In Karate, when we performed a kick, we were always stressed the important of retracting after performing the kick (also in punches). So pulling back after executing kick/punch was important. But recently I have been training with a traditional Chinese martial arts club, and some belief there that if we retract then we are not transferring the power, so not effective technique. Here, it is stressed that I should not pull back my punches immediately and for kicks actually, they are not a big fan of kicks, however there are some low kicks and it is not supposed to retracted quickly.

It seems to me that retracting gives advantage of more safe technique (opponent cant grab you) while not retracting achieves more transfer of power.

Could I have your opinions on retracting after kicks or punches?

  • 1
    It will be helpful if you specify which Chinese martial art or arts you are studying, as CMA is quite diverse and each style has its own preferences on any number of technical differences. Apr 13, 2015 at 17:21

8 Answers 8


Disclaimer: I've spent too much time over thinking the differences between Japanese and Chinese martial arts

To quote Bruce Lee's opinion on the styles, getting hit by a Karate punch is like getting hit by a crowbar, while getting hit by a Kung Fu punch is like getting hit by a ball on a chain. Both hurt. You don't want to be on the receiving end of either. But they are different enough that you should not be surprised if a group of Chinese martial artists have a different opinion than you have been brought to by your Karate training.

I studied very little Karate, so the rest of my Karate information is "textbook information." Use your own judgement about what I have to say. However, from what I've read, Karate seeks a unification of the entire body when you strike, so that you can hit them with every ounce of Self you have. Accordingly, at the end of a strike, the striking leg is still a very important part of the body. It's actually the weakest, because it's in such an awkward position and so close to the opponent. Thus, you want to get it back reasonably fast.

In Chinese approaches, there is more of a wave of energy striking outward from the tips of your toe on the ground to the striking surface. However, once you have struck, that limb is not actually all that important to you. The energy has already gone through it, and you're already starting the next attack (originating elsewhere, such as the toes on the ground, or the lower Dantien).

The idea seems to be that, if you try to grab someone's kick in kung fu, you're already not paying attention to the next attack, and it's going to clobber you. Thus, the opponent really doesn't have much of an opportunity to grab it, so why waste motion to get it back until doing so is actually useful.

Realistically, I think any kick is going to fit somewhere between those two extremes, rather than on one end or the other. You'll just see the Chinese drawing attention to one side, and the Japanese drawing attention to the other. Understand both ways of thinking, and you'll start to find your personal balance between them to adapt to your individual body structure.


Quite simply, you are no longer transferring power once the kick has landed. Therefore it is pointless to leave the leg out there - unless you are either posing or looking to burn a bit more energy.

I would always advise to retract the leg as soon as practical. If someone left a kick hanging out I would gladly catch it and use it to my advantage. The same goes for a punch - if the hand is not doing anything then get it back (although it should be mentioned you are far more likely to be doing multiple things with your hands - a punch can easily be turned into a grapple).

Many people teach many different things for many different reasons. Sometimes those things are fervently believed but are ultimately wrong or misguided. If you are not happy with the explanation you have received from the people you currently train with then question them, get some more details and make sure you have understood what they are telling you (often things can get lost in translation).


There's truth to both sides - it's a spectrum. You want to commit more and hit harder when you believe you're going to make meaningful contact and - with the impact factored in - the opponent won't be able to exploit your slower recovery time. If you're wrong, and the opponent slips or comfortably weathers the attack and counters, you'll be in a worse position. If you always retract habitually, or always fail to, then - as with any habit - that itself can be exploited. So, mix it up during your sparring and try to learn the "sensitivity" to exploit actual opportunities while avoiding over-committing while looking for them. I guess you're not fighting full contact or this kind of discovery would to a large extent take care of itself, though then there's inevitably the issue of "rules" about where and how you can hit each other that distorts other aspects of the fighting. Another tip is to consider whether you're hitting as hard as the other kung fu students during pad/bag work and breaking (if you do any)... if you can win respect there, they'll have less grounds - and inclination - to doubt whether your more quickly-withdrawn techniques are effective. If you find you're not hitting as hard, then push yourself to do so and see if that seems to come at the cost of recovery time.

  • I love it when I have to +1 someone else's answer to a question I have an answer for. I like how it captures the balance between the different viewpoints.
    – Cort Ammon
    Apr 16, 2015 at 5:24

"Transfer of power" may miss some of what can happen when a kicking leg is not retracted.

An extended leg can pin or sweep/hook after an initial impact kick. Similarly, an impact kick can be delivered from an extended leg that was initially used to pin or sweep/hook. In some cases, this may actually be a retraction, but it's not a.

A leg point (toe, ball, instep, heel, shin, knee, thigh) can be used to press further after initial contact/impact (second strike without reset). This is seen in "internal" techniques. The second press may have better opportunity to uproot.

An extended leg may be used to draw the opponent to attack the leg.

An extended leg can be used to advance after an impact kick. Consider Deashi Harai in judo, the sweeping foot can step in immediately after the sweep instead of withdrawing, forcing the opponent down more forcefully, and bringing the torso forward, setting up for a knee drop or similar follow on the prostrate opponent.

Secondary use of an extended leg after a kick or sweep can be seen in advanced applications in Japanese styles as well as Chinese.

During training, one is more likely to practice withdrawal (no advance), because advance is more forceful, and dangerous; it's harder for the partner to roll out when being forced into the ground. Advancing sequences are less frequently shown, because they require greater precision to execute safely.

In combat, a kicking leg would be retracted or left out depending on subsequent opportunities and advantages. One doesn't stop and reset after execution of one move or a sequence, as is commonly done in training or exhibition.


My master also emphasizes retracting attacks so that the enemy will not be able to grab your arm. In a strike, the most important part is the impact, I think. After the impact, it is all just simple push, and a push does very minimal damage, if any. The impact is what makes muscles sore, or break bones.

But, some attacks are not really intended to be retracted, but instead to be followed through, because retracting them will destroy your balance (mostly, full-body attacks that rely on centrifugal force).


It depends on what you're trying to do with the technique. A straight punch, hook, cross, uppercut, and any number of spinning and pushing kicks don't retract on impact. Jabs and snapping kicks do too. Karate has a decent mix of all these things. Taekwondo too.

You can't use only one set of techniques or the other.


Don't be dogmatic.

In the end, the aim is to transfer energy of your kick into your target (may it be a person or a punching bag).

Once the kick (or a punch as a matter of fact) has been delivered, there is no reason to keep the foot (or hand) there. In fact, when fighting an opponent bound on kicking your ass, it can be outright dangerous. Given sufficiently skilled opponent you can pretty much count on him (her) take advantage of whatever limb you leave out there after you have delivered your technique.

Mind you that there is a difference between "following through the kick" and leaving your foot out there...


Every martial art is different and has their own philosophies. That being said, from a practical/MMA standpoint, which is my focus, never leave a limb out where it can be struck or pulled, the only exception being if you kick with your power leg and want to set up a following elbow followed by a cross. That being said, the second the attack is complete get back into your ready stance, chin down, hands up, legs ready to check a kick, and body ready to defend. Hope that helped.

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