Contrary to what you might have assumed, the karate front kick is not something you are bound to learn after years of practice. Rather, you will learn it early on, during your beginner classes. Today, the karate front kick has become a pivotal part of mixed martial arts to the extent of influencing Taekwondo, Muay Thai, and of course, Karate.
Sure, some tend to think that the karate front kick has its importance exaggerated. But when reality bites, it can bite rather hard. You will soon realize that the karate front kick (Mae-Geri) is one of the most powerful kicks in mixed martial arts. It happens to be an effective sparring technique, which you can use effectively to spar with opponents twice your size. You can also utilize it as a defensive technique, but what makes it stand out is the fact that it is fairly easy to carry out.
As a kicking technique, it can be quite devastating. You can use it to bring down anyone; just check out the MMA fight between Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort. Now, that was one iconic one-on-one, where Lyoto Machida managed to bring down his opponent within minutes, and with just a precisely timed kick. Just so you know, that was done with the help of Mae-Geri or a precisely placed karate front kick.
If you are keen on learning more about MMA and Mae-Geri, then read on.
What Are the Origins of the Front Kick?
You’ll find that the front kick belongs to several schools of martial arts, but it was popularized by Shotokan karate. Apart from Shotokan, several other schools of martial arts, from taekwondo to jujitsu utilize the same, with slight variations to the name, and even the style. You’ll find that this kick is easy to perform and one which does not allow your opponent much time to launch an effective defense.
When it comes to the Mae-Geri, think of it as a straight punch, with little or no deviation. And that’s what you get, with an opponent on the receiving end. Due to the nature of the kick, your opponent will not be able to defend themself and you can incapacitate them within minutes.
You will be able to put your opponent down to the ground, with a precisely placed, powerful kick. That’s what makes Mae-Giri both an effective defense as well as a ruthless offensive attack.
The catch lies in how much power you can put behind the single frontal kick to render your opponent senseless. And what makes the Mae-Geri stand out is the speed with which you can launch the kick with your lead leg (not from the sides). Doing so, you will allow little or no time for your opponent to block, defend and even initiate any counterattack.
How to Throw a Karate Front Kick Properly?
“Learning how to throw the Karate front kick” – sounds good when it rolls off your tongue, right? But you are not going to master this kick with just a few classes. If you are keen to master this kick, among others, then you need to work hard at it. Just keep practicing your stances until you hone the “kick” to perfection.
Instructions on Throwing The Karate Kick
- When throwing your first Mae Geri, always face the opponent.
- You can either go with the front leg or your rear leg and throw the frontal kick.
- You need to ensure that your belly button, your leg, and your shoulders should face one way. When you complete your kick, your hips should rotate and they should be facing the other way.
- You will be kicking with the balls of your feet or the Kushi. By using the Kushi, you can make quick, precise movements.
- You can direct your kick toward your opponent’s lower body, the groin, stomach, or even the jaw.
- Always snap back your kick like a whip, so that it has the maximum impact on your opponent.
- There are two types of the front kick. You can opt for either the snap kick or the thrust kick.
- With the snap kick, you would be lifting your leg, snapping your lower leg into the target. Moreover, with the snap kick, you will not compromise your center of gravity and can retract your leg back to its original posture.
- And there’s the thrust kick. Here, before lifting your knee (like the snap kick), you will also rotate your hips slightly and thrust them towards the target. This will enable you to put more power behind your kick. This should enable you to disable your opponent with ease.
That’s it, there are other kicks in karate, including the Mawashi Geri or the roundhouse kick, among others. But the front kick happens to be the most popular one and with good reason. The front kick remains popular for its power, ease of learning and versatility.
What to Avoid When Throwing a Front Kick
If you are just a beginner, then you definitely need to check this out. Here are a few salient tips you need to act on, to avoid injuring yourself or falling to the floor and landing on your keister.
- Always warm up before you spar with anyone. Remember to keep your kicks low, at the start, and do not aim high right away. That will only result in you pulling a hamstring which can be excruciating.
- You need to pivot your hips and by extension, your legs to get more power out of your kicks. By not pivoting enough, you’re likely to find that your kicks often land harmlessly.
- Remember, you are assaulting your opponent with your kick. And you need to maximize power to your legs, and you do this by pivoting your hips. Often most beginners make a crucial mistake in assuming that just landing the kick in the target zone should be enough. That’s a rookie mistake, one that you can avoid by pivoting your hips precisely, to land quick, effective, front kicks.
- When kicking with your legs, make sure that you retract them immediately. And always maintain a defensive pose, should your opponent try and launch any counterattack.
- Do not over rotate your legs or you will end up on the floor.
- You will need to practice your kicks often, especially if you are looking to land them in a specific target zone. As any expert would inform you, when it comes to Shotokan Karate, practice makes perfect.
How Long Does it Take to Master the Karate Front Kick?
As a beginner, you are bound to learn about this kick and the mechanics behind it, right away. But getting to perform the kick perfectly, while maintaining your balance? Well, that’s going to take some time, practice, and determination on your part.
You will need to get quite good at it before you can think of sparring with any opponent. The key to perfecting your kick is to remember to transfer the power from your abdomen to your leg and direct it towards the target. Many experts believe that if you have two one-hour long training sessions a week, it should take between three to four months to get the kick down.
Some Famous Examples of Front Kicks
Lyoto Machida Vs. Vitor Belfort
This iconic match took place in 2018 during UFC 224, and it only lasted two rounds. After a first round where the two athletes gauged each other’s distance and where Belfort seemed to be dominating, it only took one minute for Machida to see an opening in Belfort’s guard. Machida threw the flat of his foot directly in his jaw, knocking the Brazilian middleweight fighter out cold.
Anderson Silva Vs. Vitor Belfort
Unfortunately for Belfort, it was not the first time he fell victim to the destructiveness of the front kick. This kick was particularly unexpected because Silva did not go in the classic stance and threw his kick while leaning forward.
Belfort was expecting a punch and leaned forward as well, receiving the full power of the kick in the mouth. Silva just had to throw two more punches while Belfort was on the ground to finish the match.
So, if even a skilled fighter such as Belfort can fall victim to the Mae-Geri, not once but twice, you can easily imagine how destructive the technique is when practiced at a high level. It’s also important to keep in mind that Anderson Silva is an MMA legend and is regarded as one of the best fighters ever.
Marlon Vera Vs. Frankie Edgar
The way Vera threw the front kick against Edgar is another testament to the deadliness of the Mae-Geri. Edgar was hit so fast he leaned forward, and Vera just had to accompany him to the floor with an extra hammer punch to the back of the head.
Petr Yan Vs. Urijah Faber
The front kick is a technique that is efficient, no matter your weight category, and even in a Bantamweight fight, it can be an excellent finisher.
This time, the technique used by Petr Yan to vanquish Urijah Faber was more akin to a Muay Thai kick as the Russian held his opponent’s head while throwing the kick. Faber immediately hit the ground, and the match was over within the first minute of the third round.
You will find that the karate front kick is essential when it comes to any karate, MMA, or taekwondo class. It is effective both as a defense and as a countermeasure against any attack. It is quick, effective, and does not take long to master. So what are you waiting for? Go for it!