Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Self Defense - The Front Kick

Forward stance - front leg bent, back leg straight

ou can see this kick in almost every martial arts program – the front kick.

It’s simple and straightforward, and although the preferred target has always been the groin, the front kick can be directed against pressure points, bones, ligaments, tendons, etc. from the ankle up to the head.

For someone not involved in the martial arts, the kick can be effective and quite practical if the attacker is positioned directly in front…as long as the kick is limited to the groin area or below.

Aiming at any target higher than the groin might compromise the balance – and power – of an untrained defender.

For speed, power and adaptability to a wide range of angles during the flow of a real self defense situation, the front kick has to be practised!

Let’s take a brief look at the 4 stages of the basic mae geri keage (front snap kick) found in most forms of Karate –

Raise your leg while shifting your weight onto the bent leg

1.  We start off with the left leg forward (or the right leg forward). The left knee is bent so that the knee cap is in a vertical line with the centre of the left instep. The right leg remains straight. 70% of your weight is carried by the left leg, 30% by your right leg. Your back should be straight and comfortable. Your shoulders remain relaxed.
(In many forms of Kung Fu, this position is referred to as a bow and arrow stance).
2.  Maintaining the bent position of your left leg, shift the rest of your weight smoothly onto your left leg – without rolling your shoulders or otherwise disturbing your balance. Please do not raise your head. Keep the position of your head and shoulders steady and unchanged.
At the same time as you shift the rest of your weight onto your left leg, lift your right leg directly in front of you, knee bent. The knee is at least as high as your right hip, if not higher. (The knee should also be in line with your right hip for structural integrity). 
The sole of the right foot from the ankle to the base of the toes should be parallel to the floor. The toes should be curled up and back. This protects the toes and exposes the area of the foot with which you will be striking – the ball of the foot.
Toes, ankle, knee and hip should all be aligned.

Side view of the completed front kick

3.  Snap the foot out toward the target. At the point of impact, your foot should be stretched straight (the sole remains parallel to the floor) and the toes curled up. Strike with the ball of the foot.

Smiling defender vs. surprised attacker!

4.  As soon as you’ve hit the target, pull the leg back into position #2. From there you can kick again without having to place your foot back on the floor. Or you can return your foot to position #1, the zenkutsu dachi (forward stance).
Breathing – inhale through the nose as you raise your leg from positions #1 through #2. Exhale forcefully through your mouth during the actual kick. Inhale quickly as you retract your leg.
Your knees – be very careful. Snapping your leg absolutely straight hundreds of times can place wear and tear on your knees, especially if you’re older and the cartilage of your knees has become a bit brittle.
As well, repeatedly kicking bags that are very heavy and offer very little give may actually weaken your ankles and wear down your knees.
Please practise safely.
In future posts, I’ll touch on more sophisticated impact surfaces such as the instep and the big toe.

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