I first recap on the typical way of practising kicking, based on my observation in Sifu’s goon (in Cantonese, means training hall):
- Raise one leg up to the position the foot palm faces the front when practising SNT.
- Use the middle limb of the wooden dummy: navigate the leg led by the knee above and past the middle limb, from left to right, and vice versa, to stamp on the dummy every time; and place the foot palm on the middle limb to stamp directly onto the dummy’s trunk along the limb’s length.
- Shin-kick onto a sandbag, or a kick pad placed on the thigh of your training partner.
- Practise the kick moves in Chum Kiu.
- Practise the kick moves in Wooden Dummy.
Nima’s footages (Mindful Wing Chun) have more explanation and elaborate details. They are good references to which you can refer.
I didn’t go through the typical way. The first thing I wanted to achieve was to better open up the hip area including the hip joints. I did it by simply “rotating” up the knee (with the lower leg loosely downward) up to level and slightly flapping it up and down repeatedly with the aim of “inserting” the thigh bone back into the hip joint socket. This simple exercise helped me a lot in establishing the control of the knee by the hip joint.
Harry Leong has asked why Wing Chun kick could be so powerful that even when a leg at rest is being pressed at the knee, a kick from it is still unstoppable, as demonstrated by Sifu in some footages.
In my opinion, the hip-to-knee control is of vital importance here.
A normal kick usually first draws power from the floor using the standing leg. Power is then built up by twisting and rotating body parts especially the waist and pelvis up to the kicking leg. The twisting and rotating are mainly achieved by muscular activity, joints are of secondary role in adding. At the hip, the muscles try to pull up the knee to start a kick. If at this point the knee has already been blocked before any initial movement, the pulling muscles will easily get stuck (unable to blast-start) and immediately become weak points subject to attack by the bounced-back force. The hip joint can’t help too much because it’s being confined by those pulling muscles. In a sense, the hip joint is being shortcut by the muscles.
In a Wing Chun kick, the skeletal system takes the mastery role. In this view, the hip joint is actually being treated as a socket-joint pair, not just one embedded thing. Power from aligning the skeletal system gears up to the hip socket, supporting the joint (via ligaments) to navigate the knee (via the thigh bone). When the leg at rest is pressed at the knee, such blocking force does not make the bone and ligaments “tense” – the hip joint is still free to rotate, and no weak points are inflicted in the pelvis. Backed by the power geared up at the hip socket, the rotation in the joint sends the knee up to start a kick, expelling the blocking force right there.
I have digressed to explain the critical role of the hip joint in Wing Chun kick. Now let me return to my training experience.
Probably the “thigh-bone-inserting” exercise described above is the only physical training I took for kicking. The rest is by “thinking” – the mind travels to different parts inside the leg to open them up, both joints and muscles, bit by bit, sometimes here, sometimes there, no fixed sequence. For example, my mind goes directly to the ankle joint, first by soften-melting its neighbouring muscles to make inroads inside, then extends into the inner foot palm bone structure up to the toes.
Working on expanding the ankle joint could be complementary to that on the hip joint. While the latter empowers a kick, the expanded ankle joint acts as a strong component for contact including with the floor. It cushions the weight above, preventing it from pressing dead downward, thus allowing the leg to leave the floor instantly without the need to counter the downward inertia first. It is like a hovercraft – after filling up its bottom to swollen, its weight is cushioned from the ground, the downward inertia is minimised, and it’s ready to move on a surface instantly.
When the kick stamps, the expanded ankle joint with the “swollen” foot palm are the first to make contact with the target, engaging in the impactful force exchange there. Such foot unit cushions and expels reactionary force (thus minimising resistance) during the impact, “channelling” nearly all the power you desire for the stamp through to the target.
This, together with keeping the knee joints unlocked and converging, serves as a solid basis for further exploration inside the legs (something to share in the future), not just for kicking, but stance, stepping, forms, weapons and anything related to leg movements.
A note: I have no intention to encourage you to follow my way (by “thinking”) shared above. It is just something having evolved to be suitable for myself. Nothing can be generalised as a model or method suitable for others. Please just treat it as a reference from an individual. And it will be more secure to follow the typical route, though.