Front Kick Variations (Pros & Cons)

Any technique can be developed into a number of variations.  However, when it comes to the front kick, I would say that there are main variations (and many sub-variations).  These are hips side-on (FIG 1: hips facing about 90 degrees to opponent) and hips forward (FIG 2: hips facing toward the opponent).

Both have slightly different advantages which I’d like to explore.  But firstly I want to make it clear, I’m not that one kick can ONLY be used ONE WAY and the other version can only be used ANOTHER WAY, as that would be silly.  What I would say however is that each version is optimised for different purposes.

FIG 1

If we start with the hips side on version first.  This variation gives a slightly longer range.  It is also easier for doing a front leg kick.  If you get into a fighting stance with your weight on your back leg and your feet more or less in line, it becomes very easy to raise the front leg of the ground and kick with it.  This give you a better chance of keeping an opponent at a distance due to it’s additional range (especially compared with hands) and speed.

The hips forward version however has slightly less range, but it does put more actually body weight behind the kick.

FIG 2

This gives it more stopping power for somebody charging in.  Generally speaking, your body weight moves in the direction that the hips face.

Another detail is the position of the supporting foot.  If you look at Fig 1, you’ll see that the supporting foot is also pointing at about 90 degrees away from the opponent.  This is necessary or the supporting leg would be twisted and could do hip/knee damage.  However, if the opponent is able to absorb the kicks impact and keep moving forward, then the supporting foot will end up resisting the push on the little toe side of the foot which is obviously weaker.  The kicker could find themself being unbalanced and pushed back.

With the hips forward version at Fig 2, you’ll see that the supporting foot is facing forward too.  Firstly, being able to put more body weight into the kick means it would take more for the opponent to overcome and even be able to move forward.  Secondly, as the supporting foot is pointing forward, it is able to dig into the floor with the heal of the foot which will afford more resistance than the little toe side of the foot to any pressure being applied by an opponent absorbing the kick and trying to push through.

The hips facing forward (Fig 2) is the older version of the kick and the hips side on version (Fig 1) was developed later.  Why?  The hips side on version is better for the sport environment.  Although in sport, the opponent is still trying to hit/kick/strike you, because there are rules the opponent is still partially co-operative.  Unless you are in competing in Mixed Martial Arts cage fights, most competitions (traditional martial arts/Kickboxing/Muay Thai) do not allow you to grab or grapple.  Therefore the opponent is usually co-operative in that they are staying at kicking/striking range and not trying to rush in at you.

This creates an environment where that little bit of extra range is useful and the weakness on the supporting foot is not an issue.

However, the hips forward version has limitations in the sporting arena but has more stopping power in the street.  In a real assault, the attacker will not be co-operative in any way at all and will most likely be charging forward to grab you.  Most street fighters/muggers/etc are not martial artists so would not fight the same way.  Therefore range is not an issue as the chances are that your attacker will be closing distance straight away (especially for assaults on women).

I am not suggesting that you should practice one way or the other, all I would suggest is that be aware of what you are training for and chose the appropriate version of this technique.

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Bunkai Jutsu DVD’s Now Available As Downloads

As many of you will know, I’ve been selling my own DVD’s for some time now.  I’ve finally caught up with the times and they are now available much more cheaply and conveniently as downloads.

They have both received endorsements from very senior martial artists, including world renowned teacher and author Shihan Kousaku Yokota, 8th Dan Shotokan Karate and Geoff Thompson, co-founder of the British Combat Association, author of over 40 books and BAFTA award winner.

There are only 2 DVD’s at the moment, but I plan to extend the range some time next year.  For more information and to purchase, please visit the store page.

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Teenage Martial Artist Fights Off Would-Be Mugger

I was surprised to see in one of my regional papers today a story about a slightly-built unassuming 15 year old Taekwondo exponent who got the better of a would be mugger.  So I thought I’d share it with you.  The following story is reproduced from:  http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/TAEK-Teenage-martial-artist-fights-mugger/story-17433735-detail/story.html

 

WHEN a would-be mugger approached slightly-built teenager Henry Watts determined to steal his wallet and phone, he got much more than he bargained for.

The criminal, who grabbed the Staple Hill teenager on the Bristol to Bath cycle path and aggressively demanded his possessions, had no idea his potential victim was an expert in the martial art taekwondo.

Instead of handing over his valuables, Henry, 15, put his self-defence skills to good use. And in a scene straight out of the movie The Karate Kid, he freed himself from the mugger’s grasp and punched him in the face.

But rather than bragging about what he had done, Henry carried straight on to school, where he did not tell anyone about his unusual start to the day.

It was only that evening when he told his dad, Paul, what had happened. Mr Watts then contacted the police. Henry told The Post: “I usually walk to school with my younger brother Josh but was running a little bit late, so was on my own.

“I saw a man walking towards me with his head down, but suddenly he had hold of my jacket and was asking for my phone and wallet.

“I used an arm lock move to get his hand off my jacket – it basically involves getting his arm and twisting it around – and then I punched him in the face so that I could get away.

“I got off the track and ran up some stairs onto the common before carrying on to school.

“I didn’t really think much of it until later in the day, and then I felt quite shocked.

“I didn’t really want my dad to tell the police at first but he said what if it had been my brother, who is only 11?

“That made me realise that what had happened was quite serious.”

Henry wholly credits his twice-weekly taekwondo lessons for his quick-thinking reaction.

“The whole thing didn’t take longer than 15 seconds,” he said.

“It never crossed my mind to hand over my things.

“My first reaction was to defend myself, and I think that’s because of my taekwondo lessons.”

His mum Alice Watts, 41, a finance officer, told The Post: “Henry is quite slight for his age and was wearing headphones.

“I think the man might have thought he was an easy target, but didn’t realise that he knew how to defend himself. He’s been doing taekwondo on and off for about five years and obviously used some of those moves to defend himself.”

Andy Davies, chief instructor at Black Belt Academy in Staple Hill, has been Henry’s taekwondo teacher for around 18 months.

Henry, who is in Year 10 at Mangotsfield School, is graded a green belt, which means he knows around half the skills needed to be awarded the elite black belt.

“We teach a mix of taekwondo and kick boxing using a range of oriental weapons,” said Mr Davies. “The biggest thing that we try to do is to keep things simple and practical.

“Henry is a very diligent and quiet person – he’s the last person I would have expected to do what he did.

“But it shows that he had the confidence to use the moves he’d learned in a real setting to defend himself.

“It’s that confidence that we really try to instil in people.

“That takes time and training – the moves have to be practised and repeated over a period of time.

“We try to teach martial arts as a way of life and I am very proud of Henry and what he did to defend himself.

“I would like more children to learn the skills that martial arts teaches so that more can learn how to defend themselves in these sorts of situations.”

A police spokeswoman told The Post that no arrests had yet been made but an investigation continues into the incident.

It happened between 8.30am and 8.40am on November 6, on the Bristol to Bath cycle track near Rodway Common in Mangotsfield.

Police are looking for a man aged 20 to 30, with a pale complexion, who is about 5ft 7in tall and skinny, with green eyes, a goatee beard and light brown scruffy hair. He was wearing a grey or blue hooded jumper at the time of the incident.

Anyone with information about the attacker should contact the police on 101.

 

Well done Henry Watts, huge respect to you  :)

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John Johnston Is Awarded His 7th Dan

Pictured above is John Johnston being awarded his 7th Dan Shotokan Karate by Geoff Thompson and Dev Barrett at Dev Barrett’s Dojo in Coventry which is the hometown and birthplace of these 3 great men.

Dev Barrett is a former world champion kickboxer from the old school era when there was only was one world championship, unlike today were we numerous champions.

Geoff Thompson 7th Dan is the co-founder of the British Combat Association, author of 40 books (published in 20 languages), five multi-award-winning films, three stage plays, hundreds of articles (many published in national magazines and broadsheets) and a BAFTA award winner.

 

Dev Barrett 7th Dan said “Congratulations to John, a great Karate-ka who’s time has been more than served for this award.  John is genuine, experienced and knowledgeable and it was an honour to be involved in his presentation”.

Geoff and Dev are lifelong Friends of John’s.  Geoff Thompson said, “John Johnston is one of the few remaining giants of Traditional Karate.  He is a power house.  All of my formative training was under the auspice of this great teacher.  I owe him the world.  If you can get to train with him, you won’t regret it. I highly recommend him”.

If you are interested in taking up Geoff’s recommendation, then Sensei John Johnston is putting on a course at Dev Barrett’s Dojo on 1st December 2012.  Part of Sensei Johnston’s teaching style is to encourage people to find what suits them best rather than being prescriptive.  As such, this course is open to all grades of any style (not just Karateka).   The only restriction is that it is for adults only due to the content.  For full details see the poster below.

See you there!

 

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Martial Arts: A Mental Rehearsal For Success

In neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), they have a technique called Mental Rehearsal.  This is where we know that we have a particular situation coming up and we rehearse/visualise how we want it to go in our minds a number of times before the actual event.  It could be a grading or a competition.  Or it could be an everyday life event like a works meeting where we have to make a presentation or a job interview.

It is often said that we only use about 10% of our brains.  I think it would be more correct to say that we only consciously use 10%.  Our unconscious minds control many of our behaviours and automatic responses, but can be accessed with various techniques.  The strange thing about our unconscious minds is that it does not know the difference between what is real and what is imagined.  For example, have you ever been watching a scary film and found your heartbeat increasing or your breathing getting shallow and quick (effects of adrenalin).  Then the villain jumps out unexpectedly with a burst of dramatic music and nearly jump out of your seat.

Why did you react like that?  You know that you are safe in your home, watching the TV, on your sofa right?.  You know that it is just a film with actors so it’s not real, you know that the villain cannot hurt you in any way whatsoever.   Yet you still had a physical and emotional response!

Or should I say your conscious mind knows those things.  Your unconscious mind thinks it real, so your body reacts accordingly.  Then your conscious mind reminds you where you are and you calm down again.

This is just one example of how much the unconscious mind controls us without us even realising.  So if you can deliberately access the unconscious mind and use it in a positive way which helps you, then you have a very powerful tool.

Mental Rehearsal is using visualisation.  Of course as it is our visualisation we control the outcome, which (if we’re doing it right) will always be successful.  Having succeeded many times in our minds, when we go into the real event we have added confidence because we’ve already done it a number of times (and remember that our unconscious mind thinks that we’ve done it for real).

In our basics and even more so in our kata/forms/patterns, as well as practicing the physical techniques, we should be visualising taking on multiple assailants and winning.  Yes, there are many arguments about the realism and effectiveness of the applications (bunkai) to the movements.  That’s a topic I’ve discussed many times elsewhere.  But as we perform those movements with our bodies, we should be training our minds to expect many victories in many situations.

Now I’m not suggesting that if we perform a lot of kata that we can become cocky and happily take on a whole gang of would attackers because we’ve defeated multiple assailants in our minds many times before.  But kata with correct visualisation is a tool for focusing the mind and will so that they work in conjunction with your physical movements rather than undermining you with doubt and fear.  It will help you to develop an indomitable spirit.

It is similar in pre-arranged sparring routines.  Again there is a lot of argument over how practical these are and again that is not subject of this post.  But as with kata, alongside the physical techniques they provide a good mental training aspect too.  We don’t need to visualise as we do in kata as we actually have a real person facing us.  But we still get the chance to work the mind and put in full mental ferocity into our block/parry and counter.  When we get adept at it and can block/parry and counter accurately, it is also worth noting that the defender “wins” each encounter.  So our unconscious mind gets used to the idea that we always win when attacked and expects to keep getting this outcome, even if it is a bit messier in a real life situation.

It could be argued that if the defender is training to “win”, then is the attacker training to “lose”?  I would say not really as the attacker’s only real objective is to complete the technique to make the defender work.  This again the attacker usually succeeds at!  Pre-arranged sparring is primarily an exercise for the defender.

It has been said many times by many masters both from the past and modern day that fighting is more mental than physical; yet this is seldom explained in any depth.  The physical aspects are obvious.  Although many traditional martial arts methods are quite indirect and even impractical sometimes from a real combat point of view, they do contain many elements of mental preparation and expectation of success (mental rehearsal for success).

“In combat it is absolutely vital that the correct mental attitudes are adopted.  It will not be the most technically competent person that wins the fight but, more often than not, it will be the one with the strongest mind”.
From Ian Abernethy’s book :  Bunkai Jutsu The Practical Application Of Karate Kata (Chapter 2: Performing The Katas)

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