Kicking is one of the most misunderstood tools of the martial arts. You are potentially off balance, fighting at distance, and yet must adhere to certain basic strategies of combat. This article, however, should enable you to offset the disadvantages and develop an excellent fighting strategy, and even develop some pretty potent and powerful kicking.
Interestingly, kicks were not always a big thing, they didn’t even impact on the American martial arts until the sixties. Watch the kicks in movies earlier than that and you don’t see much, not even in the old kung fu chop sockies. The reason for this lack of adequate kicking had to do with clothing and basic strategy.
Soldiers in older times often wore armor in combat. This meant that they were carrying more weight, and their balances were often at risk if they wanted to deliver some sort of leg attack. Ask a modern day solder to kick while wearing body armor, a back pack, a rifle, while wearing combat boots, and you will easily see my point.
Another reason was that soldiers carried weapons. Why on earth would you deliver a kick, which is slower than punching, and larger and easier to see, to a fellow who was holding a sword? Or, with today’s modern warfare, a rifle?
Thus, before the advent of such arts as Tae Kwon Do, with that art’s spinning kicks and head hunters and ax kicks, martial arts foot techniques were quite a bit different. Instead of lifting the foot high and poking it straight in, which could often be easily defended against, the leg was chambered with the foot cupping the standing knee, and then flicked out. Thus, the kick was actually more of a slap with the outside of the foot.
A lot of power could be delivered with this kick, and one didn’t have to risk being off balance, and it wasn’t out long enough to be chopped with a sword. Actually, it was designed for close in work, not the long ranges appropriate to today’s kicks. And, speaking of long range kicks, we now come face to face with the reasons for today’s modern kicks.
Long, spinning, jumping kicks came into vogue with the Tae Kwon Do influence of the 60s. Long kicks took more energy, were great for conditioning, and were so different that they worked, at least in the beginning. Now, however, while they are good for a change up, most people understand and see the long kicks, and so they treat them as a part of strategy, and not the end all to strategy.
It is doubtful that we will ever go back to short range, slapping kicks at knee level. And, there is good reason for practicing the long, high kicks, for they give range, a type of strength, and are pretty darn good for shifting strategies in combat. And, the good news, one can, through proper dedication and diligence and heaps of sweat, develop powerful kicks in any art, be it Karate, Kung Fu, or whatever.