Efficient in the way that you are not wasting much needed energy to load up for the powerful strikes. Muay Thai, the Art of 8 Limbs is a beautiful combination of grace and controlled aggression based on quality over quantity. Your footwork should closely follow these principles as well. Wasted energy in your footwork will only deplete the power of your 8 weapons. Finding the dynamic balance between standing still and sporadic movements is an art all in itself. Western boxers can get away with the light footed dancing around in the ring, but even they have the understanding or deliberate use for their ring movement.
Muay Thai requires a different mode of transportation since heavy, destructive kicks, knees and elbows are of regular use for attack. Western boxers can risk bouncing on their toes in regular intervals since low kick strikes are of no concern.
There is a time for a Nak Muay to be light on their feet but learning to be heavy by sitting down and grounding one’s base will also benefit any Muay Thai stylist. Don’t mistake this idea for being flat footed at all times as it’s important to be mobile when needed for offense and defense. This kind of movement will be a balance of subtle bodyweight shifting and purposeful angling or forward aggression. This will help you create openings while keeping your opposition wondering and unable to set up for their own attack. It is always harder for your opponent to hit a moving target. Think of being like a shark, either moving forward or circling suspecting prey. You will be doing your best not to move backwards uncontrollably because moving backwards without a calculated purpose only plays in to the offense of your opposition.
There are two mindsets to be aware of when moving in reverse:
#1 You can NOT outrun a train if you are back pedaling on the tracks, so step off of its path
#2 Bullfighters side step the horns of an oncoming bull. Stumble backwards and you will be eating horns!
Practice and hone what has worked for me for the last 20+ years. The 6 Step, AKA Step & Glide addresses all directions of movement.
1. From your stance of choice (orthodox or southpaw) step ahead with your lead leg first while pushing off of your back foot. Slide your back foot in to your starting stance being sure NOT to bring your feet together. Your back foot should travel the same distance as your lead foot, keeping your movements symmetrical.
2. Step back with your rear foot, pushing off from your front foot (follow same premise as step #1)
3. For orthodox students (righty) push off the rear as you step to your left, again gliding your back foot in to your stance. Southpaws will do the opposite, leading, stepping and gliding to your right.
4. Going back to the opposite direction (for both righty or lefty), step with your rear foot pushing off the lead and then gliding that foot in to lead position.
5. Change up directions with a pivoting movement. Starting with your lead foot take a slight step to your left (righties) for momentum and swing your back foot, hip and leg at a 90 degree angle to bring you back in to your stance.
6. Get back to your original starting position by slightly stepping with your lead foot again off to your right (being sure not to cross your feet) and swinging and gliding your rear foot at a 90 degree angle to the right. You should now be facing back to the starting position.
Check out this video for a breakdown!
Keep in mind that this is a sharpening drill and you will not be moving in this specific order when sparring or fighting. This is meant to give you the most efficient way to move your feet during a combative scenario. Don’t practice until you get it right, practice until you can’t get it wrong.