Time to Get your Kicks on Route 66
As the weather gets warmer it is time to warm up your legs and start kicking. Every style of martial art has kicks even Tai Chi. Although the kicks in the Tai Chi form are done slowly, it is fun to learn to kick more quickly, too. Obviously, if you were going to kick someone in self-defense, you want to kick them as quickly as you can! Super slow motion Tai Chi kicking will not work.
The fact is the best kicks for self-defense are low kicks. These are also the easiest kicks to learn and the best place to start. Whatever style of martial arts you study the place to start is with low kicks. Once you can keep your balance and feel comfortable with your range of motion you can kick higher.
Low kicks target kicks at the thigh, knee, shin, and ankle level. Mid-level kicks include kicks targeting the groin and lower abdomen or belly. High kicks target the chest and head. In most cases the only real difference between low kicks and mid-level and high kicks is the height of the kick. Sometimes the foot position changes or acquires more options at higher levels. Higher kicks also obviously require more flexible legs and looser clothing!
If you have not been kicking much recently or are new to this whole kicking game, a great place to begin is just practice your steps first. When you kick, turning the foot of your standing leg to point to the corner, lining up your knee with your toe, and keeping your knee a little bent will help provide a base to throw your kicks from. Practice walking in a line, turning each foot out, lining up each knee, and staying low for balance. Then start kicking. Do not worry too much about power, speed, or even foot position on the kicking foot. Mostly, focus on building your self-awareness, your coordination, your balance and exploring and opening your range of motion. As your balance improves, you can expand and get more comfortable with new ranges of motion as your legs gain flexibility.
Stretching exercises can assist you to develop the flexibility to kick higher. You can also use the active stretching technique of warming up gradually with lower kicks and once your muscles are hot and your blood is fully circulating deep in your joints near your tendons and ligaments then kick higher and use the kicks themselves to enhance your flexibility. Just do not over do it and hurt yourself. Start out slowly and build up slowly. Steady and consistent builds the best, safest and longest lasting result. The most important place to stretch for all of your kicks is your hips. If your hips are flexible, when you kick, you will maintain the strength of your knees and lower back.
Letting your legs gradually loosen with kicking exercises builds lots of core strength and capability. This can help you not only kick harder and quicker, but also slower, and more gracefully, as well. Performing beautiful slow motion kicks, especially high ones, requires both considerable core and hip strength and also lots of flexibility. Developing both fast and slow kicks is a great way to progress and have fun regardless of the style you practice. If you are practicing Northern Shaolin, then tons of fast and high kicking is in your future. However, the foundation of all those high kicks is the still the low kicks, the foot and knee position and the hip flexibility. The truth is one of the best ways to develop massive power and complete control and accuracy in your high kicks is to also practice your kicks super slowly and really hold and extend them. This develops incredible strength and kicking ability. – the recommended method of Grandmaster Wong Jackman.
P.S. Get your kicks anywhere you can! Not just on route 66!
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