An Example Theme Class

Most classes include the same components: warm-ups, basics, forms, partner work, sparring, etc. One of my favorite ways to teach a class, and to challenge myself, was to find a way to pick one theme or concept and incorporate it into all of those categories. Today we’ll look at one specific stance in the martial arts, the Twisted Stance, and come up with drills for all of those categories that emphasize it.



Instead of jogging or jumping rope, have students run grapevines (or karioka) around the classroom. This is good for coordination and will get the legs warmed up. Having the basic motion of crossing and uncrossing drilled in will make the rest of the class easier.

As part of stretching have students practice all the ways to get into a twisted stance. Start in a natural stance and then cross your left foot in front and hold the stance for 30 seconds. Reset, cross the right foot in front, hold another 30. After that, cross your left foot behind and hold, then your right foot behind and hold. It’s a good workout for your legs and also helps you get the stance right. While the students are doing this, correct their foot alignment and posture. Make sure every student’s eyes and hands are up as it’s very common to look down when doing drills like this.

Basics (Air)

twisted side kick.png

The most obvious way to practice this is with stepping kicks. You can practice a lead-leg sidekick or back kick by crossing behind and then kicking. You can also practice a lead-leg roundhouse by crossing in front. I personally find it a little awkward but I’ve seen people get a lot more power out of the front leg using this method.

The crossing footwork can also be applied to hand techniques. Try a step and chop with a cross behind motion and see how it feels! Drill these techniques across the room to really get them to sink in.

Basics (Equipment)

bag twisted combo.png

One of my favorite ways to end a combination is with a kick and cross in front on the way out. It keeps your center-line protected and helps you get away faster. Try this combo on a heavy bag:

Left Jab (1) – Right Cross (2) – Left Hook (3) – Left Sidekick (4) – Cross Out (5-6)

When you perform the kick, push off the bag and have your leg land in a twisted stance crossing past your right foot. Then have your right foot step out to a fighting stance. If you do it right you should be safely out of immediate striking range.

Try and build your own combinations and see if they can end with this kick and retreat footwork!

Forms and Kata

twisted clock.png

This category is style specific, but have everyone work a form that includes a twisted stance. Have students do the form slowly, emphasizing all the details of the stance such as toe position and weight distribution. To really drill in the stance, have each student pause when they get to the twisted stance before moving on.

Partner Work (Self-Defense and Bunkai)

4 way twisted drill.png

This one is a little more elaborate! Have the attacker stand behind the defender. From there, the attacker pushes or pulls the defender in one of the 4 diagonal directions. The defender will step into a twisted stance using the footwork pictured above to catch themselves, regain balance, and turn to face the attacker. This drill builds awareness, balance, and teaches a practical application of the twisted stance.

Another way to practice the twisted stance is to add the cross out from the bag drill to all of your self-defense techniques. After defending yourself or escaping the grab, cross out in the same manner as above to get out of striking range.


twisted side kick

Work the cross behind sidekick we did in the air above. A great use of this is against opponents who retreat a lot. Try stepping with your left foot and striking with your left hand. When they retreat, cross behind with your right foot to cover more distance before kicking with your left foot. You’ll have an easier time catching them with this footwork!


Today’s post was all about the twisted stance, but that’s really just an example of what you can do with theme classes. Can you take another stance, basic movement, or concept and do the same? It keeps things interesting, and gets your students thinking about how their techniques relate to each other.

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