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Paul Herbert 5th Dan
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Move or Be Moved

Effective movement in Karate

Jennifer Bonn


As in all things, we have a choice in karate. We can meet an oncoming opponent with force or move effectively to avoid the impact and put ourselves in a better position to counter. The first choice will probably result in at least some pain and very little gain, but the second option helps us to not only avoid the blow, but also to position ourselves to have the advantage.

There are a variety of ways to move that will increase your chance to have the upper hand in a fight. No matter what method you use however, you will have to become used to moving your feet correctly so here are some footwork drills to help you become ready.



Drill one: Left foot in front, slide right foot up behind, push off with right slide up with left. Move across the floor staying left foot in front. Do the same thing with right foot in front. 


Drill two: Left foot in front, jump switch bringing right in front. Switch back and forth 20 times.


Drill three: Left side in front, right side moves in and up to be in front, left leg moves in and up. Continue across the floor then do it backwards.


Drill four: Jump high and side to side moving down the floor as if you were skiing over moguls.


Drill five: Make a mini obstacle course. Put down a long punching bag (the floppy kind) step up to the side with one foot then the other and then down with one then the other. Make a ladder with bows and run in between them


Drill six: run in and out of cones


Movement one: Avoiding backward movement

Backward movement can be running backward but it can also be pulling back for a technique and therefore letting your opponent know what is coming. Both types of backward movement should be avoided. When you move straight back you are off balance and your momentum is going the wrong way. Many people react this way out of fear but they are actually making the situation more dangerous. Moving back just slightly and then angling off would be a better choice.  When you move back to initiate an attack


Practice for angling off.

Partner moves forward with a stomp, other partner takes one step back and angles off. Now try it with just the angle and no step.

Some people think that they will have more power if they pull back before firing a technique but the power comes from the mechanics of your body not the distance you are creating.


Practice with power

Review good mechanics of punch with power coming through the legs and a hip twist

Review good mechanics of a kick and the power from the chamber

Everyone up against wall or mirror throw twenty punches each side/10 of each kind of kick


Moving someone with your movement

Instead of forcing someone to move with force and depleting your strength and energy, learn ways to use your movement to move them. One example of this is when you want someone to move a certain way so that you can set up a technique or cut off their escape. An easy way to do this is to angle off towards their front shoulder. You will block their movement that way and force them to choose another route.

Drill to practice:  Set up cones in a large triangle and side step to each cone with arms in a guard as if you are running up to meet and block your opponent.

Make the triangle smaller. Have partners start at the corner of the base and on go slide step towards top cone to simulate blocking someone’s angle. Slide back and forth repeatedly to get the feel.


Drill:  Two lines on one side of room and one line on the other. One by one the people in the single line will try to get to the other side of the room. The two people from the other lines will come out and try must go back to the beginning. 

Stomping to fake a move forward can throw your opponent off balance just long enough for you to get in a better position.

Throwing decoy techniques in one direction when your true technique is coming in another way is a great way to use your movement to make your opponent move in the direction that you want.


Moving forward

You can use various techniques to move you forward. You can use a knee thrust, a kipp before a kick, a step into a punch and all of these will give you added momentum as you attack your opponent.

Drill: Practice seeing how far you can move each time using one of the above movements. Add a technique.


Moving in a circle

Circular flow is present throughout karate. Circular movements allow for a natural flow and continuation of techniques unlike linear where one technique must be completed to begin the second one. The quickest way to engage the attack with a block is to use a circular movement. With this movement blocking and attacking can be continuous. This is where circular movements allow for a quick response.

Drills: practice with a partner grabbing your arm, do a circle block and turn it into an attack.