Friday, September 20, 2013

An Older Version of the Okinawan Front Kick

There  were different ways to perform a front kick in Okinawa’s past karate. Egami Shigeru, a senior student of Funakoshi Ginchin, in his marvelous book “The Way Of Karate Beyond Technique” vividly describes one of them.

“The form of the foot in the front kick when I began practice was with the toes folded down.The part of the foot that struck the opponent was the first joint of the big toe. Since the toe had to be strong – otherwise they might be broken – we were made to practice standing, and even walking with our toes folded, as shown in figure 96.  Having mastered this, we practiced jumping with our toes in this position, and I was eventually able to perform a double kick (ni-dan geri) in this fashion. Although this kick was performed in demonstrations because of it’s interest, it had no relevance go training, and few practiced it because it was so painful”.(1)

One believes this was a method of older style kicking from when karate developed. Placing the entire force generated by the kick into the first knuckle joint made for a smaller more intense kicking surface. Stories of a kick, making a student on the receiving end ill unto death, seem more credible. Then the change of karate to train young men in University or secondary schools made new kicking forms, such as the ball of the foot, less painful and less dangerous to one kicked, a most rational change.

Engami describes other changes in karate, when more must have been similar to the Itosu origins.

This is not the only older method to kicking.  Christopher Caille in his article on his site describes another tradition.  . Other traditions still use these older kicking traditions, Ueichi Ryu karate comes to mind. However in most contempory karate the newer kicking traditions predominate.

I should note if you are inclined to experiment with this kick there is obvious danger to the performer. One should attempt to gain competent instruction and practice slowly.
(1)    Page 53


Charles James said...

Very interesting Victor. I believe that AJA uses this technique in the Sunsu kata bunkai, i.e. a toe rip kick.

Kyudokan New England said...

Hello Victor-san, the single big toe kick is rarely taught anymore in the US. We call it 'tiger toe' and the strength of the toes can basically be done by lightly kicking a piece of wood with the toe or while in push up position taking turns kicking the floor with each big toe.
I must respectfully disagree w/ Egami's: "Although this kick was performed in demonstrations because of it’s interest, it had no relevance go training, and few practiced it because it was so painful”.(1)" Yet like everything one must practice it to perfect it.
I used the tips of my combat boots to slow an unruly bar fighter when I was a LEO with quick light strikes to the quads or inside thigh.
BTW, could not get Chris's URL to work in both Chrome & FF. ;(



Victor Smith said...

I suspect Engami was referring to the developing karate in Japan, and not to the techniques effectiveness in defensive situations.

Victor Smith said...

It is only fair that I chime in a bit.

For one thing there is not one sort of toe kick in the Okinawan Arts. There seem to be quite a few. Many are kept private for the most part, within the systems that use them. And there are some like Uechi which openly share the idea, because they have made it work for a long time, use it, and don’t care if you know.

In any case kicking with the toes is something Okinawans did do. Times change, the time training changes for people changes, the style of footware changes. It makes sense the style of kicking would change too.

Because much of this is private, we do not have a vocabulary to accurately describe these kicks. Some versions to consider:

1. Kicks with the straight toe tip
2. Kicks with the toe kept in a cupped position.

3. Kicks with the 2nd toe held over the big toe.
4. Kicks with the big toe first knuckle (as in the picture shown)

Christopher Caille at has done a good job discussing this:

I am sure this does not describe all of the possibilities.

I think much of this stopped because the extreme training involved had to start at a very early age, and it did not fit larger classes. Past those ages it is much more difficult to begin these kicking techniques.

I first read Egami’s description in his book back around 1977 or so. I have thought about it many times over the years. There is no question a strong kick with the toes gets results, strong results. And there is no credible way, today, to ascertain which is stronger.

But we are in different times. When we are in the world we are shod. States like Ma. Have classified kicks while wearing shoes a weapon. I have seen individuals having that charge added to their charges from altercations. Even footware is different in different places. Training, regular training, must be undertaken with those shoed to learn how to use them effectively More akin to those done in Chinese styles of kicking.

Cowboy boots, Steel tiped work boots, shoes, running shoes etc. all require some familiarization of technique changes to be effective.

Just some thoughts for discussion.