I always receive some very bad sidekicks when I try to go offensively while in kickboxing. Mainly because I try to make a jab with my right hand but the kick comes too fast (or I'm too slow) I have countered this a bit by putting my left hand on the side while making the jab to protect myself. It is sometimes effective but lowers my defense on the left side of my face.

So I want to address the problem at its root: footwork and speed. I will not ask which is the most effective way of improving those because it is too subjective. I am asking about an effective way to improve it and that is easily accessible (i.e. no need of special facilities or equipment)

For instance I have heard that to improve footwork, dancing is effective.

  • I found HipHop classes helped my Taekwondo tremendously. Commented Nov 4, 2013 at 17:41

9 Answers 9


Footwork is not just about moving in the right directions, it's also about getting there quickly and being in balance as you do it. Footwork will be no good to you if you are a lumbering elephant with no balance or dexterity.

A couple of ways to get lighter on your feet are:

  • skipping. While used extensively in boxing for fitness, it also teaches you to stay light on the balls of your feet. Once you can easily do one pass of the rope for one jump, double it up and do two passes of the rope for every jump. Before you know it you will be bouncing around everywhere.

  • find some creaky stairs and run up them - quietly. This teaches you how to place your feet and move your body weight through a range of motion without pausing or sticking in any one spot

  • take a karate stance such as zenkutsu dachi and do it up and down a beach. Doing long lines of this in the sand helps you learn to glide with no up/down bobbing as you transition between left and right versions of the stance. The sand will show you whether you are digging in or bouncing around in any particular spot. Your feet should leave nice grooves of equal depth all the way down the beach. While this is usually a slow exercise, it is training your mind and body in the correct way to move and is just as applicable when moving fast.

  • practice a snap front kick. Pay attention to the end of the kick - don't just let your foot drop down back into place, instead place it back in its original spot in a nice controlled manner. Pick your foot up, snap it out, place it back down. This helps train you to pick your feet up fast, maintain your balance, and best of all the snap front kick can be used as a closing-the-gap technique. Keep practicing the kick even when you are tired as that will be when your technique starts to get sloppy and you go back to your old habits.

  • practice multiple kicks. Doing a single kick from a fixed position is all very good, but doing combinations of kicks one after the other forces you to pay attention to your balance and will also improve your footwork.

  • They once made us do footwork with feet buried in the sand. This provides resistance and makes you really commit your body to the move. Then, without the resistance, one moves much faster. Beaches are cool. Also I like training footwork when ankle-, knee-, waist- or shoulder-deep in the see. However, no one showed me this and I am not sure if it is exactly pedagogical.
    – Vorac
    Commented Jul 6, 2012 at 6:02
  • Only thing I'd add to this is dance. Dance is all about movement and maintaining stability. Ballet is an excellent means of practicing fluidity of movement at various speeds.
    – stslavik
    Commented May 30, 2013 at 17:38

I'd say that doesn't sound like a footwork issue, but rather like a problem of timing and distance. If you jab and your opponent has time to counter with a side kick then you are to far away.

Try to work out your exact range for the different types of techniques (using a heavy bag or any other target, or just a wall if you don't have equipment. Don't actually hit the wall :-)) and train using the technique that's right for the distance.

It's essential for all Martial Arts to know what ranges apply to what techniques. Basically: if you punch and the other guy successfully counters with a kick then either he is Superfoot, or you are too far away for punching.

  • I see, sounds pretty logical to me. I didn't think about it that way. But in any case how can you improve speed and footwork?
    – Jose Luis
    Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 20:45

I just bought some adjustable 10lbs ankle weights to improve the speed of my legs. Currently i can properly perform the stances, shifts, and misc. kicks and footwork with 7-8lbs on each leg. When i train with the ankle weights i also hold a 10lbs dumbbell weight in each hand, which improves me hand speed. This type of training also helps with the main issue of poor speed in footwork: your core. You don't notice it too much until you hold the weights and try to maneuver while you strike. Your legs might be very fast but if your core isn't strong enough to keep your upper body at the speed of your feet then you lag when you try to strike or use footwork. I'm a Taekwondo first degree and i used to have the exact same problem as you. I'd try to punch one f the blackbelts but i couldn't get passed there legs. Only need a month of the weight training and now i usually move to quickly for their legs to stop me.

So, like i said, practice shadow boxing with adjustable ankle weights and dumbbells. It should take no time flat for you to get really quick. In the mean time, a nice little trick is to hold your foot just above their knee as you come in to attack. This is a legal move in sparring as long as you dont kick the knee. As long as your foot is above their knee theyll have a horribly hard time raising their leg to kick and it gives you a few seconds opening.


If you have a partner to work on this with, below is a set of drills I've found particularly useful for improving footwork, speed, and timing (which, I'd agree with Sean, seems like a large part of what you're asking about).

You and a partner face off as you would for a sparring match, and one of you takes the role of aggressor. The aggressor steps forward and back sharply, going through the footwork of a match without throwing any techniques. The person defending tries to keep the same distance between themselves and the aggressor at all times, backing up when the aggressor moves forward and moving forward when the aggressor moves back. That'll help you get used to following someone else's physical cues and footwork minutely.

After you've done that for a while, you can start trading off 3 (no-contact) techniques each, where the 1st technique is a fast counterstrike to the previous person's last move.

On a seperate note, kicks have a lot more reach/power than punches. You might experiment with countering a kick with another, faster kick rather than a jab.


I would suggest you to learn parrying the sidekick, instead of rushing in.

Am I wrong or it's just one person that does sidekick you ? I can also imagine that person is using a lateral stance and often lean backwards with his head.

If so, you're just going into his trap. Try instead to provoke his sidekick and then attack. Or low kick him, if the rules allow for that.

  • Yes you are right. It's usually one person that does that. He almost exclusively kicks. Low kicks are not allowed unfortunately...
    – Jose Luis
    Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 21:15
  • What he's using is a quick and easy way to avoid real confrontation. People that do that too much usually do it because their own fear and lack of skill. Use it as a chance to learn how to deal with that kind of oppponent, but also know you won't learn much else with him. That kind of stance is usually not recommended for novices afaik.
    – tacone
    Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 22:02
  • Also, you may be telegraphing your punch, which lets him have the sidekick on the way earlier. If he's a training buddy, it might be worth asking him - he may be prepared to let you know what keeps tipping him off.
    – Rophuine
    Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 23:51
  • A well-timed mid-level side kick can't be countered with a low kick anyway, if you've paid attention in Trigonometry. Unless your legs are much longer than the other guy's :-) Commented Feb 2, 2012 at 9:19
  • I'll throw this in here since it doesn't directly pertain to the presented question, but the background of the question: the two best responses to someone who uses the side kick for maintaining distance control, IMO, are the parry (as already discussed, though there are several variations on this) and the fake. For you, you'd throw a jab (fully commit, but realize you're going to hit air) while throwing a stutter step, wait for the side kick to thrust, then follow the retraction back to your opponent, following up the initial jab with whatever makes you happy.
    – rjstreet
    Commented May 29, 2013 at 16:22

Side kicks are notoriously difficult to avoid without practice.

Practice stepping off the centre line off the side kick - you'll need a partner to practice with.

  1. Pay close attention to the telegraphing signals that he gives off before he kicks.
  2. Make sure that you avoid the kick, but move forward at the same time. Do not side step as this will not close the gap.

I don't do kick boxing, but I hope that helps!


To answer the root question (which is not how to counter a side kick), I recommend actual simple one-punch drills that emphasize the explosive lunge associated with a quick back knuckle punch. As noted in a previous answer, the distance in essential when delivering a technique, but I don't agree that just because your opponent is delivering a side kick that your jab can not be delivered as well.

From your natural fighting stance, practice lunging foward and using your lead hand for the jab. It is a total commitment move, as any delay or hesitation will allow your opponenet to deliver their kick. Practice this over and over.


Circle walking is an excellent means of changing your thinking about how to step and turn. It's the basis of baguazhang, and is a lifelong practice - but is simple to learn. The more you practice it, the more you're able to add circular stepping to your thinking when moving. I began with Karate and the practice drills are very linear - like the stepping and punching we all learn. You get stuck in that way of advancing and retreating - in a line. I've been at circle walking for a year now and it has opened up a new world for me - it really helps you get away from that linearity and it also helps teach you to move your whole body as a unit. I'm no baguazhang master myself, but an opponent who has mastered that art will be very hard to locate!

  • I will quibble with the "simple to learn" description. Circle walking was not an early (within first four months or so) element of the curriculum I learned, and there are numerous "basic" versions of circle walking that disagree entirely about how it should be done. For example, there some schools advocate starting with slow sliding steps while others advocate a natural speed rolling step. Without significant instruction, I would find this hopelessly confusing.
    – mattm
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 3:37

Lunging forward is the best way to get knocked out Feint the jab and when he kicks drop your lead elbo hard onto his toes or the soft part of his foot and I bet he will throw a lot fewer side kicks to your body

  • That may or may not be legal depending on the rules they are sparring under. Additionally, it does not answer the question, which is about how to improve footwork and speed.
    – JohnP
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 14:41

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