Back to basics: front kick

Introduction: the basic front kick

Following my recent "back to basics" theme and my article "Enter the front snap kick", I thought I'd discuss how to go about doing a basic front kick. Apart from discussing the basic form and some of the finer points (eg. hip use), I thought I'd also go into the differences between (and the relevant uses of) the front ball of foot kick vs. the heel kick.

Step 1

Start by raising one knee (in this case the right) with your knee fully bent and the underside of your foot parallel to the ground.

The most common mistake at this point is where the underside of the foot is not parallel to the ground; instead the ankle is pointing downwards. The consequence of this is that your kick effects a scooping action which can damage your toes and is generally ineffective.

Make sure that you maintain your guard - ie. you should keep your arms up in a defensive posture.

You should maintain the same guard throughout the kick.

Step 2

Snap your leg out, making sure that your ankle is forward but your toes are pulled back, so that you are kicking with the ball of the foot.

The 2 most common mistakes relate to the above, ie:
  1. the ankle is not thrust forward, meaning that you end up kicking with the flat underside of your foot (which spreads the impact over too large a surface area); or
  2. the toes are not pulled back, meaning that your toes impact on the target (which can and does result in broken toes on impact).
Step 3

Return your kick to the chambered position referred to in step 1, then return your kicking foot to the ground.

The most common mistake here is that students can delay the return of the foot to the ground, choosing to hold the chambered position. It is imperative that there be no pause in this chambered position (which is a transitional position).

Hip use/orientation

The hips are, obviously, critical to the success or failure of your front kick. On impact, they should be thrust forward so that your body and leg form a sideways "Y" shape. Note that this does not mean that you will be leaning back. Rather, your hips will be pushed forward of your central axis. Because your head and shoulders are left behind you will appear to "lean" back, but this is not due to any backward motion: it is purely as a result of the forward motion of the hips. I discuss this in the video below:


I discuss the correct form of the mae geri or front kick, in particular the use of the hips

The importance of minimal body movement

It is critically important with your front kick that your body movement does not telegraph your intention by bobbing up and down before and during your kick. This not only gives advance warning to your opponent, it also robs your movement of efficiency.

I discuss this in the video below:


I discuss the importance of "disguising" your front kick

Ball of foot vs. heel

It is traditional in China for kicks to be performed either with the toes or with the heel - not the ball of the foot. It is said by many that this was also originally true of traditional Okinawan karate.

I'll start by making the observation that toe kicks, when performed with most types of shoes, inevitably lead to your toes curling back, not under, thereby putting your ball of foot into prominence. Accordingly I don't see most "toe" kicks as being real "toe kicks". Rather, they are (necessarily) ball of foot kicks. This is my experience when kicking objects while wearing shoes (which is something I regularly do on training camps in the wilderness, for example, and in many internal arts classes).

As to heel kicks, they have their time and place. In particular, they are very useful when your range is slightly shorter than that which would permit a full ball of foot kick. They are also more useful for thrusting than the ball of foot variety (for some reason it is hard to thrust with the ball of foot - it has something to do with a different tension in your muscles). Correspondingly, snap kicks are easier with the ball of foot or toes than with the heel.

In the end, you should be comfortable doing either. However if you were to ask me which is the more useful, I would say it is the ball of the foot - probably because I incline to the view that snap kicks are the most useful type of kick for civilian defence. It is for this reason that I tend to teach the ball of the foot kick first and the heel kick second.

I discuss this issue in the video below:


I discuss heel vs. ball of foot kicks

Further reading:
Visible force vs. applied force

Copyright © 2011 Dejan Djurdjevic