View Full Version : Pivots and twists

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08-13-2002, 02:01 AM
When pivoting, is there any general rule as far as pivoting on the heels or pivotig on the balls of the feet? I've asked my instructor and she thought she usually pivoted on the balls of her feet. But she said I should do what feels natural. Usually when I do what feels natural, I end up doing it incorrectly. I was wondering what approach others take.



08-13-2002, 03:17 AM
I was told by ALL of my instructors to pivot on the balls of my feet, because they are stable then your heals

08-13-2002, 03:35 AM
Yeah, that was a problem that I had in karate too. I was fine with my right foot behind, but with my left foot, my toes keept getting snagged and it just didn't feel natural :( ...

08-13-2002, 03:57 AM
Hi, Dave!

Hi Dave!

It's Dave!


Anyway, yes, when you pivot, you do so on the balls of the feet. The reason its more stable than the heels lies in the foot's flexibility - it acts like a shock absorber, damping the strain of movement out of the turn. Also, when the ball of the foot is the pivot point (in other words, the fulcrum of the lever it's just become), the ankle, and therefore the lower leg attached to it, moves in an arc over the floor - look down at your own foot to see what I mean. The effect of this is that when you pivot, the leg stays under the body's center of gravity, making it much harder to lose your balance.

When pivoting on the heel, on the other hoof, the leg is effectively planted to the ground and the act of turning will rotate it out from underneath the body - try it slow to see what I mean. Also, by rolling back to the heel, you're leaning your body backwards slightly, once again off it's center of gravity. Maintaining balance becomes next to impossible from a practical standpoint.

There is, of course, one exception (there always is...). I don't know if it's correct or not, but when I'm turning a fast half-turn, I rotate my rearward foot to the heel. Then, as I continue pivoting and the rear foot becomes the forward foot, I roll it back to the ball of the foot. It's kind of a throwback to the Army; it's essentially how we do an about-turn in squad drill, but it has the advantage of speed - you can turn blazingly fast that way - pushing with the toe and pulling with the heel, particularly if you're wearing big, heavy boots at the time. (lol)


08-13-2002, 06:16 AM

for what I know, in T'ai Chi Chuan one turns on the heel and in Aikido one turns on the ball of the foot.

I asume both forms are correct within their own context.

08-13-2002, 06:21 AM
I suppose some of our teachers tell us different things. My teacher told me to pivot using the center of my foot, trying to feel the mat with my instep as it were. Anyone else?

Kevin Wilbanks
08-13-2002, 06:50 AM
I'm very suspicious of advice that you should always pivot on the balls of your feet. I'm pretty sure Ikeda sensei pivots on the center and heel. I just did a few tenkans and half tenkans, and it seemed like the pivot point varied with the turn and circumstances, and even during different points in the turn. If you're keeping your body heavy and sinking, and possibly conducting a good portion of someone else's weight down through your feet at the same time, I think you'll find it nearly impossible to pivot purely on the balls of your feet without it seeming like some kind of awkward calf-raise exercise.

Try pivoting really quick and light, and it will be all balls/toes. Now grab a 45 pound plate and pivot, and see what happens...

08-13-2002, 06:54 AM
This question has come up many times on this thread. From experience I can say that it can be dangerous to learn pivoting on the ball of you foot. What tends to happen is that the foot often remains planted whilst the body turns. Since the knee is bent, it doesn't snap it, but it stretches the ligaments in the knee. After several years of practise you will find your knees are damaged. This probably why you turn on your heel in Tai-Chi

HOWEVER saying all this, turning on the ball of your foot is quicker! So what do you do? The problem isn't so much 'turning on the ball of your foot' as much as making sure your knee is directly over your foot (and not pushed out to one side). To do this the hip joint (which is a ball and socket joint) needs to be made more flexible, and thought needs to be taken when practising turns.

Best way is to practise irimi-tenkans very slowly at first, and not 180 degree turns - start with 90 degree turns. Place your front foot straight along the line between two mats, then step at 90 degrees, placing the foot straight at this angle. You'll notice your hips are now turned inwards and your feet point towards each other BUT your knees are over your feet.

Then, step behind the foot you moved, into position. Make sure the back foot does not swing beyond the heel of the front foot (otherwise the knee is bent outwards again).

Keep practising this until you feel comfortable with the stretch in the hips. Then you can do the 180 (or slightly less if often better). It is very difficult to turn the feet to both point each other, so the best bet is to turn the foot before it hits the ground. You can tell you are doing it right if the foot is pointing directly infront of you (and directly over your knee), without adjustment, when you stop.

Hope this helps!


08-13-2002, 07:07 AM
Ah, so that was my problem...(knees over toes thingy). My feet turn out naturally (I can easily bend my knees while keeping them touching when my toes are about 8 inches apart :freaky: ) so I guess I'm destined to have more problems with this in the future :( ...

08-13-2002, 07:46 AM
Try this, it's rather interesting;

You stand (right or left hamni) facing uke, uke has a jo or bokken. Uke is going to tsuki at the middle of your chest. You cannot take a step, both feet MUST remain on the floor..

Only by pivioting on the balls of your feet can your body be taken off line of the tsuki (or attack). Uke will miss by a slight amount.

If you piviot on you heels or in the center of your feet, you will indeed turn, but you will not be taken off line of the attack and uke will make contact. In fact, you will be turning into the line of attack if you turn on your heels.....

You decide......

btw, this is an exercise taught to me by Hooker sensei.


08-13-2002, 09:39 AM
I think the key is on the weight placement if knee injury is the quesiton.

There's a difference in the path of your turning if you do the balls of your feet or your heels.

My sensei taught me to tenkan on the heel (front foot) but with the weight on the ball of the foot (back foot). This produces a tight curve

The Jo exercised described by Mongo illustrates the other curve, which is a little wider. In effect you pull the hip closest to the center line away from it

When you pivot on the heel you push the hip furthest from the center line inwards to it.

So in my humble opinion, both ways can be right depending on the circumstance.

What's wrong is to turn on the planted foot, whichever pivot point you chose.

In my short 4 years I started out by feeling my knees going. They started hurting like hell every practice. For a while I gave up aerobic aikido in favor of slow practice just to figure what was hurting my knees. I was turnign on a planted foot.

08-13-2002, 09:44 AM
BTW, Hooker sensei showed the jo exercse at a seminar earlier this year. He noticed us pivoting on the heel and made his point of the ball of the foot.

Afterwards I asked my Sensei and he said

- he's right

So i asked ..what about the heel?

- I'm right

how come?

- when it's appropriate.

the rest is my own observation.

08-13-2002, 10:36 AM
I believe, but may be wrong, that Don Angier does a fair amount of turning on the heel rather than the ball of the foot.

The Wrenster
08-13-2002, 05:18 PM
hey, have u tried rolling from the front of your foot to the back, or, from your heel to ball as you turn, 'rolling' on the outside of your foot??? i think its a bit similar to skating, but im not a proffesional! ;)


Matt Ashley
08-13-2002, 11:16 PM
I think it depends ... firstly on how one stands in hamni. Some say you should stand with your feet perpendicular to each other (or at some other angle than 90 degrees). Also people disagree about how the front foot should line up with the back. (e.g. front foot inline with back heal vs. back ball of foot etc.)

Once one establishes a "correct" or at least comfortable hamni, it's hard to pivot 180 degrees without moving the feet and still end up in the same stable hamni, at least by pivoting on balls and heels alone.
My teacher told me to pivot using the center of my foot, trying to feel the mat with my instep as it were. Anyone else?
I try to do the same, but I found an intersting article that might shed some light on the issue. There is an interesting drill toward the bottom of the page.


I hope this helps.

08-15-2002, 12:12 PM
Hey! thanks for the link. You know I've never seen the "triangle" explained other than what I have figured out on my own. That's great! I feel so vindicated now.

Yeah, and the pivoting exercise, yes that matches what I was taught , though not explained in that same sense.

If you focus on keeping your weight between the heel of your front foot and the ball of your back foot you can educate your body to find center.

When you pivot you alter which foot is front and back, and the exercise described describes that shift in weight (front heel , back ball) happening as you pivot.

So when pivoting you shift your weight to the heel of your back foot (which will become the front foot)

this is all good for the knees.