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While in training, it is advised to pivot on your foot when going in for a kick (such as a side or round-house kick), so that your foot is facing as much in the opposite direction as possible. The idea being that the kick is much better supported and has a better reach.

However, when trying this on standard training mats, I find there tends to be a lot of friction with the mat and my foot, so as to make the turning of my foot difficult - especially in fast-paced situations. Are there any specific approaches to take when attempting this, such as how to execute the technique; or what type of foot wear to use?

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I have EXACTLY the same problem. Several techniques involve pivoting on your foot, and I always find it hard to actually pivot any, due to my foot "sticking" to the mat, and it dramatically slows down the techniques. –  eidylon Feb 21 '12 at 16:31
Also, if you are on asphalt, wearing shoes, this will be even harder. –  Hanno Fietz Feb 21 '12 at 17:05
@HannoFietz: Yup. Doing a little training on various surfaces and in various footwear can be a very enlightening experience. Though if you train in a traditional dojo system then your street versions should be less flamboyant in any case. –  dmckee Feb 21 '12 at 17:53

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Try pivoting on the heel, before you shift your weight onto the foot, as opposed to pivoting on the ball after the weight is already on it.

I had an interesting experience regarding this question when I switched from traditional Tae Kwon Do to Shaolin Kung Fu years ago:

In TKD, there was a very intense focus on all the little details of how exactly to position which part of your body. Pivoting my foot on the ball prior to a kick, with most of the weight on it, was something I practiced over and over and over, for years, with limited success.

When I switched to Kung Fu, I immediately noticed that everybody was pivoting on the heel, and, more specifically, pivoting before they put their weight on the foot. This felt very natural, was very quick, and I quickly forgot my TKD training.

Perhaps more interestingly, from that day on, that was about it on pivoting. To TKD or Karate students, Kung Fu seems to have a great degree of anarchy in it. I asked my teachers on many occasions for detailed instructions like how far I should pivot, 45, 90, 180 degrees? I was accustomed to those things mattering a lot.

The answer was always something like "don't bother, that depends on far too many things to make this a useful thing to worry about". I asked, what does it depend on, and they said, are you wearing footwear? How important is effectiveness vs elegance? What's the ground like? What shape is your body in (like, if you're not warm, or slightly out of shape, you should pivot less)? Do you need to be very quick? Are you aiming high or low? What technique comes next? Is it important to hide your intent? Etc.

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Just another anecdote to serve as further illustration: I have been dancing Tango a lot, recently, and had to get back to pivoting on the ball of the foot (for elegance). This showed me once again that a) it's harder, b) puts constraints on your footwear and the ground (dancing in the street, which we do, vs in the ballroom requires specially prepared footwear) and c) mostly makes a difference for looks. –  Hanno Fietz Jun 17 '12 at 14:14

Roundhouse kick - if not already, try rotating a bit more on the balls of your feet to reduce some of the surface area that may be causing friction. Just be careful you're not compromising your balance in the process.

You can also try different mats - foam puzzle mats, such as those used for taekwondo sparring matches, may be more comfortable for practicing kicks.

Vibram five fingers have also become a popular choice of footwear for martial arts. It's more flexible than traditional martial arts shoes.

Some people just build up callouses though, and eventually it becomes less of a problem.

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So did I. I had this issue when I first started going barefoot, going with shoes, doing Japanese swordsmanship.

You eventually learn to move your weight. There are no 'tricks'. It is a skill, a subtle but important one.

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