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This may be getting into technical minutia, but it's something that's been bugging me since I first came across it.

I've seen multiple different views (as one might expect) for the position of the grounded foot for performing back-leg front kicks (striking with the ball of the foot). In the first variation (the one I am most familiar with) the grounded foot stays planted, pivoting to the side for increased reach if needed. I've seen several sources that use this pattern.

I've also come across several other sources that clearly show that the kicker rises up on the ball of their foot for this kick. Sometimes this is rather extreme, going way up onto the ball of the foot. Tedeschi (in Hapkido) talks about how this gives "increased reach," but nothing else really seems to be said on it.

Most sources I've seen just seem to pick one strategy or the other.

I recognize that there are inherent stylistic differences in how different schools approach the same move. In this case, I'm curious if anyone is aware of any inherent advantages or disadvantages to one over the other as a means of increasing reach, if it derives from different in approach to how/when that kick gets used, or if it is mostly just a matter of style?

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We like technical minutia, sir :) –  tacone Feb 2 '12 at 14:15
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Interesting. I'm curious to see if there's a reason for the differences. My shidoshi used to kick our feet out from under us if we raised up on the ball during a kick... –  stslavik Feb 2 '12 at 17:55
    
How important is your own balance versus gaining a little bit of reach? It's a personal or stylistic choice. –  William Mioch Feb 3 '12 at 21:36
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5 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

My answer is not exactly on the question "Rising on the ball or staying flat", but rather tries to make clear the reason why exactly you might prefer to stay flat, and not even pivot away. The underlying reasoning can be transferred to your question, since standing up will diminish power and snap according to the views below. Of course, all of the following reasoning adheres to karate axioms.

There is an interesting video on this (in French) by karate sensei Johnny Gence (look for Mae-Geri). I won't link to it here, so readers have to look for themselves, to save his bandwidth.

The gist of his explanation is this: if you keep your foot fully planted, toes pointing forward, you can exert a lot more power through hip-snap, and you can retract your kicking leg much more easily.

Of course, you cannot reach quite as far as you could if you would twist your standing foot so the toes point outward: if you are in a competition for points, then you can absolutely use this lenghtier technique. This, I think, can be transferred to your question: standing on the ball of your foot might increase reach, but will decrease snap.

So, if you are in a true budo situation, stick to the most powerful technique: foot down, toes forward.

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This is how the head of my school has always taught it. Going on the ball increases reach, but you lose power and balance. Avoid it if you're interested in art. Maybe for sport? We don't really do sport where I train. –  Rophuine Feb 12 '12 at 10:11
    
Very true in my personal view. What art and style do you train? Sensei Gence practices karate as an art too, not as a sport. –  Ruben Tavernier Feb 12 '12 at 20:15
    
I train in a traditional form of taekwondo (split off in the 70s by Moon Hwan Lee). –  Rophuine Feb 12 '12 at 21:13
    
Confirmed, when one of my elder wanted to show me that dodging a kick was better than blocking (which was my preference), he proposed me to block one of his. I flew. He then pointed the fact that he didn't keep his foot flat, to protect me. Now I dodge. –  Scrollmaster Feb 13 '12 at 20:14
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I understand what was said about the increased reach, but it is my experience that as you decrease the surface area of the foot in contact with the ground, you decrease your stability and support, meaning that if you kick someone who is in a stronger stance you have the tendency to fall backwards rather than drive through them.

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tl;dr

Flat foot

  • Pros: More balance, uses groin muscles to produce more power (is this proven? probably not)
  • Cons: Puts a lot of stress on your knee, restricts rotation

Ball of toes:

  • Pros: No stress on knee, easy rotation
  • Cons: Requires more balance .

Foot planet: The idea with this one is that you hyper stretch your groin muscle by pointing your ground foot outward. This give you more power as the muscle tries to rebound to a normal state. Also, with the foot planted, you have more surface area where you are standing which results in more balance. The problem I have with this is that it puts a lot of stress on your knee.

Ball of toes: Honestly, I haven't heard any good reasoning from this from any other fighters. I have though of some logical reasons for it and ultimately have chosen this method as my style of kicking.

So when you punch and kick, you are guiding your body weight into your opponent. That is were you want the power to come from. When you cross, you rotate your hips to project your body weight into your opponent. Your fist is just the means in which your are connecting your body with your opponent. Same goes for the kick. If I am up on my toes I can swing by body like a ballerina. My entire body moves as one. Try spinning around 360 degrees on 1 flat foot. Its pretty difficult. On your toes it is easy. This makes it easy to rotate your body into your opponent.

On that note, I wouldn't go to the extreme with going on my toes. Keep it just enough so you can spin. If you go to high, your calfs are already engaged completely and this will make it difficult to jump if you need jump or move mid kick. Also, its really difficult to balance on your tippy toes.

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The question you need to answer, empirically, is if it will work for you.

Every action generates an equal and opposite reaction. Going on the ball of the foot might be a bad idea if the way you kick does not take into account a potential loss of balance when you encounter the resistance of your target.

Of course, there are also many ways of delivering power.

Sometimes you want to go THROUGH the target (ex: Muay Thai roundhouse kick).

Sometimes you want the power to get in there with minimal backlash (ex: Isshinryu karate punch, with its small snapback at the end).

Sometimes you want to deliver maximum power with as little effort and compromise to mobility as possible (ex: any strike within Systema).

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I find when doing a muay thai push kick, i can get my kicking leg up higher if i go on the ball of my base leg, i think it has to do with my base leg bending a bit.

my kru also said you can get more power b/c of the way it makes you engage your hips more to be on the ball of your foot.

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