Sunday, May 29, 2016

It is Just a Front Kick


Memory is a funny thing, things just pop up for no reason. I just had such a memory.


About 20 years ago I had a phone call from someone in another system, Shorin based, and he was describing a clinic he attended in the Western United States. I used to work out with him 35 years ago, though we have long fallen out of contact since that time.


Anyhow the memory goes like this. At this clinic a very senion Okinawan instructor was present more as an observer. However at one point he allowed the group to pose questions to him. Someone asked about the Okinawan use of the roundhouse kick. His reply stunned everyone. He said “in all his years in Okinawan karate, he only used one kick.” There was no follow up to that response.


Now I assume he might have meant the front kick, which at even different angles of delivery remains a front kick.

The Front Kick II


My previous post on the Okinawan front kick, made me think of other things that should be said.


In my Isshinryu practice the front kick is done a variety of different ways”


          1, The front kick to the front

                   a. The front kick as a thrust kick to the knee

                   b, The knee strike to the front (lifting the knee of the front

                       kick in chamber as the strike)

                             i. done with constant acceleration forward

                             ii. done with constant acceleration upward

                             iii. done with explosive acceleration forward

          2. The front kick to the side.

          3. The front kick on your back on the floor into the opponents

              Descending reach

4. The use of the heel of the foot returning to chamber at the

    conclusion of the kick

5. The use of the shin of the front kick as an impacting surface.

6, Each step as a potential front kick

7. The front kick delivered at a 45 degree angle from the floor.

          a. Done with the thigh as the target

          b. Done with the side of the ribs as the target.


Then there are a range of targets to consider: 


          1. The toes

          2. The entire length of the shin

          3. The knee,

          4. The entire length and depth of the thigh

          5. The hip joint where the leg meets the hip

          6. The groin

          7. The abdomen and the sides of the ribs

          8. the solar plexus

          9. The armpit

          10. The chin

          11. Attacking the rear of the opponent, the entire body offers


          12. When striking with the heel

                   i. the back of the knees

                   ii. the back

                   iii. the groin from the rear


While I have done my best to be complete, I am sure I am missing some possibilities.


The use of toe kicks with the front kick.  Many Okinawan systems of training included use of the toes with a front kick. This is done with a variety of ways the toes is used and conditioned in different systems. Among them:


1.  the toes is a cupped position as in the accompanying Gojushiho

    front kicks. Useful for kicking into the armpit.

2. Where the toes are curled back and you practice conditioning the  

    big toe knuckle joint for striking. (I wonder if this is done any


3. Where the 2nd toe is crossed over the joint of the big toe for

    Added stability

4. where the big toe is conditioned by striking tires and walls as in

   Ueichi Ryu


I am sure this list is not comprehensive. The use of the makiwara for striking was also part of many of those practices. I understand all of these methods deliver a penetrating kick as to the thigh, abdomen, solar plexus and other locations.


I did not receive such training in my Isshinryu practice. We were taught to strike with the ball of the foot. This is also penetrating but not so much as with the toe tip kicks.


I would like to add a bit of reality here. I realize these may be part of your dojo practices. But I am not Billy Jack or training anyone to be like him. Specifically I would not remove my shoes (boots) before I would kick. In that light we use summer practice (and at other times) to specifically train with our shoes on.


As it turns out during my studies in Chinese Arts with Ernest Rothrock, one of my studies was the Jing Woo Association form Tam Tuie. The form is done in Chinese style boots with hard toes. The targets are toes, ankles, shins, thighs and groin. The method of tensing the foot to use with impact is also useful for our kicking with footware.


Effectiveness using shoes too.


Several specific kicking drills I use are a re-creation of the Itosu 8 point kicking drill that is described by John Sells in Unante. I consider it one of the best drills I have. It offers insight on kicking from the inside of an attack. I have not filmed it ever but I offer these notes.


Recreating the Itosu Eight Point Kicking Drill


Another good kicking drill, working on balance, was described to me by Joe Swift. It is the Mabuni 7 point kicking drill. I did film this one.


Mabuni 7 point kicking drill


Everything here supports that there is not such a thing as a simple front kick. It is a complex and vast study in all our arts, or so it is from my point of view.

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