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What is a Goose-Step?

The goose-step is a powerful military march style where soldiers lift their legs without bending the knee, symbolizing unity and discipline. Originating in Prussian military drills, it's a display of strength and obedience. Intrigued by its historical significance and global perceptions? Discover how this step has marched through time, shaping and reflecting national identities. Join us as we explore its journey.
Ron Marr
Ron Marr

If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, as the old saying goes, it is probably a duck. Luckily for them, ducks have never been required to march in the military cadence known as the goose-step. This exhausting and odd-looking step requires an unnatural leg movement, sometimes continued for hours on end. Historically, goose-stepping has been the preferred parade march required by totalitarian leaders.

The goose-step most likely originated in 19th century Prussia. To perform the goose-step, the soldier locks his knee and quickly brings his leg to a nearly 90 degree angle. He next brings the legs down with force, smacking his boot into the ground so as to make a loud, slapping sound. The movement is then repeated with the other leg, with the process continuing until the march is completed.

The goose-step was standard practice for soldiers in the Soviet Union.
The goose-step was standard practice for soldiers in the Soviet Union.

It has been suggested that the purpose of goose-stepping – which was almost always performed in unison by a battalion or platoon – was to demonstrate discipline via synchronization. Though the step was once popular, it generally fell out of favor in the years following World War II. One reason for its decline was that goose-stepping was the march preferred both by Adolph Hitler and his Nazi party, as well as by the Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini. It did not die out completely, however, and the goose-step was standard practice for the soldiers of the former Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991.

The goose-step fell out of favor after Adolph Hitler and the Nazis began using it.
The goose-step fell out of favor after Adolph Hitler and the Nazis began using it.

The goose-step is rare, but can be seen during parades by the Cuban military, and continues to be popular in North Korea, China, Vietnam, Chile, and Iran. The Chinese government is so fond of the step that it was actually demonstrated at the opening of the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing.

Those countries whose armies do continue to goose-step may be trying to signify the strength, determination, and indomitable spirit of their soldiers. To goose-step for even a brief period of time is exhausting, since the movement is somewhat contradictory to a normal range of motion. Those who can perform the step for long distances are without doubt in prime physical condition, no matter how strange they might look.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the origin of the goose step?

The goose step originated as a Prussian military marching style in the 18th century. It was designed to display discipline and unity among troops, as the march requires a high level of coordination and strength. The term "goose step" itself refers to the resemblance of the marcher's leg motion to that of a goose's step, with the leg swung forward from the hip in a straightened position, without bending the knee.

Why do soldiers perform the goose step?

Soldiers perform the goose step primarily during parades and ceremonial events as a show of military prowess and discipline. The step is intended to demonstrate the strength and training of the military unit, as it requires considerable muscle control and coordination. It is also a symbol of obedience, as the difficult maneuver requires soldiers to follow orders precisely.

Which countries still use the goose step today?

As of the last available information, countries that still use the goose step include North Korea, Russia, China, and several other nations with strong military traditions. These countries often feature the goose step during national parades and events to showcase their military discipline and strength. However, the practice has declined globally due to its association with authoritarian regimes.

Is the goose step considered controversial?

Yes, the goose step is considered controversial due to its historical association with totalitarian regimes, particularly Nazi Germany. Its use by the militaries of these regimes during displays of power and aggression has led to negative connotations. Consequently, many view the goose step as a symbol of oppression and militarism, which has contributed to its decline in use among most modern militaries.

How difficult is it to perform the goose step?

Performing the goose step is physically demanding and requires a significant amount of practice to execute correctly. Soldiers must maintain a rigid posture while swinging their straightened legs at a uniform height and angle, all without bending the knees. This requires strong core and leg muscles, as well as a high degree of balance and coordination. The difficulty of the maneuver is a testament to the discipline and conditioning of the troops who perform it.

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    • The goose-step was standard practice for soldiers in the Soviet Union.
      By: axellwolf
      The goose-step was standard practice for soldiers in the Soviet Union.
    • The goose-step fell out of favor after Adolph Hitler and the Nazis began using it.
      By: Recuerdos de Pandora
      The goose-step fell out of favor after Adolph Hitler and the Nazis began using it.