偷步 (tou bu) "Sneaking Steps" is a type of footwork that we can commonly observe in Chinese martial arts. Below is an example from the Chinese WWII Sword Da Dao manual, which is currently the 'youngest' manual on this website, written only in 1933
To perform a "Sneaking Step", let's say you originally had your right leg in front, and left leg behind. Your rear (left) leg then passes from behind the front leg, so your legs end up in a kind-of crossed stance. This is one of the stances that looks more 'flowery', and some people may question the practicality of it in combat.
Why would you want your legs to end up in a crossed manner in the combat? Wouldn't that make your movements more awkward?
By a stroke of luck, I managed to capture this footwork being used in free-play sparring. Take a look below.
As you can see, left guy used "Sneaking Steps" to cut at right guy's leg.
What "Sneaking Steps" does is that, it gives you an extra bit of reach in your attack. Let's say you perform your footwork, ending up with your right-leg & right-hand forward, which is the stance that gives you the most reach if you're holding the weapon in your right hand.
What if this wasn't enough? Let's explore a few choices that you may have:
You step forward with your left-leg to gain more reach, as if you're walking. But this will mean that your hips have to turn, bringing your left-hip forward, thus reducing your right-arm's reach.
You use "Shuffling Steps". Meaning, you maintain your existing right-leg forward stance, but you merely shift forward a bit more for that extra reach. But this is a slightly slower process, and more observable by the opponent.
"Sneaking Steps" is the quickest way to get a bit more reach, well, sneakily. There is lesser chances of the enemy being able to tell that you're sneaking a step, hence the extra reach you're gaining will come as a surprise to them.
But you better make sure you manage to hit your opponent, because it may take a longer time for you to recover back to a proper stance.
Is there any other practical functions for "Sneaking Steps" that you know of?
Please share them in the comments below!
Ancient Chinese Martial Arts Manuals