In this post, we will cover several different categories of kicks. These include rear kicks, crescent kicks, and hook kicks. There are two or three kicks per category in the requirements for achieving the rank of Yellow Belt (Hachikyu). These kicks are not taught in the order presented here but are rather established as requirements to earn various milestones (stripes) within the belt.
We will discuss the delivery of kicks using the right leg. Kicks using the left leg would employ the opposite side and use complementary angles on the octagon.
The following kicks are focused on a target behind you.
This is commonly called a back or rear kick. It is frequently initiated from Heiko Dachi by raising the kicking foot until it is at the desired elevation level. The knee then drives the heel back and into the target. It is very important that the foot remains directly below the knee and that the knee remains pointing straight down during the initial phases of this kick. If the knee points off to the outside at all then the kick will likely go wide of its intended target. This occurs because moving the knee outside a little reorients the hip joint. Now when you extend the foot back the hip joint will guide your leg both out and back. If you want to kick straight back you will need to keep the knee oriented straight down as the foot moves to the rear.
The foot position is important in this kick. When students first learn the kick it is not unusual to see the toes pressed further back than the heel. This means that the toes would strike a target before the heel. This is an invitation to broken toes. Think of touching your toes to your knee as you extend your leg back. While this is not generally possible, it will pull your toes forward of the heel so that the heel strikes first. This kick should always attempt to strike with the heel of the foot.
Return the knee briskly to the front to pull your torso back into balance. This can be accomplished by thinking of driving your knee forward and into an imaginary opponent directly in front of you. When done with intensity this will pull your hips forward and your shoulders back so that hips, shoulders, and knees are all aligned vertically.
As you gain experience with the kick you will want to consider the elevation at which you are kicking. Most new students kick at roughly the elevation of the knee of their pedestal leg. There is nothing wrong with that at all, but if you wish to kick higher there is a delivery method that can help.
When you begin the kick keep your foot tucked up tightly against the back of your thigh. As your knee moves back to initiate the kick keep your foot in this tucked position a bit longer than normal. You will find that you kick higher. The elevation of your kick is determined primarily by how long you keep your foot in this tucked position and how far you lean forward. Release the kick early and you will kick low. Hold the tuck longer and you will kick higher. Don’t go overboard too early or you could injure yourself. Slowly work up to higher elevations by experimenting with this method of delivery. Try to minimize the amount you need to lean by working on longer-duration tuck positions.
Ushiro Kekomi Geri
Ushiro Kekomi Geri is the rear thrust kick. This kick can be accomplished in one of two ways. In both methods the leg is held at full extension for perhaps a quarter of a second before kicking knee is briskly retracted.
The first method is to use a slightly modified Ushiro Geri to thrust the heel further back into the target. This requires little more than a further extension of the leg and perhaps a minor rearward thrust of the hips. The result is a fast and powerful kick.
A second method involves rotating the hips such that the hip associated with the kicking leg moves back. The knee then moves outward (this is different than a normal Ushiro Geri) and pulls the shin up so it is generally parallel to the floor. The hands rotate with the torso so that a guard is focused toward angle two of the octagon. The kick is then extended back and the foot will contact the target along the back edge and heel of the foot.
If you analyze this delivery method carefully you may notice that it is employing a Yoko Kekomi Geri. The only difference is the starting position of the kick.
As a Tensoku Ryu student, you may use either delivery method when demonstrating this kick or when asked to perform it during a ranking examination. You can even alternate versions of the kick for these same purposes.
This group of kicks includes Keri delivered with a circular whipping motion. These kicks are often employed to move or drop an opponent’s guard, strike to the head, or impact an opponent’s hands or forearms. These kicks employ an unusual delivery method and can be effective at confusing, manipulating, or tricking an otherwise savvy opponent.
The kicks are delivered toward an opponent who is located at an octagon angle one. These can be difficult kicks and can be the cause of some frustration.
A common problem when doing these kicks is that the leg will not move in a continual arch. The leg seems to travel fine for a while, but then reaches a point where it unilaterally drops straight to the floor. If you are unable to do the kick with a continual smooth arch then kick lower. The problem is you are violating your current stretch limitations. Kick lower (even ankle-high if necessary) until you can do a full arch. Keep kicking lower until you feel very comfortable. What you will find over time is that your stretch slowly improves and you will eventually be able to kick quite high. Don’t force things; let them happen naturally. Take it from a former ankle kicker.
This kick is often called a Crescent, Crescent Moon, or New Moon kick. This is because the kicking leg travels in an arch or along a crescent-shaped path. The kick is initiated from Sochin Dachi or some similar standing stance by raising the knee like Mae Geri, but the knee rises toward angle 7 rather than angle 1. As the foot begins to rise and extend in the direction of angle 7, the leg begins to move through the target (located at angle one) toward the direction of local angle 5. As the foot nears angle 1 on this arching journey it accelerates so that the foot is traveling at maximum speed upon impact with the target. The foot now begins to lower and as the knee reaches angle 5 the foot has returned to its lowered and foot-down position. So in effect, the foot has transcribed an arch that extended from a low angle 7 through a high angle 1 and then down again to a low angle 5. Now pull the knee down and back to re-establish a Sochin Dachi or other viable stance. The striking surface for this kick is normally the instep of the foot.
This kick is often touted as a way to disarm someone who is brandishing a weapon in front of you. I know of someone (a quite experienced instructor) who used this kick to stop a knife attack, but I would not recommend this as a standard approach to weapons defense, especially a knife or gun. You may wish to experiment with using this kick against various weapons to see how effective or ineffective it is in a variety of attack scenarios. Don’t just assume the kick can be used to knock a weapon out of someone’s hand. That result is often hard to accomplish, and in the case of a sharp weapon, the attempt could leave you with serious cuts on your leg. In the case of a gun, you would need to ensure the speed of your leg is faster than the reflex action of a trigger finger.
Ura Mikazuki Geri
This is the Reverse Crescent Kick and represents the opposite of the Mikazuki Geri. To begin this kick the knee rises and points across your center toward angle 5. Now as the foot begins to extend the leg travels upward and in the direction of angle 7. The kick again accelerates as it passes through angle 1 and then the knee and foot lower as the leg approaches local angle 7. This is transcribing the same arch as in Mikazuki Geri, except traveling in the opposite direction. The striking surface is normally the outside edge side of the foot, but the heel might also be used.
Hooking kicks derive power, in part, from the action of bending (retracting) the knee. There is a good deal of timing involved in getting the strike to be powerful, but this is merely a matter of continued practice.
Ura Mawashi Geri
This kick is generally referred to as a Rear or Back Leg Heel Hook kick. The striking surface for this kick is frequently the back part of the heel but can be the flat surface area of the bottom of the foot (you might think of this latter application as a foot slap). The kick is initiated like the Ura Mikazuki Geri but the hip rotates away from local angle 1 and, assuming a right leg kick, your center moves to local angle 3. Now the foot rises until it is higher than the level of the knee and the leg extends outward in the general direction of local angle 5 until the leg is nearly straight. Now the knee begins to bend and the hip drives the leg over in the direction of local angle 7. The effect of this motion is the leg hooks quickly as it moves toward angle 7 and impacts the target (at local angle 1). The leg is then allowed to return to establish a Sochin Dachi or other useful stance.
The power of this kick comes from both the swinging motion of the leg and the powerful retraction of the lower leg. Both are essential for a fast and powerful kick.
Mae Ura Mawashi Geri
The Mae Ura Mawashi Geri is essentially the same kick as the Ura Mawashi Geri except it is delivered by the front leg. The right front knee would rise toward angle 3, then extend up and over toward angle 5, and begins its journey toward angle 7. The knee then bends as the leg accelerates through angle one. As the leg approaches angle seven the knee and foot lower so that you can recover your structure and balance in preparation for the establishment of a viable next stance.