Becoming truly accomplished in the art of karate takes a combination of strength and agility – you need to deliver your blows not only with force, but with speed and accuracy.
The following steps focus on how you can improve your kicking technique to ensure your kicks deliver maximum impact every time.
1. Increase Your Flexibility
Flexibility is key to improving your karate kick technique. Include dynamic stretches in your pre-training warm up. Save energy-intensive static stretches for the end of your workout, as they could use up the essential energy you need to achieve effective kicks.
2. Increase Your Strength
To kick effectively, you need strength. Incorporate weight training along with other muscle building exercises such as lunges, squats, hip twists and calf raises into your training schedule.
3. Use Upright Posture Techniques
Try keeping your body upright, rather than pulling your body away from the kick. This technique enables you to kick your opponent at close range, as well as quickly following up with throws, grapples and take downs.
Practice keeping your upright posture with a heavy bag or training partner. Start practicing your kicks from further away from the target, and then move closer, while you maintain an up-right position. Increased flexibility and practicing hip twists will help with this.
4. Conceal Your Kicks
Lead with a fake technique by using your hand or leg before delivering your kicks. To conceal with your hands, use your lead hand as a shield and block out your opponent’s field of vision, or manoeuvre with your hands and when your opponent covers up, employ your kick.
With knee high chambers, you bring your knee high into your chest before kicking, which helps disguise what kind of kick you’re going to execute. It also makes kicks to the head area faster and more efficient, while providing protection to your mid-section.
Improve your knee high chambers by placing both your hands on a wall in front of you and lifting your knee towards your chest. Align your body correctly by imagining you have a light object like a can or a book on your shoulder which you’re trying to knock off with your knee.
5. Practice Your Kicking Drills
Slow kicking drills help increase your strength. Make this kicking drill last a full ten seconds, from your left leg forward stance through to the kick at full extension on the 10th beat.
Hold the kick for at least ten seconds, and repeat five times per leg. Switch up the drill with front, side and round house kicks. Add ankle weights to increase the resistance during your slow kicking drills and increase your strength even further. Don’t be tempted to use them during speed kicking drills detailed below, as this could lead to injury.
Speed kicking drills increase your kicking speed and accuracy. There are different ways to practice speed kicking. You can use kicks shields or forearm pads and use pyramid training, which entails multiple kicking of the same leg in repetitions that increase and then decrease in number (for example 1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 3, 2, 1).
Repeat this drill daily, using three or four sets. You could also try a time trial format, wherein you kick flapper pads as many times as you can in a minute (or however long you choose). Repeat this three times to build endurance, and increase the length of time for each round as you progress over time. Take rest intervals of 30 seconds between sets too.
6. Hip Twists
Hip twist exercises increase both the power and the speed of your kicks. Get into a left leg forward stance, with both feet placed flat on the ground. Drive your right hip forwards and backwards. Start slowly, and gradually add speed.
These work well in sets of 30 to 50 reps, and should be repeated on both sides. When you’re doing this manoeuvre right, you’ll feel tension in your mid-section, even to the point of a stitch.
7. Kick a Heavy Bag
Using a heavy bag as your target will help you develop power in your kicks. The bag should be heavy enough that it barely moves when you kick it.
Only use bags that are specifically designed for training, such as those in the gym or that your trainer or teacher supplies.
You’ll learn how to centre your strike position in your kicks, as well as build your fitness and stamina. Try this for three 3 minute rounds.
8. Focus on Your Breathing (Kimae)
Finally it’s hugely important to sync your breathing in time with your kicks. This process is known as kimae.
In essence, you exhale for all outward body movements and then in contrast, inhale when the movement comes back towards your body.
For example, as you strike with a karate kick you should exhale and as your leg is coming back in towards your body you should inhale. The same process applies to punches and blocks from your opponent too.
If you’re not familiar with this technique, it may take time to master, so don’t forget to spend time practising your breathing technique.
When you practise, make sure that your breathing is natural and not too forced. Eventually you will get to a stage where you’re not thinking about breathing in this way and the body will take over from the mind.
Repetition, Repetition, Repetition
Try all of the above techniques and then try them again. Practice really does make perfect when it comes to enhancing your technique.
You are learning how to control your movements and build strength and precision when it comes to kicking and the more effort your put in, the quicker you will make great improvements to your karate kicking techniques overall.
These are only some of the main elements of improving your kicking technique. For a more in-depth analysis, contact your nearest dojo or karate instructor.