Wujido 101: Basic Kicking method; the Round House Kick

RK2There are a few basic movements that come natural using the legs.  There is walking, running, jumping, squatting, and kneeling.  The amazing capacity of the hips and legs to perform almost an infinite variety of movement in dance and sports goes to the amazing capacity of the legs and hips to move to the will and intent of the doer.

However, for those interested in such advanced movements as performed in dance, yoga, martial arts, and sports; it is necessary to develop a capacity for movement, range of motion, ability to absorb impact and so forth if one desires to excel.  Kungfu and Karate are no different in this regard.  We should not forget to mention muay tai and other such kicking arts as these also have become popular today.

One should approach the skill of kicking in the proper manner to avoid undue setbacks due to injury.  Further in such a skill as martial arts the issues of precision, speed, power, and the ability to deliver percussive blows without damage to your own body in the process is of importance.  The latter is unfortunately sometimes given insufficient attention which has led to many practitioners suffering crippling injuries as well as accumulated damage to the joints in such a way as to create great pain in one’s later years.  So the learner should perhaps avoid breaking certain fundamental rules under the delusion that taking a short cut will have benefit worthwhile.  Wujido Institute would be of the persuasion that short-cuts are to be avoided at all times since they lead not only to injuries and suffering, but often shorten a player’s competitive life, and not least of all produce diminishing returns ending in the inability to perform the very thing one had originally sought to master.

The Round House Kick

The images that follow are a breakdown of the proper method of training the round kick.  Not learning the round kick in this manner will often generate several very bad and often fatal habits that are the reason so many individuals in karate, taekwondo, muay tai, and kungfu experience joint crisis such as sprains and tears in the knee joints and problems with the hip joint after a period of practicing.  This is not solved by kicking heavy bags and often only exacerbates certain idiosyncratic tendencies.  Proper use of training gear such as heavy bags and target bags are fun and quite entertaining, but aside from learning and mastering the correct method their value is less than what many believe in being able to develop a devastating round house kick.  The following is explained how to perform it, and how to train it.  Applications are for another lesson.

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The 5 Point Method

The 5 point method is here explained.

Take a good ready stance.  The stance you take can vary depending on your habit.  A boxer’s stance, a back stance such as in karate and taekwondo; here is demonstrated a modified “ready” stance referred to in Wujido as Zhenbei Shi.  The following method is highly recommended

  1. Toe out the forward foot 45-90 degrees depending on target.  The weight should be shifting to the front.  A most important strategy to learn is when doing this one must track the middle of the patella (kneecap) with the interior space adjacent the big toe so as to aline the hip, knee, and toe during the entire movement.  This takes all the stress off the knee and also focuses 100% of the energy through the hip, through the knee (without obstruction) and to the foot weapon which in this case is the ball of the foot and NOT the top of the foot.
  2. The kicking leg is elevated and at the side of the body.  The leg should be elevated as quickly as possible and strike with a primarily horizontal energy (jing) that allows the kicking leg to strike low, middle, and high with equal ease.  The photograph above demonstrates a high round house kick. It is best to break the kick down to these 5 progressive stages and to do them slowly even stopping and holding the leg in position for a moment before continuing to complete the cycle.  One will discover of course that there will be balance issues  but will yield amazing results if the practice is persisted in over a substantial period of time.  The practice will seem very difficult and clumsy at first when compared to wildly kicking a bag (which is fun and entertaining); however the skills acquired will dramatically outstrip the individual who believes relentlessly kicking on a bag is somehow going to produce superior skill.
  3. The extension phase of the 5 point method should not be done quickly.  It should be done quite slow at first, persevering in this for many weeks and months until the realization that the ability to do this method slowly and gracefully with full balance will produce the most powerful and accurate kick possible for you and at which time you will have realized the full measure of the practice.
  4. Draw back of the kick should be just as the point 2 phase.  The recovery should be slow and deliberate and all your efforts made to maintain poise and balance during the recovery of the kick.  The roundhouse kick is a strike; consider for a moment the leg like a rod or a blade, when delivering a cut with the blade the withdrawal of the blade should be in the exact manner in order to not become entangled.  A beautifully executed round house kick feels similar to swinging a baseball bat the way one would to hit a home run or single, double, triple, etc. One would not walk up to the plate dragging the bat on the ground and swing at the ball from there.  The path is horizontal by its nature like a left hook, not a golf swing.  A round house kick from below to middle and high position is easily defended with a brush off or a lean.  The correct round house is deadly and devastating and confusing to defend as the chamber is the same for low, middle, and high.
  5. Recovery should be to a posture that is precisely similar to the one in which you began.  It is important to be proportional and do not lean or lose your balance when delivering or recovering the kick.

Delivering the Round House Kick in Real Time

We say that we do what we practice.  If you practice incorrectly then when it counts your technique will not mean very much.  This is ultimately up to you and you alone.  Now that we have looked at the proper method of training it is important to now translate this into the reality of using it.  The reason for using the 5 point method is to train the joints and the muscles in the body to respond properly to your intention.  Since kicking in such manner is in reality an unnatural act, there are antagonizing nervous and muscular responses. For instance, it is a puzzle that for most people when they elevate their leg to kick the body and hips tense up and make it very difficult, even risky.  The reason is that the body responds to the kicking motion as if the body is slipping or falling and attempts to protect itself by tensing the opposite and antagonistic muscle groups.  When a person learns the bow stance (gong bu) with the rear leg extended and straight and the forward leg bent often at 90 or 45 degrees the connective tendons and muscles of the leg allows such a move so the relationship is similar to a kick placed higher than ones head but when one attempts the high kick they experience pain, failure, or injury.  Why?  Because the body is trying to protect itself.  It must learn, but not by tearing and distorting muscle and tendon in such a way as to cause lasting injury.

Therefore muscle and tendon change exercises are first practiced as well as perfecting alignments so as to remove unwanted joint stress and also create efficient energy pathways.  This of course is into the theory of action and we will deal with this more at a future time.

The one-beat method

After gaining confidence in your kick and this means control, precision, balance, and range of motion, then one should develop for speed, power, and explosiveness.  This can be accomplished by using the one-beat method.  The following images were taken doing the one-beat method.

RK1RK2The one-beat method is really very simple.  If you have a training partner then your partner can clap his hands or just say kick(!) or hit(!) at a variable pace so that it is impossible to anticipate.  This will have a beneficial effect on the reflexes and explosive potential. The goal of course is to kick as explosively as possible to the intended target.  One might kick low or middle or high, but under no circumstances should thiis be done combined with an effort to stretch or kick higher as injury is far more likely.  Every kick must be within your known range.  You get length and power using other methods.

The two variations in footwork is to use the front leg or use the back leg for the kicking.  If you have mastered the 5 point method your kicks will always follow the correct path of least resistance and create no undue stress or crisis in your joints.  Too many martial artists have destroyed their knees doing kicks incorrectly.

When using from front leg to kick you should rapidly bring your rear foot forward to create forward impetus, balance, and speed when you kick.  You will notice the power is less heavy but the speed is very fast, quite similar to using a jab if you are a boxer, only you are using your legs and feet to hit. Always chamber the foot with the toes pulled back so as to hit with the ball of the foot.  If you do not develop this habit expect to be breaking your toes quite regularly if you engage in heavy sparring, full contact or have the bad luck of having to defend yourself in the street.

The Hammer

It is useful to consider the metaphor of a hammer.  Most of us have had the experience of hammering a nail, at least I hope so.  If you have in fact done quite a bit of it you have hammered upright, on your  back, and side-ways.  In every case the action was to swing the hammer using the handle and hitting the nail on the head with the hammer.  Think of the ball of the foot as the face of the hammer and your target is the nail.  In this metaphor it is helpful if you have hammered a nail sideways as most people have. If you have not, find a hammer and hit a nail swinging the hammer in horizontal manner and you will understand the energy of and the use of the anatomical weapon used in the round house kick.  It is not advisable to hit with the top of the foot. The top of the foot exposes the metatarsal structure and this is relatively weak, easy to injure and bruise. The ball and heel of the foot are designed for impact and should be used in most circumstances; otherwise, the knee and shin are proven effective at closer range.

As with all techniques one must do many correct repetitions. 100-1000 a day depending on your time, commitment and so forth.  A professional fighter of course should be in the higher range of that number and the common person should attempt to have a habit of 100-200 a day if they expect to develop considerable skills.