Note: Learning how to step forward and back assumes you feel comfortable in your Muay Thai stance. It’s okay to read on. But if you haven’t gotten the stance down first, it will be difficult to apply the footwork.
As a toddler, we all struggled to learn how to walk. I don’t remember the details but my parents told me it didn’t seem easy for me.
Well, in this article, I’d like to go over the most basic steps in Muay Thai and teach you how to ‘walk’ for Muay Thai…starting with the most basic footwork…stepping forward and back.
It was a challenge for me to figure out the mechanics of it and how the footwork flowed into every other strike, block, and technique. Without integrating the footwork into the techniques, learning Muay Thai becomes impossible.
I’d like to save you the hassle of figuring all of this out to ‘walk’ (i.e. – stepping forward and back) and lay out the principles for you right here.
In Muay Thai, we step forward and back on……The CENTERLINE
It’s not visible…and it exists in the OPEN space between you and the opponent.
The vertical lines in the picture above represent the center of the body…straight up along the spine.
All techniques are thrown in relation to this centerline between you and your opponent. The picture to the right demonstrates this.
Notice how the punch thrown targetting my head is thrown along the centerline.
The Targets exist Along The Centerline
All of the strikes are thrown along the centerline…even angled attacks like hooks and kicks reach their maximum power of impact as they reach the centerline.
When we step forward and back in Muay Thai, we step forward and back in relation to this centerline that separates you and your opponent.
So What’s the Purpose of Stepping Forward and Back in Muay Thai?
Stepping forward is typically associated with attack….moving forward to attack your opponent.
Stepping back is associated as a defensive move…retreating temporarily so that you can evade your opponent and strike back.
Stepping Forward and Stepping Back in Muay Thai…it’s kinda like the Carlton
Think dancing. Stepping Forward and Back is considered ‘footwork’ for Muay Thai..but really its a flow of the whole body in a direction.
Notice how Carlton steps heavy on his left, then slides to the right…steps heavy on his right..then slides to the right. Well stepping back and forth in Muay Thai follows similar mechanics and more importantly…the FEEL.
Actually…..all movements in Muay Thai are more like dancing, rather than tightening and tensing up the whole body. It’s about flow and rhythm….not…
So as you approach footwork in Muay Thai…think more of dancing..using the whole body to create a flow.
Now, onto the mechanics….Below, I’ll describe the mechanics of the ‘dance moves’ of stepping forward and back in Muay Thai.
Through the training, you’ll develop your own FEEL of it and be moving fluid like our man Carlton Banks…as long as you don’t approach it like a bodybuilder.
DISCLAIMER: Here I’ll be breaking down stepping forward and back into it’s most basic parts. However, in real-time, all of these movements happen in a split second, imperceptible to the eye.
That’s why it’s so difficult to learn just by watching another person. There are so many micromovements.
Stepping Forward in Muay Thai
We move most efficiently when our center of gravity doesn’t rock up or down too much. Here’s what I mean. Take a look at the diagram for stepping forward.
Note: The curved arrow indicates the trajectory of the center of gravity as we step forward.
The straight line across indicates a straight line between our start and finish points of stepping forward.
And the vertical line represents the drop in our center of gravity as we step forward.
Similarly, stepping back efficiently and quickly also requires us to keep our center of gravity level as we move.
The ability to do this lies in the positioning of the knees, which I’ll go into here.
Stepping Back in Muay Thai
Stepping back follows a similar pattern of transferring weight, but in the opposite direction
1. Tense the lead hip and shoulder AND THEN pushing back off the front foot.
2. Upon landing the rear foot (on the centerline), tense the rear hip and shoulder to create stability.
3. With the rear side heavily weighted, pull the lead side of the body back into stance.
More Important Than Just Learning To Step Forward and Back
Learning how to step back properly is not just to step forward and back quicker and more efficiently. The ability to shift your weight forward and back…like in stepping….is found in every technique…
…from striking…to moving…to blocking.
We start by learning the most basic movements (stepping forward and back) because it’s simple…doesn’t require much flexibility, and let’s you get the FEEL for shifting your weight from one side of your body to the other.
To show you how this weight transfer plays out in other techniques….Here are some examples of the same transfer of weight from back to forward and forward to back in other techniques.
Can you see the similarities in the weight transfer to stepping forward and back? They all follow the same steps.
Techniques That Transfer Weight Forward Similar to STEPPING FORWARD
1. Bracing the rear side (hip and shoulder) before stepping forward off the back foot,
2. Tightening the lead side (hip and shoulder) as the lead foot lands
3. Pulling the rear side forward to drive your weight forward and feet into the same distance apart as they stance. This allows you to position back into stance to keep fighting.
Techniques That Transfer Weight Back Similar to STEPPING BACK
1. Bracing the lead side (hip and shoulder) before pulling the weight of the lead side back.
2. Tightening the rear side (notice how the rear leg is straightened out) as the lead side pulls into the body.
3. With the rear side stabilized, using the lead side to throw a technique.
The LEAD TEEP
The LEAD CHECK