For the second consecutive year, Coach Pei welcomed in early February over twenty students of Before U Kick, a local Northern Virginia football kicking consulting company, for a two--hour seminar. The Before U Kick training camp and professional school was established by retired professional kickers who offer knowledge and expertise to aspiring football kickers.
Paul Woodside, one of the company's coaches, had previously observed the Academy's Wushu students learning correct kicking techniques and thought that his own students could benefit from the methodology. He asked Coach Pei to conduct a seminar that would help these youngsters further develop speed, power, and control as part of their intense training to qualify for the critical kicker's position in a professional team. In the course of the two hours, Coach guided the students, pinpointing areas needing attention, and suggesting corrective stretching exercises and practice. For the students, this was also an opportunity to benefit from cross training, to gain new insights from the teachings in martial arts, and to develop and improve their performance in their chosen sport.
While the kicker kicks a ball, the Wushu artist kicks his opponent; both of them however use speed and power. Be that as it may, Coach Pei notes that the human body remains the same, so that there is only one physiologically correct way to use it. As in the Wushu artist, the kicker's position leaves no margin for error, requiring perfect body and mind alignment to accomplish his mission in one second-either a field goal, or kicking the ball as far away from the opposing team as possible.
A kicker requires speed of execution and so must understand how to produce the fastest kick. If he uses principally muscle strength, his reaction will be extremely slow, limited, and burn out fast. Moreover, if he is hunchbacked as he kicks--executing with a bent body--power will again be limited and dissipate quickly. Coach Pei explained to the students that to obtain speed, their bodies required good coordination through correct body alignment and a back that was naturally straight, and he showed them how to stretch their spines, lower backs, and hamstrings.
Kicking correctly involves not only coordination, but also timing. Wushu Academy students Calvin Lu and Yuhao Lin were on hand to show their amazing high jumps and demonstrate how proper timing can produce extreme and explosive power. Just like the pistons of an engine, parts of the human body must be timed exactly for proper coordination. If timing is off, the player's body will be neither coordinated nor capable of generating the necessary speed. Coordination and timing, moreover, need balance. If his shoulders are titled to one side or another, the kicker will be out of balance, uncoordinated, and unable to move fast.
All sports require the same sequence, Coach Pei underscored: first is the speed that comes from flexibility and the range of movements the body is capable of performing. The larger the body's range of movements, the more flexible it is, the greater the speed it can generate--which is what happens when muscles are toned and resilient, able to stretch as a rubber band to go faster and farther. Second is power that comes from coordination and balance. Third is control, both physical and mental. Physical control is critical because even if a kicker has the speed and power that allow him to kick the ball anywhere, without control he will not be able to direct it where he wants it to go. Physical control is the ability to use the body in a way that will produce the result one seeks. Mental control, on the other hand, requires focus. The kicker has just one second after he calls for the ball; if his mind is not focused, he will not succeed. Therefore, a kicker trains not only for speed, power and control, but also for mental calmness, clarity and focus to achieve his objective.
Coach Pei was pleased to meet again a wonderful Before U Kick group of motivated kids-one of those who had participated last year has now joined a professional football team. Coach believes that one of the most important aspects of teaching youngsters is to offer them an idea that inspires them to do better, to help them get a sense of direction and understand where they are now, where they want to be, and what they need to do to get there. They also must have a clear appreciation of what's in their hearts, and how much they want to succeed. "You can have speed, power, and control, but if your heart is not in the sport, you are not going to make it," he noted. At the same time, the ultimate goal of training is not limited to determining how good an athlete someone may become, but to instill in him or her knowledge and experience that applies to daily life. By training their bodies and minds, students also learn about dedication, commitment, and discipline to achieve their life's goals.