Martial Arts Kicking

It is at the heart of many martial systems but when we look to dynamic kicking of the type found in the movies it is often the Korean arts we turn to and most regularly the art of Taekwondo. Many youngsters start martial arts because they want to do great kicks like their heroes and as a result there has been a thriving book and dvd industry built up around the art of kicking, with many ‘big’ names sometimes producing a whole series.

Over the course of my career I have reviewed many books, videos and DVD’s on the subject of kicking, across all the arts but this volume I found to be quite unique simply because it takes one kick, the titular Back Kick and devotes the whole book to it.

When Shawn first spoke to me about reviewing his book he stressed two important elements; first, that he had devoted a goodly number of years to the development of the book to ensure that he got it right and second, that he genuinely felt that no other author had presented such an in-depth manual devoted to a single kick and on both counts I feel he has a strong argument.

Shawn Kovacich has studied a number of arts and competing across a wide range of competitions, including numerous Taekwondo championships and full contact bare knuckle Karate fights. He has also achieved a level of fame by entering the Guinness book of World Records for endurance high kicking. His first world record was achieved in 1986, where he performed 10,502 kicks in 5 hours and 30 minutes, the second in 1989 when he performed 11,000 in 5 hours 18 minutes and 43 seconds.

Obviously Shawn loves to kick and this in reinforced in his detailed text, where he dissects every aspect of the Back Kick across two hundred pages. This is a genuine labour of love and the first thing to note is the solid structure. Shawn has taken great care in his approach and the book takes a platform building approach to its subject that is comprehensive in nature. The text is flowing and illustrated throughout with black and white photographs and the sections are in digestible chunks. Overall however, the real selling point is the aforementioned attention to detail with regard to all elements of the Back Kick. If you are unsure as to what constitutes a ‘back kick’, the author explains it thus- ‘I am often asked this question and the best response that I have come up with is simply this, ‘A properly executed back kick performed by a man (or woman), is likened to the kick performed by a horse, or similar animal, with their hind legs when startled or attacked from behind.’

Although there is the almost obligatory chapter on stretching, Kovacich keeps it short and precedes it with an anatomical section that looks at the actual muscles and bones involved in the kicking process with detailed anatomical diagrams and clever pictures that show the muscles in movement underneath the clothing. This is followed by an examination of the basic principles involved, speed, timing etc and how they interact to complete the execution of the kick. Once these principles are digested, chapter 4 is totally devoted to a breakdown, step-by-step, of the kick itself.

Where Kovacich scores heavily is in where he goers from here in that once he has fully described and illustrated the kick, he then looks at subtle yet important vari-ations, 11 in total. Again, good use is made of photographs, diagrams and foot positioning illustrations to aid the explanation, finishing with a pictorial overview of each variation. Once the variations have been analysed, Kovacich then looks at ways to increase speed and power using simple training aids such as a chair or machine weights, whilst also incorporating plyomet-ric exercises.

The book ends with a concise ‘trouble shooting guide’ in the form of a compact question and answer session and a practical application section that takes the variations of the single kick and shows them in practical use. If there is a criticism, I feel that many would like to see this practical section expanded beyond the 20 odd pages devoted to it, as the section is almost worthy of a volume in its own right. Overall however, this is about as comprehensive as it gets and as the author points out, universal in its appeal as the kick is used in virtually every stand up art, only the name varies. Mr. Kovacich explains in his preface that ‘years went into the making of this book’ and the end result does his efforts justice.

For more information on this and forthcoming volumes in the same series

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