Having good flexibility will certainly help you with your kicking, however simply being flexible isn’t enough. Muscle strength and control are two very important and often forgotten about aspects for effective karate kicking.
1. Use dynamic stretches in your warm up before training or an important event such as a tournament or grading. Static stretches such as splits should only be used to increase flexibility at the end of a workout as these stretches use up considerable energy essential for effective kicking.
2. Always lead with a fake technique using a hand or leg prior to delivering the desirable kicking technique to conceal your kick from your opponent until the last possible moment.
3. Use a drifting kick rather than stepping up when using front leg roundhouse, hook and side kick as it allows the body movement and the landing of the kick to be almost simultaneous. This will speed up your kick by as much as 50%.
4. Focus on snapping the kick ensuring that the leg never becomes completely straight recovering initially at the knee as this is the fastest way to return to balance.
5. When executing front leg kicks always lift the knee directly upwards in order to disguise whether the kick is a hook, roundhouse or side kick. This will confuse your opponent and maximize your chances of scoring.
6. In order to maximize speed of execution keep the body perfectly straight when lifting the knee to kick creating tension at the hip. This makes the body lean back only the necessary amount allowing for fast recovery and allows follow up with hand techniques.
7 When raising the leg to kick the squeeze the foot towards the rear this allows an elastic release of the kick resulting in increase speed and power.
8. Introduce in your training regime 2 minute rounds of shadow kicking, focusing on continually moving, kicking combinations and fast recovery.
9. Use focus mitts to increase accuracy and speed in your kicking rather than heavy bags, focus mitts encourage correct execution, balance and recovery.
10. Use slow motion leg control to gain stability and strength which is essential to deliver multiple kicks. The slow execution will give you total control at every stage of the kick allowing you to change, repeat and recover the kick at will.
Building strong muscles for kicking is not something that you can do overnight. It takes a good amount of persistent dynamic and isometric stretching to gain flexibility, build strong muscles and develop control. However leaving it another day simply puts your goal one more day out of your reach.
Start learning today how to stretch effectively while retaining your muscle strength and shortly you’ll start to feel and notice a difference. As you progress you’ll find that you’ll become more flexible; your kicks will have more power and you’ll develop better control when kicking, especially at jodan (head) level.