There were originally two Shaolin Temples, one in the south of China and one in the north. It is said that the Southern Shaolin Temple was famous for their punches and the Northern Shaolin Temple was famous for their kicks. Hundreds of years ago the Northern Shaolin Temple was burned down and the only record of it today is in history books. The skills from both temples have now merged, and the knowledge that has been passed down through the ancient books shares with us four essentials for powerful kicks.
- Flexibility - If you want to kick with power and speed then you need to train your leg to have as much flexibility and dexterity as your arm.
- Speed - A powerful kick can't land without speed.
- Power - Flexibility doesn’t lead to power so the next thing you have to concentrate on is gaining power.
If you can combine these three essential successfully then your leg will be a weapon and you can then progress to the fourth essential, which is.
- Iron Leg - In Shaolin we have seventy-two different styles and one of these styles in called Iron leg. The purpose of training in iron leg is to literally to make the leg as hard as iron. I will write about this next week.
I'm always advising martial artists to add running to their training. No boxer would ever go into the ring without stamina training and boxers include running as part of their stamina training. It's the same at the Shaolin Temple. The run makes our body hot and it's then that we stretch. After stretching we practice The Five Fundamental Kicks which I teach in Kung Fu Workout and Shaolin Workout 1 ( DVD or download). The five angles of these kicks increases our flexibility much more than stretching ever can. We use the five fundamental kicks as a warm up before our fighting kicks.
All traditions of fighters use footwork and practice fighting combinations. At Shaolin we link fighting kicks with traditional training. The purpose of this is to strengthen our legs.
We may stay in Ma Bu (horse stance) for five minutes and then we will do the fighting kicks as quickly as we can for one - three minutes. This combination of stance and kick links power with speed. Or we may run up a hill and when we come back we kick bags as quickly as we can. We will make a goal to kick one hundred or two hundred times. Our legs will feel so tired that it’s hard to lift them off the ground but we will not stop until we’ve completed our target.
If you want to kick with speed then you need to make your leg tired. Once your leg is tired, you have to train your body to relax. Once you are relaxed you have to learn how to get maximum power from your kicks. When you kick, ask yourself, which part of my body am I using? Once you know the answer then you will save energy, as you will only be using the parts of your body that you really need.
This dramatically optimizes your power and energy. This is the reason if you want a powerful swift kick then the only way to achieve this is through kicking a lot. Through kicking a lot your body will understand. In martial arts we can never understand with our head, we always have to be led by our body’s inherent wisdom.