Fortify toes: the first exercise

Why is toes conditioning so important?

In 6 Dragons Kung Fu , the principal uses for the toes are (in order of relevance):

  1. Improve explosive mobility – The most common, important and underestimated application (to move, hit, etc.)
  2. Help (partially) to “grab” – To do not allow the opponent to move (eg. blocking his foot to the ground), to favor the execution of a throw (etc.)
  3. Reach the highest kicking power – Hit with the toes it’s an extremely dangerous expert-level skill (that comes from Shaolin Temple) but once developed, it can multiply the effectiveness of our leg’s blows

Note – This article has been asked by one of our Core Course practitioners on Patreon (see how to attend our home study classes here Learn Kung Fu online: a beginner-to-expert course).

In all these cases it is important to start  imposing a basic conditioning in terms of:

A note by Master Kongling – Even only in health terms, after 40-50 it is very important to maintain active our toes (we will avoid an infinite number of problems).

To train the toes is not a secondary task

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 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 – The conditioning to become able to hit with the toes is a path that a practitioner can refuse without problems (normally we use impact areas like the heel, the instep, the back part of the side, etc.). The difficulty is that the leg’s power cannot be compared to the arm’s one, even if toes are shorter than fingers the risk is extremely high: also who possess this skill does not take advantage of it continuously but only when there is a clear and clean opportunity.

Making toes stronger: what does it mean?

Talking about strengthen the toes it is important to stress that:

  • Toes are very likely to be damaged (a thing that, as we said, in combat is very deleterious)
  • Ancient Shaolin monks were able to strike with their toes 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
  • Allows us to achieve a better elongation and higher heights

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 its foot to the wall (even the other leg is slightly 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 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 alternating the sides (a more dynamic practice 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 5-10 minutes)

Variations and notes

Tips and ideas:

  • 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 (read also How to kick (simple explanation))
  • The same exercise can be executed standing or sitting and pressing against the floor (eg. while reading something, read The constant training in everyday life)
  • 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 (in the opposite direction)
  • To do not lose time we can perform other exercises with the upper body (read Training: optimizing the available time)

In future articles, we will see other exercises useful for the fortification of the toes (read 4 exercises to strengthen our toes).

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In-Depth articles


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.

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