Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kicking. It's not just for kicking anymore.

The kenpo curriculum attempts to offer a complete catalog of combat motion. It has literally dozens of different hand techniques, well over twenty different kicks,  strikes with the knees, the elbows, the forearm, the back of the leg, even the wrists. You learn tackles, takedowns, throws, and falls. Traps, locks, chokes, and strangulations. You even learn how to hurt your opponent using THEIR body.

In short there's a wide range of grappling and striking techniques, both circular and linear. Almost anything you could think of, using almost every part of your body, to hurt, injure, maim, or kill an attacker. Kenpo has it.

But it's up to the student to train the material. And most of us rely on our kenpo self defense technique practice for the bulk of that training. And that's great, because the techniques give us a context within which all these movements take place, and they allow us to see first hand how the human body reacts to applied force.

But the self defense techniques are heavily weighted towards upper body basics, and unless we supplement that training with pad and bag work, we end up with fast, accurate hand technique and sloppy, uncoordinated kicks.

Which is precisely why we should all spend more time practicing our kicks. In the air. On the shields. On the body. Because the only way to get better is to train more. 

But the benefits of training our kicks go far beyond just improving our kicking technique. Every time you execute a front kick you are engaging a long string of heavy, powerful muscles. And doing so burns calories, increases muscular strength, improves balance, and increases flexibility and range of motion. Kicking also incorporates a number of minor secondary movements such as pivoting the supporting leg, turning the torso, and flexing the abdominal muscles. It's a whole body workout, and you'll see the results all over your kenpo.

You see, when you practice kicking technique, you learn more about ground leverage, and rotational energy, and snapping and thrusting, and back up mass. And all those lessons translate directly into your hand techniques.

So the more you practice your kicks, the better your kicks will be. The better your punches and handswords will be. The better your neutral bow will be. The more effective your throws. You are learning a complex, interconnected series of physical skills, and the more you train any of them, the better they all become.

Getting good at martial arts is a matter of improving a hundred skills one percent at a time. You're laying the foundation for your future performance with every drill, every repetition, every kick. Make it a strong foundation, and you will build a mighty fortress.

Drills -
Beginner: Practice each of your kicks on the heavy bag ten times, each leg, for each of the letters in F.A.S.P. Form, Accuracy, Speed, Power.

Intermediate: Practice "three hit kenpo" using only kicks and sweeps.

Advanced: While sparring, Student A uses only kicking techniques and sweeps. Student B uses only hand techniques and grapples. Alternate.

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