Martial arts is comparable to your favourite recipe; many will have a similar process in preparing their recipe, but most will have some slightly different ingredients and amounts that make their recipe unique and specifically theirs. The same can be said of martial arts. Different styles will have different ways of accomplishing the same goals and/or executing the same technique. As an example, what my style calls a crescent kick and inside crescent kick is referred to as the opposite in the Kenpo dojo I currently train with.
It can be a bit convoluted and even confusion to the non-practitioner, especially if they’re trying to choose their own style. But what’s important to a practitioner is to refrain from judging or evaluating another style’s methods, even if they may seem odd or useless from ones’s personal style. I’m certainly guilty of this; I’ve written entire posts on why I WOULDN’T train a certain way or use specific techniques. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work for THEM.
I follow a certain number of martial arts pages, mostly because they’re fun to follow. But once in a while they lead to small nuggets of wisdom or open my eyes to something I may not have considered before. The reason I bring this up is because of a couple of posts I saw yesterday, where a young woman in a black shirt and yoga pants executed several kicks straight up above her head, and a second post with someone in a karate gi doing the same. I made the mistake of visiting the comments section. Big, big mistake.
Setting aside some of comments related to the first practitioner who was wearing yoga pants (who the fuck cares? You should be able to execute your techniques in any clothing you wear), some inevitably commented how useless the kick was, as there’s no practical application to kicking straight up. While I can admit that I would never, in a real-life scenario or in the dojo, execute this technique, I can also freely admit a fact that most of these armchair commentators won’t; I couldn’t execute that kick to save my life!
Okinawa Karate is a pretty low-technique style. We don’t employ many high kicks, favouring kicks at or below the belt and using punches and arm techniques for anything higher. But there’s no denying that there are a number of measurable benefits behind executing such techniques, even the practical applications are few our far between. Unless you happen to be fighting against a giant or someone twice your height. Which could happen. I guess. If you’re living in a video game world.
Here’s the thing: Doing high kicks may not serve a practical application. But what they do provide is the ability to work on precision, balance, muscle strength and agility. These are important benefits to someone studying the martial arts. In Okinawa karate, we always focused on doing halfway splits to help with flexibility and reach for the kicks we DO perform. But to this day, I still can’t do a full split, whether this means lowering myself to the floor or doing a high kick. In my hay day, I could execute some pretty solid roundhouse kicks against someone’s head, provided they weren’t three feet taller than I was.
What surprises me, is how any time someone posts a video of them selves doing a kick straight up in the air, there’s always some negative fucker who needs to comment about how it’s a useless kick. Agreed, it may not be useful in an actual fight, but consider how flexible this person is and how precise they may be while using an actual kick against an opponent. You don’t learn to punch properly by striking a punching bag once. By the same token, your flexibility and reach isn’t accomplish simply by kicking ONLY as far as you want to go. One will usually train to exceed that reach in order to allow for a more efficient technique. To most martial artists, this is what would be considered a common training practice and also “common sense.”
I continue to be impressed by practitioners who execute high flying techniques and show remarkable flexibility, a flexibility that I’ve never had. I can easily say that I would never use fancy spinning kicks or use a kick where one strikes straight up above one’s head. But that doesn’t mean these techniques aren’t impressive and useful in their own way. It’s important not to judge too harshly, when one sees some of these techniques. Although they may not be included in your style, they still hold some use and practicality from a training standpoint. Instead of commenting on how useless the kick is, why not recognize the balances, strength, precision and agility involved. This is the true martial way. ☯️