Using Kicks for Manipulation
In much the same way that we talked about using soft interception for blocks we can use kicks for manipulation purposes. Kicks do not always need to be strong, fast and powerful. At times they can simply be used to move the opponent to a more advantageous position or orientation. In essence this is the true definition of Keri No Waza, or kicking tricks. Knowing how to kick is one thing, knowing what to do with a kick is another.
If you were to step to the ear side of an opponent and then press into their front leg from behind with your back foot, you are likely using a Yoko Geri. You might drive into the back of the opponent’s knee with great speed and force to cause his or her leg to immediately buckle, forcing the opponent’s entire body to lurch in a twisting manner toward the floor. Or you might elect to press in gently so you maintain complete control of the opponent and can apply numerous other manipulations as the opponent descends downward. Neither of these is the “correct way” to use the kick – it simply demonstrates there are options other than slamming a foot into an opponent at full speed. Let’s explore a few additional ways in which you might use kicks for manipulative purposes.
A Mikazuki Geri applied to the inside of an opponent’s knee will press the knee outward causing an immediate loss of structure for the opponent. If the kick is delivered with deliberate control then once the knee has moved out of its natural alignment then the kick can be shifted into a Shovel Kick, pressing the opponent’s knee back under him or her. The loss of structural integrity in the opponent will be very pronounced.
If someone steps forward with their right leg you might utilize a Mae Kekomi Geri to contact his or her hip on the same side. If you press your foot forward substantially you will press their hip directly back. Subtly shifting the direction of your kick to a slightly downward angle will sink the hip, causing the front leg to straighten. This roots the opponent’s heel on the same side. If done properly you may induce Koshi Nage.
By now you have probably been introduced to the idea of using a Mikazuki Geri to lower the front guard of an opponent. This is another form of manipulation with a kick. You have probably learned to lower the persons’ guard with such a kick and then to step forward to deliver a Tettsui Uchi, Gyaku Tsuki, or some such hand strike. But you could also easily use the same leg that lowered the guard to strike with Yoko Geri into the void created by the missing guard. This is a simple Mikazuki Geri – Yoko Geri combination. This combination can be done quickly before the opponent has an opportunity to reposition his or her guard.
If you have positioned yourself so you are behind your opponent then you might elect to destroy their structure by, in part, pulling his or her shoulders back and into your center. This can be facilitated by pressing a Hiza Geri into the lower portion of the opponent’s back, just above the hips. Rather than deploying this movement as a forceful kick, use it in a pressing manner to push the opponent’s hips forward. This also bends his or her knees, and pulls the shoulders further back toward your center. Ooh, ooh, ooh! Another case of rooted Nage.
Try to discover at least three more ways in which you can use a kick to gain manipulative advantage over an opponent. The opportunities are vast and limited only by your interest in experimentation and your imagination.
Developing Kicking Power
People often ask the question, “How can I develop more kicking power?” There are several different strategies you might employ, each has a slightly different benefit.
First let me caution you against the one many people initially consider. Do not use ankle weights when you are kicking. Ever. When ankle weights are used they place more mass at the end of your legs. As your leg kicks the foot is projected forward. When the leg stops moving the mass of the foot wants to pull the knee joint apart. Normally the knee joint is strong enough to resist this movement, though you probably have experienced some minor hyper extension of the knees over time. With ankle weights this hyper extension is substantially increased. Small continuous micro hyper extensions occur and over time you are likely to do significant damage to your knees and possibly your hips. There are far safer and better ways to improve kicking power.
The best answer to this questions is the one people like least to hear. The primary way to improve your power is to improve your technique. Paying attention to hip rotation, extension timing, knee retraction, balance, foot position, structural alignments, speed, core muscle flexure, and breathing are the best ways to improve your power. Every one of these elements can improve the power of your kicks. If you feel one or more kicks is lacking in power then explore each of these elements in turn to see which ones are limiting your ability to derive maximum power from your kicks.
If you find your technique is quite good, but still wish to improve power then a few other things may prove beneficial. The first in increasing leg strength. If one kick or a few related kicks seem less powerful than you would like, do a little anatomical study to determine which leg muscles are used for flexing, retracting, and extending the leg for those kicks. Then look for exercises that are designed to strengthen those specific muscles. But also remember that strength is only part of the equation. Look for exercises that can improve the twitch performance of these muscles as well. You will want your muscles to be able to develop both power and speed.
But do not focus solely on leg muscles. The muscles in your back, rear end, abdomen, and even your upper torso can be directly related to kicking power. It is important to seek ways to strengthen all of the muscles involved in the kicking process. When you kick try to identify every muscle that is directly involved, from the very first muscle to move all the way through to the very last. You will naturally find this involves a great many muscles. Explore which contribute the most to any specific kick and then ensure these muscles are well toned and developed.
You might wish to use resistance bands to assist with power improvements. If one end of the band is tied to a stationary object (not one that will come flying into your face or head under too much pressure) then the other end can be used to provide resistance to your kick. It is important to understand that kicks are done slowly when using resistance bands. You will also need to realize that it may not be possible to perform the entire range of motion demanded of a kick. Resistance bands are likely to limit your range of motion to a small portion of the kicking sequence related to a specific set or group of muscles. Therefore different resistance training may be needed for various portions of the kicking motion.
The bands should not be used to improve kicking speed. Using resistance bands can help develop the core and leg muscles used in delivery of a kick. But also examine how they can be used to improve the muscles used for retracting the kick, which are equally or perhaps more important. But another major advantage of resistance bands is they force you to have proper structural alignment during delivery of a kick. If your alignment or delivery mechanism is not sound you may find it nearly impossible to deliver the kick if you are using resistance bands. So resistance bands can be used both to improve strength and to improve kick delivery techniques.
Perhaps the best way to improve kicking power is through simple practice. There are impact force meters that can be used to measure the force your kick imparts into a target. These can help you determine the baseline power you are deriving from your kicks. Now you can work to increase this power by some small incremental amount. Once that can be consistently achieved you can add another small incremental improvement as your next goal. Pay attention to the fundamentals discussed above when you find you have reached a plateau.
In truth a meter is not necessary and may not always be accurate. It can be useful, but you or the training partner holding a bag will know if you are striking with more power. Slow and steady is the best method of improvement. Small continual improvements are the way to generate the most long-term benefits in your kicking power.
Now that you have a few sound ideas for ways to improve kicking power get out there and kick. Focus on the muscles involved, the timing, and all of the other aspects of a kick each time you throw it. If you find a kick lacks power, analyze what may have been the primary contributor to this problem and see if you can resolve it on the next kick. Use your knowledge of kicking power to continually analyze how you might improve each kick.