Acquiring Roundhouse Kicking Power

I was working with a couple of young practitioners on the lawn a few days ago, and I noticed one of them kicking but only kicking with the leg. Kicking with the leg? Aren't all kicks done with the leg? Well, yes, but that's not what I mean. What I meant was that, I know that kicking power was quite important to this young man, and while I'm sure he felt like he could apply some power into his leg, well, what I was seeing was that he wasn't applying as much power as he could.

Many people equate striking power with fitness and muscle strength. The faster or stronger you are, the more power you can put into your strike - it's logical. But that only works when you are applying power correctly in the first place. For instance, if you're flapping your arms, straining to raise your leg up, feel unbalanced after sending your leg out, or if you take a little longer to get back to a guard position after firing a kick, well, chances are your kick isn't as effective as it could be. 

Fitness and strength would only help you improve on a kick that's already good. Fitness and strength isn't going to give you a powerful kick. 

So back to this informal session I had. My young friend had power through his leg but his body was fairly relaxed. The leg was basically a jab. What I wanted to explain was that for that particular long range 'roundhouse' kick, the power generation was done using a 'pendulum' type swing. It's not about just extending your leg and hitting the target. 

So I got my friend in front of me and performed his kick on his gut. I made sure to hold my body still and kick him with enough power that he knew that the kick was solid. The kick hit, and for sure, you could see the hydrostatic shock going through his gut. Then what I did was to show him that for the force represented by the leg, it was connected to the body at the hip - that was the fulcrum, and the counterweight was the body. So what I wanted to do was to link the power of the leg to the greater mass of the body.

So I set up for a new kick, this time ratcheting the power of my leg down so that you could visually see that the power of the kick was less that what I levied on him at first. The second kick however, engaged my body mass more because I tightened up my core mucles, linked it up with the extension of the leg and the swinging motion of the kick. Upon impact I increase muscle tension so that the mass of the body was 'transmitted' into the target more effectively. 

As the power of the kick went through his body,  you could see the realisation that even if the leg was relaxed, the increased mass driving the circumferential momentum spiked the power applied by the strike.

The next question out of him was a very pertinent one - he doesn't see the body moving as much as a counterweight as indicated by my basic explanation. It's true. But the counterweight can still be applied effectively if you tighten the muscles at the right time, the shifting of the body and the hip need not be so overt as to show an equal and opposite movement because the body is not piece of machinery - all you need is the correct muscle control immediately before and immediately after the point of impact.


Colin Wee
Joong Do Kwan Chung Sah Nim
Hikaru Dojo Shihan
Founder The SuperParents A Team
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Ørjan said…
Great read. I really liked your comments on the flaw of how people usually see fit and strong people delivering more power vs good technique. I know that was not the main point of your post but the way you did it and without the martial artists " you do not need strength as long as you have good technique" myth was great.

Also I relly liked the last image of the post. That was actually the exact application I learned from Taegeuk Youk (6) Jang (knife hand block and roundhouse kick). I even learned the traditional roundhouse with the ball of the foot as you demonstrate here allthough 99% of everyone you will see doing the form today will use the regular roundkick (dollyeo chagi) with the instep.

My teacher still teaches the traditional roundhouse kick as you demonstrate on that last image as he sees that it is rapidly dissapearing in the Kukkiwon comunity.
Mir said…
I love how you broke that down!

It is always nice to be able to use a tool in more than one way, and knowing how to use a kick using the leg, and again using the core is an awesome way of expanding one's abilities.
CKA Karate said…
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