while for others it looks so awkward. I understand basic footwork like the step shuffle and have heard of some 'advanced' techniques like the blitz step that somehow involve shifting your weight quickly.

When I watch someone like Bruce lee in the movies or Mohammad Ali they seem to move to effortlessly and elegantly and yet sometimes on the other end of the spectrum when I watch MMA it looks like 2 people have a brawl.

Is it possible for a very large person to move like this, does it have more to do with skill and practice of the basics or is there a trick to it?

3 Answers 3


Since you referenced Bruce Lee I will comment on what I know about his training on footwork; here are some things he did to improve his footwork:

  • Jump Roping was part of his routine. Boxers also use this to help with footwork. It helps you to be lighter on your feet.

  • Bruce would run backwards during his jogging sessions to increase his back pedaling speed, which you often use during a fight.

  • Bruce also studied the footwork in fencing and incorporated that into his overall style (Jeet kune Do). Although this may have less to do with his finesse and more to do with strategy.

  • Bruce used to study Muhammad Ali’s footwork and then mimic it in a mirror. He was very impressed with Ali.

Aside from those things I’m sure his light feet were more or less a result of his workout routine. I would imagine that a strong core and good muscle dexterity in your legs are necessary for such a performance. A strong core increases your balance, and good muscle dexterity in your legs and feet will give you more power and springiness in each step you take. If you’re looking for results like that, I would look into Bruce’s workout routine honestly. Take a look at a book called “The Art of Expressing the Human Body”. It outlines his workout routine in detail.

I don’t know much about Ali’s training so I can’t comment on how he developed his footwork.

What Steve said is quite true. Pick what you want to be really good at and go for it. People who study Jeet Kune Do are often surprised at the number of strikes/techniques there are too learn. Bruce limited the number of techniques employed because he would rather be really good at a smaller variety of techniques rather than be mediocre at a lot. Footwork was one of those things he really focused on. There is only so much time you can devote to training after all.


Following up on junfanbl's answer, the key to moving smoothly like that, no matter your size, is efficiency. Doing specific footwork drills, such as agility ladders is important to give you building blocks to work from, but ultimately, the key is to become comfortable with your own body, and the only way to do that is to practice movement over and over again, both static drills and dynamic drills reacting to a partner. Initially, you will probably feel like you're lumbering around, but in time, you'll get accustomed to the movement and it will get baked into your muscle memory.

Another thing that you might want to look into, if you want to emulate Bruce Lee, is dance. Bruce Lee was a champion Cha-Cha dancer. Obviously, the dance patterns aren't generally directly applicable to fighting, but dancing teaches you to isolate your leg movement from your upper body when you want to, to confidently move your feet without looking, and to recover from minor stumbles without appearing to have stumbled at all.


Train hard. Learn from your mistakes. Learn from the mistakes of others. Keep at it. Over time you will improve. There are a million ways you can improve. The qualities of motion exhibited by Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali are just some of them. And if that's what you desire, there's a path you can follow to acquire those attributes. And yes, anyone can do that. Life is short. Pick a small number of goals you want to achieve, and make serious effort towards them. That's all you can do.

Hope that helps.

  • I'm not one of your downvoters, but I also didn't upvote just because this answer felt very generic. Other than mentioning Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali, you could post this as an answer to just about any question. Sorry, but I figured I'd provide feedback. It's not bad advice, but it also doesn't feel like an answer to the question. Jul 18, 2019 at 17:26
  • @SeanDuggan Yes, it's deliberately short, and that was my call. The question was yes/no. It wasn't asking how to become like Bruce Lee. But if you went beyond the yes/no answer with a laundry list of things to try to become more and more like Bruce Lee or Muhammad Ali, I think you realize pretty quickly how complex the answer has to be, and that your answer really won't be sufficient. I saw that and dodged it, instead preferring to go above that and suggest that maybe you have to set realistic goals, and a small number of them. My answer to these kinds of questions. Jul 18, 2019 at 17:49
  • That's fair. :) You can keep my nullvote and it's lack of positive or negative imaginary points. Jul 18, 2019 at 17:50
  • It's all good. People want to hear what they want to hear. :) Jul 18, 2019 at 18:08

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