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Kung Fu/Preferred exercises


I have a question.  I am a Kung Fu student and I try to pick up additional knowledge whenever and wherever I can.  I am currently working on my leg strength for stances, kicks, etc.  What would be 2 or 3 of your favorite and or suggested exercises and disciplines to develop really good leg power and strength?  Thank you very much, in advance, for your help!  


Hello Kevin,
I am glad that you separate power from strength in your question but I would make the delineation between strength vs force.  There are a lot of martial arts superstitions about training for power.  I know many practioners that will work on the Ďiron horseí and stand for long periods of time.  While this can sometimes be impressive it has very little application in fighting.  Anything that stands rigid can be broken; it is the fluid and malleable that survives. Iíve seen too many guys with these power stances get their legs crushed by kicks.  Leg strength does not translate well into leg power/force.  Body builders may have very strong legs but very weak kicks.  If you want to strengthen your legs just use any of the typical exercises in body building books such as squats and leg extensions.  However, if you want to have powerful kicks building great force is another matter.  Having come up in a traditional art I am all too familiar with some of the concepts of horse training.  Just because you have mighty horse doesnít mean you can deliver power from it.  Itís like a parked car versus a moving one; it is the movement of the mass that creates the force/power.  Having a great strong static horse does practically nothing to increase the power of kicks and punches.  I work at professional fights of all sorts and Iíve never seen anyone take one of these strong low stances and win a fight.  Static strength means nothing in a fight while fluid strength means everything.  If anything static strenght is a liability vs an asset.  Iíve heard every argument from traditional fighters about this and all I can say is go in the ring and prove it. It is the movement behind the mass that creates great force. Too many martial artists ignore the laws of physics.  Size does matter along with velocity.  In physics the equation for force is:
F= M x A  force equals mass time acceleration.
 The force in which you kick someone is contingent upon the speed at which you throw the kick times the mass behind it.  As I write this now I working in Las Vegas at a fight.  With me here is Bas Rutten, ex-heavy weight world champ.  There is no way no matter how much I strengthen my legs that I will ever be able to kick as hard as he does.  His mass is much greater than mine and he is very fast.  If anything trying to strengthen my legs to match him will slow me down.  So he will always be able to hit harder than me.  What I can do is to improve the efficiency of my kicks.  Besides becoming as fast as possible and as direct as possible I can develop the ability to concentrate my power to increase it.  You can take the end of a 2x4 and shove into a bag at a certain speed with its mass.  Letís say it hits with 200 PSI.  If using the same board you narrow the end to a 1x1 square inch and hit the bag with the same speed and mass you are effectively increasing the force greatly.  Itís the difference between being kicked with a sneaker or high heel.  The focused point will deliver much more power.  A fast ball hitting you in the chest at 90 miles and hour will hurt you but a ball bearing hitting you at 90 miles an hour will drop you.
You develop powerful kicks by working on your speed and being flexible.  If the legs are well stretched they can move at great speed.  A tight leg will work against itself.  You develop kicking by kicking itself.  Begin to hit a bag or pad and feeling the contact point.  Is your entire leg supporting that point?  By this I mean is the weight of your body aligned behind the kick or are you just hitting with the leg itself?  If you learn to integrate the hip behind the kick and then the supporting leg you will feel the connection of the kick to your entire body.  Now you wonít just be kicking with your leg but have your entire body behind it.  This is especially true for punching since the arms have less mass than the legs. You can align the arm so that you are getting the force of the body behind it.  Start using the shoulder, hip and leg in concert to deliver whole body power even with very little motion.  The arm is the delivering system of the body as is the leg.  There does not have to be a great twisting motion behind but a great alignment that focuses the body behind the strike.  There is a technique where you slightly shuffle the body forward with each blow, whether it be kicking or punching, that now delivers the forward momentum of the body behind the strike.

There are many different types of kicks.  Some styles deliver from the knee while others from the hip.  There are the front push kicks that Muay Thai likes and the snapping kicks of traditional Japanese karate.  I prefer the jabbing kicks that Savate and other styles use.  This is to deliver a kick not through but into the body like a jab does.  A well delivered kick like this to the ribs or solar plexus with the right amount of force and be devastating and is hard to evade.  It also does not commit  you to a great forward motion and is quick to recover.  Focus on the assets of your body type rather than do a one size fits all exercise.  What you will develop as your most powerful kick will not be what someone else develops as theirs.
Work on a heavy bag and see what effect you have on it.  Do not get obsessed , as most do, with moving the bag.  Concentrate on delivering power into the bad as opposed to through it.  Struck this way the bag will fold rather than jump away.
Good luck and donít hesitate to inquire further.

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Joe McSorley


Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu


41 year practioner and teacher of Chinese Southern Praying Manits Kung Fu (Kwong Sai Jook Lum Gee Tong Long Pai) under Sifu Gin Foon Mark. Also studied Shotokan Karate and Aikido. I work for Glory Sports (Muay Thai), WSOF MMA, HBO fights and Showtime fights.

BS Temple University

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