The Importance of Footwork in MMA

Make them miss, Make them Pay

One of the most common topics I seem to get asked about is that of footwork. It has become a primary focus of my study efforts over the last decade, and I feel it is the delivery system upon which all defense and offense rests.


To this end, I would say that good footwork should be indicative of free and unencumbered movement much like a continually spinning gyroscope in which motion never truly ceases. One should aspire to always be frustratingly out of reach of their opponent yet seemingly within their own.

Stability and Mobility The importance of Stance

The importance of a well-balanced stance cannot be understated. It is however, important to note that outside of boxing, kickboxing and/or Muay Thai, the stances for MMA vary greatly depending upon the background of each fighter.

The wide “bounce step” of traditional Taekwondo has certainly enjoyed a resurgence largely advocated by voices like Joe Rogan, and ONE FC has a large base of Wushu enthusiasts at its top ranks. So, you see, one size does not fit all in the realms of MMA provided that it affords the following:

  1. Mobility
  2. Stability

A sound stance provides the nuts and bolts of kinetic linking and the mechanics involved in not just power generation but smooth transitions between techniques. Stance and primary high guard are job one in the matrix of teaching any aspiring or seasoned competitor. Good defense is built into a good guard position with hands up, chin down and elbows in.

Basic blueprint of movement (The T Drill)

As simple as it sounds, the ability to move in four simple directions is much harder than one would initially perceive. The foot closes to the direction one wants to move should move first to avoid crossing the feet. When taught along with a basic punch like the jab it becomes even more problematic as it requires the athlete to coordinate hand and foot moving together. (A critical necessity as one develops)

My basic template looks like this:

Double jab moving forward, then back, left and then right. Stance integrity should always be maintained meaning keep feet in the same position without crossing the legs or bringing them together.

After this drill has been practiced, I have the fighter finish with a basic combination then pivot out. This allows them to then repeat the drill in all four directions.

To cap off the “T-Drill” sequence of movements, I teach the Cuban step which is a pivot to the outside of the lead foot putting them back into the original position prior to the first pivot out. To review concisely they have since learned to double jab four directions, throw a combination, pivot out and pivot back. These provide the staples of basic combative motion.

In following issues, I will address more advanced footwork patterns such as lead switching, shifting and bumping in and out to draw a response. Footwork should be practiced daily along with skipping rope and shadowboxing to develop fluidity. Remember: It’s All Rhythm!

You may also like: Darwinism & MMA: A Comparative Look


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