Turn Kick

The Turn Kick is typically one of the more difficult “beginner” kicks.  I use the word beginner because it’s simply one of the kicks taught to new students.  It may take years to gain proficiency with this kick, however.  The kicks range is typically from knee to head.  It can be thought of as the leg’s equivalent to a hook punch as it is coming from the side.

The Turn Kick:

  • From a forward bow stance, move your weight forward onto your front foot and pick up the knee of the back leg.  As you are shifting weight forward, TURN (hence the name Turn Kick) the waist to parallel the target while releasing the kick and extend the leg completely (avoid cutting the kick short.)
  • The non-kicking foot turns and grinds into the ground on the ball of the foot.
  • The hip of the kicking leg is forward of the hip of the standing leg – the hips are parallel to the target.
  • The same arm as the kicking leg counter-balances the kick by going the opposite direction of the leg.
  • The higher the knee is lifted, the higher the kick can go.
  • Contact is made with the ball of the foot.
    Brea Shaolin Kung Fu Kicking - Ball of Foot
    Brea Shaolin Kung Fu Kicking – Ball of Foot
  • Always try to deliver 100% of power to each kick during practice, as well as kick as high as possible.  If you can kick high with power and balance, then you can certainly kick to the lower and mid-range targets with confidence.
  • Power, speed and balance are generated from proper form, strong “core” and leg muscles, and a relaxed body.  Those characteristics are attained by practicing the kick thousands and thousands of times.

Heel Kick

The Heel Kick is often learned in conjunction with the Snap Kick.  Much of the action of both kicks are the same.  There are a few differences surrounding the purpose of the kick.  As the Snap Kick is like a straight punch, the Heel Kick is like a push.

The Heel Kick:

  • From a forward bow stance, move your weight forward onto your front foot and pick up the knee of the back leg.  As you are shifting weight forward, release the kick and extend completely (avoid cutting the kick short.)
  • The hip of the kicking leg is forward of the hip of the standing leg.
  • The higher the knee is lifted, the higher the kick can go.
  • Contact is made with the heel of the foot.

    Brea Shaolin Kung Fu - Heel

    Brea Shaolin Kung Fu – Heel

  • Always try to deliver 100% of power to each kick during practice, as well as kick as high as possible.  If you can kick high with power and balance, then you can certainly kick to the lower and mid-range targets with confidence.
  • The Heel Kick is often effectively used at a downward angle to crumble an opponent to the ground.
  • Power, speed and balance are generated from proper form, strong “core” and leg muscles, and a relaxed body.  Those characteristics are attained by doing a whole lot of them in class day in and day out.

Snap Kick

The Snap Kick (or Back-leg Snap Kick) is likely the first “fighting” kick a new student learns.  Although it is one of the less complicated kicks to learn, it is very powerful and effective in a fighting situation.  Like most kicks, it can be delivered to targets as low as the shins and knees and as high as the head.  It is the leg’s equivalent of a straight punch.

The Snap Kick:

  • From a forward bow stance, move your weight forward onto your front foot and pick up the knee of the back leg.  As you are shifting weight forward, release the kick and extend completely (avoid cutting the kick short.)
  • The hip of the kicking leg is forward of the hip of the standing leg.
  • The higher the knee is lifted, the higher the kick can go.
  • Contact is made with the ball of the foot.

    Brea Shaolin Kung Fu Kicking - Ball of Foot

    Brea Shaolin Kung Fu Kicking – Ball of Foot

  • Always try to deliver 100% of power to each kick during practice, as well as kick as high as possible.  If you can kick high with power and balance, then you can certainly kick to the lower and mid-range targets with confidence.
  • The Snap Kick can also be “double” kick, where the first kick is targeted low to the shins or knee and immediately followed up with a higher kick to middle or high targets.
  • Power, speed and balance are generated from proper form, strong “core” and leg muscles, and a relaxed body.  Those characteristics are attained by doing a whole lot of them in class day in and day out.

Stretch Kick

The Stretch Kick is one of the first kicks new students learn.  It is not a fighting kick, however.  The Stretch Kick is intended to, as its name implies, stretch the hamstrings and lower back.  It also serves to warm up the body for the fighting kicks that will follow.  New students may find that it tests their balance as well.

The Stretch Kick:

  • From a forward bow stance, swing your leg straight up as far as it can go.  Don’t over-stretch the kick in the beginning.  As time goes on and you feel more comfortable with the kick, try to get foot as high as it will go with proper form (i.e. with a straight leg) and work toward head (or overhead) height.
  • The hip of the kicking leg should be well forward of the other hip at the top of the kick.
  • As with all kicks, your upper body should be relaxed.  Release any tension in the shoulders, hands, and face.
  • Unlike most fighting kicks, your arms can be held low at the sides of the body for balance.

Re-Starting Your Training After Time Away

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu Sparring

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu Sparring

Sometimes life has a way of interfering with your kung fu training at the school.  It can arise from a new job, school, injury, relocation, extended vacation, or something else that simply prevents consistent attendance.  Hopefully, it isn’t anything permanent and you can return at some point.  Hopefully, your kung fu meant enough to you to retain much of what you were taught and to come back and re-start your training.

There are a number of things to consider when re-starting.  First, as you probably imagine, you are likely not going to be in “kung fu” shape.  You may have exercised and kept your body strong, but unless you consistently trained on your own there will definitely be some sore muscles after your first class.  In fact, there will likely be some sore muscles for weeks following your first class back depending on how often you train, your rank, and what you remember.

A key to successful re-engagement is to gradually increase your workload over a period of weeks and months (not days) and to stay consistent.  Take one class a day 3-4 days a week.  If you are sore, push yourself to continue to train those 3-4 days (more days a week may likely be too much and less days a week too little.)  Your body is relearning the movements and regaining the strength, endurance, and flexibility needed to make them work correctly.  If you are not sore from 3-4 days a week, you may try to add on an additional class or two, but don’t push yourself too hard in a hurry to get back to where you left off.  You can increase your workload and start training 2 hours at a time or add another day or two to your training.  Pressing too hard and too fast can cause injuries or even burnout.  In time, if gradually done, you can easily be back to 2-3 classes a day, 4-5 days a week in a matter of months and your skill level will climb.

Second, as with any new student, you need to begin with and focus on the basics.  Spend a good deal of time working on basic stances to build leg strength as well as the forms to develop endurance, balance and coordination.  Do not be in a rush to regain every form and technique that was once yours.  All in good time.  Quality of movement is paramount so take it one technique, one form at a time starting from the earliest things you were taught.  Patience, consistency, humility, and effort is everything when getting back (and staying) with your training.

Massage and Your Martial Arts Practice

Brea Shaolin Martial Arts - Massage

Brea Shaolin Martial Arts – Massage

Therapeutic massage in China has a very long history.  An ancient book dating back to first century AD says, “if the body is benumbed as a result of the blocking of the jingluo (or meridians), it may be cured by massage.”  Massage departments were established in the Imperial Court during the Sui and Tang Dynasties (581-907 A.D.)  Further development took place in subsequent dynasties.

Massage falls into the broad range of traditional Chinese medicine practices that have a history of thousands of years, which can’t/won’t be discussed in detail here.  Massage is a sibling of acupuncture, herbal medicine, qigong and exercise, and diet that make up Traditional Chinese Medicine.  It’s historical purpose is not simply to relax muscles and relieve stress, but to be an integral part of a complete medical system.  It’s goal is to cure diseases, both acute and chronic, by relieving symptoms and attacking the root of problems.  Traditional Chinese Massage treats not just sports injuries, joint and muscle related disorders (including dislocated joints), and minor broken bones, but also internal chronic disorders.   The ancients found massage as a method to treat atrophy, paralysis, digestive system disorders, and more.  Commonly known in the west, Acupressure is just one of the techniques of Chinese massage where pressure is applied to acupuncture points.

Your kung fu practice will likely benefit from consistent massage – be it administered by yourself, a western massage therapist, or a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner.  When sore, explore the sore area of your body by pressing and massaging the areas surrounding it.  You will likely find one or more places that help release pain and pressure.  If possible, find a qualified Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner and find out for yourself how advanced Chinese massage can be a valuable piece of your overall health.

Fighting Foundation

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu Martial Arts

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu Martial Arts

Stances are a critical part of technique.  A student must learn proper balance of body both for defensive and offensive ability.  Before any technique can be mastered proper body posture and a mental attitude must be present.  This is a required foundation for ability in technique.  It grows and changes as a student pursues it.