IntroPerforming high, fast kicks is the goal of most new martial arts students, and, for many students, it continues to be a goal even after years of training. However, since the purpose a martial art is for the user to be victorious in combat, these high, fast kicks are counterproductive. Your adversary does not care how high or how fast you can kick; he or she only respects one thing—whether you can cause him or her incapacitating pain, injury, or death. Therefore, the goal of any martial artist should be to perform accurate, devastating kicks that can stop an attack.
Kicking harderDevastating kicks do not come from just kicking harder. Many times, I have seen students fail the breaking requirements during a rank testing because they couldn’t break the required number of boards using basic kicks. During the attempts, they first perform a few slow practice kicks using good form and then, when they attempt the break, they kick as hard as they can. Usually, this extra effort means they change the way the kick is performed so that its form is diminished. This means the power of the kick only comes from the power of the kicker’s leg muscles, with possibly some added momentum from a body shift, such as rushing at the target. This way of kicking may work when breaking one or two boards, but it begins to fail as the number of boards increases.
Devasting kicks come from concentrating on performing technically perfect kicks with precise focus. When a kick is performed correctly, power doesn’t come from a great effort, it just happens.
Use the hipsTo break four or more boards with a kick, the kick must have a devastating striking force. Devastating striking forces in kicks come from two sources: hip rotation and hip rollover, both of which add a slight thrusting motion to the kick. It’s as if, just before impact, an additional two powerful forces are suddenly applied to the striking force of the kick.
When standing on the floor, hip rotation comes from the rotation of the support foot. As the support foot pivots, the hip rotates into the kicking leg, adding the mass of the body to the kick. The pivoting foot, and its accompanying hip rotation, should occur in a snapping motion at the end of the kick so all the forces are applied to the kicking foot at impact simultaneously. In a jump kick, adding this hip rotation is more difficult to perform since both feet are off the floor, but it can still be done.
Hip rollover occurs when the hips rotate over the horizontal axis of the kick. As the kicking leg extends, the snapping motion of the hip rolls over the horizontal plane of the leg. The roll uses the massive hip muscles to thrust the mass of the lower body into the kick.
These two hip movements add tremendous striking force to the kick at impact. These forces will only be present for a split second and will only occur over a couple of inches, so accuracy and focus are very important. If applied too early, the forces may be diminished at impact. If applied too late, the forces will not have enough time to build strength. In either case, the power of the kick will revert to its normal power; it will still be powerful, just not devastating.
ExamplesMany times, I have been one of the board holders for a person attempting to break four or more boards using some version of a side thrust kick, such as standing, sliding, jumping, spinning, or jumping-spinning. For all the kicks, whether the breaks were successful or not, the holder receives a jolt when the kicker’s foot impact the boards. Usually, the jolt is uneventful and just pushes the holders backward a little. However, when a highly-skilled kicker kicks the boards with a devasting kick, the jolt is much different. The board holders aren’t pushed backward, they barely move. However, each board holder receives an intense jolt that causes an instant of darkness as their brains are rattled by the sudden acceleration caused by the kick. They feel as though their entire body had been struck by a tremendous force. The effects of the devastating kick are momentary, but they are impressive.
In the movies, when people are hit with a bullet from a powerful firearm, they are thrown backward; however, in real life, the person would only shutter from a momentary jolt and then quickly collapse to the floor. The force of the bullet forces body tissue aside, but most of the force stays with the bullet as it continues along its path. The only time the bullet gives up all its energy is when it stops inside the body. Even if the person was wearing an impenetrable metal vest, the force of the bullet would cause a sharp jolt but it wouldn’t throw the person backward.
The effect of being struck with a devastating kick is similar. Snap kicks hurt, but they are more of an annoyance than a problem. Powerful kicks can hurt or injure, but they are survivable. However, if a devastating kick hits any body part, that part will be devastated, be it a broken forearm or ribs or a concussion, while the person being stuck will not be moved much physically. A direct strike by a devastating kick to any part of the torso or head will likely result in serious injury, if not death.
ConclusionThe secret to devastating kicks is coordinated hip rotation and rollover. In an emergency, when an instantaneous reaction is needed, you will react in the way you have trained to react. If you practice high, flashy kicks, when an actual combat situation arises, that is the type of kicks you will use. Therefore, make every kick you perform, whether it be in training or breaking—a devastating kick.