If you collect this series of articles then you’ll have a comprehensive kicking companion for beginner to black belt - and beyond!
In my last article we looked at limberingup exercises and positioning for bent and straight leg with a view to better kicking. Raising the knee to the front and the side is good for front-, side-, and turning kick. The single best way of improving your kicks involves bending the kicking leg as much and as quickly as possible. A fighter whose kicking leg is so bent that the heel is on his buttock as the knee is lifting to the target will have a fuller extension and thus a better, stronger kick. This bent-knee is also crucial for hitting close range targets. For example, you’ll find it easier to side kick someone in the head from close range if your knee is ready and the leg is cocked. Try it for yourself! This bio-mechanical theory applies to front-, side-, turning-, back- and especially jump kicks. So check your technique out in a mirror or with a partner. It is very important to exercise your ‘worst’ leg first in every instance. We all have a dominant leg, so exercise your weaker side first in every instance because your powers are stronger when you first concentrate and this allows you to better work more on your weaker leg. When you perform advanced techniques like jumping and flying kicks, there should ideally be equal balance and strength in both legs so you aren’t limited by weaknesses you should have eradicated in earlier training. Breathe quickly out on each leg or knee raise, and breathe in whilst returning to the start position. Here are some exercises for lifting the knee whilst keeping the leg as bent as possible:
1. From fighting stance, lift your rear leg (which is bent at the knee) in a straight, upward motion. Work one leg then the other in sets of at least 20.
2. Try diagonal or turning knee from fighting stance. Turn the hip right over so you’re kneeing downwards. On impact, the heel of your supporting leg must be pointing at the target. Train in front of a mirror or with a partner,making sure your leg is fully cocked. Remember to point your foot down to protect toes. Next, work on this leg-raising routine because it exercises the whole body and this kind of stretching is a great way to get the joints working the way you want them to. It allows you also to practise correct body alignment, trunk flexibility and balance - all at the same time. Keep the leg you are raising straight during the following exercise. As you get better, so you can practise free-standing. Remember: mirrors or a partner help you practise.
Straight Leg-Raising Exercise (2)
Use one hand to steady yourself as you stand close to a wall but as your balance improves, so you can rise from fighting stance while keeping your hands in defensive position. Lift your knee to your shoulder with the foot above your head. Go as high as you can each time and perform 10 reps on each leg. Make it harder by raising the right leg, tucking in your right shoulder and raising the leg beyond your shoulder line.
Face a wall or punch bag. Lift your hands to shoulder height and press them against the wall or bag. Thrust your straight leg across your body so, for example, you bring your right leg around to your left side. You’ll feel the stretch on your inside thighs as you do 20 reps on each leg!
Stand with toes and shoulders facing the wall, placing your left hand high on the wall. Point your left heel in the direction you are kicking and raise your straight right leg sideways. Keep your toes down and your heel up, and look in the direction of the leg raise. This prepares you for side-kick. For more of a stretch, keep your body as upright as possible and your supporting heel pointing away from the wall instead of towards the target. Try this free-standing later and do 20 reps on each leg.
Face the wall or bag and place both hands on it. Swing your leg up and straight behind you. Look over your shoulder and see your leg at the top of its swing. This helps you gain height for back kick as well as helping with back flexibility. Do 20 reps on each leg. I like to do these leg-raising routines after stretching but before more strenuous training. They are a great way to warm up when done quickly, plus they improve your mobility and flexibility. In the next article we’ll begin to explore the fundamental kicks in more detail, together with techniques, drills and exercise. Until then, keep working away in the leg-raises. They really work!
Master Tony Vohra is always pleased to advise individual students, clubs and instructors and he will arrange courses & seminars to suit at home and abroad. For further details, for individual stretching programmes or for access to Kukkiwon certification, contact:
President Grandmaster S. S. Vohra (8th dan),
International School of Martial Arts UK HQ,
Nottingham School of Tae Kwon Do, Ilkeston Rd., Nottingham NG7 3FX, England.
Tel: 00 44 (0)115 9780439
Fax: 00 44 (0)115 9785567