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In most martial arts there are two types of steps as far as I know, the first is the shuffle step when a fighter moves his rear leg back first and then the lead leg follows and there is the pendulum step where the fighter moves his lead leg back first replacing his rear leg which in turn is placed further back.

What I don't understand is why would someone use a shuffle step to move backwards, the pendulum step makes more sense to be always used since by first moving his lead leg back, he is protected from incoming low kicks, however in the shuffle step, the lead leg stays in place while the rear is moving leaving the lead leg vulnerable to attack.

I want to ask why would anyone want to shuffle step backwards instead of pendulum step.

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The reaction time to shuffle step is quicker than the reaction time to pendulum step. If you are trying to avoid being hit in the face by a punch, for example, it's easier to evade by shuffle stepping than pendulum stepping.

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Stability may be an issue. An opponent who robbed your step currently gets a chance to try to sweep your feet or trip you up while your legs are together. Doing the stutter step means they can't get to both legs at once (although there are potential issues with having your weight distributed over a larger distance of one leg gets swept).

Another possibility is flexibility of choices. Your choice of which leg status determined which legs are available for an immediate striker or counterstrike.

It may also come down to personal choice or wanting to vary your movement to keep your opponent off-guard.

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  • That's what I was thinking. The way I trained or realized through sparring is that I really didn't like bringing my feet close together like that, standing straight up. It makes me feel like an easy target. It's easy for someone to launch me into the air with a side kick. In fact, I avoided having to first step with one leg and then the other by pushing off my front leg while lifting my back leg off the ground to propel me backwards (or diagonally backwards) really fast. Happens in one step. It also lets me bob out of the way of oncoming strikes by simply ducking to the side more easily. Jul 6 at 20:48
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In boxing it's common to shuffle back.

On the first step, you plant your back leg into the ground, which gives a good opportunity to send a cross to your opponent, who is probably following you.

It's also common because wider stance gives more stability.

In kickboxing it's also the case if you want to avoid having a narrow stance where both legs can be swept in one move.

Moving the back leg first also frees the front leg for a front push kick.

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What is your background? This seems to stem from limited experience. The question should rather be: Why would anyone use the pendular step instead of a shuffle for dodging punches and low kicks? Here are some reasons in favour of shuffle already mentioned, others that are not:

You don't change your stance

With a pendulum step, you change your stance and need to readjust cover and possible combinations accordingly. No problem if you are ambidextrous, but this is not the norm and on a higher level, you effectively lose training time when trying to up two games at the same time.

It is faster

May it be boxing, kickboxing, karate, you name it: You are moving in shuffles all the time. It is much faster to drop a bit lower on the next contact and use the additional grounding for a bigger shuffle than to introduce a turning movement which involves many more muscles than just the front leg for acceleration. Even worse, these muscles cannot work in a direct line with the movement like in shuffles where you simply get your whole body behind your foot and knee. The quadriceps is designed to accelerate your whole body, and can easily do so when aligned accordingly. Thus, shuffles are faster because they make ideal use of muscles with minimal consumption of energy due to not making unnecessary additional movements. These are clear biomechanical reasons against pendular steps if you need to get back fast.

It goes further

With a pendular step, you cannot cover nearly as much ground. It is limited to half of the stance's depth. I have seen karateka cover several metres within the blink of an eye with shuffles.

You can chain shuffles much easier and faster

Since you have a linear movement in the direction you want to go, there is no additional acceleration needed for another step. You just move on. With pendular steps, you have to stop your turning movement and start it in the opposite direction. This means you have to work against your body's momentum if you want to do additional steps.

You are faster with counters

Similarly, as a combination of two reasons mentioned above, you have a harder time moving back frontwards: Not only you need to stop and restart two different directions of momentum (turning plus linear movement back/front), but you have to do so with more muscles that are also out of alignment with your direction of movement and frame. This costs both more energy and means you lose more time. Energy efficiency is very important in martial art bouts.

You are always stable and in balance, with very short contact necessary on a given leg

Pendular steps mean that for the time you are turning, you have to have weight on the back leg, as opposed to a fast push and being able to hover back. This gives a trained opponent plenty of time to take advantage of it, may it be in the form of sweeps or shooting for the leg after using a feint. Yes, in both cases the center of balance remains between the feet. But that is not the point. It is how evenly the weight is distributed between your feet and how long they need to be in contact with the ground. And here, we have major differences.

One last point

Being protected from low kicks is a strong assumption. Low kicks to the inside of the thigh generally hurt a lot more since you cannot mitigate with muscles as well. And if they learn that I do pendular steps to avoid low kicks to the front leg, they will fastly adapt to cover a tad more distance when they start the attack and go for the inner thigh of the other leg next time. At least that's what I would do.

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