As I have participated in martial arts for a while, I have observed that a big part of any match is moving around your opponent, finding the best angle to attack. In addition, my personal experience shows that the best position for defending any strike is standing face to face with your opponent, but in reality, this position is hard to achieve as you and your opponent are always moving. So in a match where your opponent is circling around you, what strategy of footwork should you use to not waste all the energy in moving around, but still be able to stand face to face with your opponent?

Noted: All assumptions that I made above are from my personal experience, and please correct me if I made any mistake.

  • What style do you practice? Do you tend to hold any particular stance? What kind of striking do you like to do? Mar 21, 2022 at 16:56
  • I practice military combat with a veteran, and normal I prefer to use regular boxing stance to maximize flexibility. Since my teacher is a veteran, he teaches me to strike with minimal power usage but fatal, such as a direct punch to the throat. Mar 21, 2022 at 17:21

1 Answer 1


There are a few things to consider here. First, almost by definition, your opponent circling you will be expending more effort than you if you are staying in place. Imagine that you're at the hub of a wheel and your opponent is at the rim. You will be traveling a shorter distance to turn a given arc than the opponent. This, of course, may vary if you, in turn, circle them.

Second, you will want to be careful about how you step to avoid tangling yourself up. Obviously, most trained people will not try to just pivot in place and wind up crossing their ankles so that both legs can be swept at once, but it's not terribly uncommon for people to put themselves in an unstable position for "a moment" before correcting their balance. It seems harmless, but if you are attacked in that moment of unbalance, you are much more likely to react in a way that will keep you unstable.

Third, you will want to avoid being too predictable in how you move or else your opponent will learn that when they circle you in a particular direction and speed, they can predict where your feet and balance will be so that they can throw an attack when you are unstable or at the least in a particular stance. This kind of follows from the advice above about not tangling your feet up or putting yourself in a position of unstable balance, but overall, it's more of a general bit of advice to introduce variation in your movements. Honestly, this also kind of fits into that you may not always want to turn to face your opponent. Sometimes, being a bit sideways will help you to provide a smaller profile as they attack, or lead into using momentum or twisting your body as a spring to drive an attack.

Lastly, be aware of your environment, particularly what's behind you that you can't see immediately. In a ring, an opponent may circle you to trick you into backing into a corner, the ropes, the fence, or the boundary that indicates a ring out. On the streets, they might try to maneuver you onto more unstable ground, a solid surface, or even a drop, which will reduce your movement options.

So, what should you train?

Fundamentally, you will want to practice a few different movements so as to not be too predictable. You will want to try to find a movement that keeps your feet stable at all times. You will want to practice the movements until they feels so natural that it's virtually effortless. Personally, I like to try to lift my feet a fraction of an inch above the ground and trail a small part of my foot on the floor so that I'm not wasting effort with friction by sliding my feet, it's easy to set my foot down, and if I run into an obstacle, I know immediately and can deal with it. My default involves sliding the foot opposite the direction they're circling back, and then the other foot forward because it keeps my legs more apart, but I'll generally mix that up with stepping other directions or doing a quick shuffle. In the latter case, I won't always turn in place, or circle their direction, but will sometimes instead step into their arc to create a threat.

  • Gee, many thanks for you detailed answer Mar 22, 2022 at 2:14
  • @DucNguyenMinh. Also... try to get out of the 'response' mindset. If you are always reacting to your opponent - even if you are a good counter-attacker - you are to an extent allowing them to dictate the terms of the fight. Think of ways to gain the initiative or to break their preferred movement patterns. Eg: Using lateral movement to cut into their circular movement, or by alternating retreat and aggression. Mar 22, 2022 at 7:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.