Picking The Right Kick For The Right Occasion
Seeing the contraction and twitching of the leg in your opponent should strike fear deep down into the very soul of any fighter, no matter what level of training you’ve got. Knowing you’ve got less than a split second before eating a snapping roundhouse or stabbing teep would do that to someone, of course.
People use kicks for a lot of different reasons: creating distance, interruptions, scoring points, and most of all, versatility. A kick can come in so many different forms that sometimes it can be hard to know what to use in what situation.
Let’s examine three kicking techniques and their optimal delivery.
Bread & Butter: The Roundhouse
The roundhouse is the staple kick of any fighter, but positioning is key. There are three different targets you should be looking for: head, ribs, or the thigh.
- Thigh: This is where you should start – and work up from here (quite literally). This is a nice, easy target, good to put your opponent on the back foot and set up a combo. It also works defensively: if you land enough solid kicks on the same place eventually that leg is rendered useless, and it can limit the mobility of most fighters as it makes the leg feel numb.
- Ribs: Stealing air from your opponent makes fighting seem, to him, considerably harder as it causes them to exert more energy with less oxygen in their blood. It also offers the possibility of cracking ribs, which in a real fight will be deadly. Just below the ribs are the kidneys and liver: these are also excellent targets. The liver acting as a sponge will cause a fighter to feel incredibly ill when that sponge is wrung out into their bloodstream.
- Head: This is one of the hardest kicks to land effectively since it is rather easy to see coming and will then leave you in an incredibly unfortunate position. But when landed correctly, a head kick can be devastating and result in a stupendous KO.
Space Reclaimer: The Teep
The teep is great for creating a lot of distance to work with, but again it needs to be positioned appropriately based on the scenario. A standard teep will involve chambering the leg and forcing your opponent away using an explosive extension and planting the foot on the sternum.
This works wonders – given you’re strong enough – to force your opponent away and to make some space between you. Take advantage of this space: reposition and attack again, rush in and force a clinch or let them come to you and manipulate any mistakes they make.
Alternative to the standard sternum teep is aiming for the lead leg of your opponent and working to put them off balance: step through the teep and follow with some elbows to hit hard and keep your opponent off balance, and work some basic combos to keep them on the retreat.
There’s also a third type of teep that works similarly to the first two: the jumping teep. Chamber a leg to simulate the beginning of a teep, but instead of extending it, hop forward onto it whilst simultaneously chambering and extending the other leg – in a cossack dancer style. This works to create the space, but it also entices your opponent to try and sweep your leg before hand, creating a greater window for you to knock them off balance.
Dazzling Strikes: The Flashy Kick
A few kicks fall under this category: tornado kick, axe kick, spinning back kick, and the crescent kick – to name a few. I call them “flashy” because they’re much harder to pull off but when they work, they work incredibly well and look amazing.
- Tornado kick: Faking a roundhouse kick to then spin 360 degrees to land a huge roundhouse with the momentum of the spin is absolutely world-ending if landed in the right place – usually the shoulder or just catching the bottom of the ribs. However, a lot of fighters will see the spin winding up and counter with a large teep in the middle of it, which leaves you in a very vulnerable position. This technique does offer a lot of entertainment for crowds, and brings variety to the fight, but can sometimes backfire horribly.
- Spinning back kick: Similar to the tornado kick. Instead of faking first, you just spin and use the momentum from the spin to land a huge back kick to create huge amounts of space between you and your opponent. This also leaves you open to a teep during the spin but the spin with this kick is much faster because it doesn’t involve the fake.
- Crescent kick: Make an arc and connect with the base of the foot across the head/face of the opponent. Not only is this a very strong kick to land, but it is also an act of disrespect/challenging – like slapping with the glove in fencing.
- Axe kick: Shifting your weight onto your front foot, your rear leg comes up into the air and slams down onto your opponent with the heel of your foot, usually landed on the shoulder. This technique is very good for finishing off a disorienting combo with because it needs a good mask to make it effective, else you leave yourself open to a sweep and to be knocked down.
Kicks are a great, versatile technique that can be used in a lot of scenarios, but need some setup to be effective. A combination of some basic punches need to be thrown first so that the opponent is caught off-guard and the kick works as intended.
- Ben Evans is a 17-year-old Brit with a year of Muay Thai training under his belt. His experience in martial arts so far has inspired him to continuing learning and helping to teach others about the sport.