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Jumping is used in many sports for different purposes. In each sport, the jump is performed in a way that enhances the purpose of the jump, such as:
  • High jumpers perform a backward roll over the bar to gain the greatest height (which only works because they have a cushioned landing area).
  • Long jumpers extend their arms legs in front of their body to gain the greatest striking point on the ground and thus the greatest distance (which only works because they have a cushioned landing area).
  • Hurdlers use an extended scissor action of the legs to clear the hurdle, gain height, and set themselves up for the next hurdle (which works because they know what is on the other side of each hurdle and the exact distance between them).
Martial art jumps have two important variables to deal with that most jumps don’t have to contend with—an opponent that wants to harm you and unfamiliar terrain. This means that during a martial arts jump, the jumper must remain stable, be able to defend him or herself during the jump, be prepared for landing on an unknown surface, and be able to land in a way that permits further offensive or defensive actions if needed.

Reasons for martial arts jumps

  • To reach higher with an attack (such as with a jump back fist to the head).
  • To raise the feet so something may pass under them (such as to avoid a foot sweep).
  • To propel the body over something (such as a jump over a fallen opponent or a ditch).
  • To propel the body onto an object (such as to jump onto a loading dock).
  • To apply all the body's mass into an attack (such as with a flying side kick).
  • To allow the body to spin more quickly and freely (such as with a jump-spin kick).
  • •To move the body quickly over a distance (such as jumping backward to avoid a kick).
  • As a reaction to a sudden, unknown stimulus (such as reacting quickly to the sudden sound of a car skidding).
  • To give more space and time for the legs and feet to perform a technique (such as for a jump side kick where both legs must chamber, one leg kicks and re-chambers, and then both feet must get back under the body for the landing).
  • To entertain. These are the useless, trick, or stunt jump performed merely to entertain.

Ways to measure a jump

  • From floor to the head. This is the way most people think the altitude of a jump is measured. If the reason for a jump is to dunk a basketball, then this is an important measurement.
  • From floor to the feet. When performing a jump or jump-spin technique, such as a jump-spin kick, where there must be time and space for the legs to perform the kick properly and get back under the body for the landing, this is a critical measurement.

Directions for a jump

Jumps may be made in one of three directions (along with various angles):
  • Upward. Most jumps are straight upward. This means the body gains altitude, but the range does not change significantly. Upward jumps are used when the target is in range or moving into range. For example, if the opponent is in punching or kicking range and attacks with a lead hand back fist, you block the back fist, and jump straight upward followed by a jump-spin side kick into the opponent’s midsection.
  • Toward the target. You jump toward targets that are out of range or moving away from you, so you can close the range. For example, if the opponent is in punching or kicking range but usually steps backward out of range to avoid attacks, then you need to jump toward the target to close the range as you execute a jump-spin side kick into the opponent’s midsection.
  • Away from the target. You jump away from the target when the target is in so close that don’t have room to execute your attack or when the opponent is moving toward you without or without an attack, so you will have room to execute your attack or counterattack. For example, as the opponent charges with a punching attack, it opens a midsection target, so you jump backward away from the target to avoid the punches and to open the range for a jump-spin side kick into the opponent’s midsection.
Side movements usually involve shifts or steps, not jumps. It’s awkward to try to jump the sides from fighting stances.

How to jump

Stand in a fighting stance and jump up as high as you can a few times. What did your arms do? What did your knees do?
  • Jumping requires explosive leg strength, so good jumpers have powerful legs. Add leg muscle building and plyometric exercises to your training.
  • Start from your fighting stance with your knees bent. Don’t suddenly squat lower before you jump or pre-jump (take a small jump to preload the leg muscles before the main jump). All fighting stances should have bent knees, so you never have to bend them to a jump.
  • Don’t telegraph your intention to jump. Don’t make any other motions with your arms or body, i.e. don’t twist or scrunch the body, or pump or drop the arms, just jump. Remember, the arms are used for blocking and attacking, not for balance or to add momentum to a spin or jump. 
  • Jump like a Jack-in-the-Box, just move around, as usual, to lull the opponent into complacency and then suddenly jump. The only indication your opponent should have that you are jumping is seeing you suddenly seem taller. The only exception to this is when using a feign or fake movement to distract the opponent from the jump.
  • Jump as if you were trying to jerk your knees up to touch your shoulders. You get upward thrust from the leg muscles performing the jump, and by jerking the knees upward you let their inertia lift you even higher.
  • Jerking your knees toward your shoulders means your feet will be forward of your center of mass. Don’t pull your feet straight upward under your center of mass; the leg muscles will not be able to apply their full force into the jump and the feet will not gain much altitude. Don’t pull your feet behind your center of mass toward your butt like a cheerleader jumps; this defeats the purpose of the jump since you do not gain much altitude and the feet are in a useless position for a kick. 
  • When the knees are lifted high, your feet are still under your body. This means that at any point during the jump, if anything goes wrong, you will still land on your feet.
  • By drawing the knees up in front, the feet have maximum height off the floor, thus giving you more "hang time" to perform the attacking technique, allowing you to reach higher targets, and allowing you time to get your feet down quickly for a safe landing. 

Jump kicks

To perform jump kicks, you must first learn to kick, then learn to jump, and then learn to jump and kick. If you know how to perform a kick properly but do not jump properly, then jump-kick will fail.
  • The higher you jump, the more time you have to perform a kick and make a safe, proper landing, so a high jump is vital to any jump kick. 
  • When the knees are lifted high in front during a jump, it means both legs are chambered for the kick.
  • Both legs remain chambered until the one executes the kick.
  • While one leg performs the kick, the other leg remains chambered. 
  • After the kick, the kicking leg re-chambers and then both feet return to the floor in a solid fighting stance.

Jump hand attacks

Jump hand attacks are like jump kicks; jump first, then execute the hand attack.
  • Don’t start your hand attack until you jump, or you will telegraph the technique. Without any other movements, when you jump, the opponent knows you are jumping but doesn’t know whether the attack that follows will be a hand attack or a kick.
  • Keep your arms in the guard position as you jump and then execute the hand technique at the peak of the jump.

To add a spin to the jump

Although at first seems like the wrong way to do it, when performing a jump-spin technique, you must first jump, then spin, and then acquire the target and fire the technique. Most beginners, and many advanced students, try to start the spin first, so they barely get off the floor with the jump.
  • If you start the spin before a kick, your kicking leg will move away from your center of balance and throw you off balance. 
  • Keep your arms in a tight guard position. If they move outward, you will be thrown off balance, and, since you will not see your opponent when you head is turning, you need to protect yourself against a counterattack come expectantly as you are completing the spin.
  • If the spin is done properly, your head will jerk around quickly at the beginning of the spin, so you can acquire the target quickly. When the head suddenly stops after the spin, it may take a moment for the brain to settle down and the vision to clear so be prepared for this to happen.
  • In all spin or jump spin attacks, the head spins first. If the head spins slower than the body, the spin will be slowed, and/or the attack will fire before you acquire the target. The eyes must acquire the target before the attack fires. This ensures you know where the target is, so you will not injure yourself or your opponent. Also, if the target has moved since the jump began, you can adjust your attack accordingly, stop the attack, or possibly even change the type of attack.

Flying jump

Flying jumps are jumps with a running start. This means the technique requires more time to complete, which means the opponent must be stunned or otherwise unaware of the movements or for some reason be unable to defend against the attack.
  • Take as many running steps as is needed (it may only be one or two steps). 
  • The steps allow you to bend the knees in preparation for the jump, something you shouldn’t do when performing a stationary jump.
  • No matter which leg performs the kick, you always jump off the lead leg.
  • Jump at a point that will ensure your attack strikes its target with proper focus. 
  • If you jump from too far away, you will have no power in the attack and may come up short. 
  • If you jump from too close, you may not get full extension in the technique and lose power, you may crash into the target and fall, or you may strike the target harder than intended.

Inept martial arts jumpers

Instead of perfecting the skill of jumping and doing the strength training necessary to build muscles for jumping, many martial artists just go through the motions of a jump while barely, if at all, leaving the floor. They forget that the purpose of a jump is to gain altitude, not to just to go through the motions of a jump.

Some students don’t perform jump kicks properly because they don’t have the skill required to jump, they are overweight, they have poor fitness, or they think don’t have to since the standards for making rank are so low in many commercial schools that students can be promoted without being required to jump effectively.

For a jump technique to be valid, at a minimum, both feet should be off the floor when the technique impacts its target. For example, during the breaking portion of a rank testing, if your non-kicking foot is not off the floor when you perform a jumping side kick break, it means you did not perform a proper jump side kick and the break should be a graded as a failure and thus you should not be promoted.

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