Martial arts such as Tae Kwan Do and Muay Thai use leg strikes to great effect and tend to be a primary training focus. They are also an important part of Krav Maga self-defense training.
Recognizing that assaults come from everywhere, we practice a variety of kicks to all directions – regular, defensive, roundhouse, slap kicks, spinning kicks, etc… All of these kicks have applications for a variety of self-defense situations.
Let’s begin with a general overview of leg strikes and some basic points to consider. Future blogs will go into more detail on these topics.
Range. Since our legs are longer than our arms, kicks offer greater range than upper body strikes. This means we can maintain or create a greater distance. For medium or short-range we can use knee strikes, stomp kicks (e.g. on attacker’s foot), regular back kicks, and roundhouse kicks.
Power. Our legs also tend to be stronger than our arms which is one of the reasons most don’t walk to the corner store on our hands. It would also be more difficult to hold our phones and text with our toes – but not impossible. We can generate more power with a kick than a punch or a knee strike than an elbow.
Direction: Kicks can be performed in all directions (e.g. front, side, back) depending on the nature of the self-defense situation.
Knees Strikes. These powerful strikes are very effective at close range. Frequent targets include groin, stomach, ribs, head (usually if an attacker is bent over). Strikes can be straight or diagonal. I have never seen a backward knee strike but hope to someday.
Defensive/Push Kicks. An effective way to stop an incoming attacker, or to create or maintain distance from all directions. Usually, you are striking with the heel of your foot.
Low Kicks. Kicks below the waist. Generally easier to perform than high kicks which makes them accessible to people who are not necessarily flexible or athletic.
High Kicks. Kicks above the waist. Generally (along with spinning kicks) the most difficult to perform. These kicks require more flexibility, practice, balance, and precision. Also, tough to perform with restrictive clothing. A tight skirt or pants can severely restrict your movements. There are many impressive things about Chuck Norris (e.g. Chuck doesn’t do push-ups he pushes the earth down) but the fact that he can perform spinning high kicks in tight jeans and cowboy boots is at the top of my list…just saying)
Spinning Kicks. See high kicks.
Straight and Circular. Upper body strikes include straight (punches, palm strikes), or circular (hooks, uppercuts). For leg strikes, we have straight kicks and knees but also circular such as roundhouse kicks and knees.
On the Ground, Sitting. If we find ourselves on the ground or in a sitting position we might be able to use kicks to maintain or create distance.
Feints. In combat/fighting situations you can, for example, “sell” a low kick and go high (or vice versa). You can fake a roundhouse and then kick straight. Feints can also mix upper body and leg strikes. There are many options!
Leg strikes are an essential part of your self-defense skillset. They can be used effectively at various distances and heights and angles. In future blogs, we will delve into various kicks as well as how and when to use them.