Toe Gripping and Karate – Why You Shouldn’t Grip with the Toes

Not+if+he+has+a+foot+fetish+_ea7ad0572d21251b38b2470a3af65907Over the weekend just gone I was on the Anatomy in Motion level 1 course.
I took this about a year ago and felt a review was needed.

I wasn’t wrong, there were several points I missed the first time round.

If you’re not familiar with AiM, it’s founder Gary Ward has become known as the “Foot Guy” which is pretty cool.
He’s looked at the feet in more detail than just about anyone else, he’s also broken down the gait cycle and analysed what every joint should be doing in each stage of gait.

And I mean every joint, including all 33 joints of each foot.

As I grew up in the world of martial arts I always had the feeling that the hips and feet are vitally important to performance, but since attending the AiM courses, that feeling has become certain knowledge.

But like many in the world of Karate I was taught to grip the floor with my toes.

This is something that is drilled into many martial arts guys as a matter of rote.
It’s also something many many folk will do subconsciously to create stability in a body that is out of alignment.

Here’s me about 6 years ago in my back garden, you can’t see to well, but my feet are gripping like bastards during the tension segment of Seisan:

So is this gripping a good or a bad thing?

Have a we look at this video clip, don’t worry about the narration, just watch.
Look at the all the gorgeous movement, see the angle that yellow line traces as the foot pronates and supinates, watch the arches…..



Beautiful isn’t it.

Now if we grip the toes, what might change?

First of all, what happens when we grip?

Try it, put your relaxed and naked foot flat on the floor, put some weight into it and have a look. Feel the ground underneath your foot.
Now watch AND feel what happens when you grip the floor with the toes…


What happened?

Did your arch lift? Yup
Did your big toe knuckle lose contact with the ground? Most likely
Did your weight shift towards the outside edge of the foot? Probably

Think about that yellow line again.
If the toes grip and the arch lifts then the foot moves into supination, the foot becomes rigid and inflexible, the talus rotates externally, which rotates the lower leg externally, which moves the knee out and externally rotating the hip.
All the muscles on the outside of the leg load up while the inner side is relaxed. The IT Band gets tight, the VMO disappears, the glutes go to sleep and knee starts to get cranky.

I've no idea who this guy is, nor am I questioning his ability or intentions, but look at that right foot, it's maximally supinated and potentially injurious.

I’ve no idea who this guy is, nor am I questioning his ability or intentions, but look at that right foot, it’s maximally supinated and already showing signs of deformity as a result.

Just think about how many older karate guys have screwed hips and knees. How prevalent are hip and knee problems in the rest of the population?

The most common off the ball injury in pretty much every ball sport ever is the knee joint.

Now look back at that list above. VMO & Glutes on holiday, IT Band and lateral muscles of the leg over working, weight shifted to the outside of the foot held in supination. What direction is the force travelling through the knee?

It’s pulling it to the outside, and that my friend is not good.

Now imagine if the foot had the ability to pronate properly. Wouldn’t that allow the leg to internally rotate somewhat, for the low leg to lean in bringing the knee with it towards the midline and actually getting the VMO and the glutes to load up as a team.

This position, while sneered at by sports science, is actually necessary to load the VMO & Glutes. Valgus movement is very different to Valgus collapse

This position, while sneered at by sports science, is actually necessary to load the VMO & Glutes.
Valgus movement is very different to Valgus collapse

Doesn’t that sound more fun?

I wrote a bit about this in the “Knackered Knees” series, you can get them HERE <- that’s a link, click it.

So the long and the short of the post is this.

Gripping with the toes prevents the movement of 33 joints per foot.
If you’re stood on your two feet and gripping, thats 66 joints that can’t mobilise to create movement. That movement must be created elsewhere up the chain. And sooner or later, something will give out.

In my case it was my SI joint and a lumbar disk.
In my mates case it was his hip as he developed arthritis.

To pronate or not to pronate.

It’s all up to you.


Dave Hedges

Oh, and by the way, I haven’t got round to putting the prices back to normal on my eBooks, so take advantage and get yourself one for a fiver before I do. I’ll be fixing it either tonight or tomorrow depending on time. HERE’s a link for you..

Aaaaannnd, don’t forget the Self Defence workshop this weekend: DETAILS


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