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bowlie's picture
Kicks in self defense

I was just wondering how useful kicks are in self denfense. Im torn between doing boxing or muay thai (im aware of the arguments of fighting vs self defence e.c.t. Im not expecting to get in any bar fights, im a very relaxed guy and I dont go out and get drunk, so if im attacked I think it will be by a gang / mugger (horay for inner city birmingham) so I dont think verbal de-escalation will work in a situation like that). I feel like boxing is probably slightly better for self defense but muay thai is less likely to leave me with brain damage. I was wondering how useful low kicks are in a self defense situation. I think a good hard roundhouse or an oblique kick if it got the leg properly could devastate an attacks leg leaving you free to escape. It also seems 'safer' than a punch for you because there is less damage they will be KO'ed and bash their head.

On the othe hand, you wont always get the room to use it. It seems like most of the violet videos people show are outside bars, and people get up in their faces so a kick is out of the question. In a mugging type scenario if you recognise the danger and dont let them get too close you could conceivably keep distance for a leg kick. Even so,I would likely only have one shot at destroying the leg to facilitate an escape, so maybe just learning how to punch like freight train would be a better use of my time?

Zach_MB's picture

I'm inclined to disagree. While I love the roundhouse kick, my primary self defense kick would be a side kick right to the attackers knee. If I couldn't pull that off, then a front kick to the inside of the leg/groin. The two linear kicks stand pretty well on their own and depending on the point when you notice your attacker, you will have tremendous stopping power if they are moving toward you. If you have the range to pull the kick off, great. If not, then they easily become very effective knees.

That being said, the roundhouse kick has is useful in self defense, just in a different way. The RH kick does not have stopping power in a linear fashion. By definition it is a circular kick, therefore if you hold your ground and attempt to intercept an opposing force, one of two things is probably going to happen: 1. you will be promptly knocked on your ass 2. They take the hit, and it hurts, but they keep moving forward. The circular nature of the kick doesn't give it a linear structural back drop for the opposing force to bounce off of. So, the RH kick must be set up with a technique that does have stopping power (front kick, side kick, ect). Or you can move off the opponents linear path, placing the opponent in your circular range and giving the opportunity to bend them over with a midsection level RH kick.

You make a good point about not being in range. But  you do want to try to keep your attacker as far away as possible. So if you have the opportunity to keep them at range, you'll want to take it.

Now putting that to work for me, the answer is simple. Given the range and no alternative, I'm going to hold my ground and deliver the linear kick to try to end it before he breaches punching range. I imagine there are some situation in which moving offline would be preferable, but none come to mind at the moment. At the end of the day it comes down to what you do best and are the most comfortable with. Faced with impending danger, we're going to revert to do what our bodies do best.

bowlie's picture

Good point about stopping power. I just thought because the thais throw leg kicks like crazy they must be good for something, and if the attacker is moving towards you with all or nearly all their weight on their front leg, a well timed kick could break the knee. Oh, and the oblique kick is also to the knee, sort of a front kick to the knee. Side kick never occured to me, but its not a bad idea. The other thing about kicks is everyone and their dog thinks they can punch. Even if they punch like a butterfly, they can do the basic action of extending the arm, so someone that gets in alot of fights will be used to punches being thrown and have an answer for them. Very few people know how to defend kicks

Wastelander's picture

Kicks can be useful in self defense, so long as the ground isn't slick and you don't try to kick too high. There's nothing wrong with a roundhouse kick to the leg--done properly, they hurt a lot and can cramp up the leg and make it difficult to move, but that really tends to happen cumulatively (repeated kicks over time) which fits more into sport fighting. Also, as Zach said, it doesn't actually stop them from coming forward. Also, I've seen plenty of hard roundhouse kicks landed to the inside and outside of the knee, and I've never seen it injure anyones' knee in the process.

The oblique kick (I have been calling it a shovel kick lately) is a great technique to the legs--it's very painful to the nerves of the shins and thighs, can dislocate/damage the knee (from the sides or front), can drop an attacker (back of the knee), and can stop the attacker's forward momentum. Side kicks are also a great option for the same reason, but require a little more space to use than an oblique/shovel kick. Front kicks are also good, but you have a smaller margin of error.

If you want to incorporate kicks into your training, then you definitely need to train in an art that practices them. Oblique kicks, side kicks, and font kicks are all present in Muay Thai, but some gyms/coaches incorporate them more than others. Boxing won't have kicks, so obviously that won't help you in that regard, although the benefits of boxing are nothing to scoff at.

Marcus_1's picture

For me, the use of a kick in self defense is something I would mainly use at close range, and as a destraction.  Being a Shotokan student, I have heard the stories of Sensei O'Neil being able to kick people in the head with a perfect roundhouse kick from close range, a fantasticly devasting technique if pulled off correctly, but certainly one that includes a very high level of risk of injury to oneself.

In my experiences during my "day job", I have had to use shin kicks in at close range, this is because the subject on the receiving end has come in close, closing the distance quickly as happens in a real life fight, with nowhere to go and being left with no other option but engage in some sort of contact, a shin kick was a good option.  Being in close range means you can brace yourself against your opponent so there is less risk of falling, you are not on one foot for long as you are only travelling a short distance to deliver the strike and, delivered effectively brings a great deal of pain to the other person!

So, yes there is a use for kicks in self defence IMHO, however, select what kick you use and perfect it.

bowlie's picture

There is also the possibilty it will work as a foot sweep?

Wastelander's picture

Yes, kicks to the leg, in conjunction with upper body control, can be used to sweep. When I moved and started training judo at a club that only did judo (I started training at a dojo that taught both karate and judo) I found that judoka got quite irritated with my sweeps, particularly hiza guruma and sasae tsuri komi ashi, because they were very "kicky" and left a lot of bruises on a lot of people. Of course, my sensei at that club had a rather low opinion of karate and was not terribly pleased about this.

lcpljones_dontpanic's picture

Bowlie I am puzzled you said in your opening post;

"Im not expecting to get in any bar fights, im a very relaxed guy and I dont go out and get drunk, so if im attacked I think it will be by a gang / mugger". If this is indeed the threat you are most likely to face I would assert that kicking is the last thing you should be thinking about and spending much time training. The very nature of this type of threat is that you will likely be up against a group with a good chance of them being armed.

I would suggest that more time be devoted to awareness, multiple attackers, knife defence (read damage limitation as opposed to fancy fine motors skill disarming garbage) third party defence and presure testing   

Gangs these days generally target their victims not on the basis of whether the target looks like an easy victim but on what they can gain from the attack one of which is notoriety ie they attack a strong looking target in order to demonstrate that they are the badest and meanest crew around and no one can *^%& with them. Gang attacks are often a means of rite of passage into the gang and up the gangs hirarchy. With this in mind they will not stand idly by while you try to defend yourself using the queensbury rules or some similar tactics, even the lone mugger is often being watched by gang members. This is the law of the jungle we are talking about here. I do not doubt that some simple effective kicking techniques can be employed in a self defence scenario but this is generally in a one to one situation. In a gang attack scenario if your awareness and avoidance have failed and the attack is in progress then survival is the name of the game. I would take this to mean that a line has to be drawn they can have your possesions but not your life or that of those with you. In this context you should be fearful for your life and respond as necessary with everything you have and with 110% effort and committment  with the objective being survival of you and yours at any cost to the gang including maiming or killing them. In this you could be justified depending on the circumstances.

be safe my friend.

Daniel's picture

A front kick might be a good way to get a not too serious fool from coming too close to you. In grade school I once prevented an attacker from ever getting close enough to throw a punch by just kicking him in the shin repeatedly. That was before I even learned that there was such a thing as a proper kick, much less how to do one. I did get in a freak shot and kicked his wristwatch so hard that the wristband broke and the watch flew off, more humorous than effective. It would not work with a determined or skilled attacker. In a real pinch I would probably just use kicks to power into the assailant's knee/groin/inner thigh. Most people are not real good at deflecting low kicks, and they tend to drop both hands, and bend forward at the waist. That might give me a decent headshot that even I could land.

DaveB's picture

Between boxing and Muay Thai the superior self defense art is Thai boxing. This is because training involves the use and defense against a wider range of techniques, including knees and elbows and clinch fighting which are more what you'll rely on against close assaults.