Articles: Mae-Geri - The Easy Kick
I have done thousands of repetitions in all sorts of combinations to practise Mae-Geri, I have taught it countless times to students of all levels and the thing that always comes across is that actually it’s not as easy as you would think!
I believe one of the reasons is complacency; another, of course, is the fact that it is not understood correctly.
There are some important points to remember;Overall body posture
The feeling of naturalness should be maintained, so do not drop your head down; always keep space between your chin and your neck. Be careful not to drop or throw your hands down in an attempt to gain more momentum, keep your hands in front where you can see them! Don’t lean back with your shoulders, a natural movement is ok but it shouldn’t look like someone is holding you by the back of the head as the rest of your body goes through the kick!The use of the hips / tailbone
Mae-geri is a kick designed to go forward, not up, so the use of the hips and tailbone are hugely important. I have seen people who look great performing Mae-Geri with no partner (Kata is a prime example), they can appear fast and sharp but as soon as you put a target in front of them the kick becomes ineffective. The line of the kick shoots up the chest of the partner or if on a bag it slides up the surface (ultimately there should be no ineffective techniques in karate). This is all because the tailbone is not rotated under and the hips are not pushed through on the execution of the kick; the timing of this is critical and should be practised frequently. One good training method that I employ in my dojo is using a chair. With a partner standing behind the chair, you stand in front, place your foot on to the seat, kick over the backrest to your partner’s stomach and return your foot to the same position on the seat. This can be done slowly at first, building up the speed as you become more confident. As you improve your partner can gradually increase the distance between him/her and the chair making you worker harder little by little. You can also use a third person behind you to keep you from leaning too far back. A by-product of this exercise is increased strength in the hip flexors. However, you must keep relaxed throughout the exercise.The pick up
Without a fast and correct pick up there is no kick, like a sprinter from the blocks you should strive to make the pick up the most important thing; it really does not matter how fast you finish the kick if you can’t make a fast start. Try practising with your hands behind your bottom and pick your heel as fast and relaxed as possible to touch your hands - try to be snappy. This exercise is not for the timing, just the feeling of the heel picking up to your bottom. Next try it in Zenkutsu-Dachi, the thing to remember here is that you do not pick your knee up first, nor do you pick your heel first, it’s a combination of the two, as you squeeze your hip flexor to pick your knee up, you should be squeezing your hamstring to get the heel tight to your bottom. This acts like a spring board for the kick, as the force of the heel to bottom action squeezes the hamstring muscle it will naturally want to re-bound, thereby releasing the kick faster.Foot position
On the pick up, the foot position should be flat and the ankle compressed tightly, until the hips start to push forward. At this point flex your foot until the instep is as flat as possible, curl your toes back to make the point of contact with the ball of the foot. If you practise this foot action it will encourage the hips to push through in a straight line. (The kick can be performed with the toes as the contact point but this is a different kick.)Direction
As simple as it sounds the direction of Mae-Geri is very often overlooked. I have seen too many people kick in a style more akin to Mawashi-Geri. Why is this? Well probably because the previous points have not been mastered! If you can picture delivering a mae-geri to an opponent and you can’t pick up correctly or use your tailbone and hips correctly then in order to get past say someone’s knee, your body finds an alternative route (the last thing your brain will do is allow your toes to impact a hard knee!). You should try squeezing the inside of your thighs together as you perform the kick. If you can imagine your stance will be in a pyramid shape from your foot position coming up to your hips, as you pick up gather the kick in to the middle. You should feel your Dogi rubbing together on the inside of your legs. There should not be an excessive gap as this is too open to counter attack, and takes the kick away from a straight line.
My Dojo Sensei once told me that all you’ll ever need is Oi-Zuki and Mae-Geri, but only if they are truly really good! I have always been interested in improving and expanding my ability in kicking but I’ve never forgotten what he told me and I have given Mae-Geri the same time and effort I have given to all the other kicking techniques that I love to practise.
I hope that you have gained some tips from this article, even if it just reminds you that sometimes the seemingly simple techniques take time and effort to make them work.
Alan Campbell is the Head of JKS England & Wales and he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org