Jump front kick

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Tobi-mae geri, the jump front kick, has become the most iconic karate move since being prominently featured in the climatic ending of the The Karate Kid (1984). This technique is used less, but not useless. According to Mr. Miyagi, “If you do right, no can defend”; since jump kicks are unique to martial arts, they make excellent surprise attacks when used against untrained people.

Jump kicks and flying kicks are the same technique, but performed with different intentions:

  • Jump kicks maximize height, allowing head-level kicks without compromising speed or power.
  • Flying kicks maximize distance, to close large distances quickly.

A running start provides additional momentum, making any jump or flying kick easier and more powerful. However, the truly skilled can perform these techniques from stationary positions.

Throwing a jump front kick is a five point process. However, gravity does not permit practicing this technique slowly. As such, this technique is reserved for advanced students, who have already developed a high degree of transferable kicking skills which can be reapplied to this new material. The five points are:

  1. Chambering. Enter a walking crane stance, raising your knee as high as possible. Ideally, your knee touches your chest, to deliver maximum power later. At minimum, your knee is “past parallel” -- that is, your knee must be higher than your hips, so that your thigh is angled upward with respect to the floor.

    Remember to keep a slight bend in your supporting leg, keeping the knee directly over the toes to improve your balance. Again, pretend that your spine and supporting leg is a telephone pole buried deep in the ground, or you will be blown back from the recoil of your own kick.

    Pull your arms close to your chest to shield yourself. As long as you remain on one foot, your defense is compromised -- your blocks will be weak (since you cannot drive with your legs), and evasive footwork requires two feet.

  2. Jumping. Imagine your foot rests atop an invisible box. Straighten your raised leg, and push off this imaginary box, and simultaneously pull your other leg as high as possible, into a walking crane stance. Again, your knee must be “past parallel.” The motion is similar to climbing stairs. While boosting off of an imaginary box sounds like bootstrapping, or Baron Munchausen pulling himself out a mire by his own ponytail, it really is that simple.

  3. Kicking. Push your bent knee down and forward to drive your foot horizontally into the target, like a scissor jack, with the ball of your foot. Tense your abdominal muscles at the kick extends (like a stomach crunch), to keep your shoulders directly over your hips and to ensure a stable landing.

  4. Re-chambering. Resist the urge to use your kick as a giant step, and pull your kicking foot in twice as fast as it went out, to ensure the technique “snaps.” Land into a walking crane stance as quickly as possible, so you can follow-up with additional kicks, as-needed. Slightly bend the knee of your supporting led, so it can act as a shock-absorbing spring to mitigate the impact of landing.

  5. Stepping out. When you are done kicking, you can set your kicking leg behind you, and enter a front stance or fighting stance. Alternately, you can set your kicking foot right next to your supporting foot (in a sort of bent-knees attention stance) and then slide the kicking foot out into a front or fighting stance. What you will not do -- ever, for any reason -- is to step forward directly from crane stance into some other stance. Using your kick as a giant step requires transferring a portion of your weight to a leg which isn’t touching the ground, setting you up for a well-timed leg sweep that will topple you instantly.

Putting it all together, a jump front kick looks like this:

[video of a front snap-kick, viewed from the front and side, many times, fast and slow-ish.]

Due to their lower weight distribution, women will have greater difficulty performing jump and flying kicks than men will. However, this anatomical difference makes it easier for women to perform and resist most takedowns, which is a worthwhile trade.

Please note that you are not required to hold your arms up at your sides, like Daniel-san (but it makes an excellent taunt move.)