Turning foot

People are often asking why in some schools of yiquan practitioners lift heel and turn foot while punching and in other schools they don't. Which way is right and which is wrong?

This lifting heel and turning foot is typical for the schools of brothers Yao Chengguang and Yao Chengrong and very few other, while in majority schools you don't see this in the basic training.

It is true, that it is a relatively new modification, which was introduced into yiquan quite late. The goal of this was to make the basic training more consistent with the needs of sparring and actual combat.

While Yao Zongxun himself was still using and teaching the original method, during last years of his life he had chance to watch some fights of American professional boxers on TV and started pondering into their way of turning back foot while throwing a punch. He inspired his sons to study this issue in depth.

Some other people in yiquan are stressing the way of generating power for hitting by twisting and spiralling in whole body, but without turning foot. In some cases there might be even stressing twisting in the waist more, while avoiding rotation in lower part of body.

Those methods could be suitable for generating power in static positions or when there is not much footwork involved.

However if you think about sparring or competitive fighting, you will notice the need for bigger mobility. And even more so if we are talking about street or bar fighting when there might be more people involved, which forces more changes in footwork, including a lot of turning directions by turning body. When you need to move a lot this way, then using the momentum resulting from shifting and rotating your body becomes very reasonable option. In such a case there comes the question how to generate bigger momentum. The method used by Yao brothers is very suitable here.

Actually if you are watching people who are using the other, older method during their basic training, you will notice that while sparring or fighting at a competition, they are seldom using what they stress in training. The need of using more mobile footwork doesn't allow them to do that. They would need to start action of generating power for the punch after making a step first or after turning of body needed to adapt to changed position of opponent. That would need more time than using the power already available, resulting from the previous movement. In fact they are using this kind of power resulting from shifting and turning body while stepping most of the time during a sparring/fight, but not as efficiently as they could if they actually included working on it conciously in their basic training.


Some people might point out that because this way of moving is not used in tui shou, where people focus on stability, so we should use the same way of moving in san shou as in tui shou. But we think that it is not tui shou but san shou (free fighting) which should be the main subject of our study, so we should try primarily to work on methods most suitable for san shou, while basic training and tui shou should serve the needs of san shou. Tui shou is obviously limited, compared to san shou, so moving to san shou training we should move far beyond those limitations. We should also try not to practice tui shou in a way which would not make a sense from the point of view of preparing for san shou.

Andrzej Kalisz

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