How To Improve A Karate Front Snap Kick (The Devil In The Detail)

Anybody who has followed my blog for any length of time will know that I like looking at the “devil in the detail”.  Those small adjustments to a technique (in other words – adjustment to a principle of movement) can over time as you internalise that adjustment, yield significant improvement to the speed and power of the technique.

One such detail, is the position of the foot as you prepare for a front snap kick (Mae Geri) as is common in Karate, Taekwondo and many styles of Kung Fu.  To many readers this will seem obvious, but there are many teachers who emphasis the lifting of the knee, but don’t always pay so much attention to the position of the foot, which can actually make a significant difference.

As you lift your knee high, you stretch your quadriceps (front thigh muscles).  As I’ve said before, muscles act like elastic bands, the more you stretch them the faster they release when you engage that muscle to create movement.  But if you don’t pay attention to the foot position, then it naturally goes to a relaxed position, dangling down.  However, if you raise the toes/ball of the foot as high as you can at the same time as you raise your knee, then you stretch out the calf muscle (back of lower leg).  So going back to the elastic effect in muscles, when you actually unleash the kick from the knee high position, you are more fully engaging both the quadriceps and the calf muscles.  

It also puts the foot in the right position right from the start.  If you allow the foot to dangle, then there is a risk of damaging the toes on impact.  But with the toes/ball of foot lifted as far as you can right from the beginning, then the foot is in the right position with toes pulled safely back out of harms way.

The video below is short, but demonstrates the points raised above.

If you found this useful, please leave your feedback below.  Also, if you feel that your kicks need improving, then we have the ideal download for you.  It’s called 10 Kicking Tips.  Please  check it out. 

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Karate Kime: Not Something You Do – But Something That Occurs With Good Technique

This post has come about as a result of a discussion that I had with somebody on my Youtube channel talking about Kime (pronounced “kim-a”).  Kime is roughly translated in Karate as “focus” at the end of a technique and is considered as the principle of generating power.  Very simply put, most mainstream Karate (and other martial arts) describe it as suddenly contracting and tensing the whole body at the very end of the technique.

Anybody who has followed my blog regularly will know that I don’t subscribe to that point of view at all.  If you want to check out the video to see what I was talking about, then I’ve added it below.

I do apologise for the poor video quality, it was filmed in 2014 with a lower quality camera.  Furthermore Youtube have the unfortunate habit of compressing the digital files to save server space on all but the largest of channels.  This makes the quality even worse.

Rather than tensing up, I often talk about techniques being “whip” like.  Some people call this principle a “waveform”.  It’s the same thing really.  A whip is created by a wave moving along something.  If for example you snap a towel, you put all the energy in one end where you are actually holding it and that energy transfers rapidly along the length of the towel until the other end snaps (like a whip).  If you apply this principle to say a reverse punch, the handle is at the hips/waist which rotate vigorously about the front hip, moving the bodyweight forward.  This energy is transformed rapidly up the torso, through the shoulder and then down the arm to the hand.

If we truly relax as we’re so often told we should, then there is a very slight delay between the hip/waist moving and the shoulders following.  This is because you’re putting all the emphasis on the hips/waist moving and not on the shoulders.  However, many people move hips/waist and shoulders together, which can only really be done is there is tension in the torso linking them together.

It’s a subtle difference.  When truly relaxed, the slight delay in the shoulders moving causes a torque (rotational stretch) to develop in the torso.  Whenever any part of the body is stretched, it naturally wants to return to it’s relaxed position.  Therefore, as a result of this torque being created by the bottom of the torso rapidly rotating, the top of the torso want to release this torque and return to it’s normal relaxed position.  It does this very rapidly resulting in the feeling that the top of torso is “throwing” the arm forward, rather than thrusting it forward.  The arm extends until it it is taut (NOT tense), just like the towel at the point of snapping.

One Japanese Sensei cleverly compares it to a car crash.  As the car crashes and stops abruptly, anything/anybody inside is thrown forward.  Likewise, as the rotation and forward momentum of the body abruptly stops, so the arm is throw forward!

When you snap the towel, at that tiny moment that it actually snaps, the whole towel goes taut (stretched out).  This is described in more detail in the video above and in the free ebooks that you can download, so I won’t go into too much detail here.

So as I said at the start that this post, it has come about from a comment and discussion from the video above.  The guy was talking about applying kime at the end of the technique.  As mentioned above, most mainstream Karate schools talk about tensing at the end of a technique as a way of producing kime.  But as with the example of snapping the towel, the towel is taut at the point of impact, not tense.  If the towel was tense, it could not snap, hence could not give us the whip like impact.

So with all due respect to how other people teach, you don’t get that high impact whip like feeling by tensing at the end.  Therefore, the idea of kime being a result of tensing at the end is (in my humble opinion) flawed.  Following on from the rationale that kime does not come from tensing up at the end of the technique, the idea that it is something you apply or add at the end of a technique must also be flawed.

The whip-like impact comes from a high level of relaxation allowing the power generated by rotating the hips/waist forward to be transferred like a wave of energy moving through the body.  This culminates in tautness (especially in the arm), rather than tension.

Therefore kime is a result of how the sequential acceleration and abrupt climax (whip) of the whole technique; rather than something that is you apply or add to the end of a technique.

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How To Correctly Align Hand & Forearm For Knife Hand Block/Strike

Anybody who regularly visits my website, will know that I believe techniques are not so important as a stand alone item, but are more important for the principles that they teach us.  Those principles teach us better body mechanics and structures to make our martial art more functional for real world self protection.  It’s not just about having a technique looking pretty or sounding good when we get a nice satisfying snap of our uniform.

Ultimately it should be about functionality or there is not much point.  Very often it’s just a small adjustment in alignment or positioning that can yield big differences in the effectiveness of the principles learnt from practicing a given technique.  So in this video we look at the correct alignment of the hand forearm when performing knife hand block/strike, known as Shuto Uke/Uchi in Karate.

All too often hand and forearm are completely straight, which means that when it actually strikes the target there is a chance that the wrist may buckle slightly, hence losing some power.  It might only be a very small bit, but hey, if you’re going to practice it you may as well practice to obtain the optimum efficiency.

By just pulling the hand back a bit in the direction of the thumb, the little finger side then aligns more with the forearm.  There is not much movement before this locks out.  This makes the whole hand and wrist structure considerably more stable when striking the target as there is nothing to give way.

You can see this demonstrated in the video below, please leave your comments and feedback.


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Why You Really Shouldn’t Tense Everything At The End Of A Karate Technique

When I first started Karate, back in the late 70’s (yes, I’m that old) we were taught by our Japanese masters to tense everything, the whole body, at the end of a technique.  I’ve spoken many times about relaxing the body as much as possible and I’ve also talked about how our limbs should be taut at the end of a technique not tense.

Some muscle groups are very central to a given technique, whilst other muscles are not. Read more

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How To Improve Your Balance When Kicking

I recently received an email from a new subscriber saying, “I struggle a lot with balance when I kick, especially high kicks”.

I like messages like this.  When I’m sitting here thinking, “hmm; what shall I write/make a video about next”; emails like the above help me out twofold.
Firstly they give me ideas of what to write/make videos about; and secondly I know that I’m talking about things that people are actually interested in (rather than what I’m interested in and assume others might be too 😀)!

So, here’s a little video on the 2 main things that I think people sometimes get a little bit wrong when kicking which will adversely effect their balance.  It’s basically just good technique, the devil in the detail.   But as usual small adjustments can sometimes make big differences, and one of the things that I consider to be one of my strengths is the ability to break things down into fine detail, it’s just how my mind works. Read more

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How To Use Your Supporting Foot To Generate More Power As You Step

Anyone who has followed BunkaiJutsu for a while will know that I’m a stickler for fine detail.  Or as some people say, the devil in the detail!

When we train our basics we can focus a lot on detail and accuracy.  But in the melee of a real confrontation with the pressure of somebody seriously trying to hurt you, plus the adrenaline kicking in which adversely affects fine motor control of your movement; it’s never going to be that tidy.  So why do we try to be so accurate and precious in our basic movements when we know full well that we’ll never achieve that in real life?

Well lets just say that for the sake of argument that under pressure our technique is 50% efficient.

50% of a really fast, powerful and accurate technique is going to be a lot better than 50% of a weak, sloppy technique!  So it’s really worth working on as arguably any improvement in a technique will only translate to 50% improvement in a real altercation!  As we get more and more advanced, the level of detail required to improve technique becomes finer and finer. Read more

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