The Physics of the Crane Kick

Everyone's doing it. No, one's watching, the coast is clear, go ahead, do it. Get up on that beach stump, raise up your knee, and strike your best karate bird pose. It's human nature (or is bird nature)... if you're at the beach and you see a stump, you're going to try the crane kick. It's no use trying to deny it, it's what we do. Yet early reports say that the new Karate Kid film has gotten rid of the crane kick... how can this be? How can they get rid of the single greatest fake martial arts move in history. Every fight I have ever been in has involved a well timed crane kick at some point (also with that song "You're the Best" playing in my head). If do right, no can defend, but how does the crane kick from The Karate Kid work?

The Four Parts of a Successful Crane Kick

The first part of the Crane Kick is simple misdirection. Your foe is busy looking at you fluttering your hands in the air, then he sees the knee, and thinks, “What's this guy up to? Is he going to slap me, is he going to knee me, tickle fight? I don't know?” Which means he is completely missing the leg you're standing on, i.e. the deadly foot.

A variation also known as the modified crane kick involves jazz heads. This move goes like so: jazz hands, jazz hands, jazz hands, KICK. An almost unstable fighting style, this is why Jackie Chan got his start as a dancer, and was the original choice for the lead in Footloose (in my mind, at least. I just insert Jackie Chan into most movie roles).

Crane Kick

Blind Rage
The second part of the crane kick involves your opponent running at you nose first, preferably low enough to be reached with a minimum of kick effort. The best way to get him to run straight at your already extended foot is to get him fired up enough to forget all of his karate training, and most of his natural instincts. I suggest having a crony yell, “Get him a body bag!” It's also nice to have his ex-girlfriend that he's still not quite over, rooting for you, telling you to “be tough.”

Crane Kick Energy

The purpose of training on the stumps is balance, and more importantly finding the proper center of gravity. Miyagi said it himself, “Better learn balance. Balance is key. Balance good, karate good. Everything good. Balance bad, better pack up, go home. Understand?” The first part of your training is bird like balance (and perhaps you're thinking, I've seen birds walk, they have terrible balance, but this is about kicking not walking, silly), you can use any neighborhood stump to practice or try following pigeons around. Most cage fighting, in fact, was derived by your Grandmother's canary, Mr. Peepers. Balance can also work as good motivational speech material as in finding both balance on stumps and in your life.

Energy (Sake)
It takes more than balance to kick ass, though. You need to take that potential energy and transform it into kinetic energy. Through bird like flaps you transfer the energy from your arms to your waist to your leg and to your deadly foot. Training involves mostly sake bombs and shouting, “Banzai!” Feel as the sake's energy moves from your lips to your stomach then is transformed in your stomach and emerges as a powerful, “Banzai!”

In recap, the crane kick is only used as a last resort when an opponent is blindly charging at you (even better if they were actually blind). When do you know when it's time to unleash such a devastating karate move? It's good to have a friendly Asian man in a wide collar suit nod at you to let you know that time is right. The actual maneuver consists of misdirection, balance, kinetic energy (sake), so if you practice those elements you should be an unstable fighting force. Now you're a karate man, you've mastered the crane technique, go forth and win the All Valley Tournament.

Author's Note
On second thought, don't use the crane kick, the crane kick is not a real martial arts move. You'll just end up getting round housed and humiliated in front of the girl you like. If you do decide to go through with the crane technique, wait for your opponent to laugh, but don't wait for them to stop laughing. While, still laughing you have two options: run or follow through with your pathetic kick. I suggest running.

  • soft nonsense
    Comment from: soft nonsense
    04/07/10 @ 10:01:52 am

    No crane kick?!?!!!!

    I don’t know how to feel about that….

  • eye-shuh
    Comment from: eye-shuh
    04/07/10 @ 10:35:18 am

    Do I wait for the Asian man to nod before I run, or will I know when the time is right sometime mid-laugh?

  • Crane Kick
    Comment from: Crane Kick
    08/26/10 @ 11:26:51 am

    This was pretty neat.

  • Steven Seagal
    Comment from: Steven Seagal
    05/01/11 @ 12:27:18 am

    “…don’t use the crane kick, the crane kick is not a real martial arts move.”

    Would someone tell Lyoto Machida that the crane kick isn’t real and wouldn’t work in a real fight, oh wait, nm.

  • Mr. Miyagi
    Comment from: Mr. Miyagi
    05/01/11 @ 07:01:29 pm


    Crane kick work. If done right no can defense. Just ask Machida-san.

    But seriously if you jump in the air and quickly extend your foot into an opponent’s jaw it’s going to do damage just like any other kick. The crane kick may have been a fictional technique for the movie The Karate Kid but the front kick is a basic Karate move.

  • Karate kid fan
    Comment from: Karate kid fan
    09/10/11 @ 10:10:20 pm

    The crane kick has always fascinated me, every time I watch the karate kid I’ll watch the end scene over and over again to see it!

  • faithlin
    Comment from: faithlin
    05/25/12 @ 11:17:51 pm

    Oh so wrong Weed Hopper author. Had you done your research for realz, there is a Crain kick. In the Okinawan hard style karate of Uechi-Rue, created by Uechi Kanbun in the late 1800’s, the crane kick is the highest form of a frontal kick and can be lethal and so is used only by the highest belts. In addition, this form of Okinawan Karate can be so deadly, it is the only style banned from The Olympics. If you notice in the original movie, the Sensi is from Okinawa (hint, hint). Sorry Weed Hopper. No stone, no pass.
    p.s. A heart technique similar to the “The Five Point Palm Technique” as highlighted in Kill Bill Vol II, is also used in Uwachi-Ru. But it is denied until a certain level of black belt. It does not explode the heart, but instead, rips it out, still beating. This of course is rumor and no one speaks openly of it. But if true, it is kept secret for a reason. You may see it used in old Bruce Lee Movies etc. Many forms are fluid, adapting, evolving. Only some stay true to the one originator. Uachi-RuWeed hopper, I would punish you with 5 hours of wipe on, wipe off if I could!

  • Napitenkah
    Comment from: Napitenkah
    06/23/12 @ 06:13:43 am

    The reason the crane kick isn’t in the new Karate kid, because it isn’t actually Karate, it is Kung Fu. Which actually has Crane style fighting.

    There is a similar move in Kung Fu, which looks the same, except the lead foot is a block, with the toes facing up. There is no front jumping snap kick with it. Lyota machida did a front snap kick.
    The funny thing is in the third karate kid, Thomas Ian Griffith made fun of the crane kick.

  • Steve
    Comment from: Steve
    04/19/13 @ 07:54:23 pm

    Even better, how about a nice roundhouse kick to the thigh while Daniel-San is standing on one leg.

  • Nissa-Belle Vidal
    Comment from: Nissa-Belle Vidal
    12/02/13 @ 08:53:57 pm

    thought i would add something useful to everyone on here. my dad actually invented the crane kick and is in the movie. he was asked to invent it on set. while there may be another version of this in kung - fu, the version used inthe movie is not a karate movie, and was not based on kung- fu version at all.

  • Comment from: Wolf
    12/06/13 @ 09:50:54 am

    Thanks for the comment, Nissa-Belle! I’ve based my entire fighting style (and life) off this move, so I hope it does work though if I’m ever attacked by group of blond bullies dressed as skeletons. If it doesn’t, I’m blaming your dad.

  • Rob
    Comment from: Rob
    12/12/14 @ 08:52:17 am

    An excellent assessment.