KARATE ESSENCE ‘Reality Check’ Mae Geri/Front Kick
Mae Geri/Front Kick
The Mae Geri, or front kick, in most arts, is listed as the most basic kicking technique. Admittedly, in regard to biomechanical principles, it is the most straight forward and simplest of kicks; however, it is a very much underrated technique.
Table of Contents
· The Simple, Modest Front Kick.
· Kung Fu Front Kicks/Zhuang Ti or Tan Tui.
· Muay Thai Front Kick/Push Kick or Teep.
· Tae Kwon Do Front Kick/Ap Chagi.
· The Shotokan Front Kick/Mae Geri.
· The Kyokushin Front Kick/Mae Geri.
· Torakan Take on the Front Kick/Mae Geri.
· In Conclusion.
The Simple, Modest Front Kick
The modest front kick can also be one of the most powerful kicks. Regardless of one’s physical condition or the lack there of, Mae Geri is a kick that almost anyone can be taught to execute, after a fashion, in just one lesson.
As in all of the techniques we have discussed in our monthly ‘Reality Check’, each martial art, each Karate style, in fact a dojo or school within a style can have some variances in the actual ‘Front Kick’.
You would be forgiven for thinking, ‘what possible differences could there be in a straight forward front kick?’ I know that, initially, in the 1970s, I thought there were three possibilities for the front kick, or Mae Geri. A keage (snapping) Mae Geri, delivered to the body (chudan) and the head (jodan); the ball of the foot being the striking area used; and, depending on the instructor, the top of the instep or the top of the toes is the striking area used for the snapping groin kick (gedan). Mae Geri kekomi (thrusting) could be used in a chudan kick, to the body, or a gedan kick, to the knee; again, the ball of the foot is generally used.
As previously stated, Shotokan was my first classical art, which I began in the early 1970s. Prior to that, coming from a boxing background, kicking was a little alien to me; and apart from a kind of stomping kick from my close quarter combat days, a football type kick to the testicles was the only kick of which I was aware. However, since the 70s I have been involved in various arts, several Chinese Kung Fu or Gung Fu styles, and various Japanese styles including Bushido containing some Jujutsu, and a delve into Filipino Eskrima/Arnis/Kali, and with about ten years Muay Thai involvement. All of which have front kicks of some description in their curriculum.
Kung Fu Front Kicks/Zhuang Ti or Tan Tui
Kung Fu front kicks (snapping front kick/Tan Tui, front push kick/Zhuang Ti) are typically aimed at targets below the chest: stomach, thighs, groin, knees or lower. Skilled practitioners are of course capable of striking head level targets with the front kick; however, they are rarely used in this way. The front kick is fast and involves little body motion to betray the technique's nature prior to execution, but the head is a small, easily moved target and there are closer, just as vulnerable targets, on offer. This Kung Fu Front Kick, generally a snapping kick, takes advantage of the speed of the delivery.
Muay Thai Front Kick/Push Kick or Teep
The Muay Thai front kick is called a ‘Teep’ or a ‘push kick’ and is generally used to create distance or line up a more devastating technique like a round kick or an elbow strike. Its description as a ‘push kick’ clearly suggests that it is generally a thrusting kick. The ball of the foot, the heel, also the flat of the foot can all be used as striking areas; and the target areas can be anywhere from the lower leg, to destabilise the stance of the opponent, to the thigh, the hip, the body or the head. Muay Thai is usually thought of in connection with the kickboxing sport and therefore kicks to the groin and knee et cetera would be frowned upon; however, let’s not forget where it comes from. Muay Boron is the battlefield where the martial art originated, and on a battlefield nothing is out of bounds. Make no mistake, the Muay Thai Teep/Front Kick can be used with devastating effect.
Tae Kwon Do Front Kick/Ap Chagi
The Tae Kwon Do front kick, or Ap Chagi, is a snapping kick at any height or target and, depending on the school or association, they practice it using the top of the instep as the striking area; almost like a Kin Geri (groin kick). Tae Kwon Do was once an exclusive combat training tool of the Korean Army, and the Ap Chagi would have been delivered with an army boot to the most damaging and sensitive targets. However, most Tae Kwon Do schools train for sport these days and striking with the top of the toes and instep, targeting for Tae Kwon Do Front Kick/Ap Chagi would be restricted to the head and centre of the body.
The Shotokan Front Kick/Mae Geri
The Shotokan Mae Geri. I have seen many and varied versions of Mae Geri within the Shotokan style of Karate; however, within the Japan Karate Association (JKA) and affiliated bodies, the Mae Geri directive for grading purposes is as follows: The Mae Geri is a keage (snapping) kick, whether delivered to chudan or jodan. Generally, those dojos do not teach kin geri (snapping groin kick) as a basic kick and certainly at no point do they ask for it to be demonstrated for grading purposes. Some dojos will include a thrusting chudan Mae Geri, but very few will include a thrusting gedan Mae Geri to the knee. This is a link to a classic Shotokan Mae Geri tutorial.
I like this tutorial from a very good Shotokan instructor, but it is definitely for the advanced karateka, with three different angles on Mae Geri chudan.
The Kyokushin Front Kick/Mae Geri
The Kyokushin Mae Geri. Kyokushin is a full-contact style of stand up fighting and is rooted in a philosophy of self-improvement, discipline, and hard training… and so it naturally follows that the Kyokushin Mae Geri would be practiced and implemented with that same philosophical application in mind: with complete practicality and maximum power. Regardless of the target the knee, as it loads the kick, is driven high for maximum load for the Kyokushin Mae Geri; just as the knee is used in most of the Kyokushin kicks.
This, another Kyokushin Mae Geri tutorial, is quite a good one for the more advanced karateka… I say that because there is no instruction with it; you just observe and follow the examples. This karateka’s technique is virtually flawless as he demonstrates five different Mae Geri chudan approaches.
Torakan Take on the Front Kick/Mae Geri
The Torakan Mae Geri is influenced by my study in various martial arts and my practical experience in real world conflict and, as per usual, I will add here just a few very short video clips of the Torakan take on the modest front kick.
In conclusion, and of course as usual in my opinion, each Front Kick/Mae Geri is designed and performed by a particular discipline for a specific purpose and providing their particular kick fulfils that purpose – works for them – then the more variety the better.
I have found throughout the many years I have performed any kind of Front Kick, in real situations, that it is one of the most practical kicks. For those of you who are reading my articles for the first time I’d just like to add here that I worked in high risk security for 25 years. I have used the ‘Front Kick’, in real life scenarios, in almost all of the above guises as and when the situation arose, without having to think about it (which one will I use); simply trusting my Mushin. I have for many years taught exclusively for self-defence; if you practice all that you are taught, your Mushin will utilise whatever in your arsenal is appropriate at the time to work for you.