you to mount your own counterattack.
Weaving ~ Weaving is a rhythmic moving of the upper body (above the waist) from side to side. When the body is in constant movement, it hides any attacking movement you may make.
Bobbing ~ Bobbing is moving the head side to side and up and down, to avoid an attack or to make the head a constantly moving target. When bobbing always keep your eyes on the opponent. Never lower your eyes or look away unless it is a purposeful glance as part of a deception.
Lower Body Movements
Body movement has always been directly connected to the success of every technique in Taekwondo. Dodging is the movement of portions of the body, or the entire body, to avoid an attack and possibly prepare for a counterattack. Although footwork is limited to the movements of the legs and feet, dodging involves dynamic body movements that require shifting of position.
Steps ~ Moving one or both feet to avoid an attack. The following are one step dodges:
A second step may be added to a one step dodge by initially stepping with the other foot in the same direction as the foot making the stepping dodge, such as in the third movement of the pattern To-san. Steps may be performed in sliding or jumping motions.
- Step front foot straight forward and step rear foot forward into position.
- Step rear foot straight backward and step front foot backward into position.
- Step rear foot to the side while pivoting on the front foot until rear foot is outward toward the side.
- To step the front foot to the side, it must be followed by a second step in same direction with rear foot. If not, you will exposed to attack.
- Step front foot straight backward to turn upper body 90 degrees toward that side.
- Step rear foot straight forward to turn upper body 90 degrees toward opposite direction.
- Step front foot diagonally backward to turn upper body 90 degrees toward that side.
- Step rear foot diagonally forward to turn upper body 90 degrees in opposite direction.
- Step front foot in a circular 180 degree motion in front of body while pivoting on the rear foot until front foot is now in rear. Guard will now be facing opposite side.
- Step rear foot in a circular 180 degree motion behind body while pivoting on the front foot until rear foot is now in front. Guard will now be facing opposite side.
Lean ~ Lean upper body to side without moving feet to avoid a high or middle section attack.
Shift ~ Shift body weight to rear leg and lean entire body backward, without moving feet, to avoid a high or middle section attack.
Pull-In ~ Shift body weight to rear and pull middle section of body backward, sucking it in, to avoid middle section attack.
Duck ~ See Upper Body Movements.
Jump ~ At the moment attacker begins forward motion, execute a both jump to the side or rear to avoid the attack.
Slide ~ First foot that moves take a step while other foot slides into position. For example: to step backward, rear foot steps backward and front foot then slides backward into position.
There are several important points to remember which apply to almost every stepping technique. For this discussion, the person is stepping from a left front stance to a right front stance.
- The front knee and ankle bend toward the target,the front leg pulls the body forward, and the rear foot pushes forward.
- The moving leg should move lightly and quickly. The support leg should remain in firm contact with the floor.
- As the moving leg passes the support leg, the support leg should begin to thrust downward and backward, to begin driving the hips forward. At the same time the moving foot travels lightly and quickly to its new position on the floor. The upper body should remain perpendicular to the floor during this movement.
- The moving leg must be kept relaxed during its movement forward, but it tenses at the moment of impact. After impact, the legs should relax.
- The moving foot must move smoothly and continuously, with the foot remaining close to the ground throughout the movement.
- The centre of mass should move forward in a straight line. This means the hips should not bob up and down, or sway from side to side.
- The muscles of the lower abdomen should remain relaxed throughout the movement to maintain a firm connection between the upper and lower body. This also makes it possible to change directions and intentions in mid-step according to changing circumstances.
Push vs. Pull
When stepping forward from a front stance, should you push forward with the back leg or pulling forward with the front leg? Or should you do a combination of both? Lets try an experiment.
Facing a wall in a front stance and push against the wall with your arms. Lift the front leg. Notice that the forward thrust is essentially the same. Now, lift the back leg and push. The forward thrust is greatly reduced. In fact, you may find yourself falling backward unless the weight of the body is shifted forward. This illustrates that the back leg's push is more important the any pull of the front leg.
Next, stand away from the wall in a front stance and step forward with the rear foot. Notice how much you pull with the front leg while stepping. If you practice this for a while, you can see that active involvement of the muscles of the front leg can provide a definite improvement in the speed of forward movement of the body during stepping. Notice how the forward motion of the rear leg helps pull the body forward once it passes the torso while at the same time the front leg begins pushing the body forward.
One of the primary determining factors in figuring out the relationship between pushing and pulling is the distribution of weight forward or backward. Try the second experiment again with the weight further back that usual and then further forward to see its effect on the pushing and pulling. The further forward the weight is situated, the more the front foot plays in moving the body forward. While the weight is behind the front foot, this can be considered a pull. After the weight passes the front foot, the function shifts to that of push.
Also affecting the contribution of the back leg's push is the amount of flex in the leg. If the back leg is straight, the leg can apply very little force, since the only forward thrust comes from the ankle and foot, unless the leg is momentarily bent before the forward movement, which of course takes time and may telegraph your movement to the opponent. If the leg is slightly bent, then more forward thrust may be generated. Taekwondo America stresses having a straight back leg while in a front stance.
Crescent Walking vs. Direct Stepping
In crescent walking (C-walking, moon walking) the stepping foot moves in a crescent shape when stepping in a stance, such as in a front stance. In direct stepping, the stepping foot moves straight forward. In crescent stepping, the stepping foot moves forward and inward until it is no less than a shoulder width from the base foot (to prevent double foot sweeps) and then it move back outward into the next stance. Crescent stepping shifts the body into a stable position so it may resist a pushing/pulling force at mid-step, but it takes longer than the direct step. The direct step is quicker, but the body is unstable throughout the step. In either case, the body weight must lag the step until the stepping foot has a firm footing. The crescent step is useful in street situations, since the stepping foot clears its path of objects. A direct step mat land on an unseen object causing a loss of balance.
In crescent walking, the accentuated movement of the moving foot toward and away from the stationary foot can makes the step more dynamic. With a greater overall movement, all else held constant, the larger range-of-motion may help make the movement stronger. It also lets you step inside an opponent's guard more easily. Also, when using kicks, such as a front kick, the moving foot must come toward the stationary leg anyway. Although it is less stable, direct stepping gives a wider base if things should go awry during the movement.
Single-Step, while in a front stance (or similar stance)
To move forward, slide the back foot forward, slightly bending the leg, into another front stance with the back leg now becoming the forward leg. The rear foot moves in a crescent shape movement. It starts at the rear corner of the imaginary square, moves forward and inward until it is a minimum of 12-inches from the front foot as it passes it (the point of minimum stability). It continues moving forward and outward until it is stops at the forward corner of an imaginary square formed with the other foot. The hips stay level during the movement (no movement up and down or side to side). Gradually shift most all of the rear foot weight to the supporting leg and, as the foot reaches its stopping point and has a firm grip, gradually shift 70-percent of the weight back to the foot. To move backward, reverse the process.
Single-Step, while in a back stance (or similar stance)
To move forward, slide the back foot forward into another back stance with the back leg now becoming the forward leg. As the rear foot moves by the front foot, the front foot pivots 90-degrees away from the rear foot. As the rear foot passes the front foot, they are only a couple of inches apart. This is the minimum stability point and since the feet are so close together, it stability is very weak. The hips stay level during the movement (no movement up and down or side to side). Gradually shift most all of the rear foot weight to the supporting leg and, as the foot reaches its stopping point and has a firm grip, gradually shift 30-percent of the weight back to the foot. To move backward, reverse the process.
Single-Step, while in a riding stance (or similar stance)
To move forward, slide the back foot forward into another riding stance facing the opposite direction with the back leg now becoming the forward leg. The rear foot moves in a crescent shape movement. It moves forward and outward until it is a minimum of 12-inches from the front foot as it passes it (the point of minimum stability). It continues moving forward and inward until it is stops in a riding stance facing the opposite direction. The supporting foot must pivot 180-degrees away from the moving foot during the movement. To move backward, reverse the process.
Used to shift from a right stance to a right stance or left to left. Move forward as in the single step but at the point of minimum stability, stop the moving foot and put it down. The other foot continues the movement, ending in the same stance as at the start, except closer to the opponent. To move backward, reverse the process. From a walking stance, the rear foot slides up to the supporting foot and plants while the supporting foot continues the movement into another walking stance facing the same direction.
Used to cover a wide distance quickly. Same as the double-step except the moving foot moves past the point of minimum stability before stopping and planting.
To execute the slide, extend the stance and then contract it. The lead foot moves forward a certain amount and then the back foot moves forward the same amount. This maintains a wide stable base for the stance. If the trailing foot moves forward first, the stance is weakened. To move backward, the trailing foot moves first.
Used to cover a wide distance quickly. Slide the lead foot forward and then execute a forward single-step with the rear foot. To move backward, the trailing foot moves first.
The aero step is the newest innovation in Taekwon-do footwork. It confuses your opponent as to which leg you intend to kick with. Because the aero step resembles the chambering motion for a round kick, it tricks the opponent into counterattacking too soon. It is a deceptive way of covering extra distance when kicking, by shifting your weight forward or backward while stepping. The aero step increases the speed and power of kicks.
It is performed by lifting your front or rear leg and kicking with your other leg before stepping down. The aero step is intended to carry you forward or backward, not upward like a jump. To perform the kick, start to chamber the non-kicking foot (either the front or rear foot) as if starting a kick. As it starts to move, execute a kick with the other leg. The stepping foot is rarely more than twelve inches above the floor and sometimes it only skims the floor. The step works well with front and round kicks, but may be used with most kicks
Jumps are used in many sports for different purposes. In each sport the jump is performed in a way that enhances the purpose of the jump, such as:
No matter the sport, the primary purpose of a jump is to raise the body to higher altitude (except with jump off or into something, such as jumping off a diving board or parachuting from an aircraft, where the purpose is to lose altitude). A secondary purpose may be to move the body quickly over a distance, such as jumping out the way of a foil in fencing. Martial arts jumps share these purposes but they have two important variables to deal with—an opponent that wants to harm them and unfamiliar terrain. This means that during a martial arts jump, the jumper must remain stable, be able to defend him or herself during the jump, be prepared for an unknown landing areas, and land in way that permits further offensive or defensive actions if needed.
- High jumpers perform a backward roll over the bar, to gain the greatest height (which works because they have a cushioned landing area).
- Long jumpers extend their arms legs in front of their body, to reach out and gain the greatest distance (which works because the have a cushioned landing area).
- Hurdlers use an extended scissor action of the legs to clear the hurdle, gain height and set them up for the next hurdle (which works because they know what is on the other side of each hurdle).
There are numerous reasons for a martial arts jump:
For many students, jumping seems to mean hopping into the air and then performing a technique. They forget that the purpose of a jump is to gain altitude, not to just to perform a jump. The altitude of a jump may be measured two ways:
- To reach higher with an attack (such as with a jump back fist to the head).
- To raise the feet so something may pass under them (such as to avoid a foot sweep).
- To propel the body over something (such as to jump over a fallen opponent).
- To propel the body onto an object (such as to jump onto a chair).
- To apply all the body's mass into an attack (such as with a flying side kick).
- To allow the body to spin more quickly and freely (such as with a jump-spin kick).
- To move the body quickly over a distance (such as jumping backward to avoid a kick).
- As a reaction to a sudden, unknown stimulus (such as reacting to a sudden swooshing sound quickly approaching from the side of the head that turns out to be an attacker swing a pipe at your head).
- To give more space and time for the legs and feet to perform kick (such as for a jump side kick where both legs must chamber, one leg kicks and re-chambers, and then both feet must get back under the body for the landing).
- To entertain. These are the useless, trick or stunt kicks performed merely to entertain.
No matter the reason for a jump, the jump main motions of a martial arts jump are the same:
- From floor to the head. This is the way most people think the altitude of a jump is measured. If the reason for the jump is to reach higher with an attack, then this is the critical measurement.
- From floor to the feet. When performing a jump or jump-spin kick when there must be time and space for the legs to perform the kick properly and get back under the body for the landing, this is the critical measurement.
- Start from your fighting stance with your knees bent. You do not suddenly squat lower before you jump. You do not pre-jump (taking a small jump to preload the leg muscles before the main jump). All fighting stances should have bent knees, so you never have to bend them for a jump.
- Do not make any other motion with your arms or body, just jump. Jump similar to a Jack-in-the-Box, just move around as usual to lull the opponent into compliancy and then sudden jump. Do not drop the body lower before you jump. Do not pump with your arms. The only indication your opponent should have that you are jumping is seeing you suddenly seem taller. The only exception to this is when using a feign or fake movement to distract the opponent from the jump.
- When you jump, jerk your knees upward toward to your shoulders. You get upward thrust from the leg muscles performing the jump and by jerking the knees upward you let their inertia lift you even higher. Do not pull your feet straight upward under the body; the leg muscles will not be able to apply their full force into the jump and feet will not gain much altitude. Do not lift your feet backward toward your butt like a cheerleader; this defeats the purpose of the jump since you do not gain much altitude and the feet or in a useless position for a kick. When the knees are lifted high, it means both legs are chambered for the kick. While one leg performs the kick, the other remains chambered. After the kick, the kicking leg re-chambers and then both feet return to the floor in a solid fighting stance.
- In a jump kick, your must first jump and then kick. Do not start the kick first; it will lessen the height of your jump since you are mostly jumping off one leg and it will telegraph what kick is coming. When done properly, your opponent may see and react to the jump, but he or she will not know what kick is coming and what direction until it is too late to react.
- Although it first seems the wrong way to do it, when performing a jump-spin kick, you must first jump, then spin, and then kick. Most beginners, and many advanced students, try to spin first. This means they barely get off the floor with the jump. If you start the kick before the spin, your leg will move away from your center of balance and throw you off balance. Keep the arms in a tight guard position; if they move outward, you will be thrown off balance, and, since you will not see your opponent for a moment when the head is turned, you need to protect yourself against a counter attack. Also, is the spin is done properly; your head will jerk around quickly at the beginning of the jump-spin. When the head suddenly stops after the spin, it takes a moment for the brain to settle down and the vision to clear.
- Jump hand attacks are similar to jump kicks. Jump first, then attack, or jump first, spin, and then attack. Do not start your attack until you jump or you will telegraph the technique. Do not start your attack before you jump and spin or you will telegraph the technique and loose your balance as you spin with your arm extended.
Spinning is used in many sports to add speed, and thus power to a technique, such as discus and hammer throwers or disc golfers. When spinning a mass, centrifugal force builds in the mass that is added to any other forces used to propel the mass.
Most martial arts spins are used:
No matter the sport, the primary purpose of a jump is to raise the body to higher altitude (except to jump off or into something, such as jumping off a diving board or parachuting from an aircraft, where the purpose is to lose altitude). A secondary purpose is to move the body quickly over a distance, such as jumping out the way of a lunge attack in fencing. Martial art jumps share these purposes but they have two important variables to deal with that most jumps do not have to contend with—an opponent that wants to harm them and unfamiliar terrain. This means that during a martial arts jump, the jumper must remain stable, be able to defend him or herself during the jump, be prepared for landing on an unknown surface, and land in way that permits further offensive or defensive actions if needed.
- To increase the power in a technique, as in a spinning side kick.
- Change the angle of attack of a technique, as in a spinning back fist.
- Change the location of the body, as in spinning from an open into a closed fighting position.
How to spin:
If you are adding a jump to the spin, jump first, then spin, and fire the technique.
- Start from your fighting stance with your knees bent. All fighting stances should have bent knees for quick movements.
- First, snap the head around in the direction of the spin. The head must move first because:
- The head is a heavy object and it only has the neck muscles to move it so it needs to start moving first so it will be ahead of the rest of the body.
- You tend to move in the direction the head turns. If you are a bicycle or motorcycle rider, you know that when you turn you head to look to the side, you tend to steer the bike in that direction.
- When your head is facing away from the opponent, you are vulnerable; therefore, the head needs to snap around quickly.
- You need to reacquire your target before your kick or hand attack to ensure the target has not moved. If it has moved you may shift your aim to the new location. Also, when sparring, if your opponent has moved closer, he or she will appreciate your noticing it and your adjusting your focus so you do not striking him or her too hard.
- Since you will not see your opponent for a moment while the head is turned, you need to get the head around quickly to see if the opponent is counterattacking.
- If the spin is done properly, your head will snap around quickly. When the head suddenly stops after the spin, it takes a moment for the brain to settle down and the vision to clear, so the head needs to get around before the technique is fired.
- As the head begins to reach the limit of its rotation, the shoulders, arms, torso, and hips begin to sequentially turn. If performing a kick, the feet have not moved as yet, or they may have twisted slightly into the turn.
- If performing a hand attack, the arms are still in their tight guard position. If you spin into a counter attack, you want to have your guard up. Sparring is similar to an old West gunfight where the fastest draw wins. If the opponent detects the spin coming and quickly fires a same side round kick toward your head and you do not have your guard up, you will get kicked in the head before you can fire your technique.
- At this point the entire body, from head to feet, has twisted into the spin. Your arms are still in a tight guard. It is similar to a coiled spring that is ready to be released. As the twisting approaches its limit, you chamber and fire the technique just as you would if you had not spun. If the technique fired too early, the extended limb will pull the body off balance and make it wobble. Even if you able to complete the technique, your stability will be off enough that you will not be able to properly re-chamber and possibly re-fire the technique and you will have to step down. When you are forced to step down, you may step into a counterattack or into a position that precludes your adding a follow-up technique.
- Re-chamber the technique quickly so you may retain your stability and either step into a chosen fighting position, re-fire the same technique, or add follow-up techniques.
- When a spin is done properly, you will never expose yourself to an attack during your attack and you will be able to step down anywhere you choose.
- For a technique such as a spinning back fist, you may not move your feet at all. You may spin, fire the technique and twist back into you original position without moving the feet, except for a slight twisting movement.
- Do not make any other motion with your arms or body, just spin. Spin similar to a Jack-in-the-Box, just move around as usual to lull the opponent into compliancy and then sudden spin. Do swing the arms in the direction of the spin or chamber them in the opposition direction to prepare for the spin. The only exception to this is when using a feign or fake movement to distract the opponent from the spin.