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A High Kick

A friend of mine just gave me a general interest magazine that happened to contain a feature story about Okinawan Karate. In fact, Karate was shown on the cover.

A ninth dan, hanshi, was shown executing a high mawashi geri (roundhouse kick) to the neck of a younger student, who blocked the kick. I showed the cover to my wife and asked, "Who is in a better position, the one kicking or the one who blocked?"

It was obvious the the kicker was in a precarious position. His leg was high in the air, his kick had been blocked, and his groin and supporting knee were wide open for a counterattack. To me, this cover illusrated what not to do -- don't kick high and leave yourself in a vulnerable position. However, I image that the intent was to show the opposite -- a great high kick.

Of course, magazine covers are designed by graphic artists, not martial artists. They probably told the 9th dan that they wanted a dramatic cover and asked him to show a high kick -- since everyone loves to see high kicks. The 9th dan probably explained that a high kick is not representative of the techniques of his Karate system, but gave in after many requests.

Someone wrote an article about my Karate research. This was years ago. It was for a pretty nice magazine so they sent a professional photographer to do a photo shoot. We met at a park. He wanted a dramatic photo and asked me to execute a high kick, which I did. I kicked about as high as high as my ear.

Not quite satisfied, the photographer asked me to execute the kick on the side of a hill. He crouched under me and I kicked over him. From that angle, the kick looked really high. I kicked. Snap. Not good enough. I kicked again. Not quite right. Again. Missed it. Again and again I kicked.

Now with the photographer under me, I could not set my leg down after the kick. I had to pull it back, which was difficult given the slope of the hill. After about 60 kicks, I felt pretty bow legged.

Finally the article appeared with the kicking photo. My wife looked at it and said, "Why did they take a picture of your crotch?"

You can't win. We practice Karate for decades and yet we tend to listen to photographers and graphic artists, who want to show things that do not necessary represent what we do. But then, how can you show avoiding trouble on the cover of a magazine?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin