fancy footwork (not really)


This post is about a tip I picked up many years ago from a MMA seminar. It was so simple I’m surprised I didn’t see it earlier. It not only applies to martial arts, but to shooting, tactical movement and general mobility.

The tip is simple. If you ever have to kneel down while fighting, while cuffing a prone subject, are assuming a kneeling firing position or are doing something as simple as putting air in your tires there are two “options” for the leg you are kneeling on. You can place your instep flat on the ground:

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Or you can place the ball of your foot on the ground:

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If you try both options you will quickly see how this simple difference can effect the speed and effort of standing back up. The difference is magnified if you are loaded down with gear, vests and weapons. It’s been my experience that while you can still stand back up with the trail foot flat, you have to shift your weight entirely forward onto the lead leg. This requires an off-balance posture, additional strength requirements on the lead leg and is slower. The other option is to get back up onto the ball of the foot and stand up which wastes time. If you kneel down with the trail foot on the ball, standing back up is much easier and more fluid and balanced.

While it may seem like a trivial detail that grants a microscopic advantage in speed, its my opinion that when the shit hits the fan any advantage in speed, fluidity of movement and conservation of energy could make ALL the difference.

Give it a try.

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12 thoughts on “fancy footwork (not really)”

  1. In Judo/Jiu-Jits, you’re talking “live toes” (toe pads on the floor, weight on the ball of the foot) vs. “dead toes” (foot pronated with the top of the foot on the floor).
    You make a good point on live toes facilitating follow-on mobility. There is an advantage, though, to dead toes. If you have someone on the ground, and need to control him with your weight–without, obviously, getting rolled or flipped and without your opponent escaping–dead toes let you get your center lower, keeps your weight where you want it, and gives the opponent fewer opportunities to create and exploit space between you.
    Which position is “best” is dependent on METT-T.

  2. A good tip with two major advantages:
    1- The difference of a split-second can be the difference between being out-of-there and being roadkill and,

    2- Responding to your Warrior’s awareness of where, who and what you are is an advantage that goes way beyond the battle field.

    P.S. Thanks for the pics too.

  3. Another pointer related to the post.

    If you are ever captured or kidnapped and the abductor tells you to get down on your knees, sit back on your heels with your balls of your feet on the ground. From here, you can spring up if the opportunity presents itself. If u have your insteps on the ground or have knees at 90 degrees you cannot.

    For cops and soldiers, watch out for people who do this, they may try to escape…

  4. ‘active’ vs ‘static’ stance and positioning is important to know. The ‘simple’ stuff is always good to review at any time.

  5. I was going to make the same point as Boss Mango. But he’s made it…..

    I was shown that when using the knee to pin the head on a downed opponent, leaving the toes in contact with the floor is being ‘nice’. IF as Mango says you have ‘dead toes’ more weight goes into the head and you stop being nice at all.

  6. Many years ago my judo instructor (thank you North Star Martial Arts) called these “live toes” and “dead toes.”

  7. I’ve always been told that kneeling with the balls of your feet on the ground can be quite dangerous in some situations, though.

  8. This is a major tip that a lot of people actually dont even think about.

    I remember this was the first thing I was ever taught in my first Karate class as a kid. After the initial Mokusu (a relaxed breathing excerise performed whilst kneeling) we then get up by moving onto our left foot, while keeping on our right knee and the ball of the foot on the ground rather than the top of the foot. Its amazing how something so simple can make getting up so much easier and quiker.

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