Agility is broadly defined as the ability to efficiently modify a body’s position in space. The drills in this section will help you to do this with balance, speed, and strength.
An agility ladder is built by using rope and flat pieces of plastic and it is laid down on the floor. There are also many companies that sell inexpensive ones. The main idea is to never touch the rope or plastic. Your feet (or hands) only go either inside or outside of the boxes. Ladder drills have a ton of variations and also go well with sprints or plyometrics.
Check out our Youtube playlist below and scroll through some of the many drills. Have your own? Add them in this page’s comments!
Some common ones include: One foot in, two feet in, bunny hops, in and outs, in-in out-out, triangle switches, one leg jumps, ski jumps, step behinds, two forwards one back, etc.
You can also do some fun paper rock scissors games.
Aerial Pad Game
This drill is great for agility. You basically throw a target in the air and have the student hit it out of the air. You can do this with rings where they have to punch through the ring in order to successfully complete the drill. Another option is to use soft pads and have them hit it out of the air.
This drill works well with techniques (like kicks or punches) that have a certain trajectory. You can have them try to hit a target that is along that trajectory. For instance, for roundhouse kick the pad should go 90 degrees to the person. Have them try to hit another person or some type or target. Have multiple rings and give different points for hitting each one. One idea we had with this was to put $1 in the drink machine and then throw a pad in the air. If a person could kick it out of the air and hit the button, they got a free drink. Although there was no damage the company that owned the drink machine asked us not to do this drill anymore.
You can also have multiple teams and have people toss things in the air and others on their team try to kick it out of the air and at their opponents.
You can also make students do something before hitting the bad, for instance roll then stand up and kick, then roll again and kick another pad. This drill also works well for training with weapons.
Ball Game/Kill Box
This is a very popular game with our students. You put a box to divide the students into an inside team and an outside team. The inside team usually has some restrictions. We make them crouch and move around only by rolling. The outside team rolls a ball at them and tries to get them out. Once out they have to come and join the outside team.
We call the game kill box when we add grappling. In this version students can grab each other to try to get their opponents out or use their opponents as a human shield. Depending on the level of the students, you can allow submissions and make them out if they get submitted as well.
This game also does great for training integrity. If the game is going on too long, add another ball. If the people on the outside aren’t holding on to the ball for too long, this will also help the people on the inside develop 360 degree awareness.
Blaster Pad Sparring (and multiple/team)
Blaster pad sparring is one of the first forms of combat that we introduce young children to. It teaches them many important concepts, such as that a smaller person can defeat a bigger one by being smart and using technique.
We make a 3 meter by 3 meter ring and put opponents in two of the corners. They hold a large pad, and can hit their partner however they want, but it must be with the pad. There are no kicks or punches. You win by either knocking your partner down or by knocking them out of the ring.
The game is really fun for kids, but adults love it as well. We added this as an event in our martial arts tournaments and everyone has a good time. We make each match best two out of three and then the tournament is also double elimination.
Variations: It doesn’t have to be one on one. It’s great to do this two on one, or as teams. You may want to allow the person in the middle to do push kicks. This is great training for multiple opponent sparring. You can also add this into other drills. Everything is harder if someone is trying to hit you with a pad while you are doing it.
2 by 4 Balance Course
We used 2 by 4s when we were doing some construction in the dojang – just put a center point so that they move. This works great in obstacle courses as well.
Want to beat the heat and work on balance? Have students work with a cup of water on their head. Alternatively, use it on any other part of their body for instance during a stance in a form. Here we are just trying to stand up and sit down. Be careful no one slips on spills.
Jump Over Roll Drills
This works in a group of 3. Let one person roll while the other jumps and then kicks a target held by the third player. They then have to switch directions and jump back as the other person rolls towards them.
Hip Twisting Jumps
For this one jump up and try to twist your hips back and forth as fast as you can. Try to get three times. This will help a lot with hip flexibility which is required in many sports. When people are thinking about twisting their hips, they aren’t tired from jumping. Keep your upper body straight.
Low High Pad off the Wavemaster Drill
Place a soft pad on top of a wavemaster or other object. The idea is to hit twice. The first hit will dislodge the pad, and the second one will knock it out of the air. This works really well with double kicks, but you can use any two techniques. Try cut kick and back kick for a special challenge. Hand techniques are much easier. See a video at the link above for more details.
This is a good warmup or ice breaker for students who don’t know each other that well. Have one student do something, while the other one mirrors him. You can do this just with footwork, just with a certain technique, or with any technique. This will be a fun way to get students used to reading other people’s body language.
Shoulder sparring is another fun way to break the ice or get people warmed up. It will also teach students about deception, work on their agility and reaction, and help them make friends. The concept is simple. Just touch your partner on the shoulder, while not letting them do the same to you. There is no striking or grappling. Try to fake so that the other person has a hard time. It’s also good to set a trap by leaning in.
Boxing Rope Drill
In boxing it’s critically important to be able to bend your knees and duck under your opponent’s punches. However, most people naturally look down when ducking or bend at the hip. For this drill tie a rope between two points. If you have a variation in height of the people doing the drill, tie one end lower than the other so that they can go to wherever on the rope they want to. Have the students bend their knees to go under the rope and then come up and punch or make another movement. You can also have them start at the back of the rope and move forward until they get to the front.
Foot Step Drill
The foot step drill is similar to the shoulder sparring drill. Have two students each try to lightly step on the other’s foot. Be careful with this drill. You might even want to let them wear pads on the top of their feet. The idea is to work on trapping, agility, distance, and timing.
Balance is defined as having the weight distributed in such a way that the body is stable. A more precise way to state this is that the rotational moment of inertia equals zero, or the center of mass passes through a supported point. For instance, when kicking, in order to stay balanced you must lean backwards. Your chest weight more than your leg, so you have to lean back with your chest only slightly even though your leg is fully extended.
How to make a balance board – There are many commercially available items that can help with balance. However, you can also make your own. One easy item to make is a balance board. Cut a 2 by 4 to be about a meter (or a little less) long. Then screw a flattened piece of a garden hose to either end, or place one (or two) golf balls on each end. This balance board is inexpensive, easy to make, and can be used in many different drills. The following image shows a balance board and also a balance ball.
Balance Board Drill (perform a sport specific movement)
One great balance drill is to perform any sport specific movement on the balance board. For martial arts we like to have students stand in various stances and do blocks. You can have them block the air or have them block a foam weapon. For other sports this could be anything. For instance, in soccer have them balance on the board while taking a free kick. In football have them balance while catching a pass. In basketball have them balance while dribbling. Things done on one leg will be a lot harder, as will things there the center of gravity has to go far out (a first baseman reaching in baseball, for instance).
Crane Stance Competition (variation of teams/disruption)
One great competition we have is to see who can stand the longest in crane stance. This just means standing on one foot. People with good balance may be able to do this up to an hour, so you usually don’t want to take that much time out of your class unless you are doing it for something like a school record.
For variations, try this in teams. You can see after 5 minutes which team has more people still up. If there are young kids or beginners you might want to give them multiple lives. You can allow the teams to distract each other. You can also make people jump whenever you give a certain command.
Muy Thai Balance Contest
This balance contest uses muy thai pads, but it could use any flat object (such as a book or pad). You could also use a cone. The idea is to have the students make their stances (or any other sport specific movement) with the pad on their head. Whoever can do it without the pad falling off is the winner.
Another variation is to have the students walk around and then try to knock the pads off each other’s heads. Make sure they don’t hold on to it or it will be too easy.
You can also have them do this on one leg or do any other sport specific movements. Holding the pad on one leg while balancing on the other isn’t easy, but it will help students with their balance skills.
One Leg Obstacle Course
One of the best ways to have students balance is just to set them on an obstacle course one-legged. Great things for this include the agility ladder, plastic rings you can set out on the floor, balance balls and balance boards, kicking bags, etc. Have students hop their way through it. You can make them do any sport specific moves with their upper bodies during this course.
Hopping on one leg for more than a few steps is beyond the range of most children until about 6 or 7 years old. For younger ones, let them switch legs after each part of the course. For older ones, have them go through the entire course on one leg. You can time them, and give them a 5 or 10 second penalty every time they touch the other leg to the ground. Depending on the difficulty of the course/level of the students, you can allow 1 or 2 touches and instead reward those who make it without touching with bonus time. It doesn’t objectively matter, it’s really just about teaching philosophy.
The higher they have to keep their leg up, the more difficult this part will be.
One great sport specific drill for martial arts is to make people stand on a balance board (or other balance training item such as balance balls or Bosu balls) and have them block. This works especially well if you throw things at them, and train them to block with a weapon. A common error among students is to ‘chase’ targets when blocking instead of letting the attack come to them. Having them block while on a balance item will help break them of this habit because reaching out too far will cause them to lose balance. Another way to do it is the Suspended Blocking Drill, as shown below.