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John M Avilla
John M Avilla's picture
Technical question about the side kick.

In Shotokan we were taught to throw the side kick with the foot cocked to the side like a blade. It seems this is common to all of the Karate styles. I never liked this. It always seemed like a good way to injure the ankle. I always preferred to throw this kick with the foot straight, toes back and impact the target with the heel. All the bones and joints involved are in a straight line. My thinking is the same here as that behind landing punches with the index and middle nuckles (something from Karate that I like very much). This is also the way I was later instructed to throw this kick in Jeet Kune Do. My questions are; do any of you throw the side kick full contact with the foot in the blade position? What is your experience with doing this? Can anyone give me a good biomechanical explanation of why it might be good to throw the side kick the way it is in Karate?

Wastelander
Wastelander's picture

I was originally taught that, but when I switched styles, my Shorin-Ryu Sensei taught to use the heel, with the foot lined up naturally with the leg as if to stomp, for side kicks, except when kicking down to the legs, where he preferred the edge of the foot. I actually made a video about it, a while back:

Anf
Anf's picture

We're taught to use the blade, the heel or the flat of the foot depending on the intention.

Blade goes to soft targets. The abdomen for example.

Heel to knees and things.

And flat of the foot if the intention is not so much to kick per se, but to push, create space, or redirect.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi John,

John M Avilla wrote:
It seems this is common to all of the Karate styles.

I was never taught to kick with the edge of the foot. My teacher had been, but he switched to kicking with the heel long before I started training for the reasons you allude to. That said, I don’t think we were an anomaly. Plenty of groups, styles and individuals kicks with the heel. I’m therefore not sure we can say kicking with the edge is “common to all of the karate styles”, but it is certainly common.

John M Avilla wrote:
My questions are; do any of you throw the side kick full contact with the foot in the blade position?

I don’t know any full contact fighters who do. Two of my other teachers (not the one mentioned above) fought full contact at high level and they also teach heel of the foot. Personally, when hitting pads, bags and shields, I always use my heel because the edge of the foot rolls the ankle on the kit (if you hit it with meaningful force). However, you can use edge of foot when kicking the knees. In this case, it helps buckle the knee joint and it is more of a downward and outward stamp. Keeping the foot parallel to the floor makes sense there. Noah’s video makes a great job of unpacking that.

John M Avilla wrote:
Can anyone give me a good biomechanical explanation of why it might be good to throw the side kick the way it is in Karate?

Aside from the aforementioned stamp to knees, no. If kicking the thigh or higher, then I’d stick with the heel as your intent.

It’s also worth noting that the close-range chaos of combat and shoes make this a largely academic argument anyway. You may intend to hit with the heel, but it only takes a little movement from the enemy and you will be hitting with another part of the foot. Many years ago, I was breaking up a fight on New Year’s Eve. While clinched with one combatant, I side kicked another in the thigh as he moved to hit the person I was holding. It sent him backward and others grabbed hold of him. Both men calmed down very quickly once separated (too much drink and high spirits). I was wearing Doc Martens at the time so I could not have rotated my ankle even it I wanted to. I also have no idea what part of the boot connected with his thigh. It could have been the heel, the sole, or the edge. While the effectiveness may have varied considerably with a bare foot, the boot took that variable away. I’m sure most shoes would to some degree too.

All the best,

Iain

John M Avilla
John M Avilla's picture

Thanks for the input guys. I am glad to hear that other Karate styles do infact teach what I consider to be the proper way to throw this. In talking to other Karateka in my area (this is actually my first Karate forum) I got the impression that it was fairly universal. Got me thinking there might be a reason. Maybe Karate in the north eastern US just sucks, lol. 

Anf
Anf's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:
I was wearing Doc Martens at the time so I could not have rotated my ankle even it I wanted to. I also have no idea what part of the boot connected with his thigh. It could have been the heel, the sole, or the edge. While the effectiveness may have varied considerably with a bare foot, the boot took that variable away.

There's a good reason why the Doc Martens were the popular boot of choice to be known colloquially as 'bovva boots'. If you're going to get yourself into 'bovva' (bother, trouble, physical conflict) these were the boots to be wearing. Very popular in the punk / anarchist movement of the early 1980s.

Neil Babbage
Neil Babbage's picture

We teach both describing them as "side snap" (edge of the foot) and "side thrust" (with the heel or sole). We only teach the side snap because it is present in the Shotokan versions of the kata we teach, so we introduce the basic technique first. However, in the self-defence section of our syllabus we never use the side snap, not least because we teach that while wearing shoes

PASmith
PASmith's picture

Two things changed my view of side kick foot position. As someone in TKD we're basically taught the flexed ankle "footsword" position using the edge of the foot. Now I kick with the heel and foot inline with the shin without the sideways flex to "expose" the foot sword.

One thing was "turning" my ankle on a heavy bag. It was swinging and I mistimed a side kick. The impact occured further down my foot than intended and I basically twisted my own ankle.

The second thing was teaching side kicks to complete beginners. I start with it straight down and liken it to stamping on wood to break it for putting on a fire. Then gradually raise the height (ankle, knee, midsection) and engage the rest of the body/hips as it goes higher. But athe basic level it's a stamp. Seeing it as a stamp made me realise how weird it was to then internally rotate my foot and essentially contort it to expose the edge and how structurally unsound that feels.

Wastelander
Wastelander's picture

PASmith wrote:

Two things changed my view of side kick foot position. As someone in TKD we're basically taught the flexed ankle "footsword" position using the edge of the foot. Now I kick with the heel and foot inline with the shin without the sideways flex to "expose" the foot sword.

One thing was "turning" my ankle on a heavy bag. It was swinging and I mistimed a side kick. The impact occured further down my foot than intended and I basically twisted my own ankle.

The second thing was teaching side kicks to complete beginners. I start with it straight down and liken it to stamping on wood to break it for putting on a fire. Then gradually raise the height (ankle, knee, midsection) and engage the rest of the body/hips as it goes higher. But athe basic level it's a stamp. Seeing it as a stamp made me realise how weird it was to then internally rotate my foot and essentially contort it to expose the edge and how structurally unsound that feels.

To that very point, I actually made a video recently with a tip on teaching side kicks to beginners, which specificially illustrates the connection between the side kick and the stomp. I do mention in the video that you can do it with the blade of the foot, so as to not alienate people, but I think they will find in their own training that they can't stomp as hard/effectively with the blade as they do with the heel.

PASmith
PASmith's picture

So glad what I've said tally's with something someone as knowledgable as you has said Noah. :)

Marc
Marc's picture

I think Noah's video is spot on. It depends on where you aim your kick at and what you want to do with it. The key thing is that you want to be able do as much damage as possible to your enemy while keeping you own ankle as intact as possible.

Here's a video by the knowledgeable Daniel Pyatt explaining when to use the edge or the heel of the foot:

 

And one more to see it in action:

 

It is also important to note that there are two different kinds of side kicks: A thrusting side kick (yoko-kekomi) and a snappy rising side kick (yoko-keage). The question and the ansers above semm to refer to the thrusting kick.

We could also talk about how much we would turn our hips (and why). Some people kick straight out to the side, some turn their hips over a little so that they essentially kick slightly backwards, some turn their hips back a little so that they essentially kick slightly forward. I guess it depends on the height of the kick as well as on the target and the range. Also, people have different hip joints that allow them more or less mobility at side angles.

Take care,

Marc

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

PASmith wrote:
The second thing was teaching side kicks to complete beginners. I start with it straight down and liken it to stamping on wood to break it for putting on a fire. Then gradually raise the height (ankle, knee, midsection) and engage the rest of the body/hips as it goes higher. But athe basic level it's a stamp. Seeing it as a stamp made me realise how weird it was to then internally rotate my foot and essentially contort it to expose the edge and how structurally unsound that feels.

That’s EXACTLY what I do too. It’s explained as a “glorified stamp” and an “outward stamp”. I find that helps them get the initial “chamber” better because they lift their knee as if they were to stamp downward. It stops that glancing / extending the knee while bringing the leg up thing too.

All the best,

Iain