In Serrada we have footwork taught formally, like the papeet (replacement step), then there are moves that didn’t really have names, like the step to the outside (female triangle), the rollback move against a #3 strike, or the leg lift for the punch block against the same angle. The Chinese would refer to such a move as a hanging horse or a crane stance.
In yesterday’s class we worked on one such move, which I refer to as a post step or posting up, a term familiar to Tai Chi practitioners. I will contrast this first with triangle stepping to show the difference, then go into the application we were doing for the outside block.
In triangle stepping, if one has both feet shoulder separated, marking two points of the triangle, a step would be directly from one of those points to the third one. In posting up, however, one would bring the feet together on a single point and then step to the third point with the foot that had just moved. In other words, when you step, you step through the position of the stationary foot. Generally there is a touch or a pause as the feet come together, though the moving foot remains unweighted. This is a control to allow change of direction or shift of weight as needed.
This step can be applied to the outside block as follows:
In our basic technique against a #1 strike (or #6, 7, 10, 12) we step forward to the left at approximately a 45º angle, or just enough to slide outside of the attack. We’re stepping with the left foot, combined with a parry with the left hand then a strike or check with the right hand or weapon. Next we redirect our rear right foot back behind us (clockwise rotation) as we check with our left hand. If we originally were facing towards 12 o’clock (imagining ourselves at the center of a clock dial), our left check is now at 1 o’clock and the rear foot at 7 o’clock.
With the post step, we begin with the same left outward step and parry combination. However, rather than leaving the rear foot in its original position, we allow our momentum to pull it along so that our weight is centered more directly underneath us. The motion is essentially a step/drag, the rear foot dragging up alongside the lead foot. It is a bit like a cat stance, just touching with the ball of the foot, but whereas a cat stance is forward facing, this is a “side cat” in that our rear foot touches next to the heel of the front one so we are still sideways to the attacker. We wind up in a knock-kneed position, our thighs pressed together and our stance triangulated just from the knee down.
The purpose of this variation is to get the rear leg out of the line of an attack. If an attacker has a heavy weapon, particularly something with a sharp edge to it, and attacks with commitment to his strike, having the leg extended behind leaves it in the path of the strike. In essence, we are pulling it in to avoid the blow. This is a more advanced variation of the basic step, one that Angel taught after the basic concept was mastered, and what he called “more for combat.” Another similar look he’d use was dropping low and pulling the thighs together, leaving the rear foot more extended. There wasn’t as much emphasis on these steps as learning the basics, but by the time Angel showed these, it was more a process of refining what we’d already learned well.
Along with the post step, the upper body is generally a bit more rounded than the basic step. In all variations, the right arm hangs down across the front of the body so the weapon is hanging in front of the left knee, ensuring it is outside of the attackers arm for the abanico follow-up. For me at least, the wider basic step leaves the body more upright, while the post-up step drops the weight and keeps the head down more for protection.
The last part of the step is moving out of the post position. Here, as we step back with the right foot, we are checking with the left hand. As we step back, the right hip pulls back, rotating the waist clockwise and projecting the left shoulder and check hand forward. This goes back to the coil/uncoil concept. We coil ourselves with the compression of the first step, uncoil or unwind with the step back and check. This then cocks the rear hand for the “kill” strike, with an open stance (rear heel is rotated clockwise, like a “reverse cat stance” turned away from the opponent). We then rebound back counterclockwise with the upper body using the abdominal muscles and the torsion of the hips, reversing the rear foot on the ball so the knee once again points forward and dropping our weight into the strike.
I’m sure we could micro-detail this and come up with further nuances and variables, but this is to give an idea of using this footwork. Again, the basic goal is not to get hit, so we avoid the strike then deliver our own response. There are ways to make things happen more simultaneously, but as Angel used to point out, one has to have superior timing over the opponent to have high expectation of success that way. We start with self-preservation; in nature, even fearsome predators use caution, because an injury could be deadly (like starving to death with a broken jaw from a kick by the intended prey). Once we have created our optimized position (avoid the attack, clear angle to counter) then we move on with the next phase of our technique.