I often see individuals who are misinformed or unaware on how throw a proper front kick in karate, surprisingly even at higher levels of competition. Other than those who have practiced traditional Japanese Karate, the mechanics of executing a front kick are often overlooked. Remember that this is a karate front kick, so this may vary slightly from those of you who practice a different type of martial art (eg. Muay Thai, MMA, Tae Kwon Do).
Before beginning, stand in fighting stance or a natural position. Be sure your spine is straight; imagine a string that comes out the top of your head and pulls you towards the ceiling. This is the posture you want to maintain throughout the front kick despite the motions of your legs or hands – posture is essential for stability and form.
This is the step that is often neglected in other styles of martial arts. Other styles go directly to the next step, which is the knee raise. This loading position chambers the leg into a position which allows the force from your leg to be exerted in a forward direction. By raising the flexed ankle, you are also avoiding any upward swinging motion which is not only slower, but less powerful. Remember, Power = Force x Distance / Time; by minimizing the time and maximizing the distance your leg travels, the more powerful your kick will be.
2. Knee Raise
From the loading position, raise your knee to your abdomen level, directly to the center of your body. Notice how my ankle remains flexed in the same position. Be sure to keep your upper body relaxed. The only things tensed right now should be your core and your ankle. Remember to maintain your posture.
3. Leg Extension
This is where the actual kick is delivered. Without changing the height of your knee, extend your leg. As you extend, release your ankle and point the ball of your foot forward. This is the step where posture usually falls apart; ideally your back, shoulders, neck and support leg should not move even an inch. The motion is solely concentrated into the extended leg. Since I am showing a basic front snap kick, there is no need to alter the position of your hips. However, when delivering a front thrust kick, the hip flexors can be fully extended for additional distance and power.
The kick connects with the ball of the foot, right underneath the toes. By decreasing the amount of surface area at the point of contact, more pressure is delivered to a single point, making it much more damaging. Think of a knife. Cutting a vegetable with the flat side will obviously not penetrate but using the thin side will provide a smooth cut. NEVER curl your toes inwards; by doing so you risk breaking them if contact is made with a hard surface like someone’s elbow!
From the leg extension, simply flex your knee back into Step 2 (Knee Raise) position without changing the height of your knee. As the knee is retracted, flex your ankle once again. Retraction is performed for 2 reasons:
- Quick Recovery: An opponent can easily grab your leg or sweep you if your leg is just hanging there after a kick, making you very vulnerable
- Prevent Rebound: If you are kicking a heavy solid object, you will likely feel a rebound force that is equivalent to the amount of force you put in (Newton’s Third Law). There is the possibility that you will get pushed back and lose balance or even damage your knee. By applying force for only a fraction of a second then retracting your leg quickly, you can minimize most of that rebound.
When performed full speed, these 4 steps are executed simultaneously in under a second. So you can imagine how difficult it is to perform every movement efficiently. By breaking the kick into 4 steps, you can slowly train your body to gain familiarity with the movements. The key is to perform all parts of the technique without using unnecessary body movements and maintaining posture. Knowing exactly what to move, relax, or tense is a critical aspect when trying to efficiently deliver basic techniques. Now you can go put a hole through that wall… perhaps after a bit of practice.
So how does this kick differ from the one you practice? Please leave a comment below if you have any questions, or have a variation of the front kick you’d like to share.