Footwork is fundamental in every fighting art. You must have footwork to move to your opponent, or move away from your opponent’s attacks. You must have footwork to enter for a throw or a takedown, and you must have footwork to avoid being taken off of your feet. One of my Jeet Kune Do brothers, Sifu David "DC" Carter of Relentless MMA in Chantilly, Virginia, has a saying that I have stolen and make my students repeat often.
“Footwork, footwork, footwork, bla bla bla…”
This reinforces the fact that without footwork, all of your other techniques are meaningless. You may be able to throw crisp, strong punches, but without footwork, you are no boxer. In Kali, you may have smooth and accurate strikes with the stick, but you need footwork needed to move you into range to strike with them, or out of range to avoid your opponent’s strikes. Footwork is also essential in Kali because it gives us the ability to angle off of attacks and seek dead spots where our opponent’s counters will be more distant and weaker, affording us better opportunities to counter attack.
The following drill is one that all of our students will be familiar with and was inspired by Kuya Doug Marcaida. Rather than refer to female triangles, male triangles, humbak paewas, or other terms, we are going to use the analog clock. Imagine that you stand in the center of the clock. Twelve a clock is directly in front of you, three o’clock is to your right hand, six o’clock is directly behind you, and nine o’clock is directly to your left.
The first footwork pattern is Asterisk. From the center of the clock, step to 1 with your right foot and then step back. With your left foot, then step to 11 and step back. Continue stepping out and back with your right to 3, left to 9, right to 5, and left to 7. Your forward two angles are teach you to enter off-line, your lateral steps allow you to evade by side-step, and your rear two angles allow you to retreat off-line. You’ve stayed rather stationary in that you’ve only moved within one clock. Later on, you be able to work with a partner and “shift clocks”, so no matter how you move around your partner, they remain at your 12 as you work your way into one of their dead angles, their 5 or their 7.
Find a training partner, and as you start out in the middle of your clock, have them call out a random number. Step to that number and remain there. If they call out a time between 1 and 5, step with your right. If they call a time between 7 and 11, step with your left. Rather than returning to the center of the clock, leave your foot at that time. Now have your partner call out another number at random. Find out the most natural way for you to move to that number, either with the same foot, or the other foot, shifting your body to keep your weight centered and low.
As you progress, pick a basic striking pattern, and work that in time with your footwork as well. You’ll find your ability to move around your opponents and coordinate your upper and lower body motions will be much smoother. And remember…
“Footwork, footwork, footwork, BLA BLA BLA!”