Combative movement can be divided into striking, grappling, locks and strangulations. Within in striking you can use the hands, head, elbows, knees shins and feet. In many traditional martial arts and in many self defense circles kicking is looked on poorly. The reason is simple when we kick we sacrifice one of our two many pillars of support we can not recover and move away as quickly and when our legs are grabbed we have much greater chance of ending up on the ground and often meeting it violently.
While that is all true, kicks are the most powerful attacks we can make due to the greater strength of the legs, kicks to a downed opponent are illegal in almost all combat sports precisely because they are so effective, death from assault is most frequently due to kicking or stomping a fallen opponent.
Developing the kicking power and capacity of the legs is important for combative ability though for self defense purposes emphasis should be placed on using kicks only cautiously.
The most effective kicks in self defense tend to be simple, front kicks with the ball of the foot to knee or groin, knees to the groin or face(pulling the head down with the arms) and side kicks or round kicks to the knee. The beautiful spinning hooking rotational kicks featured by many martial arts can be devastating if they land but their likelihood of landing is too low for self defense in general and the range from which they are thrown is often not available in self defense situations.
Years ago when I first started working on the concept of a complete “Natural” approach to movement training I tried to narrow down my practice of kicks too only those with direct self defense application I found it difficult to enjoy and play with only these kicks, while when I expanded my kicking repertoire I found the practice of training kicks much more enjoyable and beneficial to my overall physical capacity.
A kick is not just way to fight somebody its an opportunity for expression in movement and a building block fro movements in dance, acrobatics and even basic locomotion. Track and field coaches in fact use basic kicking type drills as dynamic warm up for sprinting and jumping because swinging one leg with the other on the ground is fundamental aspect of running and jumping. A hurdle can be seen as composed of two kick motions in middle of a stride for instance.
The most extreme example of usage of kicking as athletic practice and its connection to acrobatics is in the world of tricking which takes the most acrobatic kicks form varieties of martial arts and creates a practice of movement complexity out them.
Here is an amazing tricking video to get a feel for the discipline.
That is wonderful stuff and tricking is common side interest in the parkour community but many traceurs fail to focus on the basics, the kicks, I have meet many traceurs who have tried to learn a butterfly twist for instance without first prefecting the butterfly kick.
The basic kicks, front kicks, round kicks, crescent kicks, side kicks, spinning back kicks, and spinning hook kicks are a much better place to start and provide a wonderful stimulus for reactivatity, balance and mobility in the legs. I personally like to do kicking series derived from my muay thai background and capoeira explorations as warm up prior to most training sessions.
This sequence from tony jaa doesn’t feature as many kicks but shows the beauty of the practice of the relatively simple elements and would make a great warm up for practice.
My challenge for you today is to work on some basic kicking maneuvers and find ways to create flowing connections between kicks.