Using the foot in kicking

Grandmaster Dr. Gyi has said that your strike is only as good as the level to which you’ve conditioned your weapon. For punches, it means being able to strike with a specific part of the hand without collapsing and being able to transfer energy through the point of contact to the target. For kicks, it means knowing, clearly, what part of the foot is intended to make contact and making sure that the foot can effectively transfer your force to the target.

The primary parts of the foot involved in delivering and transferring that force in different types of kicks are 1, the ball of the foot, 2, the heel, 3, the instep (ie, the top of the foot), 4, the outside edge of the foot and 5, the big toe. Let’s look at what it means to condition each of these parts of the foot by looking at some of the different kicks in Bando.

  • Front snap kick: In this kick, contact with the target is made with the ball of the foot. To execute this correctly, the toes need to be pulled back. You can practice this by trying to “kick” the floor with the ball of the foot while pulling the toes back.
  • Front thrust kick: While the mechanics of this kick are similar, it’s the heel that makes contact. Your ankle flexibility is needed to make this work – the entire foot has to be flexed when making contact with the heel.
  • Roundhouse kick: For a roundhouse kick, the instep is often the part of the foot that makes contact with the target. (A roundhouse kick can also deliver via the ball of the foot.) The instep is a broader surface, but can still deliver a lot of power. To deliver power, you need to condition the top of the foot in exercises such as kicking the side of a heavy bag with the top of the foot.
  • Side kick: The outside edge, also called the knife edge, of the foot is what makes contact in a side kick (not the entire foot bottom). This requires your ankle be turned so that the outside edge of the foot is farther away from the knee and the inside edge is closer. A good way to get a feel for this is to turn the foot and hit the floor with just the outside edge.
  • Cobra kick: This kick is like a front kick, but contact is made with the big toe. The smaller surface area results in more penetration for the same level of force. A cobra kick might be used to strike a nerve bundle, for example. Practice requires conditioning the big toe for impact.
In this flying side kick, the outside side edge of the foot is leading. Photo credit: Uriel Soberanes via

Remember that the smaller the area of contact, the more penetrating the force will be on the target. So work on your foot conditioning to deliver your force effectively. And don’t forget, of course, to work on your overall kicking technique!