Book review: “Dynamic Stretching and Kicking” by Bill “Superfoot” Wallace
Bill Wallace is one of the big names in American martial arts. He was a successful Karate point fighter and then turned to full contact competitions. He’s most famous for using only his lead leg to kick with and doing so with great success. You can also see him in a few older martial arts movies, usually playing the bad guy.
This book is another one of those “oldies”in my library (first published in 1981). I used the information in it to enhance my kicking skills when I just started competing. As a heavyweight, I often fought opponents who were perhaps strong but not that skillful because they relied on their strength too much. I wasn’t the strongest fighter around, but I often managed to be a bit faster than the others, especially with my kicking techniques. Part of the success I enjoyed in these competitions is due to this book. As time went by, I was confronted with the limitations of this method, but more on that later.
The book starts out with a short introduction to basic anatomy, physiology and kinesiology of stretching. These topics are covered very briefly, but they do give some useful background information. At the end of this chapter, some useful pointers are given: Keep your back straight, don’t bounce, etc.
Next are some warm-up exercises covering the major joints and muscles. The format in which they are presented is one of the best I have seen so far, but it has sadly not been copied much in martial arts books. Each exercise is presented with several pictures. On the opposite page is an explanation of the physiological benefits, the number of repetitions to be performed, Martial arts benefits and some pointers. This way, you know exactly what to do, why it is important and what mistakes to be attentive to.
Even though most exercises are good enough, there are some that would be considered advanced or not good for you these days. E.g.: certain hip rotations, lower back stretches and bridging exercises. Besides these few, the exercises certainly have their use.
The next segment covers a series of stretching techniques. Most of them are very useful, but nothing all that impressive either. In addition, the author shows some exercises to improve balance and footwork. Nothing groundbreaking, just some basic techniques.
This concludes the first part of the book, the next deals with kicking techniques.
First some background: If you’re not familiar with the story, Mr. Wallace injured his knee in a judo accident and from then on he could only use it as a support. So he developed a personal style of kicking, using only three kicks (roundhouse, side and hook kick) using the left leg only.
In this next part, Mr. Wallace explains some important factors for making his style of kicking work : Chambering all kicks into the same position, snapping kicks instead of thrusting them and emphasizing speed over power. He demonstrates his 3 kicks (side, roundhouse and hook kick) with many pictures and with sufficient explanation. He also shows several typical mistakes.
Once the basics are covered, he goes into different combinations, how to fake an opponent, how to train with a partner, using hand techniques to prepare kicks, distancing defensive techniques and jamming. All these topics are well documented with pictures and explanations. In the end, you get a good overall view of the Wallace kicking system and you’ll be able to train with it correctly. Whenever in doubt, there are enough pointers in these chapters to guide you toward mastering this system.
The last pages contain a short summary of Mr. Wallace’s career and some pictures from movies and competitions.
The major disadvantage of this book is again it’s age. Disregarding the few exercises that are outdated, this way of training is less interesting these days. Martial arts have turned towards full contact fighting with as few rules as possible(UFC, Vale Tudo, etc.). You may not like this turn of events, but it is nevertheless true. Bill Wallace’s system of kicking is almost useless in these types of competitions. You don’t even have to go to the extremes of UFC. Any full contact competition which allows leg kicks will show the limits of the system. The side stance makes the lead leg very vulnerable when your opponent is allowed to strike it. Even more, a couple of low kicks will hurt your lead leg enough to slow it down, leaving you with insufficient speed for using this system.
In all fairness, the author does not claim to have a foolproof system. He states clearly that you should experiment with it and use it if is valuable to you. If not then you can just disregard it. My experience is that you can surprise opponents with the techniques of Mr. Wallace. My personal preference these days, goes toward Muay Thai type kicks because they have both speed and power. I use them most of the time, but I still switch to the way Bill fights to confuse an opponent who is used to my personal style.
I recommend this book without question, only if you have some up to date information on stretching techniques. This will give you the necessary insights to avoid certain exercises and complement the information in the book. As for the kicking techniques: If you are looking to start as a point fighter, do not hesitate. You will find a very effective system for the type of competitions you enter. For full contact fighters, the answer is more difficult. The information Mr. Wallace gives is interesting, but you must be willing to spend time studying a system that may be useless to you or offer only minor improvements to your arsenal of skills and techniques.
The book offers excellent quality. It is written in a clear and organized fashion with good lay out and very clear pictures. An example for others to follow.
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