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by Thomas Kurz
This is the second article on common errors in basic kicks, in which you will learn how to recognize and fix errors in the side kick.
Side Thrust Kick—Correct Form
Correct form of the side thrust kick (karate’s yoko geri and taekwondo’s yop chagi)
—Stand with the kicking side closer to the target and look at the target (over your shoulder).
—Transfer your weight to your supporting leg, its knee bent, the supporting foot firmly planted on the ground, from toes to heel.
—Pull the knee of the kicking leg straight up, above your waist, so the kicking foot is above, slightly ahead of, and to the inside of the supporting knee. (If you dropped the kicking foot straight down, the inside edge of its heel would touch the inside edge of the big toe of the supporting foot.) As you pull up the kicking foot into chamber position, form the knife-foot by raising the big toe and curling under the other toes. Forming the knife-foot right at the beginning of pulling up the kicking leg seems to increase the speed and height of chambering.
—Throw the side kick along a straight line, from the kicking foot in its chambered position to the target, leaning the trunk away from the target while the whole body moves toward it. Only very low close-distance side kicks, such as kicks to the shin, can be done with the trunk kept vertical.
—Return the foot along the same path to the chamber position, and then lower it to the ground.
To ensure high chamber, initially practice this kick over the same obstacle as for the front kick, but kick to the side. Then, to learn driving the side kick into a target, kick a heavy bag. After mastering the kick with the lead leg (the one closer to the target), practice kicking with the rear leg.
Side Thrust Kick Errors
1. Low chamber—limits power and height at which you can kick. It is a sign of poor conditioning, specifically weak hip flexors and weak lower back, and/or poor teaching.
Causes: It is most often caused by teaching side kicks to people who are not prepared for it with a sufficient conditioning program—clearly the fault of an instructor.
Remedy: Core strengthening until one is able to comfortably stand on one leg, chamber high, and slowly extend the leg sideways from the chamber and return to the chamber—many times. Side kicks over the obstacle, initially kicking slowly and gradually speeding up the kicks.
2. The knee of the kicking leg drops below the kicking foot. Commonly seen together with low chamber. Also a sign of poor conditioning but also of the wrong concept of the side kick—lack of commitment to move into the target.
Causes: The same as for the low chamber and also lack of drills that teach shifting the body weight toward the target.
Remedy: Same as for the low chamber plus practicing low side kicks (from the high chamber) into the target or stomping side kicks (also from the high chamber, like karate’s yoko kansetsu geri). Also, practicing leg raise to the side and raising side kick (karate’s yoko keage), taught in my articles “Right Stretches for High Kicks with No Warm-Up” and “High Kicks with No Warm-Up: The Right Body Alignment for Side Kicks” as well as on the DVD Clinic on Stretching and Kicking.
3. The kicking foot does not travel on the straight path from chamber position to the target.
Causes: A too low chamber, not paying attention, not enough practice of low side kicks and thus poor coordination of the kick and the body shift.
Remedy: Practice slow-motion side kicks over a table with a straight line marked on it. The foot must follow the line when kicking and when returning back to chamber. Hang two strings, no more than two feet apart, each with a small ball at the end. Line them up so that when you kick the first ball straight, it will hit the second ball. If not, keep practicing.
4. Turning the kicking foot so its sole is directed toward the target, usually well before the knee is raised above the waist (chambered). The overall result is what I call the “Napoleon Dynamite Side Kick.” It is an uncommitted and thus powerless kick, which shows lack of drive, of decisiveness, and of common sense.
Causes: Not knowing how to form the knife-foot (in karate called ashigatana or sokuto). This error is characteristic of people who have no clue what makes the side kick work, what gives it its power, and how to learn it—all usually faults of a fake instructor whom these people decided to learn from.
Remedy: Walk on the outer edges of feet, stomp with the outer edge of feet, practice low side kicks from high chamber (as in point 3) until chambering and kicking with the correctly formed knife-foot becomes habitual. Practice the raising side kick (see point 2). Other than that, find a real instructor—but someone who can’t tell a working, powerful technique from a sloppy fake will have difficulty telling a fake instructor from a real one, too. For intelligent people, it is enough to see someone’s students showing such errors to know not to enroll with that instructor.
So, these are the errors I observed during clinics on stretching and kicking. There would be nothing strange about these errors if the people making them taught themselves by watching, say, Charlie’s Angels movies. But, alas, these were people who attended martial arts’ classes, and most of them had pretty dark belts—if you don’t believe it, see it yourself on the DVD Clinic on Stretching and Kicking. I gave several clinics for martial artists, and most of the attendees made the same errors—as if their instructors didn’t know how to correct them.
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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