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  • Writer's pictureMaster Ash

Essential Kicks

Updated: Oct 10, 2022

Here is a guide to some of the first kicks we learn.

All kicks, punches and indeed all of fighting and self defense have three basic components.

1. Preparation. Getting ready in stance, we mentally prepare by “opening” ourselves to the movement. Once we are committed to moving, we have unlocked our body. Most of our life, we allow our mind and super ego to guide us in what is the right thing to do. We rely on the rules and societal norms of what is appropriate to the situation in front of us.

For example, if we are at a party and a friend slaps us on the back, we don’t respond with a back hand strike! More than likely we will greet him with a smile and a witty answer. Maybe we will playfully tap them back.

If on the other hand we feel the little hairs on the back of our neck rise, feel someone approach too closely, the body is already moving towards a reaction. With proper training, we merely need to get out of the way of thinking of what to do and just allow reflex training to express itself.

The simplest reaction is that of flight or fight. The great issue is the time it takes us to decide which one to do.

How do we decide which one to do? In fact one of our classmates just asked me this question. We have also discussed this in class. Just like in a koan, there is no intellectual answer. Conversely, it is inadequate to just say, “It depends”.

Like most things in life that require quickness, we cannot rely on the cerebral deliberation before action. When we touch a hot stove, our body reflexively pulls back. We don’t need to recognize that it is hot and then pull our hand way. It takes too long.

Just as we have the innate protective reflexes, we develop the same neural reflex in training.

With martial training we gain the neuromuscular reaction, like a reflex, bypassing the thinking mind and simply choosing to react and move.

So when we are faced with a fight or flight situation we simply bypass the thought, “What do I do?” and simply just do what is reflexive. The more we train, developing neural callousing, the easier the transition becomes.

This is what we refer to as the approach, or the opening of the mind to move.

2. Breath and Movement. This is where the action occurs. The body is now ready, the mind engaged in mushin zanshin, all mind, no mind. We are both moving and not moving, the body unlocked, connected to the ground ready to be fired, a waterfall at the top primed to fall into movement.

The stance is moving, not moving and then the kick is released. Using the ground, driving the force through the pivot foot, the kick enters the chamber position, knee up to the level of the target, body moving forward, rotating and dropping into the kick.

3. Return to ready. Just as the samurai returns the blade to the scabbard, nerves still poised to attack, we return to ready stance again, moving not moving. The mind is still ready, the body unlocked, open to the next movement. The breathing is natural and body is loose. We are back in mushin and zanshin.

Here is an example of each essential kick from chamber, to extension as in a thrust kick, and an example of a snap kick:

Front kick

The target of a front kick is essentially to the front of the opponent usually torso or head. The chamber position is necessarily at least to waist level or higher depending on the section of the body to be attacked; the higher the knee goes the higher section the foot will reach. In other words, we cannot raise the foot easily to high section if the chamber is only midsection. It is too slow and ineffectual.

The video shows the kick in three parts. First is the chamber position where the knee is raised, the hands are in the guard position and the body is coiled to release the kick. The second part of the video shows the kick at full extension and thrust. Note how far the kick penetrates. Third is the street speed snap kick. As fast as the kick is launched, there is an equal snap back. The last part is the return to stance with both feet on the ground ready to do another kick.

Round kick

The round kick, sometimes referred to as roundhouse like the punch, is similar to the basics for a front kick. This kick targets the side of the opponent reaching around the guard position.

The chamber position is with the knee pointed towards the target, at mid or high section. Higher the chamber position, the higher the kick. This is followed by rotating at the hip, uncoiling the kick and snapping back and to the ground again in a balanced stance.

See again the kick in its three parts: chamber, extension with thrust or snap, and return to balanced stance.

Each kick utilizes the three cardinal movements (translational or moving forward, rotational, and vertical drop), however each emphasizes a different direction. In the round kick the coiled rotation from the hip axis crests the speed and quick energy to strike.

Here is a front view of the round kick.

Side kick

The side kick can also be done in two basic ways: as a thrust kick, connecting the target and carrying the contact point far through the target, or as a snapping kick making lightning contact arriving with great velocity.

Here the kick comes from the back leg, with full rotation into the chamber position, followed by piercing forward with the knife edge and heel of the foot.

All cardinal movements are used in each kick, however side kick from the back leg emphasizes the translational movement penetrating deeper into the opponent compared with front or round kicks.


These are the fundamental kicks we learn and use in training, in fighting.

These are all shown from the back leg, however, we know that many kicks are from the front leg. What is the difference? It is important to first understand that there is indeed a difference from the lead leg versus the back leg kicking. Can you think of the different ways to use those different beginnings?

In the beginning there are so many different kicks, punches and blocks. We memorize and practice them in different combinations trying to learn them all. It becomes such a large library that it is impossible to categorize each one.

As we continue training we realize that some attacks are really blocking defenses (check kicks), and some of out defenses are in reality attacks (middle block stretches out into back fist).

Then the number of kicks, punches and blocks become reduced to simply moving into defense or attack.

As we move further in training, it becomes simply feeling the ground, breathing and moving. It is as simple as walking, and shaking a new friends hand. In this way, we learn that the Tae of fighting is just the same as the way we meet every situation.

So the question of fight or flight disappears and it is just allowing our training to guide us in each situation, moving not moving using mushin and zanshin.

Learn these kicks, practice them and let them become just another way of greeting those around you In sparring, fighting and self defense.

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