by Thomas Kurz
Back Kick—Correct Form
Correct form of the back kick (karate’s ushiro geri and taekwondo’s dwit chagi)
The back kick in sparring and in competition is done with a turn, although in self-defense it may be used without the turn. When learning the kick, one has to first master it without turning.
—Stand in a natural parallel stance.
—Simultaneously hunch forward, bend the supporting leg, and lift the kicking leg so its knee is near your chest and its heel is near your buttock. The knee of your supporting leg is bent lightly. You have a choice of where to look—either look straight ahead (not at the target) or look down and back, under the same-side arm as the kicking leg, at where the feet of the opponent would be.
— Throw your heel and your hips back, toward the target. Your trunk simultaneously leans down.
— Upon contact (actual or imaginary), spring the kicking leg back so its heel returns to your buttock, and then return to the natural stance.
When in this simple form you are able to kick straight and fast, fully committing your body into the kick, you may begin working on adding the turn (actually a half turn).
— Stand in a fighting stance.
— Look at your target before you turn.
— Put your leading foot across your center line, and make a half turn so that now the back of your head is toward the target—if you had an eye in the back of your head, it would look straight at the target.
— Your kicking leg is now in front of your pivot leg (supporting leg).
— Kick back as in the no-turn form.
— Return the kicking leg to the ground when your back is still toward the target. As the kicking leg lands in front of the supporting leg, you turn to face the target again (this half turn is done in the opposite direction to the first one).
Practice until all this is one movement—half turn, snap, half turn—too fast for the leg to be caught.
Back Kick Errors
1. Missing the target.
Causes: Looking over either shoulder—slows down the kick, makes you miss, and in the case of a hard contact, can damage your spine.
Remedy: Look either ahead (away from target) or under your arm. If you look at your spine from above, it should form as straight a line as possible.
Practice kicking a small ball suspended on a string. Don’t look at the ball at the instance of the kick—adjust your initial position and the height of the kick until you hit that ball every time. Practice initially without the turn and then with the turn.
If you miss the target during sparring, then practice kicking a shield held by a partner who moves as your opponent would. Then practice light sparring limited to only the back kick, so you and your partner throw back kicks in turns, with light contact.
2. Hitting the target with the ball of the foot instead of the heel.
Causes: Sloppy practice—not working on hitting the suspended ball or kicking/punching bag with the heel. Weak dorsiflexors of the foot (shin muscles) or short plantar flexors of the foot (calf muscles).
Remedy: Practice mindfully; slow down the kick until you hit the target with your heel every time. Stretch the calves and strengthen the shin muscles.
There are many more kicks, but if you master the basic ones I wrote about in the last five articles (beginning with the front knee kick), you will have a good foundation for learning all the others. Incidentally, the basic kicks are those that deliver the most victories—points or knockouts.
If you have any questions on training you can post them at Stadion’s Sports and Martial Arts Training Discussion Forum.
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