This month Professional Karate issue kicks off a special new department that brings the questions most frequently asked by our readers in touch with the answers given by the pros. Our first instalment spotlights a common question asked of World Middleweight Champion Bill Wallace, karate’s latest kicker: how does he execute his left-leg roundhouse kicks with so much speed?
Bill Wallace’s Reply: About fifty percent of the speed is involved in flexibility of the hamstring group muscles and also in the snapping of the knee, keeping the quadricep muscle, which is doing all the work, relaxed until you need to execute the kick. The whole thing is that a muscle that is relaxed has more speed when it is tensed than does a muscle that’s already tight. The knee’s snapping is where the speed comes from. It’s not a power kick it’s a snap much like a jab. Roundhouse kicks out of the forward leg are not power kicks. They’re used mainly like a jab or to set something else up or just to do damage. It’s not really used to finish somebody off. You need to use it like that rather than trying to drill it in with a lot of power. You just need to work on snapping speed, much like you do a jab: you snap it out and snap it back like a backfist.
I fold my leg with the knee pointing past the opponent’s head. Like if I’m facing left side and he’s facing left side, I’ll point the knee to the back of his head. To his face, actually. And I’ll get the knee real high so I can use it to jam if he tries to come in, or to block. It’s a continuous-motion type thing. The flexibility exercises help build speed. Also, you have three major factors: number one is flexibility of the hamstring group, number two is strength in the quadricep group, number three, snap of the knee. What you have if the hamstring group is tight is two Opposing muscle groups fighting against each other. And that’s what’s going to keep the speed from going out. Any type of stretching of the hamstring muscles is a good exercise. Different people have different training methods that work on different things, but I concentrate on the exercises that stretch out the hamstring group, which includes the groin muscle. The major ones I use are working my head to my knees with my feet together, then spreading my legs apart and working my head to my knees again. Then I work into the Chinese splits, then the American splits, then hack into the Chinese splits again.