A kick is a physical strike using the leg, foot, heel, tibia, thigh or
knee (the latter is also known as a knee strike). This type of attack
is used frequently by hooved animals as well as humans in the context
of stand-up fighting. Kicks play a significant role in many forms of
martial arts, such as savate, taekwondo, MMA, sikaran, karate,
Pankration, Kung fu, Vovinam, kickboxing, Muay Thai, capoeira, silat,
Kicking is also prominent from its use in many sports, especially
those called football. The best known of these sports is association
football, also known as soccer.
3 Practicality of high kicks
4 Basic kicks
4.1 Front kick
4.2 Roundhouse kick
4.3 Side kick
4.4 Back kick
5 Advanced kicks
5.2 Butterfly kick
5.3 Calf kick
5.4 Crescent kick
5.5 Hook kick
5.6 Reverse roundhouse/wheel kick
5.7 Flying kicks
5.8 Scissor kick
5.9 Spinning heel kick
5.10 Vertical kick (thrust kick/push kick/side kick)
5.11 Multiple kick
6 See also
8 External links
The English verb to kick appears only in the late 14th century,
apparently as a loan from Old Norse, originally in the sense of a
hooved animal delivering strikes with his hind legs; the oldest use is
Kicks as an act of human aggression have likely existed worldwide
since prehistory. However, high kicks, aiming above the waist or to
the head appear to have originated from Asian martial arts. Such kicks
were introduced to the west in the 19th century with early hybrid
martial arts inspired by Asian styles such as
Bartitsu and Savate.
Practice of high kicks became more universal in the second half of the
20th century with the more widespread development of hybrid styles
such as kickboxing and eventually mixed martial arts.
The history of the high kick in
Asian martial arts is difficult to
trace. It appears to be prevalent in all traditional forms of
Indochinese kickboxing, but these cannot be traced with any technical
detail to pre-modern times. For example,
Muay Boran or "ancient
boxing" in Thailand was developed under
Rama V (r. 1868-1910). While
it is known that earlier forms of "boxing" existed during the
Ayutthaya Kingdom, the details regarding these techniques are unclear.
Some stances that look like low kicks, but not high kicks, are visible
Shaolin temple frescoes, dated to the 17th century.[citation
Mahabharata (4.13), an Indian epic compiled at some point
before the 5th century AD, describes an unarmed hand-to-hand battle,
including the sentence "and they gave each other violent kicks"
(without providing any further detail).
A kick delivered to a downed or falling enemy (a demon),
(ca. 13th century) bas-relief at Banteay Chhmar.
A kick used in armed combat as a means of displacing the opponent's
shield in historical European martial arts (
Hans Talhoffer 1459)
A kick to the knee as depicted in a Baroque
Ringen treatise (Johann
Georg Passchen 1659)
As the human leg is longer and stronger than the arm, kicks are
generally used to keep an opponent at a distance, surprise him or her
with their range, and inflict substantial damage. On the other hand,
stance is very important in any combat system, and any attempt to
deliver a kick will necessarily compromise one's stability of stance.
The application of kicks is thus a question of the tradeoff between
the power that can be delivered vs. the cost incurred to balance.
Since combat situations are fluid, understanding this tradeoff and
making the appropriate decision to adjust to each moment is key.
Kicks are commonly directed against helpless or downed targets, while
for more general self-defense applications, the consensus is that
simple kicks aimed at vulnerable targets below the chest may be highly
efficient, but should be executed with a degree of care. Self-defense
experts, such as author and teacher Marc Macyoung, claim that kicks
should be aimed no higher than the waist/stomach. Thus, the fighter
should not compromise their balance while delivering a kick, and
retract the leg properly to avoid grappling. It is often recommended
to build and drill simple combinations that involve attacking
different levels of an opponent. A common example would be distracting
an opponent's focus via a fake jab, following up with a powerful
attack at the opponent's legs and punching.
Further, since low kicks are inherently quicker and harder to see and
dodge in general they are often emphasized in a street fight scenario.
Practicality of high kicks
The utility of high kicks (above chest level) has been debated.
Proponents have viewed that some high front snap kicks are effective
for striking the face or throat, particularly against charging
opponents, and flying kicks can be effective to scare off attackers.
Martial arts systems that utilize high kicks also emphasize training
of very efficient and technically perfected forms of kicks, include
recovery techniques in the event of a miss or block, and will employ a
wide repertoire of kicks adapted to specific situations.
Detractors have asserted that the flying/jumping kicks performed in
synthesis styles are primarily performed for conditioning or aesthetic
reasons while the high kicks as practiced in sport martial arts are
privileged due to specialized tournament rules, such as limiting the
contest to stand-up fighting, or reducing the penalty resulting from a
failed attempt at delivering a kick.
Although kicks can result in an easy takedown for the opponent if they
are caught or the resulting imbalance is exploited, kicks to all parts
of the body are very present in mixed martial arts, with some fighters
employing them sporadically, while others, like Lyoto Machida, Edson
Donald Cerrone rely heavily on their use and have multiple
knockouts by kicks on their resumee.
Main article: Front kick
Taekwondo front kick
Delivering a front kick involves raising the knee and foot of the
striking leg to the desired height and extending the leg to contact
the target. The actual strike is usually delivered by the ball of the
foot for a forward kick or the top of the toes for an upward kick.
Taekwondo practitioners utilize both the heel and ball of the foot for
striking. Various combat systems teach 'general' front kick using the
heel or whole foot when footwear is on. Depending of fighter's
tactical needs, a front kick may involve more or less body motion.
Thrusting one's hips is a common method of increasing both reach and
power of the kick. The front kick is typically executed with the upper
body straight and balanced. Front kicks are typically aimed at targets
below the chest: stomach, thighs, groin, knees or lower. Highly
skilled martial artists are often capable of striking head-level
targets with front kick.
Main article: Roundhouse kick
This is the most commonly used kick in kickboxing due to its power and
ease of use. In most styles, the instep is used to strike, though most
Karate styles would allow the shin as official technique for a street
fight. To execute, the attacker swings their leg sideways in a
circular motion, kicking the opponent's side with the front of the
leg, usually with the instep, ball of the foot, toe, or shin. Also
performable is a 360-degree kick in which the attacker performs a full
circle with their leg, in which the striking surface is generally
either the instep, shin or ball of the foot.
There are many variations of the roundhouse kick based on various
chambering of the cocked leg (small, or full, or universal or no
chambering) or various footwork possibilities (rear-leg, front-leg,
hopping, switch, oblique, dropping, ground spin-back or full 360
spin-back). An important variation is the downward roundhouse kick,
nicknamed the Brazilian
Kick from recent K-1 use: A more pronounced
twist of the hips allows for a downward end of the trajectory of the
kick that is very deceiving.
Due to its power, the roundhouse kick may also be performed at low
level against targets, such as the knees, calf, or even thigh, since
attacking leg muscles will often cripple an opponent's mobility.
"Side kick" redirects here. For other uses, see Sidekick
The side kick refers to a kick that is delivered sideways in relation
to the body of the person kicking. It is one of the most adaptable
kicks, useful as both an offensive move and as a defensive counter to
a blitzing opponent. There are two areas that are commonly used as
impact points in sidekicks: the heel of the foot or the outer edge of
the foot. The heel is more suited to hard targets such as the ribs,
stomach, jaw, temple and chest. However, when executing a side kick
with the heel, the toes should be pulled back so that they only make
contact the heel and not with the whole foot. If a person hits with
the arch or the ball of the foot, it can injure the foot or break an
ankle. A standard sidekick is performed by first chambering the
kicking leg diagonally across the body, then extending the leg in a
linear fashion toward the target, while flexing the abdominals.
Another way of doing the side kick is to make it an end result of a
faked roundhouse. This technique is considered antiquated, and used
only after an opponent is persuaded to believe it is a roundhouse, and
then led to believe that closing the distance is best for an upper
body attack, which plays into the tactical position and relative
requirement of this version of the side kick. In Korean, yeop chagi.
In Okinawan te fighting, it is sometimes called a dragon kick. Some
have called this side kick a "twist kick" due to its roundhouse like
origins. This side kick begins as would a roundhouse kick however the
practitioner allows the heel to move towards the center of the body.
The kick is then directed outward from a cross-leg chamber so that the
final destination of the kick is a target to the side, rather than one
that is directly ahead.
Taekwondo back kick.
Also referred to as a donkey kick, mule kick, or turning back kick.
This kick is directed backwards, keeping the kicking leg close to the
standing leg and using the heel as a striking surface. In wushu, this
kick is called the "half-moon" kick but involves the slight arching of
the back and a higher lift of the leg to give a larger curvature. It
is often used to strike opponents by surprise when facing away from
These are often complicated variations of basic kicks, either with a
different target or combined with another move, such as jumping.
Axe kick by
Christine Theiss 2013
In Japanese, kakato-geri or kakato-otoshi; in Korean, doki bal chagi
or naeryeo chagi or "chikka chagi". In Chinese, "pigua tui" or "xiapi
An axe kick, also known as a hammer kick or stretch kick, is
characterized by a straightened leg with the heel descending onto an
opponent like the blade of an axe. It begins with one foot rising
upward as in a crescent kick. The upward arc motion is stopped, and
then the attacking foot is lowered so as to strike the target from
above. The arc can be performed in either an inward
(counter-clockwise) or outward (clockwise) fashion.
A well-known proponent of the axe kick was Andy Hug, the Swiss
Kyokushinkai Karateka who won the 1996 K-1 Grand Prix.
Main article: Butterfly kick
Butterfly kick (animated video)
The butterfly kick is done by doing a large circular motion with both
feet in succession, making the combatant airborne. There are many
variations of this kick. The kick may look like a slanted aerial
cartwheel, and at the same time, the body spins horizontally in a
circle. It begins as a jump with one leg while kicking with the other,
then move the kicking leg down and the jumping leg up into a kick,
landing with the first kicking leg, all while spinning. This kick
involves also the arching the back backwards when airborne to give a
horizontal body with high angled legs to the horizontal. It may also
resemble a jumping spin roundhouse kick (developed by James 'Two
Screens' Perkins) into a spinning hook kick, all in one jump and one
spin although the difference is that both legs should remain in the
air at the same time for a considerable amount of time.
First practiced in Chinese martial arts, the butterfly kick, or "xuan
zi", is widely viewed as ineffective for actual combat. However, its
original purpose was to evade an opponent's floor sweep and flip to
the antagonist's exposed side or it may be used as a double aerial
kick to an opponent standing off to the side. It is now widely used in
demonstrative wushu forms (taolu) as a symbol of difficulty. Also note
the similarity in execution when compared to an ice skating maneuver
known as a flying camel spin (aka: Button Camel).
This kick strikes with the backside of the calf. A variation which is
known as the jumping calf kick is when the user jumps before
performing the kick. This attack often takes the form of a sweep in
clinching situations and is most often seen in MMA matches.
In Japanese, mikazuki Geri; in Korean, bandal chagi (반달 차기).
The crescent kick, also referred to as a 'swing' kick, has some
similarities to a hook kick, and is sometimes practised as an
off-target front snap kick. The leg is bent like the front kick,
but the knee is pointed at a target to the left or right of the true
target. The energy from the snap is then redirected, whipping the leg
into an arc and hitting the target from the side. This is useful for
getting inside defenses and striking the side of the head or for
knocking down hands to follow up with a close attack. In many styles
T'ai chi ch'uan
T'ai chi ch'uan and Kalaripayattu, crescent kicks are taught as
tripping techniques. When training for crescent kicks, it is common to
keep the knee extended to increase the difficulty. This also increases
the momentum of the foot and can generate more force, though it takes
longer to build up the speed.
The inward/inner/inside crescent hits with the inside edge of the
foot. Its arch is clockwise for the left leg and counter-clockwise for
the right leg. Force is generated by both legs' hip adduction. The
inward variant has also been called a hangetsu geri (Half moon kick)
in karate and is employed to "wipe" an opponents hand off of one's
wrist. It can quickly be followed up by a low side-blade kick to the
knee of the offender.
The outward/outer/outside crescent hits with the 'blade', the outside
edge of the foot. Its path is counter-clockwise for the left leg and
clockwise for the right leg, and force is generated by both legs' hip
abduction. This is similar to a rising side kick, only with the
kicking leg's hip flexed so that the line of force travels parallel to
the ground from front to side rather than straight up, beginning and
ending at the side.
In Korean, huryeo chagi (후려 차기) or golcho chagi.
Steven Ho executing a Jump Spin Hook kick
The hook kick strikes with the heel from the side (or flat of the foot
in sparring). It is executed similar to a side kick. However, the kick
is intentionally aimed slightly off target in the direction of the
kicking foot's toes. At full extension, the knee is bent and the foot
snapped to the side, impacting the target with the heel. In Taekwondo
it is often used at the resulting miss of a short slide side kick to
the head, but is considered a very high level technique in said
circumstance. Practitioners of jeet kune do frequently use the term
heel hook kick or sweep kick. It is known as
There are many variations of the hook kick, generally based on
different footworks: rear- or front-leg, oblique or half-pivot,
dropping, spin-back and more. The hook kick can be delivered with a
near-straight leg at impact, or with a hooked finish (Kake in Japanese
Karate) where the leg bends before impact to catch the target from
behind. An important variation is the downward hook kick, delivered as
a regular or a spin-back kick, in which the end of the trajectory is
diagonally downwards for a surprise effect or following an evading
The hook kick is mainly used to strike the jaw area of an opponent,
but is also highly effective in the temple region.
Reverse roundhouse/wheel kick
Low, middle and high Reverse roundhouse kicks performed in succession
In Japanese, ushiro mawashi geri (後ろ回し蹴り); in Korean,
bandae dollyo chagi (반대 돌려 차기), dwit hu ryo chagi, nakkio
mom dollyo chagi or parryo chagi.
This kick is also known as a heel kick, reverse turning kick, reverse
round kick, spinning hook kick, spin kick, or "wheel kick". A low
reverse roundhouse is also known as a Sweep Kick. This kick
traditionally uses the heel to strike with. The kicking leg comes from
around the kicker's back and remains straight, unlike a reverse
hooking kick. See above for more on hook kicks. Variations exist for
low, middle and high height. Spinning and leaping variations of the
kick are also popular, and are often showcased in film and television
Edson Barboza executed the first wheel kick for a knockout in
the UFC at UFC 142:Aldo vs. Mendes. He knocked out Terry Etim 3:23
into the third round of their fight.
A different kick that is similarly named also exists. It is literally
a roundhouse kick performed by turning as if for a back straight kick
and executing a roundhouse kick. It is known as a Reverse Roundhouse
Kick because the kicker turns in the opposite, or "reverse", direction
before the kick is executed. This kick strikes with the ball of the
foot for power or the top of the foot for range. The kick was
Bruce Lee on numerous occasions in his films Enter the
Fist of Fury
Fist of Fury and The Big Boss. Bill Wallace was also a great
user of this kick, as seen in his fight with Bill Briggs, where he
KO'd his opponent with the clocked 60 mph kick. The Jump Spin
Kick was popularized in the mid-eighties by Steven Ho in open
martial art competitions.
In Olympic format (sport) taekwondo, this technique is performed using
the balls of the feet, and in a manner similar to a back thrust,
rather than the circular technique adopted in other styles/Martial
Main article: Flying kick
Flying back kick. Note: The running-up part of the flying kick
sequence is cut off in this animation, so only the jumping component
of the kick is seen.
A flying kick, in martial arts, is a general description of kicks that
involve a running start, jump, then a kick in mid-air. Compared to a
regular kick, the user is able to achieve greater momentum from the
run at the start.
Flying kicks are not to be mistaken for jumping
kicks, which are similar maneuvers. A jumping kick is very similar to
a flying kick, except that it lacks the running start and the user
simply jumps and kicks from a stationary position.
Flying kicks are
often derived from the basic kicks. Some of the more commonly known
flying kicks are the: flying side kick, flying back kick and the
flying roundhouse kick, as well as the flying reverse roundhouse kick.
Flying kicks are commonly practiced in Taekwondo, Karate, Wushu, and
Muay Thai for fitness, exhibitions and competition. It is known as
tobi geri in Japanese martial arts, and twyo chagi in Taekwondo.
Main article: Scissor kick (martial arts)
Several kicks may be called a scissor kick, involving swinging out the
legs to kick multiple targets or using the legs to take down an
The popularized version of a scissor kick is, while lying down, or
jumping, the kicker brings both legs to both sides of the opponent's
legs or to their body and head, then brings both in as a take down (as
the name states, leg motions are like that of a pair of scissors).
The scissor kick in
Taekwondo is called kawi chagi. In
Capoeira it is
called tesoura (scissors).
Scissor kicks and other variants are also commonly applied in Vovinam.
Spinning heel kick
A spinning heel kick is where the artist turns his/her body 360
degrees before landing the heel or the ball of his/her foot on the
target. It is found in
Muay Thai and is known in
Capoeira as armada.
Vertical kick (thrust kick/push kick/side kick)
The vertical kick involves bringing the knee forward and across the
chest, then swinging the hip while extending the kicking leg outward,
striking with the outside ("sword") edge of the foot. It can deliver a
considerable amount of power. This is called a yoko geri keage in
In Taekwondo, the vertical kick is called sewo chagi, and can be
performed as either an inward (anuro) or outward (bakuro) kick.
In Japanese karate, the term ren geri is used for several kicks
performed in succession. Old karate did not promote the use of the
legs for weapons as much as modern karate does, seeing them as being
too open for countering. However, in modern sport karate
(non-traditional) competitions, the ability to use multiple kicks
without setting the foot down has become a viable option, not only for
effectiveness but also for stylish aesthetics.
In Taekwon-Do, three types of multiple kick are distinguished:
Double kick (i-jung chagi) - two kicks of the same type executed in
succession by the same foot in the same direction.
Consecutive kick (yonsok chagi) - two or more kicks executed in
succession by the same foot but in different directions, or with
different attacking tools.
Combination kick (honhap chagi) - two or more kicks executed in
succession by both feet.
One such Multiple
Kick commonly seen in Taekwondo, is a slightly
Kick where a High Side
Kick is followed by a Low Side
Kick which is in turn followed by a more powerful Side Kick. This
combination is done rapidly and is meant not for multiple targets but
for a single one. The Multiple
Kick usually targets the face, thigh,
and chest, but in turn can be a multiple chest attack which is useful
for knocking the breath out of an attacker. The Multiple
usually done in the "second" style described in the Side
which "involves shooting the leg forward as in a front kick and then
pivoting and turning so" to actually deliver a side kick. That style
"has far less power but is much faster and more deceptive", which is
what the Multiple
Kick was designed for. The Multiple Kick, unlike
some Side Kicks or "side blade kicks", never uses the outer edge of
the foot; it is intended solely for the heel to be used as the impact
point. Depending on the strength and skill of the attacker and the
attacked, the combination can be highly effective or highly
ineffective when compared to more pragmatic attacks. In some
encounters with highly trained and conditioned fighters, multiple
side-kicks have seen disastrous results against the abs of their
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Use It, What to Destroy With It (Part 1) – - Black Belt".
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Thomson". Bloody Elbow. Retrieved 2014-01-17.
^ "UFC 143
Judo Chop: The
Kick Of Stephen Thompson".
Bloody Elbow. Retrieved 2014-01-17.
^ The Essential Book of Martial Arts Kicks: 89 Kicks from Karate,
Taekwondo, Muay Thai, Jeet Kune Do, and Others by Marc De Bremaeker
and Roy Faige
^ "UFC Macau
Judo Chop: Anderson Silva, Cung Le,
Bruce Lee and the
Side Kick". Bloody Elbow. Retrieved 2014-01-17.
Judo Chop: Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic Unleashes an
Kick on Pat
Barry". Bloody Elbow. Retrieved 2014-01-17.
^ "Shaolin Kung Fu Stretches & Moves : Butterfly
Shaolin Kung Fu". YouTube. 2008-04-10. Retrieved 2014-01-17.
^ "Kicks Aren't Going Anywhere Part 2: Katsunori Kikuno". Bleacher
Report. 2014-01-02. Retrieved 2014-01-17.
Judo Chop: Katsunori Kikuno Puts the Crescent
Kick To Work on
Kuniyoshi Hironaka at DREAM.13". Bloody Elbow. Retrieved
^ "Technique Talk: Henri Hooft on the rise of spinning kicks and
attacks in mixed martial arts". MMA Fighting. Retrieved
Taekwondo Kicks :
Taekwondo Reverse Hook Kick". YouTube.
2008-06-24. Retrieved 2014-01-17.
^ "UFC 165
Judo Chop: Chris Clement's Spinning Sweep Kick". Bloody
Elbow. Retrieved 2014-01-17.
^ "UFN 31
Judo Chop: Rustam Khabilov's Spinning Hook Kick". Bloody
Elbow. Retrieved 2014-01-17.
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