Why is toes conditioning so important?
In order of relevance, in 6 Dragons Kung Fu the principal uses for the toes are:
- Improve explosive mobility – The most common, important and underestimated application (to move, hit, etc.)
- Help (partially) to “grab” – To do not allow the opponent to move (eg. blocking his foot to the ground), to help a projection (etc.)
- Reach the highest kicking power – Hit with the toes it’s an extremely dangerous expert-level skill (that comes from Shaolin Temple)
In all these cases it is important to start imposing a basic conditioning in terms of:
- Power (read Physical conditioning: how it works)
- Resistance (read Conditioning check for the impact)
- Flexibility (read Conditioning check for flexibility)
Even if we do not want to use our toes to hit (it takes years of specific training), it is better to make them stronger than normal because, during combat (sports competitions, sparring, self-defense home situations, etc.), it is not so unusual to:
- Fall badly without the shoes (eg. after a push during a night aggression)
- Miss a target (eg. landing on a strong opponent’s bone area)
- Hit something accidentally (eg. the edge of a wall)
The problem is that to remain with (even partially) damaged toes means to lose a big percentage of mobility and with it, a big amount of our prevailing options (first of all flee, read Personal defense: the S.A.F.E. method).
A note by Master Kongling – To hit with the toes it’s a choice that a practitioner can refuse without problems (normally we use the heel, the instep, the back part of the side, etc.). The point is that the leg’s power cannot be compared to the arm’s one, even if toes are shorter than fingers the risk is very high: also who possess this skill does not take advantage of it continuously but only when there is a clear opportunity.
Making toes stronger: what does it mean?
About strengthen the toes it’s important to stress that:
- Toes are very likely to be damaged (a thing that, as we said, in combat is very deleterious)
- Shaolin monks can strike with their toe tips but in the biggest part of martial arts it does not happen (leg strength is immense and hard to manage)
- Even conditioned toes can be broken, nothing makes us invulnerable (especially toes are extremely delicate)
- The general rule is that we always have to take care of our body, hitting softer / fragile parts with harder or elastic parts
- In any case, to use toes, leg strength must be calibrated with their conditioning level
That said, it is not a secret that the concentration of the impact area that can make, for example, the big toe:
- Can multiply 10 times the power of a kick
- Allow us to achieve a better distance and height
How to make toes muscles stronger: the first exercise
Let’s see how to fortify our toes through a basic / introductive exercise:
- let’s find a flat wall that we can freely smudge / damage
- Let’s put us barefoot, standing in front of the wall (at a 60-90 cm distance)
- Let’s bend the right knee leaning our foot to the wall (the leg is bent)
- Let’s make the toes touching the wall (so that they are flexed upwards)
- The foot palm does not have to touch the wall (just the upper part of the toes)
- Maintaining the balance, we have to push our body away from the wall (without stepping back)
- Let’s focus on using only the toes (let’s synchronize our breathing to the movement)
- Let’s repeat the exercise with the other leg or alternately (practice more dynamic but unsuitable to learn the correct positions)
- In the beginning, we do not have to exaggerate with the repetitions (everything should last a maximum of 10 minutes)
Variations and notes:
- This first approach to the conditioning of the toes is important and allows us to access the next steps
- When we feel ready (at least after a few weeks of practice), we can increase the push forcing us to step back
- After a few months, we can convert the push to a (light) kicking-similar motion
- The same exercise can be executed standing or sitting and pressing against the floor
- The exercise can be performed with even one toe / phalanx at the time
- The exercise can be executed leaning the upper part of the toes
- To do not lose time we can perform other exercises with the upper body
In future articles, we will see other exercises useful for the fortification of the toes (read 4 exercises to strengthen our toes).
- Diamond Finger conditioning – A complete video course on how to develop the 6 Dragons Kung Fu’s Diamond Finger
- Why train fingers and toes – An explanation of the reason why fingers and toes pay a central role in martial arts
Reply in the comments and share your experience:
- Have you ever hurt your toes (or did you see it happen to someone else)? How?
Author: Master Kongling
Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.