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What are the ankles good for? What is their most efficient use? I posited, somewhere else, that they are good to absorb the energy generated from moving out of a stance.

In martial practice, how can the ankles be used to maximize benefit?

Note - benefit is defined as minimum energy usage and maximum result in speed, power, mobility, and precision.

For instance - if doing a front-kick with the ball of the foot, if you chamber your leg (bring up the knee, keeping the foot down and tight) and keep the toes straight forward, when you extend the leg, the simple act of "keeping the foot facing forward" and raising the toes up to open the ball of the foot will increase leverage (like a pulley power multiplying system) and give the kick some more power, because you're activating the joint of the ankle.

Now, specifically, relating to being in a stance. For the purpose of not having to leave anything to the imagination, let us imagine this very, VERY specific situation:

Say I am in a horse stance. That is, my legs are approximately two to two-and-a-half shoulder-widths apart, my knees are approximately bent to 90 degrees, my back is approximately 90 degrees from my thighs (which are, of course, parallel to the floor), my lower back is relaxed, my hips aren't tight.

Oh, and I forgot a very important point, since we are talking about ankles - the feet are facing straight ahead, they are parallel to each other, and the shins are approximately vertical (that is, the knees are not "over the toes" or "past the toes"). The weight is distributed approximately equally between the front and the back of the foot.

Now, let's say I need to jump three feet forward and land in the same stance. Is there a particular way to use the ankles to get maximum efficiency, that is, use the minimum energy while providing maximum speed, balance and mobility?

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What exactly are you looking for with the answer here? –  David H. Clements Feb 7 '12 at 19:58
    
I'm looking for the purpose of the ankles. It's a joint, a part of the body, and it can be ignored, misused, or used. I'm not sure how to answer your question without rewriting the question I wrote. –  Trevoke Feb 7 '12 at 20:11
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@Trevoke: You might need to restate the question. I'm not clear, either, on what type of information you are looking for. When you say "maximize benefit," maximize the benefit of what? When asking, think in terms of what problem you are trying to solve and ask the question from that point of view. As asked, I think users may have to guess what type of information would actually help you. –  Robert Cartaino Feb 7 '12 at 20:36
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@Trevoke: This also appears to be overly broad. The ankles have different uses in different applications; just adding "in martial arts" doesn't make the question on topic and narrow enough. For example, the flexibility of the ankle is a requirement in targeting specific strikes and even throws in Bujinkan ninpo taijutsu, but this won't necessarily be a focused truth or application in Wado-ryu Karate. –  stslavik Feb 7 '12 at 22:31
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@Trevoke: Not necessarily to a single martial art, no. You could narrow it to specifically kicking, or specifically maintaining balance while throwing. Otherwise, the question would be better suited for a different SE site, like biology or sports or, in the future, human anatomy. It may be this needs to be closed on grounds of being a repeat question. –  stslavik Feb 7 '12 at 22:44
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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I'm taking just this piece as the real question:

In martial practice, how can the ankles be used to maximize benefit?

Flexible ankles can significantly lower your stance (just bending them) in a much more natural way than trying to flex just your knees.

To lower my stance I prefer to just focus on flexing my ankles and forget about the knees. When you lower your stance in that way, the plant of your feet tends to open up a bit, improving stability.

Trying to move from such a stance (I mean footwork) also may change the inner structure of your movements. (but that's too difficult to explain here and probably OT). Ankles -not knees- are ultimately responsible for moving your weight from one leg to the other.

Another perk is the increased ability to absorb power (such as a front push). If you resist by deliberately flexing your ankles it will be more difficult to move you.

As the last thing, as every join, ankles must be kept aligned. A common mistake in many movements is letting the rear foot point backward.

And yes, there's a use for power: if you practice Fa jin ankles are involved as most other big joints. (you probably referred to this in your last paragraph, I'm not sure though)

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Not only is it not OT, I believe that's what I am looking for :) –  Trevoke Feb 8 '12 at 2:00
    
Regarding the inner structure of the movements - if you can't explain it, can you at least come up with a useful lie that gets me on the right track? I'll take a koan, an analogy or a haiku, whatever helps you get the point across! –  Trevoke Feb 8 '12 at 13:16
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As for footwork: take a stance, bend both the ankles so that you lower your position. Then bend the front foot's ankle even more so that your toes rise and your heel not. Advance the front foot while focusing of keeping your toes high and land the feet heel first. It's not different from the usual step practiced in Taichi and - i believe - Bagua. –  tacone Feb 8 '12 at 13:28
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What are the ankles good for?

This is a rather odd question so I will give a rather odd answer. One of the uses I have found for the feet/ankles is disarming techniques while lying on the ground. We practice this some (very little really) in FMA. Specifically, some stick disarms that are used while standing are also available while one is prone utilizing the feet. These disarms are typically those that don't require a lot of finesse. Since you can't as easily grasp anything with your toes (as you would with your fingers during a disarm), you have to rely more on your ankles to perform wraps, grabs and immobilizations. I will admit that it is a novelty, but a lot of fun to practice.

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