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Old October 27, 2012, 03:02 AM
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Zeeshan Zeeshan is offline
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Default Footwork!

Once an instructor mused that in Filipino martial arts you can just isolate the element of footwork and devote lifetime to it. That's true. Along French kickboxing such as savate, Filipino martial arts (FMA) focuses a great deal on various footwork: triangular (male or female), circular, lateral or even no footwork. And of course, when it comes to cricket both legend of present and yore - Sachin and Don - possess/ed excellent footwork.

Bangladeshi players in general have poor footwork. Reason why I mentioned Don is because in a time before specialized coaching was commonplace or coaching involved hooking up a player with such gadgetry as electrical nodes to monitor biofeedback and mechanics, Donald Bradman used to idle away striking golf ball with a club in front of water tank. Devoting hours to this past time his batting form included foot movements which was second nature. How often we see fans lament that due to lack of infrastructure Bangladesh is lacking! But do we really need million dollar funds to create the ultimate athlete that can clocks in hours just trying to improve footwork? How expensive is a jump rope or rope ladder the latter that can greatly enhance a simple movement such as forward shuffle?

Far too often we have focused on lack of resources yet the ultimate 'forty two' of cricket's mystery is concentrating on what you have instead of what's not. Don's anecdote can serve a great inspiration that in order to reach unsurpassed heights one doesn't have to be privy to first-world technologies. Use what you have and use it wisely. And this brings to footwork which has been poorly utilized in national camp's cast.

Countless time we heard Ashraful or Mahmudullah being frozen to be lbw-ed offering no front movement or being victim of a catch to the keeper. Although player like Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur tends to have slightly better footwork than the rest of the gang, but it doesn't hurt to hone the skill especially knowing it would greatly improve match performance.

You cannot separate footwork from batting. And like many times often where cricket borrowed themes from martial arts, we look into the combat arts for inspiration. A little dose of history, first. Music, dance, war, fighting - these are all intrinsically woven together. In Essay Nr. 79: On Music of the Ancient Military of the collection in Essays on the Origins of Western Music (link)David Whitwell explains:
To begin with, the ancient Greek armies used music and dance as a basic form of physical training. One of these dances, for example, was the pyrrhiche, danced to the aulos. The first part consisted of very fast feet movement, needed to chase the enemy, or escape its pursuit. The second part was a simulated combat and the third part consisted of leaping movements, as might be needed to leap over walls and ditches. It is no doubt for this reason that Socrates is quoted as having said, “The best dancer makes the best warrior.” One of the earliest historians, Xenophon (427 – 355 BC) provides a more complete picture of how dancing and music would have been of benefit to the soldier. While only his first example is specifically military, the rest have a certain martial arts quality about them.
Although there are some complex foot movements in ritual shamanstic dance such as Korean kut or Scottish country dance, one can design simple matrix with creative patterns for personal training.

It goes without saying a player should adopt both methods -with or without pads- and adjust himself to different beats or metronome synced to an audio equipment. Of course, in country like Bangladesh where one cannot be privy to such arcade games where one has to step on flashing lights for dance movement, one could also build an audio-visual equipment on a board that contains different LED lights glowing randomly where batsman can step on them as time progresses. Yes, a technologically amped version of ekka-dokka to bring the kid out inside all of us!

However, there really is no need to invent a Soviet pen for space, when a simple pencil would suffice. Pasting electrical tapes in different mandala like arrangement would set up many ideal drill conditions.

Foot movements in general can be classified as linear, lateral, circular or even haphazard. As any practitioner of combat arts know that the body doesn't move in isolation of feet. Also, one should concentrate on upper body movements while keeping their feet busy. Gradually, an initiate would advance from cold feet to happy...to the level where one can pick up any complex foot movement just from first glance.

But- baby steps first. From my own personal experience, in FMA the footwork are generally male triangle or female triangle and when done sideways they become lateral. There are three types of circular foot movement: tiata, piata and a third whose name I forget but basically it concerns criss cross foot patterns clockwise and counterclockwise.

As mentioned, one can just scrawl the diagram of matrix in chalk or put electrical tapes on ground and follow a predetermined sequence of action... s-l-o-w-l-y. Speed would come later but ideally an athlete would want to make sure that his movements are clean and punctil·i·ous.

If one gets tired of Filipino martial arts, there is always Japanese fencing art kendo for more inspiration.

The following excerpt shows the four basic types of movement from University of Melbourne Kendo Club (link):
for use in moving forward and backwards to cover great distances quickly
used in defenses, strikes and requiring fast, short range movement in any direction
used in defenses, strikes and thrusts when it is necessary to break one's body posture
used in strikes and thrusts executed at a wide interval of space
Compare the following images below:

The difference between ayumi-ashi and okuri-ashi is subtle yet pivotal. Although both deals with backward and forward motion, the difference is the lead foot moving first. This should give the idea why my instructor mused about the endless possibilities of foot movement as the permutations resulting can grow staggeringly.

It must be made clear that I am definitely not talking about Ashraful to pick up Scottish dancing or Raqibul to learn kalaripayit. God forbid no. But an intelligent coach can cut the fluff and incorporate the skeletal remains in the curriculum such as this website shows utilizing a ladder:

And once an initiate can effortlessly pass the drills for basic foot patterns, one can fine tune his actions with circular movement drawing inspiration from bagua. Remember, lest one forgets the big picture, the whole purpose of these drills are to make the movements fluid, natural and subconscious so as to lunge on the pitch or flight of the ball.

As the practitioner develops his skills further he would aim to get rid of his entire framework altogether, make his movements minimal as there will eventually be a blur and fluid such as the following shows from sword-art:

Finally, it's all fine and dandy to dish out advice but as an athlete one should be passionate about his craft. If you don't love patterns or in general the creativity in seemingly a mundane and boring chore like activity, one can have all the wisdom in the world yet not proceed an inch. A player must cultivate his work and continuously strive to be better. And what better reward can one hope, other than having lightning like ability to think on her...feet.


This blog has the nice pattern as shown below with key terms for basic building blocks. Not only honing on such fine motor skill will help read the game better and react but also a player will be cognizant of his 'blind spot' of players behind him.
CX: Diameter
OO, NN: Perpendicular Diameter
GS: Oblique Diameter
CW, XD: Interior Collaterals
GT, SF: Outer Collaterals or simple Collaterals
NT, NF: Inner Transverses
WS, DG: Outer Transverses
AOZO: Circumscribed Square
AO: Side of Circumscribed Square
CDFN Center: Quadrant of the Circle
CNXN: Inscribed Square
CN: Side of Inscribed Square
ABCB: Quadrangle
CA: Extended Diameter
BB: Diagonal of the Quadrangle
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