Advanced Guide To Improving Kicks For Combat Sports

In Muay Thai or Mixed Martial Arts, kicks are versatile weapons that any serious martial artist should add to their arsenal. Kicks can generate more power than punches and can be thrown from much further away. A taller fighter can use long straight kicks to pick apart their opponent from range, while a shorter fighter can use kicks to even the odds from outside of boxing range. Today, Evolve University is pleased to share an advanced guide to improving kicks for combat sports.


1) Front Snap Kick

The front snap kick is often the first kick taught to students in many traditional martial arts. The kick begins with chambering your leg – lifting your knee vertically while bringing your heel closer to your butt. From this chambered position, you flick your leg out, while keeping your knee pointed at your target. This will send your foot flying towards your opponent. Be sure to impact with the ball of your foot to maximize range and decrease the chance of damaging your foot. The front snap kick is dangerous due to its upwards trajectory; it follows the same arc as an uppercut, but has much more power and can be delivered from range. Michael Chandler’s iconic knockout of Tony Ferguson is a prime example of how to use the front snap kick.


2) Teep (Push Kick)

The teep is a variation of the front snap kick, most commonly found in Muay Thai and Kickboxing. The teep is primarily used to push your opponent back and control distance, while the front snap kick is often used to inflict damage. The teep is an extremely versatile and useful weapon in the ring; many Nak Muays win fights due to the use of their educated teep. Like the jab in boxing, the teep is your closest weapon to your opponent, requiring less commitment to probe or strike.

A notable teep variation is the side teep, popularized by the legend Samart Payakaroon. The side teep is thrown from a bladed stance, giving it slightly more range than a traditional teep. The bladed stance makes it easier to shift your weight forward and backward, allowing you to throw the side teep with more power and mobility.

When throwing the side teep, take note you have to take a small preparatory step with the rear foot. Unlike other kicks, it is recommended to plant your rear heel on the ground when throwing a lead teep. Doing so adds stability and structure to your kick.


3) Low Kick

The low kick is a staple across all combat sports, and for good reason. It is a versatile weapon that can lower your opponent’s mobility while setting up a myriad of other strikes. There are two main styles of low kicks, Dutch and traditional Thai style. Traditional Thai style low kicks are intended to be power shots, delivered with the full weight and rotation of your body. To add power, Thai style low kicks are angled downwards, to maximize the damage upon impact. This is commonly referred to as chopping down a tree, as your kicking leg resembles an axe’s trajectory. Landing a low kick on the outside of an opponent’s thigh will hit their sciatic nerve while landing inside their thigh targets their femoral nerve. Both targets can be debilitating, having the potential to shut down your opponent’s movement completely.

The Dutch style low kick is more often seen in kickboxing and is a faster, but less powerful strike. Unlike the Thai style low kick, the Dutch low kick has little to no pivot on your standing leg and hips. The lack of pivot makes the kick extremely swift, from extension to retraction, without the telegraphing footwork and weight shift of a Thai low kick. The Dutch style low kick is generally thrown with a straight, but not locked, leg, coming upwards at a forty-five-degree angle. This is a straight-line pathway from the floor to your opponent’s leg, making it the quickest type of low kick. Liam Harrison is an example of a prolific low kicker that primarily uses the Dutch style low kick. Harrison is able to damage his opponents’ legs with the Dutch low kick by aiming at the sciatic nerve and timing his kick to avoid being checked. The video above features Liam Harrison himself explaining and demonstrating the biomechanics of his style of low kick.

Notice how Harrison sets up his low kicks to avoid his opponent checking his kicks. The main principle behind landing a low kick successfully is to hit your opponent’s leg as they are stepping down on it. The moment right before your opponent steps and commits their weight is the only time when their leg is fully exposed. As your opponent steps and commits their weight, they are not able to simultaneously lift it to check your kick. Exploit this opening by timing your low kick to land as their foot lands.

After you land a few clean low kicks, your opponent may catch your timing and begin to shift their weight to the back foot in order to check your kicks. Once this starts to happen, feint a low kick, then throw a lead hook. This will most likely cause your opponent to shell up and plant their feet, giving you another opening for a low kick.

Regardless of what style of low kick you use, you can incorporate elements of both Dutch and Thai kicks to suit your body type and fighting style.


Efficiency And Fluency

The best kickers in the world have an air of effortlessness to their strikes. This is, in part, due to a combination of kicking efficiency and fluency. Modern strength and conditioning will help your physical attributes as a fighter, but will not make you a better kicker. Treat kicking as you would punching. For example, to improve your jab, you could isolate it and practice it in shadow boxing and on the heavy bag, starting slowly and picking up speed with time. The same thing should be done to improve your kicks. If you want a more effective lead teep, isolate that technique and throw it slowly, but smoothly, from start to finish. Start by doing this in your shadow boxing, then progress to the heavy bag once you are comfortable. Take these techniques into sparring and you will find which techniques fit into your individual fighting style best.


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