Martial Arts Kicks; Form vs Substance?

Posted by: John W. Zimmer
Under: karate, martial arts
25 Jul 2010

13 Responses to “Martial Arts Kicks; Form vs Substance?”

  1. Zara Says:

    It’s been said techniques should be felt and not seen so it certainly doesn’t matter how they look aslong as they hit the target with enough speed and accuracy to do real damage. Martial arts shouldn’t be about looking good but about being effective. Streetfighters and criminals couldn’t care less about technique, form or tradition and it’s those people you’re looking to beat, not an adversary in a kata contest or even in regulated kumite. If you’re going to use kicks at all in a streetfight keep them low to do maximum damage while retaining maximum protection (avoiding getting hit), people who kick high are just asking for a groinshot or a hard fall. In kicking I’d avoid chambering the knee since this is a dead giveaway, sure you can do some fancy things with this (e.g faking a mae-geri while changing into a mawashi) but it doesn’t really add anything so it’s mostly just for show. Strive for efficiency & effectiveness: aesthetics or tradition are less important (as Bruce Lee said traditions were only meant as hypotheses not absolute thruths) and just winning is impressive enough. Glad to see you keep up the quality of your posts John.

  2. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hey Zara!

    High kicks look cool but as you say if you are fighting a fighter – you just might be giving away the bout.

    I do my high-kicking on the bag (it hasn’t hit me back once).

    My flavor of kenpo favors a lot of flexibility with kicks – being able to transition without much telegraphing but again in a street fight – low hard kicks work the best.

    When are you going to start a blog Zara? I’d be one of your regulars.



  3. Matt Klein Says:

    His statements about “poor form” were his way of protecting his ego, since you were dusting him John. What do they say about leaving it at the door? Vitali was a pleasure to watch–a true legend, he got it done. Believe strongly in substance over form, especially in fighting. Very interesting post.
    Matt Klein recently posted..Kenpo Freestyle Sydney Logo- What Does it MeanMy Profile

  4. Steve Says:

    All i have to say is form may have a big importance even in tournaments as it was not just a contest of strength and technique but also art.
    But when it comes to a real fight in a real world application of self defense, hitting in the groin with an ugly kick would be the right thing.
    There’s nothing wrong in improving your form just make sure it will not decrease the substance of your kick.
    Steve recently posted..Get The Best Self Defense Trainer For ResultsMy Profile

  5. Thomas Says:

    For me martial arts kicks are not just about form and substance… Martial arts are about fighting with style indeed but more on the attitude and strategies. No matter what the form and substance for as long as it will make your opponent weak, then that’s it.
    Thomas recently posted..The Little Engine that CouldMy Profile

  6. BJ Says:

    Substance is everything. Dammit, you can get wonderful form and never give or take a single hit. But you are like a dancer and not a fighter. Yes, form shows skill, training, dedication, but form never wins a fight, for that you need substance.
    BJ recently posted..You Need A Diet Plan to Lose Belly FatMy Profile

  7. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Matt!

    I agree that leaving it at the door is the right way to workout… Vitali was one of the guys I really respected coming up… he does not look like a fighter but he could kick some serious butt.

    Hey Steve!

    I with you – substance is first… nothing wrong with form as one might become more effective.

    Howdy Tomas!

    Yep, In the end – picking the right game plan is everything! Thanks for your thoughts.

    Hi BJ!


  8. John Says:

    Martial has always been a very useful self defense kinds of art which can be tried by everybody. It is one way of learning self discipline and exercising at the same time. Apart from those benefits, it is also one way of minimizing crimes. Thank you for sharing this blog post :)
    John recently posted..The Little Engine that CouldMy Profile

  9. Edward Says:

    As always, this is another excellent read. I enjoyed reading all the thoughts written in this blog. Well martial arts is something I do or training for self defense. For the few months I’d been training I can say that I have learned something and that I am improving.
    Edward recently posted..Do What It Takes To Defend YourselfMy Profile

  10. John W. Zimmer Says:

    hey John – yep, lots of benefits, not the least as self-discipline.

    hi Edward – we are all there… improving by practice! Thanks for stopping by.

  11. Anthony Wagner Says:

    I have to say, when kicking that high,its not a good thing.

    My instructor used to tell us never to kick above the waist. it just provides nothing but a good appearance.

  12. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Anthony! – I used to spar with a guy that would nail me with a groin kick every time I tried to kick him high… pretty soon I learned. If I fight a good kicker – I tend to make them pay for their high kicks with groin kicks of my own, as a great mitigating strategy.

    Thanks for your comment.

  13. Zara Says:

    Many thanks for that great compliment John but I’m afraid I’m not qualified to give others advice (not yet anyway) and I should be pretty busy soon so I doubt I’d keep it up. No use starting something you can’t finish, maybe someday.

    Our kick defenses almost always consist of avoiding the kick followed by a swift groinkick followed by throws, locks and/or punches. In a real fight where your health and safety is in danger you take him out asap and kicking someone in the groin is generally one of the best ways to do this: even if it fails for some reason it’s likely his hands will go down to protect that area, giving you a clean shot to the face. Another great tactic is the same avoidance but with a sidekick aimed at the knee: he who can’t stand can’t fight and since his leg will generally be in the air or on the way down he has little chance of avoiding it if you practiced diligently and act without hesitation. Catching the kicking leg is also good aslong as you don’t expose your head to punches in the process and you take him down asap. From there I’d avoid grappling but instead punch or kick him to finish the fight or maybe apply a lock if you think you can get away with it.