In Rory Miller's book Drills he talks about various "one-step" drills where you each get one movement at a time with a partner. This move can be either an attack or a defense, done slowly, and they can do one move as well per one of yours. The description is "one partner initiates a move in slow motion and the other patner at equal speed makes one motion to respond." It continues to say that "The flaw in this drill is the artificiality of the timing–both slow motion and taking turns." (OS1, for anyone with the book).

I like this drill conceptually as a self defense drill and I have experimented with it a few times. Some things I can't quite seem to settle on are how much the turns overlap and the degree of commitment. For example:

  • A initiates a straight punch at B.
  • B, seeing the straight punch comes in, starts to initiate a block.

At what point does B start to move to get the maximum effect out of the drill? At what point does A get to alter their attack or are they carrying it through to completion just to start the next attack?

Essentially I am looking for the most effective way to manage turns and to explain how a "turn" works to people who are potentially quite experienced martial artists, but who have never done this drill before.

6 Answers 6


I was taught a drill by a Systema friend that may well be this one. I really liked it, because it allowed for mistakes and for development of positional understanding. Big for me, more natural for my friend, was development of creativity and free flow.

We did not perform that drill in 'slow motion' - we performed it around half speed and with full intent. This means that we don't easily move away if the strike gets batted with a hand, and if the partner does not do anything, the strike would make contact and continue through. Half-speed, without whatever extra exploding power may be added on contact, is enough to guarantee no damage.

Anyway - the basic idea is that you do this exactly as you would at full speed. If you would prefer to move as you see the partner's center shift, do so. If you'd rather wait until the very last moment, do so. If you'd rather punch to his face as you see him frown in anger, do so. Just do it at the exact same speed the partner is doing it.

I think of it as one-step free sparring. Any one move, any one answer, alternating who answers.

You can build up complexity by doing TWO attacks as part of one turn, so the receiver has to deal with two strikes (simultaneous or not, whichever).

How to make it more realistic - well, if the received blocks a straight punch without trapping the elbow, there is nothing wrong with bending at the elbow to continue the strike towards the target.

I hope this helps. :)


To add to Trevoke's answer: this drill will easily expose a beginner's tendency to avoid making contact. If I find my partner starts veering a punch away from me, or punching in a way that won't make contact if I do not move, then I simply do not move.

Sometimes, the partner is afraid to make contact. I usually demonstrate the speed and intent. I do it to them so they can feel how it does not hurt. Once the fear goes away, it becomes fun. That's when we start coming up with some creative plays.

Some people are too aggressive or have a deep need to win. They will often speed up. I have not yet found a good way to deal with this. In the past, we've usually made it so boring that those people go elsewhere to seek their thrills.


As far as turns overlapping, it doesn't matter as much. The drill eventually gets to a free-flow, but the goal is to move slower than your opponent to force yourself to move (and think) more efficiently. In other words you can wait until after the opponent lands before initiating your movement. Does that happen when someone tries to hit you? Yep, frequently...and in slow motion you can look at how that can be used. Or you can initiate after the move and intercept. That happens too. Neither is wrong, they just work different aspects. The only wrong is using the flaw-- going faster or taking two moves to your opponent's one.

I'm a big believer that every motion should defend and attack and improve position.


I was at Rory Miller's seminar.

Here is a short video of this exercise. This is a group version of the drill, but we spent hours doing the couples versions.

I found this drill to be amazing. I'm a (novice) student of Ninjutsu, and I've never being able to apply locks in a Randori. Moreover, I've never seen locks applied by anyone else - The Randori always appear to be Karate hits and kicks or Judo throws, but never locks. This time, because everything was in slow motion, I was able to understand where, when and how its possible to apply locks.

Now, the concept of this drill was hard to grasp even during the seminar and one of my partners, for example, accused me of "stealing turns". However, to my current understanding (and what follows is my own interpretation, which might be incorrect), this is a little similar to Capoeira dance in that the aim is not to win but to "dance".

This means that when A does her motion she keeps doing it and does not change what she has began based on B's reaction. So A starts with Action1A, B reacts with Action1B as soon as he wishes but - in slow motion. After A completes as much of Action1A as she may, she starts Action2A, B reacts slowly with Action2B and so on.

This would appear to be a continuous sequence of A attacking and B defending and this exactly is one of the points of this drill, because it forces B to think about how he can at the same time defend, move and/or attack. Everything that's done in one turn is counted as one, so B can block with one hand and at the same time slide out of touch. Or, at the same time - kick. Which will force A now to evade the kick and, if she can do it at the same time, block or attack.

Remember - the goal here is not to win. The goals as I see it is: 1. Get into the habit of working concurrently. 2. Recognize opportunities and opening.


  • B.T.W. - My son also took part in the drill. Rory said he's the one who "won" the drill. See if you can figure out who he was, and how he won the drill :)
    – Avi
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 6:08
  • Video: content unavailable, unfortunately for me.
    – Anon
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 13:53
  • @Trevoke I checked - it's shared with friends-of-friends of Lee Lavi (facebook.com/lee.lavi). You can contact her and ask for the video?
    – Avi
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 15:36
  • Posted a link to this question on Rory's wall facebook.com/rory.miller.965
    – Avi
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 15:37

In JKD we call those flow drills and the speed is increased gradually when both partners aquire greater skill at doing the drill.

The basic focus of the drill is to teach a specific neural muscular response to a specific situation.

In order to do that it is important to first have the proper form which can be taught by doing first the drill at slow speed as both or one partner is thinking of her actions. And of course by preventing injury. Later when a greater skill is achieved the drill is done at a greater speed.

Followups from that situation are done when doing ABC (attacks by combination).

For example (from JKD):

Basic drill : Jab(A) - Parry(B) - Jab(B) - Parry(A) - Jab(A) ..

Advanced (not longer a flow drill but takes a basic from that): Jab(A), Parry(B), Jab(B), Cross Finger Jab from the outside(B), Right backfist(B).

Or basic drill from trapping Jab(A) - Jab(B) (at the same time) - Pak Sao(B) - Jab (B)

Which can lead to a other trapping or attacking drills in the entry phase of the combat or can lead to a take down with ground fighting.

I generelly prefer to do flow drills (with mind that they are just a beginning for something else which is also drilled) since they are simple to teach (from my JKD experience) and teach really good and basic concepts and reactions.


Some additional notes/thoughts. Remember it is a single movement. If B makes a turn and blocks that is two movements, step and block is two movements. one movement is all you get.

A won't alter their attack. If punching they will punch till they hit their target and hold it as pulling the punch back is a second movement.

Remember to practice to hit, not to miss.

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