Sunday, January 27, 2013
Do High Kicks Have to be High?
How high can you kick? I’m no longer in the age range where my physical capability should be increasing; I’m well beyond my twenties. Still, I can kick higher today than at anytime in my past. With practice and patience, almost any skill will improve.
Tang Soo Do derives, like its cousin art Tae Kwon Do, from an older Korean Martial Art known as Soo Bak Do. One of the difference between Tang Soo Do, and other arts (and there are many differences), is that we employ very high kicks.
Our high kicks not only strike to the head and shoulders, but some of them strike downward onto the head and shoulders. We routinely practice a combination that begins with a forearm block, a punch to the face, followed by an inside to outside kick that comes down upon the attacker’s nose.
The picture here is of Kyosa Nim (Teacher) Brian Mattes executing an inside to outside kick that reaches above the attacker to strike downward. Mr. Mattes can easily break through two or three board effortlessly with this attack, which is to say he has the power, focus, and aim to easily break an attacker’s nose, cheek, jaw, or collarbone.
Not all martial arts employ high kicks and those that do, don’t all use high downward kicks.
But what if you’re not a young pup like Kyosa Nim? I can stretch my kick above a man my same size, but what if I’m fighting a taller person; or what if my flexibility is limited and can only reach my leg as high as my waist? Are these kicks, and by extension, Tang Soo Do, impractical for me?
My instructor, Sa Bum Nim Joe Bruno executed an inside to outside downward kick that caused the heel of his foot to strike the top of my thigh. I kind of chuckled; first because I know he had the capability to drive my nose out the back of my head if he wanted, and second because I thought he had missed his real target; my chest.
In less than 20 seconds I found myself nearly unconscious, with Master Bruno carefully guiding my fall to the floor. His impact on my thigh caused all the blood to rush to the impact zone, thus freeing my brain from any active duty.
I recovered within a few minutes; minutes that he could have used had this been an actual fight to finish me off. I learned that one strike can end a conflict without causing serious damage, and that even relatively low kicks can be devastatingly effective.
The high kicks of Tang Soo Do are very practical, even for those with limited range and flexibility. They also look really cool.