Pendulum Kicking

Get more speed, power and efficiency in your kicks.

One of the main principles that is stressed while learning JKD is efficiency and simplicity. While the basic moves that I learned in JKD are exactly that, a surprising amount of detail is hidden within every movement. When we start learning the basic kicks, all students learn the positions and movements but end up lacking in speed, power, and the stamina to continue after a few strikes. New students tend to get stuck or plateau in their skill because they’re mimicking positions and movements without truly feeling how their weight and energy flows throughout the strike. The concept of the pendulum kick is one of those hidden details that can be incorporated into our kicking routine or combinations to keep us light on our feet, maximize force and become more efficient with our energy by keeping our momentum moving. Best of all, this momentum can be applied to all different kinds of kicks.

Now before we get started, the pendulum step or pendulum kick isn’t a specific move. It’s more of a concept to help learn how energy moves throughout the body. So let’s start off small and learn how the pendulum movement flows through our step before we learn how we keep momentum in a basic front kick.

Bruce Lee

“Before I studied the art, a punch to me was just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick no longer a kick. Now that I’ve understood the art, a punch is just like a punch, a kick just like a kick.”

– Bruce Lee

Pendulum Step

When moving forwards or backwards from our basic stance, it’s important to note that in this example we’ll be stepping back to front in the direction we’re moving. I like to think of stepping forwards and backwards like pushing toothpaste out of a tube – always from the back towards the front. But in this case, from the back towards the direction you want to move.

For example, when moving forwards from your stance, step from the back foot towards the lead foot first, then move the lead foot forward. It’s the same idea when moving backwards – step first from the lead foot towards the back foot, then move the back foot behind.

pendulum step forward

Pendulum step forward.

pendulum step back

Pendulum step back.

Why do we pendulum step? One of the reasons why we pendulum step is for balance. When we pendulum step we’re always in a position to do a quick front kick (and an assortment of other kicks, but we’ll keep it simple for now). Stepping from the lead foot first when going forward overextends our base. It directs our center of mass downwards, making kicks from that position ineffective in power since we don’t have a light base to kick from. Similarly, we’re off balance when stepping from our back foot first when trying to move backwards. We also pendulum step to keep momentum. Try to think of this step as Newton’s Cradle. Visualize the transfer of energy, when stepping forward or back, and how it can apply to faster, and more powerful, efficient kicks.

Newton's Cradle from Wikipedia

Newton’s Cradle from Wikipedia

Pendulum Kick

When we begin our kick, the first pendulum step (from back to front) is the start of the motion of Newton’s Cradle. (Fig.1)

Step from the back foot moving forward first.

(Fig. 1) Step from the back foot moving forward first.

The transfer of energy from the first ball to the last ball of the cradle is similar to when the back foot plants while maintaining the forward momentum by continuing the motion with our lead foot. (Fig.2)

Plant the foot, but keep the momentum.

(Fig. 2) Plant the foot but stay loose to in the hips to keep the forward momentum moving.

The kick begins from the forward motion of the lead foot just like how the last ball of the cradle moves forward. At the peak height of the pendulum movement upwards our kick will have connected with the target. (Fig. 3)


(Fig. 3) Connect to the target with the momentum built.

Our kick ends by planting back down with our kicking leg, as does the downward motion of the last ball in the cradle. (Fig. 4)

 Swing it back to change velocity but keep the momentum when moving back in the opposite direction.

(Fig 4.) Swing it back to change velocity but keep the momentum when moving back in the opposite direction.

Check out the vid of Sifu Tommy doing a basic JKD front kick at 50% speed to see how it all comes together:

From here you’ll notice that the momentum of the last ball of Newton’s Cradle will transfer back to the first ball where it started. Our steps and kicks can act the same way! If we stay loose in the hips and plant after the kick, we can use that momentum to transfer the energy back into our other leg to kick again in the other direction. When we plant from that kick we can use the energy coming back to do another kick with the original kicking leg! The back and forth momentum is how we can execute fast, powerful kick combinations while being efficient with our energy so we don’t wear ourselves out as fast.

Now imagine the possibilities when we make slight adjustments to the velocity of our energy so we can keep momentum with different kicks…

And if you still don’t understand the concept of the pendulum kick, maybe a visual representation of the New Kids on the Block doing the right stuff will help….

Oh-oh, UH-OH-OH! Oh-oh, UH-OH!

♫ Oh-oh, UH-OH-OH! Oh-oh, UH-OH! ♫

Profile Brandon ZamoraWritten by Brandon G. Zamora | JKD Student & Practitioner
Gaining insight and better understanding of WTF he’s doing by seeing the evidence of his own insanity written before him.

Next up:

Coming Soon! Read in more detail about the how to apply speed, power and efficiency in 3 basic JKD kicks – the Front Kick, Hook Kick and Side Kick.

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