Monday, March 16, 2015

Year of the Kick: Front Kicks

In my last post, I declared 2015 the Year of the Kick. Each week, I've focused on one kick, or one aspect of a kick with a simple goal:

Make Kicks Suck Less.

First kick up was Front Kick.

I love front kick. It is a simple kick that everyone can easily do, and it can be used as a theory workhorse, carrying all kinds of great lessons that can be applied to our training. At a class for senior instructors, I was asked to lead kick drill. At a time when many people in the group didn't know who I was or what I was all about, I chose to do an entire drill of front kick and it's many variations. As many people who have quit my class due to sheer boredom can attest, I am a fan of the basics. Regular front kick, front snap kick, front leg front kick, push kick, heel kick, toe kick, jumping front kick, double jump front kick, triple front kick and various combinations of the above. A great way to fill a class, if you ask me.

Four count kicks were the first concept I wanted to review. Have you ever tried to make kids do four count kicks? I mean slow kicks where you focus on the chamber, hold the extension, retract and set down? It's an excruciating drill and the kids hate it as much as the adults. The only difference is in how much the two groups audibly complain. But since their kicks sucked, something had to be done. So I gave it my best effort to make it fun, and that usually means one thing: Letting the kids try to hurt my assistants.

4 count kicks, I explained, were super important because all 4 parts make the kick better, but all 4 kicks also have individual functions. When you practice kicking a bad guy (at this point, I call for a helper, who inwardly shudders at what they know is coming) we aren't just kicking them (bam!) but also kneeing them in the groin (bam) ribs (bam) or inner thigh (bam!) THEN we kick them (bam!) hook their leg with the retraction to bring them down (bam!) and just in case, we stomp on their bellies (bam! bam! bam!)

This blog brought to you with promotional consideration from 2005!

Now that the kids were excited, it was time to bust out the targets. Work the target with knee strikes and stomps and finally the kick itself. End goal of kicks sucking less accomplished, and at the same time, was able to add some practical understanding of the mechanics (and still save some more for next time!)

Friday, March 6, 2015

Year of the Kick

Testing your students is an interesting exercise.  Yes, they are the ones working for a new rank, but at the end of the day, the focus falls more on you and your teaching ability.  What have we done well?  What needs special attention? So many things to cover, so little time.

Well, at our last test, I came away feeling that our kicks were leaving much to be desired.  Being a Korean art, this can be seen as a major problem.  So, in response, 2015 was dubbed the year of the kick.

I'm, at best, an OK kicker. I can't do this:

But, I can keep up with the little kids...

And every once in awhile, I surprise myself...

But lately, my focus has been elsewhere and I've had other things I've been trying to fix in class, so kicking, and especially fancy, spinny, super-high korean-style kicking just hasn't been a huge priority for me. As a result, we've had a top-down problem that needed to be fixed.

So since January, every class has featured lots of kicks. Sometimes at the expense of other concepts, but it has been time well spent. We started from scratch, focusing on one kick every week and building up through the essential kicks. On the ground, in the air, against targets, against partners, laying on the ground, you name it, I had a single goal: make kicks suck less. So, I went about fixing this the best way I know how: completely geek out on all aspects of kicking, and make kicking exciting for me again.

Admittedly, I was growing bored with teaching kicking. One of things they don't tell you about running a karate school is that you spend an INCREDIBLE amount of time working on basic techniques at a very basic level. There's always a new white belt who needs to start from scratch. The "good stuff" doesn't get to come out very often, or so it can feel.

The problem, not surprisingly, was entirely in my head. Kicks were unexciting, because I failed to make them exciting. I'd gotten slightly above average in one very small aspect of kicking, and I had become content. Besides, I read an article written by a self-defense "expert" who said kicks were bad, and I'm pretty sure Bruce Lee had something about high kicks being bad... (note: it's 2015 and we still don't have an official internet sarcasm font!)

Then, I saw something that really stopped me in my tracks and made me shut up and listen. It was a video featuring Dan Inosanto. If you know who Dan Inosanto is, then you also know that when Guro Dan talks, you shut up and listen.

(if the embed code doesn't work anymore, go to 15:14 in the clip.)

If you're like me, you watched that, and said "holy crap, that's awesome! how do I do that?!"

And that's the feeling I wanted to reproduce in my students. That's the "white belt" mindset that is so open to learning and trying new things. The mindset that understands that there is so much out there still to be processed and done. It's an amazing feeling. And watching that video made me want to have feet that were as fluid as my hands.

But as the saying goes (or doesn't go as I'm probably butchering it) "before you can run, you have to walk." So we're working on the basics of kicking: chambering, extending, retracting, putting it back down. All the good stuff. 

I am pleased to say that kicks have improved, with plenty of room for growth. Kicks are more powerful. Kickers have better balance and control. Targets are getting smooshed. It's pretty wonderful.

And there's still so much more to cover.