How to do a leg kick, aka shin kick. Part 3

UPDATE: The Leg Kick: Your Ultimate Guide to Using The Leg Kick for Mixed Martial Arts is now available! Click the link to get the book or click this picture:

The Leg Kick for MMA

Just a quick recap for this “How to do a leg kick” guide: Read parts One and Two first, otherwise it won’t make all that much sense. In this part, we look at the use of the rear arm in the leg kick.

There is some level of debate on how to use the rear arm so I’ll just give you the two main options:

Extend towards the opponent:

  • Extend your rear arm towards the face of your opponent to take away his sight. You can even make it a full or semi-straight punch if you have enough hip control.
  • Your fist in front of his face makes it harder for him to counter. He ‘ll have trouble seeing you for just an instant, giving you a window of opportunity to fire the kick.
  • The punch-like movement can hide your intention to fire the leg kick. Both the punch and the kick use a hip rotation so they look similar in that regard. He sees your hips turning and the first thing that follows is your rear arm. Only a fraction of a second later does your leg start moving. With some luck, you can make him react to the arm as if it were a real punch and score with the leg kick.
  • Tighten your rear arm a bit to smother him if he steps forward or punches. This is harder to pull off but it can disturb him just enough to get you in the clear.
  • Place the arm diagonally across his body and use it to sweep him. You’re still kicking as hard as you can though, the intent is just a little different in that you try to get him to the ground instead of punish him. Check out the video below at 1.50min. for an example.

This arm position is often taught as the standard for the leg kick. I’ll agree to it being a great teaching tool and it certainly has it’s uses in application. However, you don’t see it in the ring all that much. Over and over, people stress that this is the only right way to use the rear arm but then they go out and do the otheroption when they actually fight. So here’s a challenge for the dogmatic crowd: find me a successful muay Thai fighter, preferably one that is considered technically proficient, who consistently throws the leg kick that way in the ring. I’m talking about the rear arm going forward, his fist towards the face of the opponent, not the back-and-down sweeping variation.

Youtube has tons of fight clips of muay Thai fighters so this shouldn’t be all that difficult. I look forward to seeing a bunch of links in the comments section…


Swing the arm back and down:

  • Swings backwards and downwards at the same time. This helps stabilizing your kick by giving counterbalance for the hip turn.
  • It’s the most natural action for the rear arm during the leg kick. Keeping it in front of you like in the previous method is much, much more difficult.
  • This opens up your face for counter punches though; you can mitigate this danger by leaning a little backwards, use superior timing, set up your leg kick or as you step away. We’ll go into that a bit deeper in another part of this guide.
  • You can also protect your face by pulling your rear shoulder into your jaw. It works even better if you tuck your chin in at the same time. This makes it harder for the other guy to land a clean hit.
  • Retract the arm right away and bring it back to the on guard position. If you don’t, you’re vulnerable for a shot to the face as your arm can’t cover it or fend off attacks as long as it’s down there. Knowing where you are vulnerable and minimizing the time you leave openings is half the work in not getting countered.

Whichever way you prefer, make sure you know why you use that one. Videotape yourself as you spar or work on the bag to see what exactly your arms are up to during the leg kick. You might be surprised to notice they’re not exactly where you think they are.

Part Four will cover the hips and perhaps the legs, depending on how long the post gets.


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