Scott Be Positive

The Front Kick: Devastatingly Simple

By Scott Shaw

This article originally appeared in the January 1998 Issue of Inside Karate Magazine.

The front kick is the first kick that virtually all-budding martial artists are trained to perform. Though this kick is the most elementary offensive kicking technique in most styles of the self-defense, when performed correctly, the front kick becomes one of the most devastatingly effective techniques in anyone’s offensive or defensive self-defense arsenal.

The basic front kick is performed by standing in a traditional fighting stance with your fists clinched in front of you. You then launch your rear leg forward by rapidly raising the knee of your kicking leg up to approximately your hip level. The lower section of your kicking leg is then immediately snapped outwards in the direction of your kicking objective. The front kick’s power is developed by a combination of upper leg muscle strength and lower leg snapping momentum.

The impact of the front kick is made with either the instep of your foot, commonly directed at the groin region of your opponent, or the ball of your foot. The latter is accomplished by consciously pulling your toes back, thus, exposing the ball of your foot.

It is very important to note that when utilizing the front kick, in this more advanced fashion, that your toes must always be pulled back, even when kicking with shoes on your feet—for if your toes are allowed to remain in their naturally extended position, they can easily be broken when target impact is made. Though this form of delivering the front kick, with the ball of your foot, is more advanced, through continued front kick practice the technique of pulling back the toes will become very natural.

Japanese Verses the Korean Front Kick
Many Japanese systems of martial art retract the front kick with the same snapping speed and velocity as it is delivered. The Korean styles of martial arts do not perform the front kick in this fashion, however. Instead, a front kick is powerfully extended towards its target, then, once impact has been made, the kicking leg is allowed to remain in its extended position for a millisecond in order that the full energy of the kick may be delivered to the target.

The Korean martial art stylist believes that if a front kick is retracted with the same speed as it is delivered, much of the front kicks impact energy will be dissipated and lost due to the rapid snapping back of the leg. Therefore, to deliver the full potential power of any front kick, snap your leg into its target with full force and do not allow its forward momentum to snap the lower section of your leg back. Instead, take conscious control of the muscles of your leg and allow the kick to retract in a very conscious and controlled fashion.

Proper Development of the Front Kick
As a method to instruct the kicking novice in proper front kick delivery, the instructors of Korean martial art systems will teach their student to consciously retract the lower portion of the kicking leg, only a few inches, after the front kick has been extended. This is accomplished by allowing the upper leg to remain semi-extended at its hip joint level once a front kick has been thrown. From this positioning, the student is taught to allow the kicking foot to consciously drop to the ground in a forward stance, as if a step had been taken. From this, the student learns to properly deliver the front kick and move forward with its power, instead of weakening its impact by immediately snapping it back.

Most martial artists learn how to perform the elementary front kick soon after they begin their training. Instead of focusing on how this simple, yet very effective kick can most effectively be utilized, many novice students focus on how high their front kick can be delivered. This is the first mistake in the development of proper front kick dynamics.

During opening class warms-ups the beginning martial artist will commonly attempt to front kick as high into the air as is possible. The novice student will often times learn the hard way that they have not yet developed the proper balance to properly deliver the high front kick, however, as what will often occur is when their front kick is wildly kicked into the air, the student will fall awkwardly backwards onto the ground. This lack of balance is largely due to the fact that the student has remained flat footed with the knee of their base leg locked while performing this kicking technique.

When the front kick is correctly performed you should very slightly raise up onto the ball of the foot of your base leg. As you raise your heel slightly off of the ground, allow your non-kicking knee to bend slightly. In this way, your body is allowed to naturally balance itself. From this, no unnecessary falling or injury will occur.

Once you have learned to correctly perform the basic front kick you can then concentrate your focus of the height of your front kick, primarily as an effective method to induce additional leg stretching. Remember, however, this high kicking does little to prepare you for a confrontational situation, for it is rare that any martial artist will ever need to kick above their head level while fighting. For this reason, while in class, it is a far more effective method of front kick training to focus on an imaginary target at the level of your solar plexus or face, rather than to simply kick randomly to see how high the momentum of your front kick will lead.

Front Kick: The Next Level
Now that the basics of the properly developed front kick are understood, you can take this simple, yet very effective kick, to the next level—that of making it a truly effective offensive and defensive weapon.

Initially, it must be understood that the front kick is not limited to the range of how far your leg can extend from its current position. For, there is no reason, in any confrontational situation, that you should remain planted at your current positioning.

To understand this, let’s take a look at a common confrontational situation. You have faced off with an opponent who is several feet in front of you. You are both in your fighting stances, with your fists raised. The common tactic taken, by the novice martial artist, is to cautiously move in towards his opponent and then begin the sparring match. Though this type of interaction is common, it is no doubt the quickest way to lose a fight as you are anticipating that you are your opponent’s fighting equal, which may not be the case.

Therefore, let’s look at how to use the front kick in a much more expedient and effective manner. Instead of graciously facing off and moving slowly in towards your adversary, why not take advantage of the moments before the confrontation has actually begun and use it to your own advantage. One of the most effective ways to do this is by utilizing the front kick.

Advancing the Front Kick
The front kick, by its very nature, is a very direct, linear kick. It has the ability to readily penetrate your opponent’s defenses very quickly and very easily. It can shoot in, under your opponent’s clinched fists, and deliver a powerful first strike to his midsection before he even knows what hit him. This can set the stage for your victory in the confrontation.

Though the elementary front kick has little distance or range capabilities, this kick can be slightly altered so you have an enormous ability to gain substantial distance and readily attack your opponent.

The Momentum Driven Front Kick
Stand in a fighting position. Ready yourself to perform a front kick. Now, instead of performing the front kick as a stationary technique, visualize a target several feet in front of yourself. As you snap your front kick out, allow the momentum driven power of this kick to pull your body forward. Do not attempt to control or over balance yourself from this feeling. Feel the momentum that your kicking leg experiences as the front kick pulls you forward, sliding your base foot along the ground.

Do not attempt to hinder this forward motion. Let it move you closer in towards your target.

As you practice this momentum driven front kick, you will come to realize that you can effortlessly travel several feet in towards your opponent without ever losing your balance. This type of front kicking technique not only gives you additional range but it gives you additional power, as well. This is because the force of your body weight is moving you in towards your target.

To use the momentum driven front kick as a viable fighting tool, next time you and an opponent have faced off, immediately drive forward with a momentum driven front kick and you will powerfully strike the first blow to the groin or midsection of your adversary. From this, you may emerge victorious from the confrontation before it has even begun.

Refining the Front Kick
As detailed, the front kick is a very effective weapon. The leading mistake many people make when they use this technique is that they extend the snapping motion of their kicking leg before they are in range of their target. Thereby, they dissipate the power of the kick before it has had the opportunity to make impact. Additionally, by performing the front kick in this premature fashion, the martial artist stands the chance of hyper-extending his or her own knee in the process. Therefore, to make the front kick a viable offensive and defensive technique, you should never, “Snap-out,” or extend the lower portion of your kicking leg until you are very close to your target and assured of making contact.

As an example of this, if you have faced off with your opponent and are going to powerfully drive towards him with the previously described momentum driven front kick, you should not extend the snapping motion of this kick until you are in very close proximity to his body. Once in striking distance you can then snap the lower portion of your kicking leg out and be sure of impacting your target. By performing the front kick in this fashion, if your opponent retreats, beyond the range of your kick, you will be able to rapidly and firmly plant your kicking leg on the ground and follow up with an additional offensive or defensive technique. From this, your kicking energy will not be wasted and you will not have left your body exposed to a counter attack by front kicking wildly into the air.

The Defensive Front Kick
As you now understand, the front kick is a very powerful offensive weapon. The front kick can, however, also be equally used as a defensive tool.

The defensive front kick can best be utilized when your opponent is deeply involved in the process of his attack. As he is involved with his own maneuvering, this is your best opportunity to launch a defensive front kicking technique at him.

While any opponent’s offensive technique is in progress, he will possess the least ability to redirect its motion or block your defensive front kick. Thus, by counter attacking at these instances, you have the greatest potential of injuring your opponent before he has the opportunity of injuring you.

The Intercepting Front Kick
As the front kick is singularly direct, it has the potential of striking your opponent before he has the opportunity of completing any of his offensive fighting maneuvers. For example, an opponent launches a traditional roundhouse kick. Due to the circular, momentum driven nature of this kicking technique, it develops its power by first traveling outwards and then in, towards its target. As the front kick is completely linear, you can quickly deliver a front kick to your opponent’s midsection before his roundhouse kick has the ability to reach you. Thus, not only is your opponent struck but you also have interrupted his kick and no doubt sent him off balance where your additional offensive techniques may be launched, as necessary.

The same positive result can be achieved when your opponent attempts a roundhouse punch at you. As the wildly thrown roundhouse punch is the most common type of punch used in street fights, by properly moving your body and rapidly delivering a front kick to your opponent when you see that a roundhouse punch is about to unleashed, you will be able to defend yourself without ever needing to block the punching assault.

To understand this defensive methodology further, let’s take a look at its actual implementation. Your opponent begins his roundhouse punch. As this punch is circular in nature and, therefore, does not possess much range of distance, you simply need to lean your body back out of its path while it is in motion. Without doing anything further, the punch will miss you. But, as you now understand, you can easily countermand circular techniques with the front kick. So, once you have leaned back and the force of the punch has missed you, simultaneously deliver a front kick to your opponent’s groin or midsection. He will be instantly debilitated.

Front Kick Verses the Spinning Heel Kick
To understand the defensive front kick further, we can look at using it to defend against the spinning heel kick or the straight back kick, which are two of the most devastating kicks in the Korean kicking arsenal.

First of all, for either of these two kicks to be successfully delivered, your opponent must turn around behind himself, focus on the target, and then unleash the kick. As he is in the process of making this turn, this is the ideal opportunity to use the front kick as a defensive tool and halt his attack altogether. This is most readily accomplished by simply delivering a front kick to your adversary’s buttocks as he spins behind himself while performing these spinning techniques.

By planting a well-placed front kick, your opponent’s spinning kick is immediately stopped and he will be thrown off balance and perhaps sent to the ground. At this juncture, you can effortlessly move forward with additional self-defense techniques as the particular situation calls for.

As you now understand, the front kick and its various applications, though very simple to implement, can be some of the most effective tools in your self-defense arsenal. By its very design, the front kick can be rapidly delivered, thus, saving you from any unnecessarily prolonged confrontation or potential injury.

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