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The most basic (yet by no means simple) kick taught in Karate, Maegeri is a front facing strike usually deployed from a Zenkutsu Dachi (forward stance) such as Hanmi Gemai (fighting stance).

Maegeri is often used as an umbrella term for what is actually 3 different sorts of Front kick. Mae is in fact the Japanese term for something like 'forward', and in Karate has come to mean 'the space directly in front of you' and sometimes 'the space between you and your opponent'. I've also read that it can signify your 'forward range' ie how much effective reach you have with your attacks. As we all know, Geri means 'Kick'.
The three 'front kicks' are Maekeage, Maekekomi and Maegeri.

Maekeage is the simplest motion in principle, involving primarily the swinging of the leg straight up from the hip with minimal or no knee movement. The main striking zone thus becomes the top of the foot, the shin and possibly the ball of the foot (say if you were striking your opponent's chin or throat). Obviously this movement makes a good groin kick, but you can do a lot better with use of the knee as well - see Kingeri. This should be used for strengthening the muscles around the hips, and can be excellent for warming up the muscles for stretching.

The Maekekomi variation I have found to be little used, mainly because it's pretty similar to the Maegeri (when used with Maegeri anyway) and doesn't really offer much practical benefit. However the main principles of execution are that the knee is lifted high up to the chest and then the leg propelled forth in a stamping motion. The main striking zone is the heel of the foot, thus making this a sort of 'stamping kick'. I suppose this would make a pretty effective finishing move (bruce lee head crushing stylee) or maybe if your opponent's front leg was within easy reach and not properly bent (thus allowing you to smash the knee or 'reverse' it causing a pretty horrific break - yuch). This kick would be pretty slow and easy to avoid (probably best not to try blocking it) due to its '2 step' nature.

Maegeri is where most of the action is. This kick involves a fast thrusting motion with the striking zone (usually the ball of the foot, but also perhaps the heel or if you're hardcore, the toes) describing the shortest possible distance to target. This involves simultaneous movement of the knee and hip joints, a technique that requires lots of practice to perfect. The technique results in a thrusting movement. Maegeri is almost exclusively used over the other two techniques.

For the Japaholics out there, one can specify the target height of the kick with Gedan for lower body (knee-groin), Chudan for midsection (stomach, solar plexus etc) and Jodan for head height. You can further specify the strike zone with Josokutei (ball of the foot), Haisoku (top of foot), Kakato (heel) or Chusoku (the sole of the foot). There are other terms for other parts of the foot, but they're not relevant here as you wouldn't be likely use them for Front kick techniques.

For the real hardcore Karateka here's a couple of mid-advanced techniques to play with :)

(1) Perform a Maegeri Kekomi off the rear leg from a front facing stance, but do not come forward (ie 'on the spot'). Aim Chudan (chest/stomach height). This excercise is in extending the range of the kick. Push the hip of the kicking leg forward and temporarily change stance mid-kick, so your shoulders and hips turn to the opposite stance to the one from which you started the technique. Then pull back to the starting position. For the purposes of fully understanding the technique you should also practice the kick without twisting the hips, ie stay in the starting stance. This latter kick is faster but less powerful.

(2) Perform a Maegeri Kekomi off the front leg from a front facing stance, however, do not shift your weight onto the back leg. The objective is to flash out a front snap kick and return the leg before you fall on your face. This is really hard work but excellent for speeding up your kicks, and if you can actually do it properly you can flatten someone before they even see you move. The 'normal' (ie improper) way of doing a front kick off the front leg in forward stance is significantly inferior to this technique because (a) it is slower and easily spotted as the Karateka shifts weight onto their back leg and (b) it is weaker because when striking in the suggested way, all that extra weight that was on your front leg is added to the force and momentum of your strike. You should not bend your rear leg when performing this technique. For comparison attempt the same kick off the front leg but from a back stance such as a long nekoashi (cat stance). With your weight already on your back leg you should be able to flash the kick out rather quickly, but again you won't have that power advantage.

Kicks should always be practised both in free air and against bags or shields. You need to get used to the feeling of both impact and missing. Be aware of the difference between a 'live' kick and a 'dead' kick. The latter is where you are not thrusting your weight forward. As such you can remain on one leg and kick repeatedly into the air without falling down. However if you apply force to a heavy object (such as a person) with this strike the law of conservation of momentum will apply and you will find yourself pushed backwards possibly onto your pert ninja buns.
Thus consider the 'live' kick whereby you deliberately 'fall' forward as you strike, applying extra momentum to the strike and also having more momentum yourself, such that you will not fall over, rather stop dead and all that extra momentum will be transferred to your unfortunate assailant (or victim I suppose, but no good will come of it). This is why you practice stepping kicks, because this is the most powerful way to strike with a front kick.

OK, one final tip for getting those rear leg Maegeris to target all the quicker: Use your calf muscles to spring your leg up. Rather than just pulling on your leg with your hip and leg muscles, use your foot itself to push away from the ground and launch it baddywards.

OK that's enough for now. I've still got Yoko Geri and Mawashigeri to do.
Feel free to /msg me if you want to talk Karate (or just tell me how wrong I am).

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