Senshin: The Enlightened Mind

Martial Arts Blog

normrobitza On March - 1 - 2018

Yoko Geri or side kick is probably the most difficult kick to teach. You can tell your students how to perform it, show them how it is done and move them like ragdolls, but it still does not come across to them.

Most students perform the kick, whether yoko geri keage or yoko geri kekomi, in a way that makes it look like a fish out of water. It is limp, with the foot flopping around like it is about to take its last breath. On the other end of the kicking spectrum is the side kick that looks like a roundhouse kick. If they were performing mawashi geri, it would be almost perfect but why can’t they do mawashi geri right when they are asked? Umm that a question for another day!

So how do we perfect yoko geri?

There are several things that need to be done to fix this kick. First lets look at basic kihon practice. In kihon, yoko geri is performed from kiba dachi or horse stance. The student will cross the back foot IN FRONT of the front foot as they move. In Shotokan karate, you cross in front while in Tae Kwon Do, you cross behind. Here is where the first error takes place. The practitioner will take too long of a cross over. This will cause the hips to go out of alignment as well as take the practitioner off course. The best way to do the cross over will have the student place the foot down beside the opposite foot. As soon as the foot hits the floor raise the kicking foot.

Here is mistake #2. I was always taught to bring the kicking foot up behind the knee of the support leg. This is a great way to make sure they set up correctly, however, students will bring the foot out from behind the leg by pointing the toes down. This will cause the kick to look like a mae geri. I teach my students to bring the toes up along the calf or if they prefer behind the knee to make sure they are setting the foot correctly after taking it from behind the leg.

Now where is your knee supposed to point? Well it all depends on which of the side kicks you are performing. If you are doing a side snap kick, the knee needs to point at the target. If you are doing a side thrust kick the knee points to the side like you were about to do a front snap kick.

The delivery. Side snap kick is a swinging kick. The object is to get up under the arm to the target. It has a similar motion to a hammer fist strike. Here is where the confusion happens to make the kick look like a mawashi geri or roundhouse kick. The swinging action of the leg is not from the normal knee flexion of walking, running, etc. It is a sideways  flexion. With the side thrust kick, also is being performed like a roundhouse kick. The student will roll the hip out and snap the leg at the knee trying to get the kick out. This is not correct. The way to perform the kick correctly will have you basically straightening your leg from the raised knee position.

Here is another thing that is really important, the foot. How is my foot supposed to be for each of these kicks? Well with both of these kicks, the foot is required to be held sideways. Your striking area is the side of the foot. Not the toes and not the bottom of the foot! The side snap kick is actually the outside edge of the foot. You need to lock your ankle in this position. If you were to strike something hard with a loose foot, you will get injured. Lock the ankle and hit with the outside edge for the snap kick. The thrust kick is the same but the point of impact will be the heel of the foot. Remember that it is also important to pull your toes back towards your body. This will help to lock the foot in place and help prevent an injury to your toes.

Now with every kicking action it is important to bring the leg back to the original position or chambering of the leg. This is important to help with power and if you want to perform a second kick. With the snap kick after striking snap the knee and foot back to the same position where you started before placing the foot down or delivering a second kick. The thrust kick is a little different in that once it hits the target, you want to leave it there for a second. Sticking at the point of impact for maximum effect. Then snap the knee and foot back to the original position before putting your foot down.

Wow there are lots of things to do to make this kick work! Guess what? We are not done.

The side kicks like mawashi geri are delivered from an opened hip posture. You need to open up your hips to deliver a powerful kick. To help with this, your support leg needs to turn slightly. This will also help with support. Turn the foot of the support leg towards the back while keeping the knee slightly bent. This will help you from losing your balance and help to deliver a higher kick.

Finally, don’t lean over too far with these kicks. People have a tendency to lean which upon hitting your target could force you off balance.

Yoko Geri Keage and Yoko Geri Kekomi are basic kicks that everyone struggles with at some point. Don’t get discouraged if you have problems with these kicks. Try your best and always ask for help from your sensei and the other black belts in your class.

Categories: Teaching/Training

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