Sensei Dave Paulus is a great friend of Harpenden JKA. A 5th dan, with his own club (Yushikai Karate Academy) in Billericay, he’s a skilled and experienced instructor. He’s also awesome at karate kicks. Which is why I asked him to run a special 2 hour course dedicated to improving our kicking techniques. I also invited local clubs, Ataru and Stevenage JKA, to join us.

So, one Saturday morning in late summer, we all gathered at Hatfield Uni’s De Havilland campus for Sensei Dave’s kicking masterclass. It was a great introduction for beginners and a timely reminder for us senior grades.

5 kicks that every karate student needs to know

Sensei Dave concentrated on 5 karate kicks. All but one (kekomi) are snap kicks, and with the exception of ura mawashi geri, they are all basic techniques that students learn early on in their training:

  1. Mae geri – the most basic (and extremely effective) front kick
  2. Kekomi – side thrusting kick
  3. Keagi – side snap kick
  4. Mawashi geri – often referred to as ’round house’ because the knee is lifted at the side and swung round to snap and kick.
  5. Ura mawashi geri – an advanced reverse kick that requires flexibility and good balance.

Karate students make good targets!

Practising with a partner is really important because you get used to having a real target not just empty space in front you. It also means you have someone to help you balance!

We work with partners a lot, helping each other improve and gain confidence. With karate kicks It helps us position our whole body – not just the foot – so we actually make contact. Having a partner also helped us work out the right distance according to height and build. Get too close to your partner and your technique is crushed and shortened, too far away and you won’t reach them.

Top tips for cracking kicks

Sensei Dave took us through our karate kicks breaking each one down: knee up, foot flexed, supporting leg knee bent, kick (snap or thrust) knee back, foot down. All nicely controlled. For mawashi geri, he wanted us to concentrate on proper technique without wobbling. So he had us lying on the floor. (Definitely sorted the wobbling.)

5 things to take away:

  • Get the knee right – it helps with both power and accuracy.
  • Learn how to angle and arch your foot to use ball / heel / side / instep (we do some very odd exercises in class to get this right!)
  • Get your whole body in the right position, especially hips, and have your head pointing the right way!
  • Snap back fast or thrust into your target – learn the difference.
  • Land with ‘zanshin’ (state of awareness).

So what else did we learn?

We all make faces when we kick! Some of us are ‘head bangers” and even stick our tongues out with the effort – not ideal, of course, in case you bite down.

We practised over 300 karate kicks that morning. Sensei Dave makes it look effortless – probably because he does at least 300 kicks everyday.

When asked how we can improve he simply said “practise and stretch to stay supple.” And that’s pretty much true of all karate.

Our grateful thanks to Sensei Dave Paulus for his time and expertise!