How to teach front kick

Here’s a quick karate exercise to help your students develop their front kick.

We all know that true karate power comes from using our body, and not just our limbs, right? Do this exercise with your white belts when they first learn front kick. It will get them using their body to develop power.

While I’ve got a dozen drills to help develop front kick (mae geri) , this exercise below stands head and shoulders above the rest. And the neat thing is that it’s so simple.

But first… the problem.

Let’s assume you’re teaching mae geri from heisoku dachi (feet together). The way I teach is to first have students twist their body 45 degrees to bring their kicking hip forward. Then raise the knee and point it straight ahead, and then finally make the snapping motion of the kick.

However, in my experience 90% of beginners have a hard time keeping the hip “forward” and kicking straight. One of two things usually happens:

  1. The hip stays forward but the kick goes across at 45 degrees (think stage girls performing the can-can)
  2. The kick goes straight, but the hip collapses (reverts back) to being square on.

Rarely are beginners able to keep their hip forward, their body rotated and their kick straight.

Ever had this problem, or is it just me?

So, here’s how you fix it. This is how I learned to make mae geri in my first class 25 years ago…

Take a bo staff and place it behind your back by wrapping your arms over the top and hold both of your fists by your side in the usual “hikite” position.

(Remember those stories your parents would tell you about how their teachers would make them sit up straight at school, by placing the ruler behind their back? Or is it just me again?)


Anyway, once you’re in position and standing in heisoku dachi turn your body 45 degrees so that one end of the bo staff faces 45 degrees relative to the direction you’re facing. Your hip should be “forward” at this point. Now pick up your knee, keeping the bo pointing diagonally, and make the kick.stickfigure2

(Just in case you want to do it wrong, the examples below show how to do the kick incorrectly with the bo staff.)stickfigure3

Now to make sure this doesn’t happen with your students, stand behind them and assist by turning the bo staff 45 degrees and then have them kick straight. Then twist it back the other way and have them kick again. Repeat as many times as necessary until they can turn and kick with their hip in the forward position. I do this exercise with my students in pairs. One is the assistant while one kicks. They do 20 kicks and change roles.

This is a really *simple* exercise but extremely effective in developing good technique with plenty of power.

Try it and let me know how you go…





Look after your customers or they’ll vote with their feet

For the last 12 months I’ve been having my gi dry-cleaned.


You have your gi dry-cleaned? 

Stop the madness!

Sorry, but I hate ironing.




So when I discovered that I could have my gi dry-cleaned instead of  having to wrestle with it myself, it was a no-brainer.

So I made my way to the dry-cleaners, close by my dojo.

From the depths of his shop beyond the steaming iron, emerged a wiry 50-something Korean man with his name “Kim” embroidered into his pale blue shirt.

“Hello”, I said.

He grunted, as if he was too afraid to smile in case his face might crack.

“Can you dry clean this for me please?”, I asked as I passed my gi across the counter.

“Tuesday”, he said.

“Today’s Thursday. Is there any chance I can get it earlier than that?”, I asked.

“Tuesday”, he repeated.

I took a breath and tried to forget that the sign out front read, “One hour dry cleaning”.

“How much will that be?”, I asked.

Kim picked up my gi and then punched some keys on his computer.


I took another deep breath, while thoughts of highway robbery crossed my mind.


Kim passed me the ticket, and I walked out.

— Fast forward to the following Tuesday —

As I pulled up to the dry-cleaners, disgruntled Kim put out his cigarette and walked in the side door to meet me at the counter.

“Hi, how are you?”, I asked.

Kim walked by me and pushed a button. With an electric buzz, suddenly a rack of suits, dresses and shirts started revolving.

Kim pulled my gi from the rack and hung it on the bar at the front desk.

Holy smokes. Was that my gi?? Wow! Looked brand new. Bright white and beautifully pressed.

“$12.50”, he grunted.

“Hey, you did a really nice job”, I complimented him. “It looks great! Thank you so much!”

“$12.50”, he said again.

As I paid Kim I said, “I have a lot of students and plenty of my own uniforms that require dry-cleaning. I can bring you a lot of business.”

“It har work!”, he grunted in his thick Korean accent.

“Alright then… I guess I’ll see you later… Kimbo”,  I thought to myself.

As I pulled my gi from the bar I notice the coat hanger slogan that read, “We love our customers”.


Really, Kimbo? You LOVE your customers? You sure have a funny way of showing it. In fact you remind me a little bit of the “Soup Nazi” from Seinfeld.

Anyhow, I took my gi to Kim for the next 12 months, and each time he’d scowl as he saw me coming. Then, he’d continually complain about the business I was giving him.

I couldn’t help but think, “Dude, if you don’t like what you do, stop doing it. Or if you don’t want my business that’s ok. I’ll go elsewhere”.

And that’s exactly what I did. I found another dry-cleaner right across the road who gives me next day service with a smile and charges one third of the price. I had three heavy-weight gis laundered and pressed for $17.50.

Now here’s the thing. If Kim had lived up to his coat-hanger slogan and given me better customer service, I would be happy overpaying him to dry-clean my gi and could have referred more business to him.

But he didn’t.

So what the heck has this got to do with teaching karate?


Look after your students. Greet them with a smile. Return their phone calls. Answer their emails. Praise them. Get to know them. Go the extra step. Give a little more. It’s not that difficult.

Don’t be a Soup Nazi. You’re not the only martial arts school in your town.

You see people would rather pay a little extra to feel special. But if you don’t back it up with quality customer service, you’ll be left wondering why your students voted with their feet.

If you’ve ever bought something from me, you know I will always do my best to provide you with great customer service. I’ll answer your emails and return your phone calls promptly. And if you have any questions at any time you know I’m here to help. Customer service is exactly that… service. Without service, customers (and students) dwindle.

Who do you need to call today? What tasks do you have that you’ve been delaying? What student of yours needs some extra encouragement?

Make sure you do something each day to provide great customer service…