Stepping is a critical component to fighting, allowing you to either get into range to deliver an attack or to change your position relative to an oncoming attack. What is a step? A step is simply the transition from one stance to another stance (for example, from an L stance, moving the back foot forward into an N stance). It normally involves movement of one or both feet, but can also include a shift in body position that results in a new stance. That same L stance, for example, can become an “N” stance with a shift of your center of gravity and an adjustment of the back foot.
Without stepping, we are at the mercy of whatever attack is coming at us and the only tool we have to avoid injury is to stop the oncoming attack with our strength. Stepping, on the other hand, allows us to get out of the way of the attack and can set up an effective counter-attack.
Effective stepping requires, among other things, the ability to move your body where you want it to go without thinking and in a single smooth motion. Any delay increases your risk of harm from the attack. If you are making a step to deliver an offensive move, your opponent will likely be able to react and counter if your step is not executed smoothly and quickly. Knowing where you are intending to go, and being able to move your body there takes practice (read “repetition”). Work this simple exercise on your own to develop your proprioception:
- Mark the spot you are standing with a piece of tape or a chalk mark. Then bring both your feet together on that spot. Step forward into a middle or low N stance, noting where your stepping foot lands.
- Mark that spot as well with a piece of tape, a chalk mark, etc.
- Return to your standing position. Without looking at the floor, step out to the 2nd mark. Now look. How close were you? Adjust your foot to move to that spot, and really note how your body feels in that position.
- Try again, and this time, before looking at your feet, see if you can tell, just from how your body feels, where your foot is relative to the 2nd mark.
Here’s a brief demo of me doing the steps above, including a few mistakes!
Understanding where your body is in space is called proprioception. It takes a while to develop this skill, so keep working! This will serve you well as you develop the ability to go exactly where you need to go (without looking) and to adjust (without looking).
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