PRO vs. CONTRA and how to strike the happy medium

Ages ago our ancestors had their four limbs firmly on the ground and the question, what limb they should use to struggle, didn’t occur to them, for there were no differences between arms and legs. All the four limbs were called paws. They were furry, fast and strong. All the four paws were used in a struggle for survival. However, as soon as our ancestors stood up and drew themselves straight, there began problems. The lapsed battle skills of the furry forepaws disappeared. They were called arms. They used them to sharpen the details, to count money, to draw coffee in a cup and sometimes to whack somebody one. The legs became the support. However, there are some phenomena who manage to paint pictures by holding a brush between their toes, or whizzes, playing cards with their legs, and that’s why they are exceptions. Mostly we wear our bodies on our feet. What’s the sense of speaking about the erstwhile battles of the lower limbs?


To beat or not to beat, that is the question...

The easiest way is to keep the natural function of feet and not use them in a fight. By the way, the boxers keep them like this, during the whole career bumping on the straight legs-stilts. But it is too tempting to “wake” the rusted weapon, to coordinate with the “arm-action” and use them, because our lower limbs have strong combat potential.

Let's start with the very beginning.

1. The legs are close to our lower energy center, Dantian (Xia Dantian), and the center of our body mass. Therefore, the path of the energy transfer in them is shorter than in the upper limb.

2. The mass of legs at least three times larger than the mass of arms. It means that their damage capability (ceteris paribus), is much greater. Let’s remember the formula from Newtonian’s mechanics: F = ma, where F is force, m is mass of body, a is acceleration.

3. Anatomically, the legs are twice as long as the arms. This fact gives them an advantage over the arms in the long range attacks. This also pertains to defensive actions. One may use legs to outstrip enemy’s attacks in the preparatory phase, leaving their vulnerable spots in safety.

4. While attacking the lower level, the enemy doesn’t see the legs motions, because they are hidden by shifting.

It is possible to find one or two positive aspects encouraging getting the feet afloat, but it is necessary to stop, take a breath and notice: “Enough is enough”. Primarily, we use legs to move! If you aren’t the adept of Taekwondo, you are not going to argue that it is dangerous to raise legs above in a street row. And there is no time. Positive fighting qualities of our legs are balanced by a range of negative vulnerable spots.

1. The use of your legs on a tear constrains your shifting.

2. While rending the feet from the surface the stability of body is broken (the balance is complicated).

3. In a real fight (not competition) the targets for affection are limited by height.

4. The speed and exactness of kicks concede the arms attacks by the same parameters.

5. Leg attack takes more time than arm attack to cover the same distance to the target.

6. Due to the frigidity (of large mass) and slowness of delivery of energy to the target, leg attacks are predictable.

7. On top of everything else, it is easier to injure legs than arms, and a lame warrior is worse than one-armed warrior. It is possible to fight with one arm, but one hardly can do anything with one leg.

Aren’t there a lot of weaknesses? Enough to understand that raising the legs in attacks should be done carefully. An experienced opponent waits for them in fight. It is necessary to say that all the aforesaid things relates to traditional techniques of using the legs in martial arts. However, there are unusual and sophisticated technical styles such as Kwong Sai Jook Lum Praying Mantis or Pak Mei, which initially avoid weaknesses of the lower level. Pessimists may leave reading the article further, for too many problems were recited above. What about the enthusiasts of “leg action”, they're constrained to agree with the following point: “In order to “develop” our support we should wend “the way of compensation of the weak points”, and, if we are lucky, we turn the weak points into the strong points”.

The main points

Let’s identify these common compensative moments for everyone could lay their technique in the style which he practices.

1. For the kicks don’t constraint movements, they should be a natural extension of these movements. That is, the movement should provide the initial “leg delivery” phase to contact. Rending the leg from the ground doesn’t mean it will be able to attack. Only a step can be done, but each step potentially has to strike.

2. Narrow dynamic positions can easily compensate for temporary imbalance of the body in the process of leg kicks. The positions must be that the transfer of the center of gravity of the body from the starting point on the support leg during the strike took the least time. This transfer can be described by overflowing of the centre of gravity, rather than the transfer. It has to grow into a habit to replace a big step to several small ones.

3. How high can one kick? Very high, if the joints, muscles and bands allow doing it quickly, exactly and strongly. However, most will find it impossible. By the way, here appears the question: “Why kick high?” One can do serious injury to opponents in the lower level. The end result is important. Press down the foot of the opponent with the heel of your shoe and crush it with the mass of your. Be sure that the result will be much more serious than a slap in the face with foot. Quit high kicks for the films and performances! Think better, what kind of shoes you wear, when and where, and how it can affect your leg-actions. Diversify the work of the feet on the lower level.

4. It is possible and necessary to kick right on target. Fortunately, this quality can be trained and there are enough techniques on this issue, even in combat sports. In relation to the speed of the kick (a single attack), it is necessary to move in two directions. Firstly, it is essential to increase the speed of the attacking movement. Secondly, most important (and not widely covered in the sports literature) is that one has to work on increasing of the speed of the integral attacking movements, where the concluding phase is the kick.

Legs, like any physical body, have resistance force during initial acceleration in the movement. It takes considerable time. The inertia of the legs can be reduced, if the beginning of the impact it is already in motion. This can be achieved by learning to kick from any phase of movement, as saying: “from the step”. Additional reduction of time can be got in the kick without standing at a certain starting position (it is often mistakenly called the stance). The kick does not need the starting position. It is necessary to learn to deliver strikes from any positions, especially from the uncomfortable ones.

5. Relying on the holistic movement in the inertial loops and knots, one can get another additional gain in speed, since it eliminates the need for discrete recharging of the leg after impact (discharge of energy). Let’s make it a rule not to return the leg to its starting position. Using rounded, curved, spiral trajectories, like the entire fighter's body, legs are able to use centripetal, centrifugal, gravitational forces and supports from the ground to recharge for the subsequent movements. How to implement all of the above with so many different leg attacks? And whether are there so many of them? Long enough, at a seminar, one of the leading assistants of Chuck Norris, Mr. Chip Wright, trying to catch my fancy, said that certification exams on getting the Black belt of the first Dan and above, the student can demonstrate some hundreds of different kicks. Later, in the gym, I counted about five or six kicks. The rest was variations of the kicks. There are little different kicks! Taking into account our desire to make the kicks really competitive with attacking actions of the arms, one can come to the only one conclusion: the underlying dynamics of the basic kicks should be standardized (unified). Only in this case there is no alternative choice, at what point, in relation to a situation, from what position and how to attack. You will begin to strike from any position, at any angle, without preparation, exactly, quickly and strongly. By the way, the predictability of your attacks in this case will fall by many times. The enemy will not know what strike you deliver, for a uniform delivery of the leg to contact (at least, most of the limb’s motion trajectory) will look for him the same way. For the fans of the leg techniques, I can add that there hardly can be counted one dozen of fundamentally different from each other movements. No matter what sophisticated path in the target was included in the strike; it is just a modification of one of the main types of basic kicks. Using the simple classification of kicks, on the basis of the notion trajectory, we can distinguish:

1) straight kick forward;

2) straight kick backward;

3) arc kick inward;

4) arc kick outward;

5) downwards kick;

6) upwards kick.

The rest variations arise from the positioning of the body to discharge the energy to contact by different ways. As for attacks in jumps, roundhouse kicks, kicks on the ground — these are no more than aid for strengthening the impact on the object.

6. It is easy to injure the legs; they heal very slowly (especially with aging). So, first think, and then bring them into action. “Leg-handling” is a delicate matter! On the other hand, the legs of the opponent are not made of stone; they have the same positive and negative aspects. So, keep in mind that this is the closest and most available goal for you!

Originally, this article was published in magazine "Martial Arts" at 01.2015:

Igor Messing

Translated by: Ekaterina Pryamova

Club “Jook Lum”, St. Petersburg, Russia

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