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Increasing The Power Of Your Roundhouse Kick

May 5, 2008
I've had martial artists and other fighters hire me to analyze their punches and kicks and I've even received a video to analyze a frisbee throw due to my background in kinese, movement education, exercise phys and martial arts. One of the most misunderstood kicks I analyze is the roundhouse kick.

We will define the roundhouse kick for the purposes of this martial arts article as a kick executed from a cocked knee position whose arc travels approximately parellel with the ground as the knee snaps straight 80 degrees to 90 degrees and travels across your centerline striking with the shin down to the top of the foot.

Most martial artists I've met think this is one of their weakest kicks when it could actually be one of their most powerful weapons in their arsenal of kicks, punches, and other strikes.

If you're the average martial artist, you throw your rear-leg roundhouse kick from a front stance snapping your leg across your body depending on the weight of your leg and the snap of your knee for power. Power is a combination of mass (weight can be used in this example) and speed. Kinetic energy (energy of motion) is mv^2 that's half mass times speed (velecity) squared. The more mass, or the more of your body you put into your kick, and the greater the speed of your kick (snap of your knee for example) the more powerful your kick will be.

So now you're going to tell me that you already get most of your body into your roundhouse kick anyway. I will make you a gentleman's wager (as soon as I find a gentleman) that this martial arts article will, if practiced correctly, increase the power of your roundhouse kick by about 30% minimum.

Let's make some more general statements about striking power

The closest moveable joint to your center of gravity is your hips.

If your hips do not go towards the direction of your strike you are losing power.

If your non-striking limb on the same side of your body you are striking with moves in the oppostie direction of your strike, you will lose power.

Speed is a more important factor in striking power (kinetic energy) than mass

Antagonistic muscle groups are those muscle groups which hinder a wanted movement.

If the antagonistic muscle groups are tense during a strike the strike will be slowed down as well as more energy being consumed for future strikes.

If the strike is slowed down power will be lost.

Breath, held in the lungs, can get in the way of proper movement

So what we now see is that during the roundhouse kick, or any other martial arts strike for that matter, is we want to stay as relaxed as possible, use as many of our muscle groups as possible in the correct timing (gross coordination), and breath out as we strike.

We can also conclude from the statements above, that the roundhouse kick should not be treated as a solely lower body strike. Many althletic coaches will tell you that the sprint, for example, is at least 50% upper body work. The same facts applies to the roundhouse kick. If you can get the muscles of the upper torso involved in the strike, there will be a greater mass and greater intertia (basically follow through ability)

The Biggest Mistake I See Almost All Martial Artists Make When Executing the Roundhouse Kick is... not getting a good upper torso rotation into the roundhouse kick. Remember this powerful fact ...?

If your non-striking limb on the same side of your body you are striking with moves in the oppostie direction of your strike, you will lose power.

Almost every martial artist I have seen execute a roundhouse kick whips his arm backwards in the oppostie direction of the kick. This means if you are throwing a roundhouse kick with your right leg towards your centerline to the left your right arm is whipping to the right in the oppostie direction. This, by its very nature, precludes you from getting your upper torso muscle groups involved with your roundhouse kick to your greatest potential and therefore, you lose power.

I've heard every excuse in the book for executing a roundhouse kick in this manner;

I won't be able to keep my balance.

Well you couldn't keep your balance the first time you learned to do the kick could you?

I see full contact fighters executing the roundhouse kick that way?

I've seen them get knocked out too. They're human beings just like you and me. We can all improve.

If I kick the way you are showing me I will over-extend myself and not be able to stop to throw another technique.

Not in the beginning because you will have more power and intertia in your roundhouse kick than you are acustom too. Practice practice practice.

It feels like my ankle is twisting off when I get I turn my shoulders into the roundhouse kick like you said.

Remember my statement -

If your hips do not go towards the direction of your strike you are losing power.

Be sure to pivot your supporting foot as you execute your roundhouse kick.

Look, I've done this kick both ways. You think I started doing the roundhouse kick like this? Nope, but I'm doing it this way now and I kick - real - hard.

Increasing The Power of Your Roundhouse Kick Pivoting Drill

I received a lot of emails with questions about the martial arts ezine article on increasing the power of your roundhouse kick, so before once again directing the serious martial artists to my printable ebook Step by Step Learn Internal Energy Strikes with the bonus section Taking Strikes and Coming Back for More I would like to discuss a very simple drill with you to increase your power of your roundhouse kick with a very simple pivoting drill.

Now, if you haven't read the first martial arts ezine article on increasing the power of your roundhouse kick you'd better go read that first.

Pivoting and Power in Your Roundhouse Kick

Remember the statements I made in the previous martial arts ezine article on increasing the power of your roundhouse kick?

The closest moveable joint to your center of gravity is your hips.

If your hips do not go towards the direction of your strike you are losing power.

This is the hip motion I referenced in the frequently asked questions in the previous roundhouse kick martial arts article. The hip motion must follow the arc of the roundhouse kick so the hips must also rotate in a circular motion. A sloppy pivot will force you to land your strike during the eccentric phase of your kick. Eccentric motion is the slowing down phase or follow through phase of a motion.

All explosive type motions, should reach their peak at the release point or striking point of a motion in order to get the most power. Throw a baseball and attempt to stop your throwing arm motion at the release point of the ball. Notice how you slowed down before actually releasing the ball? Notice you did not throw the ball very far? The same thing happens with impact types of motions. If you slow down before you strike you will lose power.

We can basically say, the greater the pivot of your support foot (the further you turn your left foot counter-clockwise if you are striking with your right leg) the greater potential for power in your roundhouse kick.

Now let me give you three more powerful facts.

A stretched muscle is more efficient than a relaxed muscle. Thus the the wind up of a pitch, the back-swing in a tennis serve, and the chambering of the traditional reverse punch.

The further a limb travels the greater the potential for speed. See the same examples above. Some would argue that this point reduces economy of motion and therefore decreases the possibility of striking an attacker. I agree, but remember I am discussing facts of increasing power, not facts of combat for the moment. Similar examples can be made with the long jumper and pole vaulter who attempt to time their jumps at the peak speed of their run before fatigue sets in and slows them down.

The further a limb travels the greater the potential for more large muscle groups to assist in the motion. i.e. Gross motor coordination and yes the distance diminishes with repetition of proper motion.

Learning to Pivot Your Foot More for Your Roundhouse Kick

Okay so you now understand about power in your roundhouse kick and how to acquire power in your roundhouse kick, but the only way to to actually get power in your roundhouse kick is repetition of proper motion.

Let's try an experiment (experiment for you I already know the outcome)

Stand in a front stance with your right leg back. Not too long, regardless of your style of martial art.

Now execute a roundhouse kick with your right leg sensing your pivot with your support foot.

Now execute a a roundhouse knee strike with the same arc as your roundhouse kick, again sensing the pivot in your support foot.

Which strike gave you the most pivot? That's right! The roundhouse knee strike did! Why?

A shorter lever, a larger muscle mass requiring less fine motor skills, fewer joints involved in the motion so less gross motor coordination is necessary.

Now you need to execute several repetitions of the roundhouse knee strike continuously sensing the pivot of your support foot.

After executing several repetitions of the roundhouse knee strike you will now execute several repetitions of the roundhouse kick. While you are executing the roundhouse kick try to sense the same amount of pivot in your roundhouse kick as you did in your roundhouse knee strike.

Is That It?

So that's it Rick? That's all you have to tell us?

No there's a lot more, but one more thing I want to add to this kicking drill.

Remember this statement and analogies?

A stretched muscle is more efficient than a relaxed muscle. Thus the the wind up of a pitch, the back-swing in a tennis serve, and the chambering of the traditional reverse punch.

And this statement and explanations?

The further a limb travels the greater the potential for speed. See the same examples above. Some would argue that this point reduces economy of motion and therefore decreases the possibility of striking an attacker. I agree, but remember I am discussing facts of increasing power, not facts of combat for the moment. Similar examples can be made with the long jumper and pole vaulter who attempt to time their jumps at the peak speed of their run before fatigue sets in and slows them down.

So something else I want to add so you can get the sense of the most power you can get from this particular kicking drill.

Put your right leg back in a front stance.

Rotate your left foot counter-clockwise as far as you can.

Rotate your hip to the right as far as you can.

Put as much weight on your right foot as you can.

You should now feel like a stretched rubber-band.

Now you need to execute several repetitions of the roundhouse knee strike continuously sensing the pivot of your support foot and the whip-like action you are getting from your stretched muscles.

After executing several repetitions of the roundhouse knee strike you will now execute several repetitions of the roundhouse kick. While you are executing the roundhouse kick try to sense the same amount of pivot in your roundhouse kick as you did in your roundhouse knee strike and the whip-like action you are getting from your stretched muscles.

Slowly over the weeks you will be able to minimize your gross motor movements and economize without losing power. Don't hurry on this kicking drill. Remember, it took you a while to develop other economized yet powerful strikes and it will take you a while to improve your roundhouse kick as well.

Concentrate on what you are doing now my martial arts readers. The goals will come as you practice.
About the Author
You'll find drills to increase the power of your kicks and punches in my printable ebook with pictures Step by Step Learn Internal Energy Strikes with the bonus section Taking Strikes and Coming Back for More. http://kirkhamsebooks.com/MartialArts/InternalEnergyStrikesEbook_pd.htm Rick
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