How to Improve Your Kicking

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

We use our legs a lot. For just about everything, really. Yet as planes, trains, and automobiles reduce our walking to the bare minimum we are, historically, now using them the least.

Rocky had to run up many stairs

They help us move up flights of stairs, and run a marathon. Most relevantly though, as a Karateka, we use them for kicking.

So with a variety of kicking techniques – mae-geri, mawashi-geri, yoko-geri, ushiro-geri, mikazuki-geri and so on – we often in class work on two specific aspects. These are flexibility – for the capability to kick both at low and high targets – and technique – to kick these targets without hurting yourself. Students train in class, get corrected on form, go home, practice, come back, get another minor correction, go home, practice… rinse and repeat.

The following is information to help you make the most of your home practice. While Wado technique is taught in class by a Sensei, refining this technique is up to you at home.

Practice Your Techniques Differently

One of Wado’s principles is the use of speed for techniques. After all, momentum = mass x velocity, so to create a good, strong kick you need either higher mass, or greater velocity. Training your kick to be faster is generally much easier, and more consistent, than working on increasing your mass.

However, speed without a grasp for technique will just end in injury. We generally practice our techniques at a working speed in class. Students line up, and move across the Dojo practicing the techniques as instructed by the Sensei. We might then split off and use focus pads or kick bags to get a sense of contact with our techniques. What’s often left out, usually due to time-restrictions, are movements that really stress your body into learning the technique. These are perfect for home practice, where space may be more restricted.

Try this: Using the same form as taught, but instead of a one/two second technique, stretch it out to 5-10 seconds. Kick slowly. Stretch it out equally. Don’t take 5 seconds to bring your knee up, two seconds to flick your leg out, and 5 more seconds to land. Work with the same ratios as a full-speed technique.

You will find this works out far more than just your legs. You’ll find that your balance will need to improve, that the straightened position of the kick is much more difficult to hold than when your foot is chambered, and that you are suddenly a lot more conscious of what your arms are doing.

If you are struggling to hold your leg out for even a fraction longer, use the wall for support, then once you’ve improved, move away from it.

Ensure Your Support is Correct

Mawashi-geri foot positioning

Mawashi-geri foot positioning during a stretching exercise (www.wadokaikarate.com)

This is one of the points I highlight the most when teaching – the supporting foot – because it often affects the kick so drastically. When doing a mawashi-geri, is your supporting foot in the same position as when you started the kick, or has it pivoted backwards? (For a chudan kick, I usually recommend aiming for 135° from the front). Does your yoko-geri’s supporting foot face a full 180° backwards?

You will find having your supporting foot in the right position ‘unlocks’ your hips to rotate correctly, and this should even allow you to increase your kicking height as well!

Can Weightlifting Increase My Kicking Strength?

I’m a weightlifter, and by no means am I an expert. I started to do it because I wanted to increase my strength and muscle mass. I love squatting – my current record is 135kg, and anyone who’s done some of my warmups knows how I much I train the legs.

The question is: will this affect your ability to kick?

In a nutshell… not a whole lot. Remember that equation we used earlier? Mo=MxV? Well, heavy lifting will help to increase your muscle mass, so long as you eat properly.

If you increase your body mass, then your kicks will hypothetically get stronger. Do ensure, however,  that you keep training speed, as there is no point increasing one side of the equation and decreasing the other!

What weightlifting (and all adrenaline-pumping exercises) will help with is the ability for your body to fight/run/train longer. Use weightlifting to assist you in improving your general health and fitness. Don’t rely on it to directly make your kicks better.

 

The bottom line is, to become better, you need to practice. Practice hard, practice fast, practice slow. Practice at night and during the day. Find ways to integrate everyday movement into exercise. It’s part of karate. Therefore it’s now a part of your life.

 

Sources and Further Reading

Categories: How To...

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