View Full Version : Kicking problems

7th July 2002, 02:54
I just started studying Bushidokan style Karate and noticed that I have difficulty kicking.
I have been told that my power is acceptable but my technique needs some real work. The problem is that after a few(even non-powerful) reps, my legs turn to mush and I am unable to work technique because my legs are so weak that I'm no longer kicking but throwing my leg into the bag to make some contact. I was hoping that those of you with more experience than myself could describe some exercises to strengthn my legs so I can practice clean kicks long enough to actually perfect my technique.
Scott Torrence

7th July 2002, 03:14
Hi Scott,

I'm sure opinions will vary but I have always belonged to the school of "you want to kick (or punch) better, then kick or punch MORE".

Giving advice over the net is difficult because no one can really "see" what your problem is. I'm a bit confused by the statement that your power is good but not your technique. Thats sort of like telling Mike tyson that he scored a great knockout but it didn't look pretty! Either the kick works (hits hard) or it doesn't. Maybe he wants to see tournement flash.

There are leg strengthening (your probably looking more for endurance though) excercises such as squats that would help, but I would recomend to just keep kicking. Use the heavy bag and kick away. Don't try to kill the bag, power and speed will come in time........just continue to progress.

Just my 2 cents

Good luck

7th July 2002, 04:45
I agree with Tommy P, it all comes in time don't push it with the kicks, slow and steady.

Leg exercises (pick a couple, don't do them all now):
stairs .
All your blocks and punches in a deep kiba dachi.
We do A LOT of ten no kata, with low stances.
I train karate every other day, the other days I do STRETCHING, weights and long WALK or JOG.

Bag work (slow):
Front kick.
3 sets, 12 reps each side.
Do this for a week.

Then 4 sets, 12 reps each side.
Every week add more kicks until you are up to 20 reps.

We focus heavily on leg strength and this works for us. Just make sure you stretch every day at least once.

Steve Beale

7th July 2002, 06:57
I have to agree with what has been said. A lot of times, people put too high an expectation on themselves and get frustrated when they don't meet that goal. I have seen this with kicking a bazillion times. A lot of people aren't able to kick past their waist, SO they decide not to kick. You will never get better at something you don't actively pursue. Kick slow, and kick low. After time, you should notice you can kick a little higher, and a little quicker. Don't get frustrated by 14 year old Athleto-man over there on the side who can kick over his head. Thats not you. Just do your thing. Keep working the slow-n-low and make progressive attempts to go further. Don't set a date when you want to be at X height, that will just frustrate you if you don't hit it. Do your thing, do it a lot, do it with intent, and you'll get better.

Finally, the other thing I tell people who can't kick well is this... A kick to the head is good, but if you kick Athleto-man in the knee and take it out, he can't kick you in the head anymore!

7th July 2002, 13:54
Ah kicking, possibly my favorite topic to discuss in terms of mechanics.

Here are the things I show my students to shave time off of their development of basic kicking skills.

1. Pay attention to weight shifting. This is true of any technique on a basic level. The shifting of weight onto the support leg should take up more than 50% of the distance to the target.

2. Really study the angles of impact. A powerful round house strikes more across its target than around an arc tangent to the target (this is one example). This is one of the core problems with most kicking styles today. There are always variations, but start with the most efficient method and move onto variations.

3. The arc of the knee is usually more shallow than is what is shown in basic strengthening drills. For example, hiking your leg up like a dog on a fire hydrant for roundhouse kick is a good hip exercise, but kills your weight shift and hurts the hip if thrown as a "real" kick. The knee should come through at 15-20% degrees for middle level round house, a larger angle for a lower kick, a smaller angle for a higher kick.

4. You should be able to feel the connection of your bones and muscles from the impacting limb down to the supporting leg. Use a wall to learn this. This is a crucial error. Internal feeling of one's own body is much more important than getting a kick to look a certain way.

All of this goes out the window if one's instructor is more concerned with form over function. However, if all of a sudden you are kicking 200-300% harder and deeper than you were, it is hard to argue with that evidence.

Hideyuki Ashihara's books Fighting Karate and More Fighting Karate have some of the best presentations of good kicking mechanics that I have ever seen. Unfortunately, they are out of print. :(

The most important thing you can do is play with it over and over. Practice just your weight shifting, then practice the arcing of the knee and motion of the hip, then practice your distance at impact and use of follow through. Do these separately and then slowly together, it is like recording a song, you don't just get in there and play the song at first.

Supplementary training is important. Strength and flexibility are two sides of the same coin. All the "chick" machines at the gym are the most important ones for kicking. I hope this helps.

Shitoryu Dude
7th July 2002, 15:45
Is this a roundhouse kick? If so the problem may lie in your body rotation - or rather the lack of it. Watch how others do this kick and you will notice that their support leg is facing some 135 to 180 degrees away from the target. Most beginnners have the problem of their roundhouse kick looking like a painfully executed front kick.

This is not easy to learn without a heavy bag, and having a spotter helps out quite a bit as well. As you launch your kick, take a small step with your support leg and allow it to rotate as you rotate your hips for the kick. Not only will the kick seem almost effortless, it will be several times stronger. Work a heavy bag for several minutes a day before practice - kicking into the air is, in my opinion, practically worthless. You need that feedback from actually making contact to get better.


7th July 2002, 21:23
Wow, thanks for help guys.

My dojo is primarily concerned with self-defense and not prettiness. When we do go to tournaments, it's usually to participate in Kumite, and judging by the number of 1st and 2nd place trophies, we do pretty well.

As far as my kicking goes, I just want good technique, not so it looks pretty, but so it's done right. I can kick hard enough right now, thanks to previous training, to hurt or even injure people and can kick pretty high. It's just that I want my kicks to be perfect. It's hard to explain, it's just that in terms of martial arts, I am a bit of a perfectionist. I want that perfect kick not for tournaments, but for my own satisfaction. If I'm told to kick or punch a bag or whatever 15 times, I take that to mean 15 times correctly and will stay as long as I have to to do it right 15 times. This is why I'm frusrated with my legs. I want to keep drilling my kicks so that they are perfect but they tire out and don't retract well. My kiba dachi endurance has improved since I've been at this dojo, but for some reason my kicking endurance is still low. It's not a type of kick that bugs me, it's that I don't retract all that well after about 175 kicks(we do 25reps each leg with 7 diff kicks every class).

Side question: I'm not used to kicking with the ball of my foot so I keep banging my toes when I kick the bag using roundhouses. I try to pull the toes back but it still stings and I'm worried about breaking a toe. Any suggestions or does this just improve over time?

Again, Domo Arigato
Scott Torrence

7th July 2002, 23:34
The problem with toes in the ball of the foot roundhouse is that most people try to stand in front of the bag, and then hit perfectly at 90 degress on the side of the bag. Try adjusting your angle to hit more like 45-60 degrees on the front corner of the bag. This will produce much better results for penetration and your toes. Oh, also remember the knee stays bent and does not extend fully, this allows you to insert the kick using the kick side hip and supporting leg.

This means you may have to change some fundamentals in your positioning and distance and may open up new possiblities and insights into how this kick can be used.

My favorite target for this approach is the bladder, in that it really obscures the kick. You deliver it from the side with your chest facing the opponents chest, hopefully while checking the arm and using that as a screen for the kick.;)

Shitoryu Dude
8th July 2002, 01:00
Not all styles use the ball of the foot as a striking surface for a roundhouse for the reasons you mentioned - broken toes. However, good shoes will take care of that issue if you ever have to use one outside of the dojo or ring.

The alternative to using the ball of your foot is to strike with your instep. While easier to execute and learn, it has the disadvantage of not penetrating. I would suggest practicing on different types of targets - using your instep on the heavy bag, and the ball of your foot while having someone hold a soft, cushy target until you get the hang of it. The instep is a good striking surface for many occaisions, but if you really want to take the wind out of somebody you'll want to use the ball of your foot.

As far as your leg getting weak - practice your deep stances for extended periods of time. Building up leg strength is the only thing that will help you on this, except perhaps breathing practice. Also, pace yourself between kicks so that nothing feels rushed.


Mike Williams
8th July 2002, 10:34
My kicking sucks, and I don't get to practise enough.

Anyway, last Wednesday at class I'm working on the Thai pads with another student, and our head instructor comes over and gives me some tips on hip rotation and footwork. I'm the only one working on the pads, and I'm making a lot of noise. It's towards the end of class, so a couple of black belts wander over to observe/critique. Plus some of the other students are watching. I have an audience.
So I swing a roundhouse a little higher than I would normally attempt and I'm concentrating on getting my hips to power it and thinking about what my supporting foot should be doing....

...and I manage to lift my supporting leg of the floor and crash down to the mats in a heap. One of the black belts looks over and just says: "your side breakfall is coming along nicely - keep working at it!"

(while the rest of the class collapses in laughter)


(give me groundwork any day)

8th July 2002, 12:08
I have a student who is absolutely meticulous about everything he does. On day while practising a front snap kick to a side thrust (same leg, targets at 90 degrees) the student was focusing heavily on his retraction from the front kick. I just happened to look at him in the mirror as he retracted his leg and his alignment was off so he kicked himself in the kneecap on the supporting leg. He kicked his own leg out from under himself. I have never seen anyone go down so fast.

I was at a complete loss for words. I will have to remember the breakfall line.

Ball of the foot. When I was much younger I found a cure. I broke several toes on different occasions kicking a heavy bag. I got tired of walking on broken toes (and continuing to practice) so I learned to pull the toes back as far as possible and to angle my foot to align appropriately with the target. As someone once said, "pain is a wonderfull teacher".

Steve Beale