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Black Tiger
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High Kicks - Have they always been there?
I added this to another forum and wanted to see what the guys on here knew about this topic. You will find that a majority of kicks in Clasiscal Karate and Okinawan Kata etc were original taught to delivered no higher than Gedan (Lower) level, Chudan (Middle) was a "rare" technique in Kata/Karate. I believe, please correct me if I am wrong, that it wasn't until the popularity of Tae Kwon Do grew in the 1960's & 1970's did Japanese Karate start to add Chudan (Middle) and Jodan (High/head) Kicks to its arsenal. I also believe that Tobo Geri Waza (Jumping Kicks) again was a quite recent development within Traditional/Modern Karate
Black Tiger
Black Tiger's picture

Further on from this would anyone use a Jodan Mawashi Geri (Round kick to the head) or a Tobi Ushiro Mawashi Geri Jodan (Jumping spinning back round kick - made famous by Jean Claude Van Dame) in a fight/street situation

Jon Sloan
Jon Sloan's picture

You're probably right on the period as to when high kicks came into vogue but there's always a good chance that individuals have used them for a long time, though probably not as part of a style's systematic teachings.

As to whether anyone has used them to good effect in a street situation, again I think there will have been individuals that made them work for them. I have heard anecdotal evidence that Terry O'Neil was famous for head kicking individuals whilst working as a bouncer in Liverpool.

Joshua.Harvie
Joshua.Harvie's picture

I think it's particularly telling that people who can deliver very good head kicks tend to deliver outstanding lower kicks. I think it's good exercise but, and not to say it'll never work, I don't think it's an especially effective technique.

ky0han
ky0han's picture

Hi everyone,

the Tobi-Geri Waza is not a new invention. When you look at forms such as Chinto (Gankaku), Kushanku (Kosokun, Kanku), Unshu (Unsu), Suparimpei (Peichurin) etc. then you can't help but to recognize that they contain jumping movements.

It is also said that Kyan Chotoku was known for his jumping abilities. Sakugawa Kanga was also known for his triangle jump.

Regards Holger

Oerjan Nilsen
Oerjan Nilsen's picture

Joshua.Harvie wrote:

I think it's particularly telling that people who can deliver very good head kicks tend to deliver outstanding lower kicks.

My experience is the excact opposite. I am a Taekwondo practisioner, and for my first 8 years or so we almost never kicked low in training (below the waist). All Sparring done was either formal sparring with the kicks to stomach or head heigt, or olympic sparring with kicks to the aforementioned heights.  In 2007 I travelled to Korea to study Taekwondo for one year and while there I sought out instruction in other arts as well. One of those other arts (Hapkido) focused more on lower kicks. The instructor would be supporting a boxing bag on the floor so we had a target from the floor up to waist height. I really struggled with hitting the bag at all. All that training made me instinctively kick to waist height or prefferbly a little higher. I was with other words almost missing the whole target and kicking my instructor instead. He said that this was a common problem with Taekwondo people.

Now when I teach I teach low kicks as well as high kicks in my classes, but I do see that people who can kick with perfect form to the head height or above are struggeling a great deal even to hit anything below waist height. This can of course be a "Taekwondo problem" with most kicks aimed at the mid to high section while my impression of the local Karate Dojo`s is that they kick from low section to mid section and only rarely kick higher than stomach height. Maybe if I or my fellow students were taught to kick low as well as high I would not have had this problem. 

Oerjan Nilsen
Oerjan Nilsen's picture

Black Tiger wrote:

Further on from this would anyone use a Jodan Mawashi Geri (Round kick to the head) or a Tobi Ushiro Mawashi Geri Jodan (Jumping spinning back round kick - made famous by Jean Claude Van Dame) in a fight/street situation

I would personally not use any high kicks in a "street situation, but I know of people who have and with great success. I also know of people who have tried and failed (but lived to tell the tale). You write "fight/street situation". A fight can be any number of things. When sparring against people who practise martial arts that do not use a lot of kicks or high kicks I always use them with great succes (so far at least). I do not think this is because I am particulary gifted or good,, but because it is so unexpected that people actually freeze long enough for me to land a kick to their head.

Sparring is a kind of "fight" but I do not think that the high kicks have any use in a self defense situation. You would need the surface to be flat, you would have to wear the right kind of clothes, the surface could not be slippery, you would in many cases need to warm up (I can not kick high unless I warm up first), etc

Lee Richardson
Lee Richardson's picture

ky0han wrote:

Hi everyone,

the Tobi-Geri Waza is not a new invention. When you look at forms such as Chinto (Gankaku), Kushanku (Kosokun, Kanku), Unshu (Unsu), Suparimpei (Peichurin) etc. then you can't help but to recognize that they contain jumping movements.

That's not to say that those kicks were originally as high as they tend to be in the modern versions of those kata. There is a school of thought that suggests that kicks in kata have been raised, perhaps for aesthetic reasons (because it makes for a more impressive competition performance, for instance).

miket
miket's picture

As to the original question, I would say that is probably an accurate assessment, in my opinion.  The very absence of mawashi geri in 'most' (all?) inherited karate kata would point to the fact that kicks were not only imported to karate, but looking at their occurrence in kata would indicate that they were not tactically prevalent as a percentage of 'total' karate motions... depending on system of course.

Another thing one has to look at is the advent of 'modern' sport fighting, which (I would assert) led karate in a somewhat different direction than its classical roots.

This thread makes me think of the anecdote an instructor told me (undoubtedly made up hearsay) of the karate student who visits the kwoon of the mythic Chinese master for a demonstration.  Upon completion,  he asks why there are no head kicks in the system, at which point the master of course sweeps him to the ground and kicks him in the head with the comment.  "We have head kicks... See?".  smiley

I think its highly debatable whether 'most' classical karate contained either the high kicks it absobed from other systems historically, or the Brazillian Jiujitsu it is absorbing today.  smiley

Oerjan Nilsen
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One of my old instructors used to say that: "kicking someone in the head is like punching someone in the foot. If you want to kick someone in the head place their head on the floor first." Not that different than the story about the Chinese instructor above.

Are there any kicks in Kata that has alway been delivered to stomach or head height? In one of the Heian Kata I remember seeing a Karate demonstration where they kicked a "half moon shaped kick/Cresent kick" (I do not know the japanese term) followed by an elbow strike into their palm (it is one of the later Heian I think). The reason I am bringing this up is that in their demonstration they delivered their cresent kicks to shoulder level. I am just wondering if this is normal or if they have increased the height of the kick for demontration purposes.

ky0han
ky0han's picture

Hi,

Oerjan Nilsen wrote:

In one of the Heian Kata I remember seeing a Karate demonstration where they kicked a "half moon shaped kick/Cresent kick" (I do not know the japanese term) followed by an elbow strike into their palm (it is one of the later Heian I think). The reason I am bringing this up is that in their demonstration they delivered their cresent kicks to shoulder level.

that sequence is from the last of the Heian/Pinan-Gata the Heian/Pinan Godan. The japanese term is mikazuki-geri (three day (which means new, crescent) moon kick). The way I learned it is that you kick "directly" into the hand in a cresent manner, so the foot doesn't fall from above on to the hand (the chance of missing the hand this way is very high). So the hight of the kick is determined by the hight of your hand. If you hold your hand at shoulder hight you have to lift the foot at shoulder hight.

When you look at Pinan 5 from Matsubayashi Ryu there is no such kick. Take a look here:

miket wrote:

kicks were not only imported to karate, but looking at their occurrence in kata would indicate that they were not tactically prevalent as a percentage of 'total' karate motions... depending on system of course.

I don't think that kicks were imported but the tactical relevance was not that hight because it makes vulnerable due the fact that the ballance and stability is not that good when standing on one foot. It was called Te or Ti right, not ashi or whatever is uchinaguchi for ashi.

In my eyes kicks are in the secondary toolbox like joint locks and throws.

Regards Holger

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

ky0han wrote:
the Tobi-Geri Waza is not a new invention. When you look at forms such as Chinto (Gankaku), Kushanku (Kosokun, Kanku), Unshu (Unsu), Suparimpei (Peichurin) etc. then you can't help but to recognize that they contain jumping movements.

Personally I do think the jumping kicks in kata are modern innovations born of the desire for physical athleticism and aesthetics. Conflict does not reward the flamboyant and hence such methods are highly unlikely to have been practised when the emphasis was firmly on the combative. There is some historical evidence that leaping kicks were treated with distain and were not it the kata originally.

Here is an extract from an old article of mine on Chinto (Gankaku) to help illustrate the point. The full article with pictures of the bunkai of the “leaping kick sequence” can be found here: http://www.iainabernethy.co.uk/article/chinto-gankaku-kata-history-application

All the best,

Iain

Extract from Chinto Article on the Jumping Kick:

Chinto kata has a fascinating history and it is necessary to have some understanding of that history if we are to understand the kata itself. The creator of the kata was Sokon “Bushi” Matsumura (1809—1902) who played a huge role in the development of karate and who was also the chief bodyguard to three Okinawan kings. Matsumura is believed to have studied under Tode Sakugawa, Iwah, Ason, Kushanku and, crucially for the purposes of this article, he also studied under a shipwrecked Chinese martial artist who went by the name Chinto. ….

 …. In most modern versions on the kata this motion is followed by a leaping double level kick (Nidan Geri), but this would not fit the position of the enemy. I maintain that the Nidan Geri is a modern “exaggeration” and that the kata originally instructed the practitioner to forcefully kick the lead leg twice in order to break balance and bring the head even further forward for the following techniques.

There is strong evidence that Nidan Geri was never in the kata originally. This evidence comes from a tale told by Gichin Funakoshi (who studied under Matsumura and his students Azato and Itosu). In his book Karate-Do: My way of Life, Funakoshi tells us that as well as being the chief bodyguard to the Okinawan king, Matsumura also taught the king martial arts. One day during a training session, the King and Matsumura were sparring and the king attempted a Nidan Geri. Matsumura felt that the king needed reminding that combat was a matter of life and death and hence there was no place for such flamboyant methods. Especially when facing someone as skilled as Matsumura. He therefore countered the leaping kick and ultimately sent a badly bruised king skidding across the floor of the dojo. A now very unhappy king sacked Matsumura on the spot!

Funakoshi goes on to tell how Matsumura got into a fight with a local engraver as a result and won through intimidation alone (being the main point Funakoshi wished to communicate by telling the story). He also tells us that Matsumura was ultimately reinstated. The key lesson for me, in relation to Chinto kata, is the obvious contempt with which Matsumura regarded Nidan Geri! He is therefore highly unlikely to have put such a technique in the kata he created – even if it has been part of Chinto’s teaching, which I doubt it was – and hence we can be sure Nidan Geri is a modern test of athleticism as opposed to the original combative method; which will almost certainly have been the two low kicks described earlier.”

Joshua.Harvie
Joshua.Harvie's picture

I was reading that section of Funakoshi's book earlier in the week, the full context would imply that the technique itself wasn't inherrently useless but the context with which the king was using it in was amaturish. At least that's what I got out of it from the standard Kodansha translation.

Thoughts?

ky0han
ky0han's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:
Personally I do think the jumping kicks in kata are modern innovations born of the desire for physical athleticism and aesthetics. Conflict does not reward the flamboyant and hence such methods are highly unlikely to have been practised when the emphasis was firmly on the combative. There is some historical evidence that leaping kicks were treated with distain and were not it the kata originally.

In his 1925 Book Rentan Goshin Tode Jutsu Funakoshi had the following to say on the Jumping Kicks in Kusanku and Chinto and jumping movements in general:

(Kusanku p.125 and 126 of the John Teramoto translation) Note: After the kata has been sufficiently memorized, the next two movements should be executed as one. The technique is commonly known as tobigeri, or "jump kick".

At the sixty-seventh count maintain the same posture but kick as high as possible with the left foot. At the sixty-eight count maintaining the same posture, kick as high as possible with the right foot.

(Wanshu p.158) 39. With the feeling of grabbing and throwing him, turn leftward and jump to the rear as high and as far as possible and land in koshokun-uke posture.

(Chinto p.159) 8. From that posture, kick with the right foot. 9. Kick with the left foot (after learning the kata sufficiently, execute both kicks at the same time).

On page 139 he descibes the jump of Pinan Godan.

(p. 51 on leg techniques) h. Tobiashi Tobiashi is somewhat akin to yoriashi but it differs slightly in flavor. In yoriashi both feet stay on the floor, using the legs to move into the opponent, but in tobiashi one's feet leave the floor like those of a bird in flight, so that one can freely leap into an opponent.

I think jumping up and ducking down is as important as moving to the front, back and side (in whatever angle).

I don't know what you understand as modern in terms of the need for more athleticism. I would consider changes in the 1940s or 1950 modern, but 1925? I don't know. In my eyes jumping was always there. As I wrote in a previous post, folks like Kyan and Sakugawas were known for their jumping abilities. That the combative relevance is not comparable with striking is clear, but to mark jumping movements a modern thing is a bid odd. Jumping into the enemy would not be my first choice but I would not totally neglect this option either.

Regards Holger

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Ky0han,

Good post. It may help if I clarify what I define as “modern”, and if we mark the distinction between “jumping” and “jumping kicks”.

ky0han wrote:
In his 1925 Book Rentan Goshin Tode Jutsu Funakoshi had the following to say on the Jumping Kicks in Kusanku and Chinto and jumping movements in general … I don't know what you understand as modern in terms of the need for more athleticism. I would consider changes in the 1940s or 1950 modern, but 1925?

It was in the early 1900s that Itosu started the process of teaching karate to children via the Okinawan school system; which as we know led to changes in both the nature of kata and they way they were practised. Key among this was kata being practised primarily as a form of physical exercise. If we take Itosu’s 1908 letter as the start of that process, then Funakoshi was writing 17 years into it so I would consider that “modern karate” (i.e. post Itosu).

ky0han wrote:
I think jumping up and ducking down is as important as moving to the front, back and side (in whatever angle) … As I wrote in a previous post, folks like Kyan and Sakugawas were known for their jumping abilities.

I would agree; but I would also make the distinction between “jumping” to cover ground, create space, get to an angle, etc and jumping to kick. Very different I feel. It’s the airborne kicking I was suggesting is modern as it has uses aesthetically and physically (key considerations of karate post Itosu). However, airborne kicks have almost no use from a civilian self-protection perspective (the key consideration pre-Itosu).

All the best,

Iain

ky0han
ky0han's picture

Hi Iain,

thanks for the reply.

Since you consider Itosus changes in kata for the use of karate at the okinawan schools as the dawn of a new modern era, do you think that Itosu changed the two kicks into the nidan geri in Kushanku and Chinto?

So somebody must have made these changes between early 1900 and 1925. Did Itosu tought Chinto and Kushanku to school children? Did he therefore had to change those two kata too, to make them more suitable for children? 

Funakoshi learned lots of the Kata prior to the 1900 mark and others after the modernization for the school kids. He learned a lot from Mabuni I think. But I doubt that he learned the real thing prior and then learned the modifyed stuff later too? Or was he the one who did those changes? I doubt that too. He told the above mentioned story of Matsumura who instructed the king not to use jumping kicks (at least not in that particular situation). Would he do changes against his teachers advice? (Maybe his desire to promote karate was so great that he actually did so?)

I don't know. I still think that jumping kicks were always there.

The distinction between jumping and jumping kicks is in my eyes not that great. When Funakoshi wrote that tobi ashi is for leaping into the opponent, then I can do so with the knee, elbow, a kick or the the whole body. Is there really a great difference?

Regards Holger

Gary Chamberlain
Gary Chamberlain's picture

We always did high kicks (Kyokushin) from when I started in 1971, although I believe they were emphasised far more by Mas. Oyama after the Kyokushin took on (and beat) a Thai boxing team in Thailand.

I'm no MA historian though and my memory is getting dim ...

Gary

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

We have just 1 jumping kick in our kata, Chinto as is being discussed.

We cover ground with it, or kick an opponent away and then kick him again (it's a nidan geri), or we assume our first kick is trapped and the second kick aides release of the leg.

The kick isnt so much a jump 'up', but a jump forward, and the kick isnt meant to be Jodan level, these differences are significant in terms of application potential, it isnt considered good news to use the technique.

 

Peregrine
Peregrine's picture

I'm sure I remember a story where one of the 18th or 19th century masters was teaching a prince (crown prince I think) of the Ryukyus.  The prince tried a mae-tobi-geri and got dumped onto the floor.

This suggests that they were known, but perhaps not well respected.

Unfortunatery I can't find the story now.

shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

I have alot of footage of older okinawans who train in our Ryu (these are very senior karateka who wouldnt know a tournament if they saw one), in the solo kata they sure kick high with front kicks and similair.

However dont think that means the kicks impact high, it's just done to keep the body flexible but also to allow the kick to penetrate (we kick with the toes). on an upright person the highest legit target we kick to would be the floating ribs, we often 'bend' and hold a person to kick to arm pit or throat.

Th0mas
Th0mas's picture

ky0han wrote:

Iain Abernethy wrote:
Personally I do think the jumping kicks in kata are modern innovations born of the desire for physical athleticism and aesthetics. <snip> 

In his 1925 Book Rentan Goshin Tode Jutsu Funakoshi had the following to say on the Jumping Kicks in Kusanku and Chinto and jumping movements in general:

(Kusanku p.125 and 126 of the John Teramoto translation) Note: After the kata has been sufficiently memorized, the next two movements should be executed as one. The technique is commonly known as tobigeri, or "jump kick".

At the sixty-seventh count maintain the same posture but kick as high as possible with the left foot. At the sixty-eight count maintaining the same posture, kick as high as possible with the right foot.

(Wanshu p.158) 39. With the feeling of grabbing and throwing him, turn leftward and jump to the rear as high and as far as possible and land in koshokun-uke posture.

(Chinto p.159) 8. From that posture, kick with the right foot. 9. Kick with the left foot (after learning the kata sufficiently, execute both kicks at the same time).

On page 139 he descibes the jump of Pinan Godan.

(p. 51 on leg techniques) h. Tobiashi Tobiashi is somewhat akin to yoriashi but it differs slightly in flavor. In yoriashi both feet stay on the floor, using the legs to move into the opponent, but in tobiashi one's feet leave the floor like those of a bird in flight, so that one can freely leap into an opponent.

I think jumping up and ducking down is as important as moving to the front, back and side (in whatever angle).<snip>

I can't speak for jumping and leaping attacks in Karate pre-1920,  but I believe that Jumping in kata is a frame of reference thing. If we assume, like I do, that most applications in kata are an engagement at close range  whilst touching your opponent, jumping and leaping seems at best impractical. If you perform a solo kata, to get the "feeling" of throwing or dropping your weight dramatically, then it makes sense that a more "expressive" juming motion would be used to illustrate the function or application in the kata.

ky0han wrote:
(Wanshu p.158) 39. With the feeling of grabbing and throwing him, turn leftward and jump to the rear as high and as far as possible and land in koshokun-uke posture.

Taking your quote at face value (and maybe the nuance is lost in translation as so much Japanese to English translations appear to be), it would seem that what is being suggested here  is "to get the feeling of throwing your opponent turn leftward and jump to the rear as high and as far as possible....".

I suspect (although I can't translate Japanese) that my supposition is probably true for all the examples you quote.