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Tau
Tau's picture
The axe kick

It's gone a bit quiet around here recently so I thought I'd chat a thread on my favourite kick.

The axe kick. Who does them? Why? How (outside to in, or inside to out) and why?

They don't appear in kata as far as I'm aware and I can see why. However I believe they're in at least one dan grade Taekwondo pattern. With that in mind, where do we think they came from? Muay Thai perhaps?

Heath White
Heath White's picture

I read _A Killing Art_ (about the origins and  history of TKD) recently and it said that Hong-hi Choi, the founder, spent a lot of time inventing new techniques, including many of the fancy kicks TKD is now known for.  For example the spinning hook kick was evidently invented by a Korean in the early 1950s.  I would not be surprised if the axe kick began in that same place and  time.

Personally, I am not that  stretchy, and I don't' do them well.  I have on occasion used them to chop an opponent's guard down before going in with a punch.

If you want to see some serious axe kicks, look up Andy Hug on YouTube.

Anf
Anf's picture

I think they are high risk for low reward.

High risk because they are quite easy to catch, in which case your opponent now has a great big lever to control you by. Low reward because I've never seen one achieve more than a slight advantage at best.

I can unfortunately imagine a scenario I'd rather not image, where the opponent is down, where an axe kick could generate enough force to be potentially lethal, but in training and play fighting of course we would never axe kick a downed opponent.

With regard to the Korean influence, we can not ignore the history and politics of the region. The Japanese outlawed the martial arts in Korea for a generation or so. After the occupation, of course the Koreans wanted to reestablish their identity. They were never going to do that by claiming karate. They had to come up with something that would fill the onlooker with awe. We all know that the many of the most practical techniques don't look like much to the untrained eye. That's not meant to discredit the Korean arts in any way. They really have developed some epic body movement skills and that is very, very worthwhile in my opinion.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

One of my instructors referred to stamping on a downed opponent as an axe-kick. That version is in kata, but I accept that to most axe-kick is a dropping kick delivered to the head or chest of a standing opponent. Defiantly a duelling kick. It’s complexity and poor risk to reward ratio place it well outside the realm of self-protection. It can work well in duelling / fighting though precisely due to its complexity i.e. not may people can throw it effectively, so few people have experience of dealing with it, therefore it can catch people unawares. Three stories:

1) There is a very well-known UK karateka – was told this story second-hand so I’ll omit the name – who landed an axe kick in competition back in the day. The referee never scored it and after the bout the karateka (who won regardless) politely asked the ref why the axe kick had not scored. The ref replied that it was impossible to control the kick, making it inherently dangerous. The karateka then asked the ref if he could demo it, and the ref was OK with that. The karateka does the kick, places the sole of his foot on the head of the ref, and then lifts it back off. The ref concedes that the karateka can control it. The kick was so infrequently seen at that time that assumptions were made about it, and referees were not sure what to do about it.

2) One of the senior students of one of my main teachers was able to do the above. A tall guy with great flexibility and good technique. When I was in my teens and early 20s, he axe kicked me on the top of my head numerus times – with perfect control – and it was difficult to defend against because he was the only one who could do it. Chances to develop instinctive counters were therefore minimal. The kick worked due to it’s difficulty meaning that few people could do it, and hence chances to develop instinctive actions in response to it were minimal. While complexity is always a negative in non-consensual violence; it can be a positive in consensual violence.

3) Steve Williams (who I made the Extreme Impact downloads with) is another person with incredible technique and physical ability. He does this hook kick / axe kick hybrid that comes downward at a diagonal angle. When we have sparred, that thing always throws me for a loop. There’s this “WTF!” moment when the kick is thrown because it’s so unusual. I’ve had kicks thrown at me on a regular basis for the vast majority of my life. I therefore have well-developed instincts for dealing with most kicks. Like most martial artists, I counter them without thinking about what I’m doing. However, because Steve is the only martial artist I know who throws such a kick at me, I’m a “beginner” at dealing with it. Again, this is where complexity can be helpful within the consensual violence paradigm.

With regards to its origins, I think it’s likely that the “arms race” of complexity / unexpectedness that we find in consensual fighting will have seen it develop largely independently in all competitive formats that utilise kicking. I think we’d struggle to point to a single originator. We see it in points fighting, thai-boxing, kyokushin, TKD, etc. I’m sure the formats that use the kick will have influenced each other too, but when it comes to the kick’s origin across the formats, then my bet would be on convergent evolution as opposed to a single point of origin.  

All the best,

Iain

PASmith
PASmith's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:
Steve Williams (who I made the Extreme Impact downloads with) is another person with incredible technique and physical ability. He does this hook kick / axe kick hybrid that comes downward at a diagonal angle.

In some circles this sort of kick is known as the 'haxe kick'. I like it. I've seen the axe kick used very well, used it myself many times but also seen someone fall backwards while attempting one and KO themselves by banging their head on the floor! Good for a nice surprise in sparring imho but not something in my main tool box.

Les Bubka
Les Bubka's picture

I like the Axe kick (oroshi kakato geri), not suitable for self defence but fun in sparing. 

I think that Blue eyed samurai Andy Hug was undisputed king of Axe kick.

Kind regards

Les

 

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

PASmith wrote:
In some circles this sort of kick is known as the 'haxe kick'.

Great name! At least I now have a term for the thing seeking to cave my head in :-)

Les Bubka wrote:
I think that Blue eyed samurai Andy Hug was undisputed king of Axe kick.

Very impressive! They look even more brutal in slow motion :-)

All the best,

Iain

Tau
Tau's picture

Les Bubka wrote:
I think that Blue eyed samurai Andy Hug was undisputed king of Axe kick.

I'm not going to disagree but I will give you another perspective. Why is it my favourite kick? My first martial arts instructor was Vince Lewis who taught Pele "The Axe" Reid. Pele is something like 6 foot 5. Back in the early 90s when I was an impressionable teenager he was a successful tournament fighter and I have magazines at home with pictures of him performing his signature technique. This is what sought to emulate and so I practiced the axe kick lots in those days. It remains my favourite kick to use in Kickboxing. I use in a variety of ways. I find it rarely scores but it hides or sets up other techniques. This is also what Pele reported; the axe kick gave him intimidation and notoriety but he actually scored with the front kick.

Les Bubka
Les Bubka's picture

Hi Tau,

I don't know that fighter. I think I should phrase it that Andy is undisputed king in Kyokushin circles.

Kind regards

LEs

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Tau wrote:
My first martial arts instructor was Vince Lewis who taught Pele "The Axe" Reid. Pele is something like 6 foot 5. Back in the early 90s when I was an impressionable teenager he was a successful tournament fighter and I have magazines at home with pictures of him performing his signature technique … This is also what Pele reported; the axe kick gave him intimidation and notoriety but he actually scored with the front kick.

Les Bubka wrote:
I don't know that fighter.

I must confess to having quite a bit of nostalgia for that time period. Shocking to think it’s the best part of 30 years ago!  I’ve done a quick web search and there’s not a lot of footage of Pele Reid throwing the axe kick, but it appears a few times in this short clip:

 

Pele Reid also competed in boxing and is a former WBO champion. He also KO’d three-time world heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko … with a spin kick in a kick boxing bout :-)

 

All the best,

Iain

Tau
Tau's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:
I must confess to having quite a bit of nostalgia for that time period. Shocking to think it’s the best part of 30 years ago!

We are all getting older and the passage of time is increasingly deceptive.

Finlay
Finlay's picture

Definitely nice to watch in completions. I THINK in TKD circles Pierre Guenette was especially know for them

 

I have one doorman friend who reported used it at work on one occasion. I think he was going more for the surprise element