Wing Chun Footwork - What's the Most Common Pivot Point?

by Dave
(Minneapolis, MN )

I was taught to pivot on center of the foot and by another school on the heel. What is the most accepted form of pivoting? Thanks

- - -
Answer: My answer may confuse you even more... that’s the disclaimer, so read on if you dare -

Pivoting the feet footwork is common in many Wing Chun lineages. I like to call it sliding and shuffling because that’s what it looks like and sounds like many times.

I’ll give you the answer from my lineage, which is shared by others too.

Don’t pivot, slide, or shuffle.
Pick up your feet and step.

Note: I don’t disrespect any of my Wing Chun cousins. The truth is when you describe or “show” a lap sau, straight punch, and especially a bong sau to other, non-Wing Chun martial artists, most of them laugh and think those moves are silly and weak. And, when you’re a beginner, those moves are unnatural and do feel silly and weak.

But then you train them, over and over again and build muscle memory until you are proficient, and those moves become devastating tools.

Likewise, I’ve never learned nor trained any kind of pivot footwork. So take what I say with a grain of salt. Perhaps, you even learn something new or have a few concepts to think through and test
out during your training.

When you fight you need to be mobile, that’s just common sense. Picking up your feet and stepping gives you maximum mobility.

Stepping over or around an obstacle is strategically important, too. The obstacle could be uneven ground; stones, rocks, and other debris; it could be soft ground like sand or mud; it could be your opponent’s feet.

When you train this kind of footwork you want to develop efficient movement in tune with the situation. Not too much, not too little.

When you use this Wing Chun footwork you use the balls of your feet for mobility (not the middle, not the heel). Using the balls of the feet is a proven method for stable and quick movement.

Think of tennis players, basketball players, and boxers. They move on the balls of their feet. The balls of your feet are the tough rounded area right behind your toes, on the soles of your feet.

Of course, when you strike or kick you’ll generate more power form your body by planting your heel down on the floor, and your knees bent a bit for more balance.

This all takes practice to make it effective and all flow together.

The point being shuffling, scooting, sliding, and pivoting may have practical limitations.


What’s your take on Wing Chun footwork? Leave a comment below:

Comments for Wing Chun Footwork - What's the Most Common Pivot Point?

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May 23, 2011
Pivot Point
by: Mark


In my lineage we pivot on our heels. This is because pivoting on our soles causes the feet to move out of line slightly (try it! pivot 10 times on your soles & you will lose position & structure).

I must agree with the previous comments regarding mobility in general, Cheun Mar is only one of our options and its important to ensure that we master al the stances and steps.

Hope that helps!

May 23, 2011
Re: Pivot Point - Mark
by: Rob@WingChunLife

I tried it out and pivoted on my heel. I see what you mean.

You can pivot indefinitely on your heels and your body stays in the same place.

My question is how practical is it?

By not moving your center of gravity can you generate any effective power to strike? I felt uncomfortable, especially knowing that an opponent will be moving around.

By not moving your body position, don't you present a steady target? My feet pivoted very well but I didn't feel I could put mass behind the punches. Kind of like doing a double or triple kick aimed at the same target - each kick after the first one quickly loses power and practical effectiveness.

With your heels "dug" in longer than they could/should be, doesn't that make you an easier target to hit or won't you absorb more of the force when you get hit? In my lineage, and me personally, I prefer not to be put back on my heels. While pivoting on my heels, I was actually "put back" on my heels - even if it was for just a slight moment.

I'd like to hear your thoughts, since I don't train this footwork at all.

Aug 07, 2011
by: Anonymous

Actually both are perfectly okay i.e. pivoting on your heels or the balls of your feet. My sifu always advises me never to become the slave of our techniques but the master of it. Practice both techniques but what is more important is knowing when to use them situationally.

Feb 19, 2012
Wing Chun Footwork
by: Jon

I’m new in Wing Chun, like weeks into it.

I liked what the last guy said about the pivot points. I tried both but I do notice (just for myself) more power in the strikes when I use my heels but the difference is to slight to matter in my opinion.

I did notice my body wanted to lean forward a bit more when I was on the ball of my feet, which would be bad for you if your opponent notices it.

But Ip Man did say this and I try my best to go by this quote "Kung Fu shouldn't control a human being, a human being should control kung fu" or something along those lines, lol.

But the story is simpler the better and don’t restrict your movement.
Response from Rob: That's a great quote, hadn't heard that one before.

Apr 27, 2012
Depends on what I am doing...
by: Eric

If I am stationary and I am shifting from one side to the next then I will use the balls of my feet but anything involving moving around I pick my feet up and move.

I believe shuffling and sliding your feet is a bad idea just in case your feet catches something causing you to lose your balance and your stance.

Honestly thats how I view it because everyone was taught in different ways and have different views. People also do things that is comfortable to them so it becomes personal preference at that point.

May 01, 2012
Wing Chun Footwork: What's the most common pivot - it depends on you
by: Anonymous

There are no right or wrong pivoting movements. It all depends on what you want to do. That's the beauty of wing chun. From the YGKYM stance try pivoting on your heel either to the right or left and then kick with your front foot. It's very difficult to kick without first shifting your weight to your back foot and hence sending signals to your opponent. From the same stance try pivoting on the ball of your feet and kick. It is much easier and with less movement. Do the same but this time punch out instead of kicking and you'll find out that you have more power when you pivot on your heel. So both movements are applicable depending on your intention. That's my five cents worth anyway.

Jun 15, 2012
Pivoting - Wing Chun Footwork
by: Dean Jones

both Grandmasters Ip Chun and Ip Ching teach the basic pivot on the heel of the foot. This comes off the bio-mechanical structure learnt in the basic stance.
Saying that- the basic pivot is for training structure, body alignment and power generation (amongst others) When fighting the pivot point varies according to the context...

Dec 22, 2013
Where to pivot
by: Bill Holland.

Mass times velocity equals force. you cannot have total bodily force back on your heels.

think of running on your heels, it does not work. you never want to be back on your heels in a fight. You can pivot on the balls of your feet and still have your heels touch the ground.

Your heels have more structure,as if you were going to brace your self to hold a wall from falling. but combat is more like pushing a car down the street,and in order to do that you must get up on the balls of your feet.

My instructor made me do my forms thousands. of times, and i always had to come back to the same exact spot i started, so it is not true that you lose position on the balls of your feet.

Unless you are completely flat footed it is impossible to pivot on the center of you foot due to the natural arch of the foot. thx

Dec 23, 2013
Re: Where to Pivot @Bill
by: Anonymous

Comment by Rob: Hi Bill, thanks for commenting and sharing your point of view. I've been playing with this pivot question a bit recently. And I notice that you can pivot on any of those three points - the balls of the feet, the heel, and the middle.

So physically, it can all be done. Try it yourself. With minimal coordination I believe anyone can pivot on all three points.

The real question is which one is more effective?

I don't have a fail-safe answer... for everyone equally.

But I do want to mention moving around on the balls of your feet, like when you play tennis, or basketball, even football (soccer) will give you the quickest movements, especially in a small space like when you fighting.

However, when you hit or kick, your heels are best anchored into the earth so that your body is braced for the impact. This allows your momentum and force to go into your opponent, not bounce off your opponent (especially a bigger and heavier one).

I've read in other areas that some people like to strike with one heel off the ground. I personally don't like that.

If you hit hard and deep enough, the force tends to push you back away from your opponent, and back onto your lifted leg/heel (your calf muscle takes the strain and is ultimately too 'spongy').

What this means in real life is that part, or most of, your power did NOT go into your opponent; it went into your calf muscle. That's a good workout, but you want your opponent to eat it all, otherwise you're wasting energy. Planting the heel down and letting your skeleton take the impact is recommended.

In my lineage we learn to pick up our feet to move. We don't train to 'pivot' while keeping the foot on the ground (which to me seems like slipping, shifting, or sliding).

We pick up our feet, and turn our feet, similar to how you'd do it playing basketball, for instance. We can be very mobile compared to many other lineages.

One reason given is that if you fight on a realistic surface (gravel, dirt, grass, uneven surface, etc), stepping gives you surer footing and allows you better interruptability (in regards to moving your entire body closer or further way from your opponent. I'm talking inches here, not feet).

However, I have to admit that when you're toe to toe in a sparring match and attacks are coming fast and hard, shifting your weight/angle with my legs and/or hips quickly is effective... but since the shifts are so quick, I would say that I am, at that moment, pivoting more than I am stepping. Especially if I want to stick close to my opponent.

Keep training!

Dec 30, 2018
by: Rick Lee Harper

My school teaches to shift and try to stay on the heel, but I have seen the problem with this in a real fight. You cannot do it effectively if you are not in the school or happen to be on a flat and at least slightly slippery surface. So I learned, one day when wearing Vans with too much grip, to lift my toes a little. Works in school but still not real world. I finally figured out that, like the forms, it is more of a thing to do when training. I began hiking at a lake close to me and training at the midpoint. I train there on grass or rock, gravel and even wading in water. I have also connected that the way I relax when hiking to flow when I walk over whatever I go over, my body actually will move "Wing Chun" and that all the years of hiking and off-road running has already taught me! You MUST pick up your feet and when on rough or high-friction ground this is the fastest and most efficient way. Just remember to take the shortest and most efficient path. Not to drone on, but when you do the second two forms this reality is actually there, even in class. You just need to connect the dots!

Comment by Rob: Hi Rick, thanks for your input and sharing your "real life" experience. I agree with your assessment. On real terrain you have to pick up your feet... enough ... to not trip and keep your balance. and stay mobile.

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