Essentials of kicking

If karate is a dinner, and punching is the meat, then kicking would be the potatoes. Kicking also tends to be what people associate with martial arts as a differentiator as compared to boxing or other sports which are hands-only. So, it is important to be proficient in kicks. Here are some tips.

4 steps of kicks

We preach the 4 steps of basic kicks in class. They are truly important and mastering them will instantly separate you from your peers. Let’s examine each in detail.

  1. Chamber: Be sure to raise your knee up before kicking. The higher you raise your knee, the higher your kick. If you do not chamber, then your kick is not really a kick, but a high-step. This is not a kick! Chambering gives you power.
  2. Kick: Self explanatory – if you don’t kick, you are not hitting your target. This is the entire point of kicking!
  3. Re-chamber: This is the key step that separates advanced students from beginners. After the kick, bring your leg back into chamber position. Do not let your entire leg drop! This is done in case you need to kick again.
  4. Set down: This is the end of your kick. The foot goes to the floor and this is done for balance.

Striking surfaces

You can’t simply shoot your foot out there and hope for the best. When you give someone a high five, do you throw your hand out and hope for the best, or do you shape it into something reasonable? Same thing with kicks. Let’s go over a few striking surfaces for the most practiced kicks.

  • Front kick: Ball of your foot
  • Roundhouse kick: Top (shoelaces)
  • Side kick & back kick: Blade edge and heel
  • Inside outside crescent kick: Blade edge
  • Outside inside crescent kick: Instep
  • Ax kick: Heel
  • Heel kick: Heel

Flexibility

Another aspect of great kicking is height. Now, everyone is different, but everyone can also maximize their kicking height. In general, your kicks must be at least belt level to be considered minimally successful. So, you must pay special attention to stretching. The more you stretch, the more flexible you get, and the higher your kicks. And if your stretches are not hurting, or at least uncomfortable, then it isn’t working!

Defense

This is an easy 1, but also another differentiator between beginners and masters – keep your hands up while kicking! Don’t let them down for balance or power. The image for this blog post is a great example of what not to do.

Balance

Finally, you need to develop a good sense of balance. You cannot be wildly off-balance when kicking. This will throw off all of the other parts of your kick. This comes with practice. And the good news is that this is easy to practice outside of the studio! Practice anywhere you can and see how long you can keep a leg up!

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