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Knee Position After A Kick

In our style of Shorin-Ryu we tend to use mae geri (front kicks). Yoko geri (side kicks) are used only sparingly and are targeted below the waist. In the Pinan kata, for example, all of the kicks are mae geri (even the first kick of Pinan Shodan). There are no side, roundhouse or back kicks.

One of the common mistakes beginners make is to lower the knee after a front kick. The knee must be brought up to a horizontal postion (or higher) before the kick is fired (snapped out). The knee must remain at this height after the kick as well. It must not be lowered until after the kick snaps back. There is a saying that any strike or kick should snap back twice as fast as it went out.

If the knee is lowered prematurely, the student tends to step or lean forward. This is an awkward and vulnerable moment in which the body is dead (shinitai). We look for the attacker to make such a mistake. It is an opportunity to attack or counterattack, particularly to sweep the front foot or leg and follow up with a punch.

The knee is kept high after a kick for three main reasons: (1) from this position, it is easy to kick again; (2) it gives you the opportunity to change directions; and (3) it maintains body compression. The third reason is probably the most important for beginners since it is part of overall body dynamics training.

There are five kicks in Pinan Yondan. Students tend to especially drop their knees after the last two kicks. Because the kicks begin and end in the same cat stance (nekoashi dachi) without a step, the knee dropping is easy to see. If the knee is dropped, compression is lost and the following two punches will be very weak. But if the knee is kept high and compression is maintained, the punches will snap out effortlessly. We tend to time the first punch with the return of the kicking foot to the ground.

Dropping the knee prematurely makes the student lose compression. This is because the koshi tuck is lost. New students must be constantly urged to tuck their koshi and squeeze their lats -- until it becomes a reflex action.

Keep your knee high after kicks and maintain compression for the next movement.

I should add that there are cases in which the leg is not snapped back after a kick. In certain situations, the leg will be dropped after the kick to stomp on, rake, or buckle the attacker's leg. Examples of such kicks can be seen in Passai (Tomari version), Kusanku (Chattan Yara version), and Naihanchi. It is also important to maintain body compression in such situations.


Charles C. Goodin