Kenpo Budokan Karate: White Belt: Lessons: 25 – Getting Ready for 9 Kyuu

English: vector version of BJJ White Belt.png
English: vector version of BJJ White Belt.png (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Getting Ready for 9 Kyuu

Ready. Set. Go. Great job. You’ve made it past your first hurdle and completed the full lesson set for the white belt material! Now it’s all about practicing and getting everything down pat. Under normal scenarios, students usually are at the white belt level for around 3-4 months (sometimes longer, sometimes quicker). Again, this is not a race, but a marathon. I would much rather see you learn only one move, and one move perfectly in 2 months, than 500 moves that you will soon forget in 20 days. Part of ranking up within the system is not only getting to a certain level of proficiency (your best for this level), but also ensuring that you have the techniques and materials down at a theoretical level – not just mechanical.

What this means is that you will need to practice, practice, and practice some more, until you are able to do the moves in your sleep. A really good indicator of if you are ready for your Beige black stripe belt test is if you start dreaming you are doing the moves, and the moves in your dream are done correctly (as far as you can remember – less the laser beams coming out of your fingertips). So the question really becomes, what do you do now, and where do you go from here?

Mentoring & Coaching

As part of the CMATOS system, we offer free email consultations with our instructors (in addition to paid consultations). Please take advantage of this service as we are here to help you along your training path. I would recommend sending in your videos early and often so we can make sure you are on the right track. Regular check ins with the instruction team also give us valuable feedback that we can incorporate into our free online martial arts lessons.

A good plan of attack is planning on scheduling your lessons to correspond to your regularly scheduled training blocks. Once you’ve identified a technique or form, and feel comfortable enough to move onto the next lesson, shoot us an email or send us a video of you performing so we can give you feedback to bring into your training. This way you improve incrementally as you go along rather than trying to cram everything in the day before you are scheduled to test.


A real good rule of thumb is once you feel 100% comfortable with the material, spend the next 2-3 weeks refining and practicing the material before considering the material test worthy. Don’t get concerned if you find yourself having to go back and re-read or re-watch any of our lesson material. It is designed to be learned in segments – the first time you learn, you pick up one thing, the next time through, you pick up something else. Reviews are an integral part of your martial arts training. If you aren’t scheduling regular reviews of your material, then something is wrong. At the very least you should be watching and reviewing the material at least 3 times.

  1. The initial time you watch the material you are just getting a general idea about what you are about to learn.
  2. The first time you review the material you are learning what you are supposed to learn. You may be watching it many times during this first review (seeing the proper hand and foot placement, etc…)
  3. The second time you review the material you are reviewing what you thought you learned.
  4. The third time you review the material you are ensuring that you understand 100% of what was being taught and can confidently teach or discuss the material with others.

In a lot of schools, they use the “tip” system to break up the progress between ranking. You earn your first tip (usually black) once you have mastered the first half of the material, you earn your second tip once you have mastered the second half of the material. Usually some time goes by, and the instructors keep reviewing the material with the students, once the instructor deems the student has shown a sufficient level of proficiency, they give them their final tip (usually red), indicating that the student is ready to be tested for their next belt. At this point and time, it is usually a matter of scheduling the student into the next testing window (by that time they are the next rank in all but belt and recognition). The tests in these systems are just formalities and celebrations of the promotions rather than a day of do or die progress. There are instances where students won’t pass the test the first time around (due to some unusual situation and really poor performance), but the pass rate is usually in the high 97% percentile – the testing and proficiency demonstration was done as part of the standard lessons and classes.

Because of the way testing works with CMATOS, it strongly behooves you to review the material, send in the material for review, and practice it until you are 110% sure that you are ready to test. Don’t worry if it’s taking you 6 months to get a technique down or new form – again it’s not a race. Additionally, your testing will also require you to demonstrate all your previous material as well as your current, so you will need to make sure you don’t study to the test and only learn the new material, but are constantly reviewing and revising your previous material along the way.


You’ve worked hard, put in a lot of time and practice to get your material down – you deserve to have your efforts recognized. This is why CMATOS offers official ranking through our system. It is not required at all, but it does put a capstone on your training and allows you to confidently say you are ready to start learning the new material in the next belt. Although it is not required, it is extremely recommended that you pursue ranking within the CMATOS system so that you can ensure that the material you are learning is at the appropriate level of proficiency for your belt ranking level. In addition, it makes sure that your skill level matches up with your current belt level so that you don’t wind up in a situation where your “belt level” doesn’t match up with your skill and you have to work to bring your skill level up to the required belt level.

Because we offer the free online mentoring, it is completely conceivable that a student learns all the CMATOS material for free, and only ends up paying for their final Black Belt test. This is a perfectly reasonable approach – the problem, is that because the student has not achieved rank in any of the previous material, their test will need to be doubly scrutinized, and the testing process may lead to multiple tests needing to occur before the student is granted the rank of Shodan. By testing along the way, while there is the added cost, you have a record of your training with CMATOS and it is much easier for us to rank a certified Jun Ichi-Dan student to Shodan, than it is for us to rank a no-ranked student directly to Shodan. The end result is that if you are going to put the time and effort studying the CMATOS material, you should feel pretty proud about getting yourself ranked within our system.

Another way to look at it – in person Martial Arts schools usually cost anywhere between $150 and $200 per month to attend (mostly due to the cost of insurance and space rental). If you spend, on average 4 months per belt level, you are looking at around $800 in fees for your next belt rank with in person lessons (not to mention any fees for uniforms, testing, transportation, schedule interruptions, etc…), with CMATOS you pay a flat $50 for an under belt ($25 for enrolled distance learning members) ranking test. If you’ve had all your material already reviewed by the CMATOS staff and you have practiced and reviewed to the point of 110% confidence, the test becomes just another formality. Because we want everyone to be successful and we understand that some people have financial difficulties, please contact us to discuss alternative payment options, payment plans, and reduced rates based on financial need and your situation.

The testing process is relatively painless for under belts – you basically record yourself performing all your material both individually, as well as with a partner from 2 separate camera angles to ensure full coverage of your movements. Please see the video testing requirements page for more information as to what you need to include in the test. Unlike black belt tests, these videos will be kept private unless you wish to share them.

Concluding Thoughts

Keep up the great work. Get ready for your test (send us your mentoring requests so we can get you on the right path). And we look forward to seeing you on the other side of the finish line with your brand new Beige black stripe belt.

Kenpo Budokan Karate: White Belt: Lessons: 24 – Practicing, Perfecting, Patience

A group of school children practice martial ar...
The Great Mosque, Xi’an (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Practicing, Perfecting, Patience

In the martial arts we have a mnemonic that we use to help students understand where they are in their studies. We call this the 3 P’s – Practicing, Perfection, and Patience. You must practice to achieve perfection, but must be patient because reaching this takes time. You’ve come a long way since your first class 22 lessons ago – it’s a good time to reflect on what you have done and record in your training journal (remember the one you wrote down your goals in at the very beginning), what you feel comfortable with, and what you still need work on. A key with all of this, is that progress takes time. It took me 32 years to get to the point where I was confident enough to start sharing the CMATOS material off with the world, and it’s going to take another couple of years before the adoption of the system is more widespread.

But you shouldn’t let the fear of time keep you from continuing onward. If you started studying a year ago, where would you be today? If you started 5 years ago, or 10 or 20? Where do you think you will be tomorrow? Your goal should be to a continual strive to improve your proficiency in the art. The ultimate goal is perfection, but if you get there, your next goal should be to be even better than perfect. It is all a continuous improvement of your skills and your efforts should all be directed towards that end.

All About Practicing

When is the best time to practice?

The best time to practice is the time when you feel you don’t want to practice. You had a long day at work, and are getting home late. You usually work out at 6pm but it’s now 10pm. Should you practice? Absolutely. You’re feeling sick and nauseous. Should you practice? Depends on if the doctor has ordered you bed rest or not. If no, then you should at least make an effort to go through the motions and keep up with the consistency in your practice.

The great thing about being sick and tired is that your body works in weird ways, and if you practice (even if it is nothing more than going through the motions), the muscle memory that develops becomes ingrained even deeper into you. This being said, we’re not saying you should go out there and kill yourself by practicing when you are bedridden – but we are saying that your body can take a lot more than you think it can and you should “strive” to practice as much as possible. In a self defense situation, you can’t tell your attacker, “sorry I’m too sick or tired to defend myself, come back in a few days when I’m feeling better.” As we have said before and will say again, the more you sweat in practice the less you bleed in battle.

So sickness and long working days aside, when is the best time to practice – whenever you have set aside as your “practice time”. This time should be consistent and inviolate so that you do everything in your power to stick to the practice schedule. If you miss a practice for some reason, make it up as soon as possible (the same day if possible). The longer you stick to the routine of practicing at the same time each day, the easier it becomes. If you are a morning person – set aside time in the morning after your normal gym workout to go through a practice session, if you are more of a night owl, practice in the evenings. As we say – do what works, but above all, be consistent.

How much should I practice?

24×7. Seriously. Even though my day job doesn’t involve breaking boards or body guarding some spoiled starlet, I am always thinking about martial arts. It’s my passion. I spend at least 30 minutes a day practicing (most days closer to 2-3 hours), but due to scheduling conflicts, work travel, etc… I’ll find 30 minutes somewhere to at least run through the material (maybe not all of it, but at least what I am focusing on for the week/month).

On the flip side of the coin, all work and no play makes Mr. Salaka a sad man. The same needs to be said about training. Training too much too soon can be detrimental – and if you are just starting off with the training, 2-3 times per week should be sufficient. Once you’ve been training for a while, bump that up to every other day, then every day, and soon you will find that the more you practice, the more you want to practice, and the cycle repeats itself. This being said, even though you should dedicate yourself to training and training consistently, you shouldn’t be so focused on training that you completely miss what is going on around you – and for this you really need to think about your priorities. I don’t want students to call me up 10 years down the road to yell at me because they spent the first 10 years of their child’s life practicing and never spending time with their family.

It is all about balance and prioritization. As with everything, the more you practice, the better you will become – Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours for you to become an expert in something. Let’s say you train 2 times a week for 30 minutes a session. It would take you 10,000 weeks (191 years) to be an expert with the CMATOS material at that pace. Train 2 hours per week and you drop to 95 years. Train 2 hours per day and it will take you 13 years to get there. Can you get there faster? For some people with innate talent – yes, but for the rest of us, it’s all about putting in the hours. The more you train the better you get, simple as that.

How important is consistency?

More important than the 10,000 hours of deliberate practice, is the element of consistency – both consistency in the time and duration of your practices as well as the consistency with what you practice. Common knowledge is that it takes 21 days to get into the habit of doing something. While this is true to some extent to get you kick started, you have to be consistent through and through to really get into something well. Unfortunately, all it takes is one day where you say – “ok I am not going to practice today because of X”, to get out of that habit extremely quickly. As you most highest priority you need to fight those urges and make your martial arts not a “habit” to practice, but a way of life that you “just do”. We said above that the most important time to practice are those times when you don’t feel like practicing. The more times you can “power” through those emotions, the less times they will crop up in the future.

Second most importantly to practicing at a set, regular schedule, is making sure the way you are practicing is the way you are going to perform. Too many times I see martial artists out there “just going through the motions”, going to class, merely showing up to grace their instructor with their presence, and not putting anything into what they are doing. Although there are times and places to “just go through the motion” (e.g. sick, tired, etc…), your consistency should be focused on sharp solid techniques, and not just motions in the air – so when it does come time to perform (either during a test or in a situation) you are ready and able to.

 All About Perfection

Perfection is our aim, but it is something we will never reach. Our goals are levels of proficiency. A white belt performing the Master 8 Fold form should look a lot different than an 8th degree Black belt performing the master 8 fold form. Even though it is the exact same material, the exact same movements, the exact same material, there is something elemental about the differences in the performance. The key to this is the level of proficiency. A white belt has performed the form a couple dozen times, an 8th degree has performed the form a couple of thousand times. That makes all the difference in the world.

This is especially true about the upper belts, all the CMATOS material that you have is tested at EVERY SINGLE belt level. Your Short 1 Kata should look much better than the Short 1 Kata you performed for your previous belt. One of the reasons why there is such a long time in rank between the upper belts is not so much a matter of learning the new material – give me 6 months and a dedicated student and I can teach them the complete CMATOS material front to back to 8th degree black belt. Will it be any good? Not really, but the level of proficiency of a person through this accelerated curriculum will be no where the level of proficiency of someone who has been studying the material for 32 years. The reason why time in rank increases at the upper levels is because you need to show an increase in your level of proficiency of all your previous material. If you’ve gotten your Short 1 to such a high level of proficiency, how much time do you think it is going to take you to improve the Short 1 Kata to something even better. If it’s already perfect, making it better is going to take a huge effort and time to get it “to the next level.”

To all my “big” kenpo brothers out there

In order to effectively be able to defend yourself you need to be in some sort of physical shape. Strength and endurance are huge parts of being a solid martial artist. Unfortunately for a lot of kenpoists out there, many of the great instructors are somewhat on the large side (myself included) – the image of the martial artist that you see from the ESPN US Karate Open or the movies usually doesn’t hold and the image that most people think of when they look at a martial artist is their level of physical health. What people need to realize is that there are Athletes and there are Martial Artists – sometimes you get both in one package, other times never the two shall meet.

So here I am – I put in 2-3 hours of practice a day, and am in the gym most days of the week doing cardio and weight training – yet I still don’t look athletic by any shape of the imagination. And that’s not my goal. One thing kenpo has taught me is efficiency of motion – and one thing kenpo is great at is allowing a huge range of people to participate in the martial arts that they would not otherwise be capable of. This being said, I can still out-spar and out pace most of my students. I may not look like it, but when you see the numbers I can put up in the gym, or if you see me training, you realize that this book is not what it shows on the cover.

It can not be stressed enough, you must be in physical shape in order to be able to defend yourself. This does not mean you need to look like an athlete, and have abs of steel – but it does mean that you do need to spend some time working on the physical aspect of the art (including strength and endurance training). The last thing you want to be is in a situation where you have to react, you may have the skill, but if you don’t have the physical capacity to react (not enough endurance), you are going to be in a world of hurt. The good news is that because of the nature of Kenpo you don’t need to be an athlete to be successful. The bad news is, you do need some level of physical endurance in order to be effective.

In a nut shell – you need to not only be training the material you are learning through the lessons, you also need to get yourself into a good level of physical shape.

All About Patience

Rome wasn’t built in a Day and the CMATOS system did not just materialize overnight. It all takes time. My day job involves leading people through software development – and we have a saying, you can’t take 9 women and make a baby in 1 month. Some things just take time. Martial arts is one of them. As a hobby it is great, but as a way of life it is even better. As we discussed throughout this lesson, it’s all about practicing consistently so that you achieve that next level of proficiency. And this will take time. Some people are naturally gifted, and will pick up the material and run with it and be ready to test for a black belt in a very short time span. Others will take years between belts. Martial arts is not about racing through the ranks and “being the best”, but rather it is a marathon – learning what works for you, adapting your practices to your situation, and growing as an individual. When I started martial arts at 4 years of age, I was still growing, and was able to do full splits. After a bunch of accidents, and several knee surgeries later, I’m a bit restricted in what I can and can not do. No more back flips for me, but I can still spar with the best of them. After 32 years of training there are things I could do then but I can’t do now, but at the same token, there are a ton of things I can do now that I couldn’t do then.

You should also stop comparing yourself to others. Yes you should compare yourself to your instructor and others to help improve your skill and aim towards that as our goal (use them as models and demonstrations for the techniques and forms). But as far as their skill vs your skill – this is not a competition on who is better (there will always be someone better out there). The goal is – are you the best you can be. Your best is what you are aiming for, and once you reach it, you should aim to make your best even better. It may be that your best is better than everyone else, or it may be that your best is worse than everyone else on the planet. It DOES NOT MATTER. It is YOUR best and what you should be aiming for.

Regardless of what your goals are, it is going to take lots of practice and time to achieve them. Those who are determined to race through the system just to earn ranking are only going to hurt themselves in the long run – and learning like that, you will end up hitting a wall where you will have to let your skill catch up with your level (rather than your level catching up with your skill). Take your time, practice it until it hurts, then practice some more. And then, only once you feel 100% confident with the technique or material, start learning the next.

Closing Thoughts

Martial arts are a marathon, not a sprint – it takes time, determination, and patience to progress. In addition, it requires a dedication to consistency – both in practice and in skill. Finally, it requires a change in mindset – you need to focus on your goals, not on what others are telling you. Take your time, and above all, do what works.

Kenpo Budokan Karate: White Belt: Lessons: 23 – The Master 8 Fold Form Introduction

The Master 8 Fold Form Introduction


See the walk through of the master 8 fold form here.

White Belt Focus

You’ll notice that our curriculum does not cover many of the basic techniques used throughout the system. What we do, however, is teach the basics through the Master 8 Fold form. You’ll find most of the hand and foot techniques needed throughout all of the CMATOS system taught in this form. The form is designed to be relatively simple, with motion limited, so that the practitioner can focus on the basic strikes, kicks, and simple movements that are then combined in the infinite combinations that is Kenpo. The form itself isn’t designed to be just performed and forgotten about, but it is designed as a training tool so that you perform the form multiple times in each practice session. Performing the form over and over again will allow you to focus on your most basic strikes and movements, as well as starting to put together some hand and foot coordination.

In traditional Kenpo, these are taught out at the various sets (blocking set 1, finger set 1, kicking set 1, etc…), but the teaching and memorization of these different forms only serves to confuse many students. As you progress through the Black Belt ranks, you will be required to study and learn all of these sets, but for now, we have limited what you need to study in order to rank up to 4 basic techniques from Kenpo, 4 weapon and situational techniques, the master 8 fold form, a single kata, and some concepts and principles to learn and refine at each belt level. This allows you to focus your efforts on mastering the basics and the techniques, rather than spreading your studies across 32 techniques per level, 1-2 forms and sets, 1-2 katas, and all the principles that go along with it.

Your focus for this level is basically to memorize the basic movements and be able to demonstrate the ability to perform the form without mistakes. Your punches might not be the best, and you may get confused with the kicks, but as long as you have the basic movements and techniques demonstrated in the form, you will be successful. At this level it is showing your ability to mimic what you see to the best of your abilities.

Stillness, Movement, Stillness

There are a lot of hidden motions and techniques in the form that you will pick up as you progress through the ranks, the complexity and depth of the form is one of the reason we teach it at all levels. Sure you could rush ahead now and see all the hidden meanings and concepts in the form right now, but doing so would interrupt your learning progress. At this level, I want you to focus on the cadence of the form and notice that each of the folds follows a pattern of stillness, movement, stillness.

You start off with the kenpo salute, and then from the meditation stance you start your form. Starting from stillness in the meditation, you explode with your blocks. After the blocks are completed, you move, turn around, and then settle down into your horse stance facing the rear. You should have a noticeable pause at this point before starting your punches. In between each of the “folds” you should show a noticeable pause – this is to ensure that you are completely focused on the current section you are about to perform and not thinking about the previous section. Use this breath pause to clear your mind and envision the perfect performance of the next section. Because each section is isolated in and of itself, you should be separating each movement and technique so that you start to build up your overall level of skill.

As you progress through the ranks, you will always be showing this stillness, movement, stillness, but at the same time, your techniques and form will become more fluid so that the stillness and movement become blended together. However, at this level, you should focus heavily on emphasizing the stillness before movement.

Performance Cadence

At this level you should be performing each block, punch, kick, or step movement, one per every 1-3 seconds (1 beat), with a 3-9 second pause (3 beats) between “folds”. Your final meditation should be at least 30 seconds per movement (2.5 minutes). But remember, you should only do the ending meditation after you have finished your practicing for the day. I usually recommend doing 5-10 loops through the master 8 fold form per practice session so that you can start to build up both your stances as well as individual strikes. Remember at this point it is not a race, and we aren’t looking for the speed and power in your techniques so much as we are looking for the proper form and movements. Focus on ensuring that the cadence of each strike is consistent – a good tool here is using a metronome to help you maintain your cadence throughout the form.

Concluding Thoughts

With the master 8 fold form, the key is really consistency in practice. This technique set is designed to teach you all the necessary strikes and blocks found throughout the kenpo systems. Granted there are an infinite of other variations on strikes and blocks, but getting the master 8 fold form down will improve your basics tremendously. Remember, that this is the form you will be tested on at all belt levels going through the ranks. It should be your best set of techniques that grows with you as you grow within our system. I look forward to reviewing your forms and seeing you on the other side of the belt test as you prepare for your 9 kyuu belt exam. Remember, at this stage of the game, we are focusing mainly on remembrance of the techniques and proper form. Speed, power, and skill will all come in time (it’s what separates the beginning student from the intermediate student). Don’t worry about rushing things, and focus on getting the material down before progressing. Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have.

Kenpo Budokan Karate: White Belt: Lessons: 22 – Side Kick

Side Kick

Our second fundamental kick in kenpo is the side kick. This kick is designed to strike out your opponent’s legs, as well as being used to push the opponent backwards. With proper form, the set up to the kick can also be used to block an incoming attacker, as well as ensuring that the attacker doesn’t get in close enough to grab you. The uses of the side kick are pretty diverse, and with training, you’ll see the sidekick and its applications in many techniques going forward. Compare this with the roundhouse kick, the motion of the sidekick is a pushing motion out to the side, rather than a circular motion from front to back.


  1. Slide up, bringing your rear foot up to your front foot. Turn your foot away from you (behind you) for balance.
  2. Tuck up your leg for a side kick, the knee should come up to your chest, with the knife edge of your foot (or heal) facing outwards.
  3. Thrust your leg outward as you drive the knife-edge of the foot (or the heal) into your target.
  4. Using the reverse momentum from the kick, bring the kick right back to the tucked position.
  5. Plant your foot down, and slide your rear foot back into position.


Just like the front kick, both the tuck and the part of your foot which you are striking with play an important part. In most cases, you will be striking with the knife edge of the foot – the smaller, linear area allows for a more destructive power to be delivered with the kick. You can use the heal to kick, but when using the heal, the force is more pushing rather than destructive. When striking to the opponent’s leg, you are looking to strike on the inside or outside of the knees (sides). When striking to the opponent’s body, you are looking to strike towards their bladder or their waist trying to force the opponent to buckle over. If you strike any higher than this, you are going to primarily see the kick as a pushing motion to move the opponent backwards. A sidekick to the head can be very effective, but good luck getting the timing and distance down on such a small target – this is why you will see the kicks delivered low and to the body, not up to the head area.

The nice thing about the side kick, is once you have the kick tucked up, even if the opponent charges at you, you can still execute the kick to push yourself off the opponent and give yourself more distance to work with. If you don’t tuck the leg properly (knife edge facing outwards), you can be quickly jammed, and loose effectiveness.

With our front kick (and our back kick), our hips determine the direction that we want our power to go. The same thing applies with our kicks to the side (side kick, round house, hook kick) – however, because we are facing sideways, we aren’t going to be twisting our hips out of shape. This is why we turn our foot behind us when we do our kicks from the side. First, this gives us balance and prevents us from falling over. Remember the lesson on the horse stance. If you face off against an attacker in a horse stance, you have very little lateral balance and can easily be pushed down, turn the body sideways, and you now have a lot more balance and power in your techniques. The same applies with your side kicks. If your foot is facing 90 degrees from your body (e.g. just normally there), you have a very small area on which to derive force and produce balance (up to about half an inch if you have fat feet). Turning your foot away from the direction of the kick transforms this from a small area to balance, into the whole foot being used for balance (since most people’s feet are longer than they are wide, you get all the surface area length-wise for balance and stability).

In addition to providing balance and stability in your kicks, turning your foot away from the direction of your kick, engages the hip flexors to add an additional level of power and torque into your kicks. Remember, everything we do in the martial arts is about body mechanics. Anyone can swing a fist or throw their legs around, being a technician in the martial arts, means that your motions are as effective and efficient as possible.

Things to Work On

One of the most difficult things students have when first encountering the side kicks is getting their foot turned behind them for balance. At first it can feel really weird and doesn’t seem to be something your body should be doing. But after enough practice, the turning of the foot becomes second nature. The second thing which throws off many new students is making sure they are aiming with the knife edge of their foot – this should be out from the body, and not just having your knee tucked straight up. Getting your leg into proper position takes time and practice.

Wall drills

Just as in the front kick, it is recommended to practice your kicks with a wall – what we like to call wall drills. Whereas your back is on the wall for your front kick practice, you will place your hand on the wall for balance for the side kick. Place you hand on the wall, turn your foot behind you for balance, and tuck your leg up for the side kick. Remember, you need to be aiming your kick outward with the knife edge of your foot. Extend your kick, and hold it there for 10-30 seconds. Tuck the leg back, and down. Repeat this drill 10 times (5 times per leg), and you will be well on your way to leg strength and proper form in your kicks.

Concluding Thoughts

Of all the techniques in white belt, the side kick is usually the most difficult for students to master. Many schools omit the side kick at the beginner level, and add it to the more senior levels. Here within Kenpo Budokan Karate, we teach the side kick first because we believe having tools to give you distance between you and your attackers is more important than trying to make the material easier for students. At this level you should be primarily focusing on the form of the kick – don’t worry too much about height, speed, or power at this juncture – with time and practice these will develop. Once you have the form of the kick down (see wall drills), you can start on working on your speed and power (and height with the wall drills). But remember, Kenpo teaches targets of opportunity – and as such our kicks focus primarily to the lower body and below the waist. One of my mentors Bill Wallace has a saying – with speed comes power, but not necessarily with power can you develop speed. Practice, practice, and practice some more and you will eventually develop both the speed and power needed to make these kicks devastating.

Kenpo Budokan Karate: White Belt: Lessons: 21 – Front Kick

Front Kick

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.


  1. Tuck you leg up, pointing outwards with the ball part of your foot.
  2. Thrust your leg forward in the kick, striking with the ball part of your foot.
  3. Pull your leg back into the tucked position.
  4. 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.

Concluding Thoughts

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.