In my opinion, one of the most important elements to being a good martial artist is being able to kick effectively, at least it is a fantastic skill that can benefit all aspects of your martial arts training.
For example, good kicks will help your katas be effective and competitive. Good kicks also help in sparring competitions where you can keep an opponent on the back foot and stay out of their range. Good kicks can also be very useful weapons for self-defence.
The trouble is that for many of us effective kicking doesn’t come that naturally and requires a lot of work. In my classes, I spend a lot of time working on kicking technique, hip mobility, and leg conditioning, as much for the benefit of my students as for improving my own kicking ability.
As I am learning, the older you get, the harder it becomes, and so the harder you have to work! I run 2 classes per week. If you only practise kicking twice a week I think it is probably very unlikely that you will become a very effective kicker. We are often very busy in our lives and perhaps training twice a week is as much as we can manage. There is, however, a way to improve.
Have you heard of constant conditioning?
Constant conditioning is where we are ALWAYS training. When we are watching the TV we sit in a stretch, when we are climbing stairs take 2-3 steps at a time when we are picking something up from the floor do a squat to get it, while waiting for the bus do calf raises….and so on, do you get the idea? We are exercising our legs at every opportunity.
We have all heard of Jean Claude Van Damme (JCVD) right, and we can see how outstanding his kicks are. Well, Sensei Ando, in a vlog about flexibility recalls an interview with JCVD where he said even in the queue at the supermarket he would be flexing his gluts.
Karateka and martial arts blogger Jesse Enkamp is also enthusiastic about constant conditioning.
I am conditioning my legs every opportunity I get.
So does it make a difference?
Well, I recall teaching a spinning reverse roundhouse kick (or spinning hook kick – yes we do this stuff) to my students. Not being able to see the kick myself as I did it I asked a student for some feedback on how it looked. He said ‘It was like watching JCVD’, or something like that. Sure, he could have been humouring a foolish old man who believes in his dream, or in fact, it could be that even at my ripe old age I am able to kick effectively (of course)! The same student, an effective kicker himself, also told me that when cooking he is constantly stretching, legs up on worktops etc!
To a normal person this will sound and look insane, but to a martial arts enthusiast, it is a great idea. Seriously, although you will get some strange looks, I believe constant conditioning is the way forward. Try it and see if it improves your kicks, and let me know!