Harry: An article on kicking would be interesting.
Andrew: I second an article on kicking. My perception is that it is an area often ignored, but has much to offer when done well.
Me: My belief: The principles governing the upper body should be equally applicable to the lower body. That is, joint expansion of hip, knee and ankle (akin to shoulder, elbow and wrist), converging of knee to give knee power (akin to elbow power), detached but strong lower leg (akin to forearm), initiate from lower centre (akin to upper centre).
In the third part of Chum Kiu, there are several moves in a row composed of alternate double tang sau and double bong sau. Grandmaster Chu, in his DVD, describes the effect of this series of moves as creating a complete boundary that can always make contact with the opponent (his arms) in all possible directions (the upper body). And this (with its derivative shapes) is all you need to achieve (for the upper body) in combat.
Can this be used to define the parameters for kicking? Let’s explore.
To achieve the same or similar effect as the arms, this would mean you are to navigate the knees (bringing along the lower legs) to draw a complete boundary that can always make contact with the opponent’s legs in all directions.
Viewing through this lens, the left side kick in the third part of Chum Kiu is then not a “side” kick. It’s a kick shape on the left boundary (the knee pointing to the left), but being brought to further left by the pivoting body, to the extent that the flexibility of joints allows, thus appearing as a left side kick – actually a front kick with the knee pointing and being pivoted to the left (a left-pivot kick) to the largest flexibility.
After the left-pivot kick, you might just casually let the leg drop to the floor, sometimes in a hurry, to regain your balance. Sifu’s teaching is a bit different: You should extend the left leg to its possible fullest (a straight leg) and then flap down onto the floor. It is akin to the long-bridge power being practised via the the last two moves in the second part of SNT, namely, double arms flapping downward and then upward. This move has its significance in reality: An obvious weakness when you kick is the high risk of losing balance especially when the opponent manages to grab or lift up your kicking leg, the moment of which the kicking power has stopped due to your intent being that the kick has finished. The practice of flapping leg downward trains up your ability as well as sensibility in this regard – your leg always remains so powerful that it can bring down the opponent even being held or lifted up; you leave no weak moments for the opponent to overturn you.
Let’s rewind back to before the kick. You pivot 45d (approximately) to the left from the position “90d right”, with both feet kept close together and resting on the floor. Why this move? Firstly, it requires you to initiate this pivot from the lower centre (pelvis) to break the friction under the feet, without any shift of weight to any of the closely paired legs, making them detached from the floor to follow the pivoting momentum. Secondly, if without this 45d pre-pivot, you have to start the left-pivot kick from 90d right up to about 45d left, spanning almost 135d in total. While it is of course possible, it tempts you to achieve it by over-pulling the leg away beyond the range your front-kick flexibility can cover, deeming it a real left side kick instead. This is not desirable for training. (The second point is my own opinion.)
So far we have placed the left-pivot kick of Chum Kiu into the complete boundary framework for an interpretation. More in upcoming posts.