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Self Defense/Question about proper footwork and multiple attackers..


I don't know if you remember me but a few months ago I asked you
to please break down some systema footwork I was having trouble in. Your response was that you never trained systema so you don't know but what I was talking about sounded like Chinese martial arts.

Here I have a short clip of the systema footwork I'm talking about and I would like to know if you have any ways I can actually do this shit properly, because the way you break things down on your site as far as mechanics and the body and power stuff have helped me ALOT. Thank you. Even though you never did systema surely you have seen this kind of footwork before in another type of art. Also, a recommendation on an art that has good footwork for facing multiple attackers would be greatly appreciated! If this is good footwork for multiple attackers let me know!

Please take a look. The explanation of the footwork starts at 50 seconds in.

Any breakdowns, metaphors, analogies or simple explanations are greatly appreciated sir. Thanks again!

Okay ordinarily I don't watch videos, but that's a pretty good introduction to movement. He moves well.

We do the break down slightly different than he does. We break it down by calling the shoulders and feet your 'bases.' (He calls them crosses)  Power comes from your bases. In this model the hips are a liaison* between the two bases. As much as possible, the feet move and then the body catches up.

Now that's slightly misleading but that's what it looks like. Usually the exact mechanics are the weight shift starts from the hips, but the feet are faster. Once the weight is off them from the initial -- and subtle body movement -- they move faster and more obviously. They have to arrive first to establish a new base, THEN the body catches up.  So it looks like the feet move first, but it's really more subtle than that. Thing is -- unless you're doing certain kinds of moves -- the foot HAS to  get there first. Otherwise you have no base to generate power from. Which brings us to the * after liaison.

It's wrong to say power comes from your hips. Yet that is the common misconception. Starting with the idea that the hips are a liaison between the two bases gives you a different image of them working together and someone whose job it is to make sure they work together well. However there is another analogy that follows. That is an alternator.

Now I don't know how familiar you are with cars. But a super short version is you have a battery, an alternator and spark plugs.  You can touch a car battery and not much happens. However, if you're holding a spark plug wire when the car is running you get a hell of a shock. That's because of the alternator. The alternator is like a turbocharger. It takes the lower voltage/amperage of the battery and cranks it up so there is electricity is strong enoughto jump points and create a spark (this is what causes the gas and air to ignite in the cylinders.) Your hips do the same thing. They take the momentum of your weight moving that comes from your step or weight shift and crank it up.

Getting that foot out there before your body weight arrives is REALLY important. On one side of the coin, if you don't have your footwork and timing of your bodymechanics right you 'lose' power. By that I mean instead of it going where you want it to go, it goes everywhere else. (Think of the difference between a hose with a nozzle and a spaghetti strainer.) All the stuff the guy is talking about in the video (after foot work) is dependent on establishing a lower base (foot there first) and creating a body wave AFTER it's there.

Power in striking is what most inexperienced fighters want to focus on. But I want to tell you about the other side of that coin. The side that is really going to save your ass -- defensive movement.

What I do know about Systema is -- in theory -- it's big on getting out of the way. Whether the practitioners actually focus on that or charge in and get killed is another matter.  (I unfortunately speak from experience on that, I had a friend killed when he didn't get out of the way. And yes, he was a Systema player.) The motions that guy is doing are good for power generation, but they're even better for getting your ass out of the way of an incoming attack -- and doing it FAST. When it comes to getting out of the way of incoming knives, tire irons and rocks you need to be fast. Just as you need to get off line of a gun being pointed at you FAST. Once that trigger is pulled, you can't outrun the bullet, but you need to be faster than his draw, aim and fire. That you can do. The bullet only travels down one line. You want the line to be where you USED to be. That's how you avoid getting shot.

The mechanics I described earlier are a whole lot like dancing. Ballroom dancing to be specific. I suggest you watch some instructional clips on that subject and see what you can pick up there. But what I will tell you moving your body in the direction you want to go and having faster feet is the FASTEST way to get your ass out of the way of an incoming attack.

I will tell you the hardest part of doing this. When you do it right, it feels like you are falling. You're not really, but it feels that way.

Most people screw this up because they want to feel like they are in control Seeking this control, instead of shifting their weight in the direction they want to move (or just picking up a foot and falling) they first, shift their weight to the other foot. Then they pick up the other foot, stick it out there and start moving in that direction). This screws them up -- bad. Take a look a this.


See that vertical line? Someone moving the way I told you or the way the guy on the video is doing it will move left by just moving left. Zoom. Everything moves that way and it's really fast. If something is coming at you down that vertical line, moving left fast is your best chance of it missing.

Conversely the way people who want to be in control (moving the way I described earlier) means you first shift your weight to the right of the line, then YOU CROSS BACK OVER IT on the way to the left. This triples the time you're on that line.

That is NOT something you want to do when something is coming down that line hard and fast. You want to get off as quickly as you can.

This is what I call moving effectively, it's more than just 'footwork'  

But now you have some more things you can work with to be able to move this way.  

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Marc MacYoung


Street self-defense, crime avoidance and personal safety


I grew up in the streets of Los Angeles in 'situational poverty.' I have dealt with criminals and violent people all my life -- both personally and professionally. I have written 15 books and 6 videos on surviving street violence. I was originally published under the name Marc Animal MacYoung. (Animal was my street name). I've taught police and military both internationally and within the US. I've lectured at universities, academies and done countless TV, radio, newspaper and magazine interviews. I'm a professional speaker on crime avoidance and personal safety. And I am an expert witness recognized by the US court system. My bio is at My abridged CV (Curriculum Vitae) is at

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