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Wastelander's picture
Setting up Head Kicks for Sport Fighting

Hello, everyone!

Not too long ago, Iain posted about the benefits of high kicks for martial skill development, as well as pointing out their use in a sporting context and for fun. My Sensei has been retired from karate competition for the past two years, but last month decided to compete in a WKF tournament and took gold in kumite, and head kicks featured prominently in his gold medal match. With that in mind, this week's Waza Wednesday takes a look at a couple ways to set up head kicks, which he used in the match. Even if your focus is on self defense and old-style karate, sometimes it's fun to kick people in the head :P

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Nice video! We also practise and advise many of the same things for fighting i.e. shifting the back foot under the jab, not leaning back when kicking, “being unpredictable in your predictability” (setting up expectations and then confounding them).

Not adding anything new here, but to back up what is shown:

I do think it is very important to use the hands to set up kicks. One thing we can also do is be slow to pull back the jab. When it leaves the opponent’s face that is normally their cue move in (irrespective of whether it was blocked or hit). So, if we leave it out as we bring the back foot up and chamber the knee, the foot only has a relatively small distance to go when the jab comes away. It seems like the kick was crazy quick to the recipient, whereas in reality it took the same time; it’s just that it was thrown under the cover of the jab.

Richard’s point about not leaning back is very important. The other thing not leaning back gives you is the ability to follow up with your hands quicker.  If you have leant back then you have to take the time to un-lean before you are in a good position to punch. Again, these efficient transitions give us “technical speed”.

The point about not changing the level of the head is always a very good one.

If memory serves, I think it was reading a book by Bruce Lee when I was a child that first introduced me to the idea of doing the same thing twice and then varying it on the third. It works! One of the key differences between fighting and self-defence is that you can’t manipulate trained responses and created patterns in self-defence. However, I’m a great believer a wide martial education. Martial arts are too much fun to be one-dimensional about. I also think that moving between the different aspects can help you understand them all a little better too. You can see them from the “outside” as well as from within.

Wastelander wrote:
Even if your focus is on self defense and old-style karate, sometimes it's fun to kick people in the head

I think it was Bill Wallace who said, “Anyone can kick anyone else in the legs. I like kicking people in the head because it makes me feel good”. A sentiment only martial artists can understand :-)

All the best,


Paul_L's picture

Now there’s some kicking flexibility to aspire to!

I found this not just helpful for sparring but for basic kicks as well.