Flexing/bending the toes for kicks /dorsiflexion of the toe joints

Discussion in 'Tae-Kwon-Do' started by Metal, Nov 7, 2018.

  1. Metal

    Metal Green Belt

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    While this is not a TKD exclusive matter I still post it here since I'm a Taekwondoin on the one hand and it's an important aspects of basic Taekwondo kicks on the other.

    Flexing the toes, pulling or bending back the toes, dorsiflexion of the toe joint. However you wanna call it, certain techniques like the Ap Chagi (front kick) or Dollyeo Chagi (roundhouse kick) require to be able to bend back the toes to a certain extent.

    Since I'm recovering from foot/bunion surgery and working on re-mobilizing my big toe joint I had a lot of time on my hands to research on all kind of matters.

    When doing Taekwondo I always had that annoying issue when kicking front and roundhouse kicks. I actually never did any board breaking with the ball of the foot except for show boards due to that. Plus my orthopedist warned me not to try board breaking with the ball of the foot since, due to may flat and splay feet, I would hit with the 'wrong' part of the ball of the foot and would put too much strain on the metatarsals II-IV instead of hitting with the metatarsals I and V. Anyway, that didn't bother me much, I was more concerned about injuring my big toe.

    Here's a picture of my toes in the Ap Chagi/front kick position. That's the maximum I can bend them back, and there's maybe 1° more I can move the toe passively:

    toes_flexing.jpg


    So, while it looks alright, there were a lot of times where I hurt the big toe joint when kicking target mitts with Ap Chagis. One way to compensate the limited range of the big toe joint, is sacrificing the full plantar flexion of the foot by not fully flexing it, but then there's less stability and it's not done the way it's supposed to be. Yet that's what I see a lot of belt tests where people kick Ap Chagis. In a lot of cases the board holders hold the boards at an angle where it's impossible to break it with full plantar flexion in the ankle joint anyway, but that's a different story.

    dorsi_plantar.png


    According to one of the few online sources I found, these are the motion ranges of the

    Big toe (toe I) joint:
    Dorsalextension_Großzehen.png
    Small toes (toes II-V) joints:

    Dorsalextension.png


    According to the doctor's report of my surgery my maximum range of the big toe was 40° upwards/dorsi extension (while up to 70° is possible/normal) and 20° downward/plantar-flexion (while up to 45° are possible).


    Anyway, as of now I don't know if I'll get back to my pre-surgery range of motion or if it will be worse or if it may even better. According to my orthopedist I will get back to my pre-surgery range. The passive mobilization shocked me first when the joint felt totally stiff first, but now gets better and better.

    But I was wondering if anyone here ever worked on making his toes more flexible. I remember that, when I was a kid, that we pushed the toes back when we were stretching.

    I kinda got to a point where I would accept just the genetic limits that are put upon some of us.

    Yet I wonder what the experience of the more seasons practitioners and teachers are.

    Was anyone able to extend the flexibly of their toe joints over time?

    Do those who teach actually put any focus on that?



    I remember, when I was working on board breaking with people I gave advice to change the angle of the board so many times. There are way too many people out there who're not aware at which angle they can still kick and hit the board with the ball of their foot and from which angle on they will hit it with their toes first and will potentially hurt their joints and not break the board.
     

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  2. skribs

    skribs Master of Arts

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    My experience is that flexibility doesn't matter. If your toes are pointing the right direction, the force of the kick will keep them out of the way. If the pads of your toes make contact with the target, your toes will go backward. And the amount you can stretch with pressure is more than you can on your own.
     
  3. Dirty Dog

    Dirty Dog MT Senior Moderator Staff Member

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    Since this only matters if you're barefoot, I don't think I'd spend any real effort on it.
     
  4. Yokazuna514

    Yokazuna514 Green Belt

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    Interesting post and I think you went to great lengths to explain the issues you are observing with your own technique. I cannot say that I focus on stretching the toes back per se but I understand what you are after. If you are experiencing issues with your toes hitting the pad first instead of the ball of your foot, I would look at the mechanics of your kick. Specifically if you raise your knee first to it's highest position, then release your lower leg for the extension. It is a sort of double pendulum, the first pendulum is from the hip to the knee, the second pendulum is from the knee to the foot. Chances are if you kick in this fashion, your toes will be in the proper position for you to avoid kicking the pad toes first. I am not sure if that is the way you are taught the kick in TKD but that is the way we do the kick at our dojo and instances of toe strikes are reduced dramatically.

    Note, this is not a push kick. It is still a 'snap' kick but the mechanics are broken down to ensure that the striking surface of your foot is chosoku (the ball of the foot). There is a lot more technique to this kick but essentially that is how we avoid damaging the tender tooties when we use this kick.
     
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  5. dvcochran

    dvcochran 3rd Black Belt

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    To your question, the only regular stretching we do to work on bending the toes back is to set with feet under, buttocks as far down as possible. The toes a curled under as far as possible, body leaned back and the knees are raised off the floor. This is done for a 10 count then the feet are straightened and the process is repeated. We do this a few reps at the start of most classes.
    In reality, kicking something regularly with resistance is the best method. The two sided kicking targets most of us use for drills is not resistance, just something to aim at.
     
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  6. Yokazuna514

    Yokazuna514 Green Belt

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    Pain is sometimes the best teacher ;) .
     
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  7. Metal

    Metal Green Belt

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    Thanx everyone for their inout!

    Thanx! When I was in Korea, the guys at the dojang did this:

    IMG_0852.JPG


    I wasn't even able to get close to doing that! ^^


    Regarding hitting something with resistance, I own a BOB XL and put a body protector on him. So I tested and know the angles I'm capable of kicking with the ball of the foot.

    The thing with Ap Chagis/front kicks is though: a perfect Poomsae/forms Ap Chagi is where you plantar-flex/stretch your foot all the way while pulling/bending the toes back. Being able to break boards like this is only possible for people who can bend their toes back enough.

    A lot of people then change their foot position like in this picture:

    Bildschirmfoto 2018-11-10 um 13.26.04.png
    (for those who're interested, that's Kwon Jae Hwa in the first German Taekwondo book from 1966)

    And while it needs to be adjusted to fit the situation anyway, a lot of people also break boards this way since it's also easier to generate powe. In this case it's coming from the snap rather them from moving the hip forward.


    While that's indeed true, constant learning through pain won't be good in the long run. Plus constant injuries may lead to more severe problems.

    Anyway, according to my doc my limited range of motion in my big toe joints (and probably the pain when I bent them too far back) was/is caused by the joint being out of place due to my Hallux Valgus/bunion deformity. See pics below, left for post surgery and right for pre surgery of my left foot While I'm waiting for the foot to heal I hope to regain full mobility and range in that joint and therefore was wondering if anybody has ever increased their mobility in the big toe joint. The right foot will follow in January. Besides the bunion being worse on the left foot I also decided to have the left one done first since it's not my main kicking foot

    Bildschirmfoto 2018-11-09 um 15.24.17.png


    True. On top of that it didn't bother me much in the past and so I never really put much effort on it, either.

    Board breaking's done barefoot though. ;)
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2018
  8. JowGaWolf

    JowGaWolf Grandmaster

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    When I taught students, some would be a little discourage because they couldn't do a low stance. So I was very practical with them. "learn to fight where you can, instead of forcing your body to fight where it can't" In other words. Don't be discourage if you can't do something because of a limited range of motion. Adapt and learn how to do thing in a way that allow you to get the job done. This includes accepting that you may not be able to use 1 technique due to physical limits.

    If your goal is to break a board without causing injury to yourself then you'll just have to break the board with a different kick.
     
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  9. Earl Weiss

    Earl Weiss Senior Master

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    No one wants to go to his class.
     
  10. Christopher Adamchek

    Christopher Adamchek Yellow Belt

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    people hit some great points here so ill refrain from reiterating anything
    Stretching the toes - (besides the seated posture shown) we do a seated toe reach stretch where if your can reach your toes you can pull them back and bend your elbows down to your knees
     

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