light-footed - having a light and springy step
flat-footed - unprepared and unable to react quickly
My basic fitness re-training for my Western Martial Arts started in what some might consider being a slightly unusual place: re-training my feet.
I was (still largely am) quite flat-footed and generally unbalanced so before I even consider touching a sword again I needed some fitness training to improve my ability to move my feet lightly, swiftly, with balance and power. All my future training would benefit.
It’s long been remarked by Historical Fencers that people back in the day (prior to the 1970’s) didn’t wear padded shoes, so most clubs encourage people almost as a tradition to wear flat soled shoes. However from my experience, as someone who has generally worn flat soled shoes (converse, samba etc), this doesn’t really have the desired drastic improvement effect.
So, after being introduced to Vibram five-fingers by Stuart Peers (http://youtu.be/-ZqfvGxaboQ) and buying a pair it occurred to me that so called “barefoot jogging” was the way to go.
By barefoot jogging you are drilling yourself to instinctively land on the forefoot rather than the heel. This is a more natural movement which uses the arch of your foot properly as both a natural shock absorber and spring. You are using the full range of muscles in your feet, ankles, legs, and hips as they were designed and this make you feel better balanced. The more you walk and run barefoot you find that your feet spread and you start using your toes, which creates both a more stable base and gives you a better feeling of the ground.
Being more on the balls of your feet gives you more push off from your rear leg which is useful in explosive movements, for many examples of this from the German tradition check out the image on the left here from the Goliath manuscript and on the right here from Meyer.
Finally, the cardiovascular is helpful.
In summary, as a foundational exercise, I’ve been barefoot jogging between 4-7km every other day before training and it is producing results: I’m already much lighter, more balanced and explosive on my feet.