Ahh – the front kick. The quintessential basic kick of most all martial arts styles. Kenpo has it’s front kick which is similar to 99.9995% of all other front kicks out there. The main difference with kenpo kicks, is that most of our kicks stay below the waist level. You can develop awesome power with higher kicks, but it takes a level of coordination and balance – which is why we shoot for the easy low targets rather than kicks to the head like you see in Taekwondo. At this level, you should be focusing on proper form, rather than height – with practice, the speed and height of the kicks will progress over time.
- Tuck you leg up, pointing outwards with the ball part of your foot.
- Thrust your leg forward in the kick, striking with the ball part of your foot.
- Pull your leg back into the tucked position.
- Put your leg back on the ground.
The two important things to focus on with your kicks – ensuring that you tuck your leg up before kicking, and ensuring that you are striking with the ball part of your foot. The action of tucking your leg up first enables you to get the proper form and torque necessary for the explosive power in the kick. In addition, by tucking your leg up first, you have a better chance of making contact with your attacker – the tuck itself can be translated into a knee if the attacker gets too close. If you try just swinging your leg, you have a much greater chance of having it miss, and the power generated is much less effective.
The second thing to ensure, is that you are kicking with the ball part of your foot. The front kick in kenpo is a thrusting motion kick. There are other kicks out there that strike with the top part of the foot, but the front kick in kenpo is designed to be thrust. If you keep your toes flat or pointed, you have a strong chance of injuring yourself during the kick. Make sure that the toes are pulled back and you are striking forward with the ball of your foot. In addition to ensuring your toes don’t break during the thrust kick, pointing with the ball part of the foot ensures your body mechanics are properly executing the torque and thrust necessary to gain the explosive power.
When I go to execute the kick, I am not just using the power in my legs, but I am using the power in my hips and the “marriage of gravity” to drive my body forward putting my weight behind the kick. Your hips should be facing forward, and you kick should be traveling in the direction your hips are facing. If you hips are not squared with the target, you will end up loosing power, speed, and your balance will not be as controlled. You should be using the power of your body weight to deliver the full power of the kick, the snapping motion made with the muscular power in the legs is really just icing on the cake.
Things to Work On
Kenpo is all about speed – speed translated into power. If you listen to the video, you should notice that on the kicks, there is a snapping sound. This is the sound of the pants leg snapping as the kick is executed. When you are practicing your kicks, you should be aiming to get your kicks to such a speed, that when you are throwing the kicks, you can hear this pants leg snapping. This same concept can be applied to all your strikes. You strikes should be quick enough that they cause a snapping sound to be heard. You’ll know you have gotten part of the speed part down once you can start to consistently hear this snapping sound in your motions.
It’s all about the body mechanics with the kick. There are two things to focus on when practicing – the first being proper form, ensuring you are properly tucking up and down between the kicks – the second being proper application of the kick. For this you will need a target (either a partner with a body shield or a heavy bag or something else to practice kicking), and will need to practice both slowly – ensuring you have the proper form, as well as powerfully, ensuring that you are translating the power of the kick properly into the target. A good practice is to place your back on the wall, and practice slow extensions with your front kick – tuck your leg up, extend the leg, hold the extended leg in proper form for 10-30 seconds, tuck back, and tuck down. Do a set of 10 of these during practice (5 for each leg), and you will be well on your way to developing proper form in your front kick.