Function over Form – the round kick

Thai Round Kick

Thai Round Kick

In the previous article I related the (hypothetical) Form Police apparent in the Physical Conditioning world, as reported by Ross Enamait, with those in the martial arts world. These Form Police are firmly removed from the lateral thinking stratum being entrenched and engrossed in literal translation of martial arts related topics, kata for example. While the literal-lateral distinction isn’t strictly dichotomous, it’s probably best thought of as a sliding scale of  fixed to open thinking,  literal thinking places limitations on potential progression. There now follows an example of the distinction.

If we consider the round(house) kick, a martial arts stalwart technique,  we can witness the drawback of literal thinking. If the desired outcome of the kick is to produce sufficient power to cause damage or even a KO, as efficiently as possible, by definition the emphasis has to lean toward function rather than form. We want to produce a powerful effective kick and as such are not too concerned with aesthetics.

Consider the following two clips, broadly separated into opposite extremes of the (hypothetical) form-function (or literal-lateral) continuum, one from TKD the other from Steve Morris

Morris goes into a fair bit of detail of how to perform the kick but the emphasis is clearly not on form but rather on how to get ‘total body movement’. The TKD clip, however does seem to have a greater emphasis on form, look at the lines etc added to help the viewer, note the precise instructions, which go into fine detail. Force equals mass times acceleration, acceleration can be achieved in both version of the kick, but the Morris version allows greater mass to be included in the equation, as the whole body (i.e. the mass) is involved not only in the production of the kick but also after contact (if you watch the entire clip, there are one or two instances where he ‘gently’ kicks someone).

Karate mawashi geri

It’s clear to me which is the more effective kick, admittedly I have no personal experience of the TKD kick but lots regarding the very similar karate mawashi geri*, certainly similar regarding teaching protocols, while I have felt the Morris version. The Morris kick is far more effective, as he says you get more for your money.

If you look at the two pictures of round kicks included in this post, it’s obvious that the thai kick is transferring momentum, and so force, into the target, while the mawashi geri is merely being placed. You get what you train and the mawashi geri trained in the manner of the photo is aesthetically pleasing, it looks nice but is less efficient than the thai kick.

I’m not saying that a spinning, jumping reverse TKD tornado kick hasn’t got the capability of producing sufficient power to cause KO, there’s evidence of that on you tube. Rather I question whether it is the most efficient/effective method of producing the power required to achieve a KO from a high kick or cause damage efficiently in a low kick.

In fact, ‘perfect’ form results in minimal loss of balance and so minimal transfer of force, clearly an inefficient method of producing power sufficient for a KO. In contrast, by emphasising total body involvement Morris concentrates on outcome, i.e. power, rather than form, indeed his kicks look rather untidy. If unconvinced I’d suggest experiencing one or two of his kicks at quarter power, it’s a pretty surefire convincer.

An alternative and less painful option is to consider which of the kicks outlined in the clips above is more similar to those used to get KO’s in MMA/K1. Look for more or less body involvement as Mirko Cro Cop, famous for his kicking power, dishes out lots of KO kicks.

*the interested reader can watch a Shotokan video on the round kick

One thought on “Function over Form – the round kick

  1. Pingback: Whipping punch « EPIC martial arts Blog

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