Kickboxing Basic Techniques

BACKGROUND

While the sport of Boxing having its long history since the age of Roman Empire and a very large population base in its amateur and professional practitioners, with its techniques having been thoroughly experienced, researched and evolved, it makes us to think that the "Sweet Science" is almost coming to be at a point of its perfection.

In comparison, while Muay Thai has its own history, Kickboxing is a new sport now gaining a world wide popularity, and the population is still small. The world of Kickboxing is also not as unified yet, as there are many organizations in the world having their own championship tournaments with different rules. Also the lines are thin between this sport and other full-contact or semi-contact fighting tournaments. There are still many new ideas and techniques coming out in Kickboxing, with a large help from the variety of already existing Martial Arts such as Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Kung Fu and many others.

Here is a brief background of the sport of Kickboxing. It is also written in our FAQ page.

Kickboxing has taken into a form around 500 years ago (some say it's longer) in the country of what's now Thailand, called Muay Thai or Thai Boxing. Most of the kickboxing styles in the world is based on Muay Thai, including Japan, Europe, and Australia. In Muay Thai match, the fighters are allowed to:

Kick and knee to the leg, body, head
Punch to the body, head
Elbow to the body, head
Back spin punch
(They used to allow head butts and throws)

What's dominant in America is the American-style kickboxing, which is started out as a full contact Karate tournament with the basis of boxing. It allows kicks to the waist above only, and there is no elbow and knee strikes. There are many Kickboxing organizations in the world having their own championship tournaments. The organizations are, to name a few: W.K.A., W.K.C, I.K.K.C., K.I.C.K., P.K.F., P.K.A, I.S.K.A., etc. Savate is a French version of kickboxing. San Shou is a Chinese kickboxing started out from Kung-fu, allowing throws in addition. And so is Draka from Russia. Shoot-boxing is started out in Japan and is a combination of Muay Thai with throws.

Out of what seems to be an disorganized situation in present kickboxing world, there came a kickboxing event called K-1. Originally a full-contact Karate event that became a huge success in Japan, it is now considered sort of a unified tournament of striking Martial Arts where any styles and organizations can freely compete in it --- as long as they adhere to its rule. It's tournament rule is similar to that of Muay Thai without elbow strikes. So far the champions from many styles of striking-based Martial Arts have competed in it, such as Karate, Boxing, Muay Thai, Kung-fu, Taekwondo, American Kickboxing, Draka, Capoeira, Shootfighting and No Hold Barred (UFC, Vale Tudo). It has been a huge success in Japan and in Europe, and now it is also becoming big in the US. The homepage of K-1 is: http://www.k-1.co.jp/. It is said that the idea of K-1 event is a very important step in the development of Kickboxing and the Martial Arts in general.

By the way, when I say Kickboxing in here, I include Muay Thai in it. But I sometimes distinguish the two for the comparison between the traditional Thai Boxing versus the modern Kickboxing that is generally referred to now.

Some fighters are successful mostly with their use of Boxing techniques, using very little or no kicks. Some excel in kicks, and are winning by fighting at a long distance. Some are specialized in knee techniques, and are noticeable by their stocky physique they need to grapple the opponent's neck, successfully kneeing him round after round. Some champions have a unique style as they start spinning their body while throwing unpredictable back blows and back spin kicks. Some are low kickers, slowly crushing the opponent to his knees, and some show up with an effective new combination techniques. While the punching techniques alone, as in the sport of Boxing, can be so wide and deep, in Kickboxing you now have to utilize 4 arms, or even more if a style includes knee or elbow techniques. Kickboxing still has this potential to be explored many technical areas that are yet to be discovered. Back spin kick and ax kicks are some examples that have not been known in Muay Thai (or rarely used) but are now being used by some Kickboxers.

STANCE

The stance and the fighting posture of Kickboxing is basically the same as that of Boxing. See Boxing basics for its description. However, a lot of Muay Thai fighters position their arms more up and forward, and their body faces more square.

There is one thing to mension here especially for those who are just starting out Kickboxing having the background in other Martial Arts. It's not to imply that one style is any worse than another, but instead of using your leading arm to cover your face while positioning the other hand low to protect your abdominal, it is more practical in this sport to protect your face with that other hand. In other words, if you stand in orthodox (standing with your left foot forward), cover the right side of your face (jaw) with your right hand. Because that's the most vulnerable spot, whereas it is possible to cover the left side of your jaw, in an abrupt moment of danger, with your left shoulder or by slightly bending your body.


Muay Thai vs. Kickboxer

PUNCH

 

The fundamentals of Kickboxing are those of Boxing. These include stance, foot works, defenses, and of course, the punches.

There are some successful fighters in Kickboxing who are basically Boxers in their background and the fighting style. The foundation of Boxing is very important in Kickboxing. There are many starters of this sport who tend to be attracted to practice the kicks, especially the flashy ones, and this is to be strongly warned against. Just think of how hand techniques alone can be so deep and wide as the boxers spend their carrer in improving them, whereas Kickboxers must cover the leg techniques in addition! There is no time for us to practice flashy kicks.

Please see Boxing basics page if you haven't.

Back Spin Blow

However, there is one hand technique in Kickboxing that does not exist in Boxing. The back spin blow is a strike where you twist your upper body in reverse, and hit the face of an opponent with the back of your fist. It's abrupt and unexpected movement can be an effective knockout technique, and because it is not allowed in the much bigger sport of Boxing, this is one of the techniques that needs to be studied well in its application.

Train to control the distance between your opponent while executing, for it is typical to hit with your forearm instead, which is against the rule in most Kickboxing tournaments. Also, this technique creates an opening by facing your back to the opponent.

 

Here is a clipse (300KB) of Andy Hug (Switzerland, Kyokushin Karate) executing a back spin blow that knocks down his opponent. Notice the combination he applied. As the opponent throws a left jab, he creates himself an opening on his left jaw. Andy paries the jab with his right arm, and quickly spins backward to connect with the back spin blow.

Another clipse (180KB) on the same match where Andy executes the same technique for the second time, decisively knocks him out. In this scene, the opponent drops his left arm while throwing his straight right. Andy throws a fake right jab, and with that momentum, he rotates his body to connect with another back spin blow.

KICK

Roundhouse Kick

In Kickboxing, the roundhouse kick is obviously the most widely used kick of all. You can kick to the head and the body, or to the legs depending on the tournament rules.

In training, throw your foot with the full twist of your hip and the snap of your knee, while covering your face with the other side of your arm. Feel as though you are actually throwing your hip rather than your foot, --- hip movement is important just like how Boxing teaches to throw punches --- and at the moment of impact, your body and the leg should be almost on a strait line. Usually you kick with your instep, but you can learn to use your shin which yields much more power and heavier in its impact.

However, there are numerous ways to execute the roundhouse kick. There is no right or wrong way. It is enlightening to see how each style of Martial Arts has its own way of executing the kicks. Each has its own merit, as its purpose and the tournament style differ, and learning to kick in different ways is a great advantage. It's almost a priviledge of living in the modern age, allowing us to pick ideas as needed from the Martial Arts of all over the world.

 
At a real match you don't always twist your hip completely as how you practice on the mit. For example, if you do the roundhouse kick at a closer distance, you'll be kicking like this. Here is a clipse of a successful knockout kick using his shin at a close distance.
A variation in a roundhouse kick

 
Your foot doesn't even have to move upward or sideway from the ground. It's possible to execute a roundhouse kick in a downward manner using the snap of your knee, in effect the foot can go over the blocking arm and then angled downward, effectively hit the head of an opponent. Here's an example of this, executed by Rick Roufus (US, Boxing/Kickboxing champ), knocking down his opponent.

The same coordination is widely being used in full-contact karate for the low kick intended to fake as an upper roundhouse kick. It has an additional effect of increasing its impact by letting you drop your body weight downward along the angle, and letting you to hit in perpendicular to the angle of a slightly bent leg of your opponent.

The following is the typical three steps on executing the roundhouse kick in different styles of Martial Arts, with the emphasis and the merit of each. It is only a generalization, to show that there are different ways of executing a kick for different purposes, and it is not to mean that the specified styles only execute the ways as are written.

 
Full-contact Karate
(Kyokushin, etc.)
Traditional Karate
(Shotokan, etc.)
Tae Kwon Do
Muay Thai
Raise your knee.
With the twist of the hip and the snap of the knee, hit your shin against the opponent's leg and body, your instep against the head
Raise the knee.
With the snap of the knee, hit with the ball of your foot, as your body still faces your opponent for the readiness.
Quickly retrieve the foot back to avoid getting caught.
The body leans backward for extra distance.
Using the snap of the knee, hit with the instep.
With the full twist of your hip, hit the shin against the opponent's leg and body, instep against the head. They are noted especially for their use of shin.
The key is to feel your body weight dropping onto the target with your foot at the point of impact.
The other foot is well grounded all the time for the control.
It is said that the use of the ball of the foot in kick can be more effective.
The key to its noted speed comes from flexibility, relaxation and the hopping footworks on the ground.
The hip motion is the key to its power. Sometimes they kick while keeping their leg almost straight, executing solely by the hip motion.
The shin is a sensitive area but can be a very strong weapon if trained. Many Thai boxers have callasis on their shins, as Karate fighters have on their knuckles.
POWER
CONTROL
SPEED, DISTANCE
POWER

High Kick

 

Notice how Aerts is looking down at his leg.
.

Aerts' foot goes over his blocking arms.
.

What he thought was a kick to the leg, as he raises his leg expecting to block it.

Knocking out an opponent with a roundhouse kick to the head definitely is the highlight and almost symbolizes this sport. Don't we all consider it an ideal knockout scene we dream of doing?

But you can't just start throwing a lot of kicks at random hoping that one of them would catch a moment of your opponent just happened to drop his arms down. Kazuyoshi Ishii, the head of K-1 and Seido Karate, frequently says, "High kick doesn't work as a high kick alone. Most of the knockout kicks were effective because they were faked with the low kicks, to create an opening on the opponent's head."

It is said that when there is a mix match between a Boxer and a Kickboxer the Boxer usually wins, but when the rule allows to have kicks to the leg, the situation starts to get reversed.

Peter Aerts KO collection:
Peter Aerts, a Holland Kickboxer who has been a 3 time K-1 Champion, could well be the strongest Heavyweight Kickboxer there is today. He is said to have the highest KO rate in executing the upper roundhouse kick.

  • A clipse of Aerts against Jean Claude (US, Muay Thai champ). He just pushes the opponent during a clench to create the distance for this knockout kick to the head.
  • A slow-mo scene of him knocking out a Draka world champion (I forgot his name).
  • Here is another beautiful roundhouse kick to the head. Notice every one of his opponents who got knocked out always expected a low kick instead.
  • Here, Aerts knocks out Jean Claude again in his revenge match. His kick may look awkward, yet the most effective.
  • He knocks out Jerome Lebanner (France, Muay Thai champ) after a clench.
  • This one he knocks out an American Kickboxing champion, who is also a world champion in the sport of Boxing at his weight class (I forgot his name). Can anybody ever stop Aerts from beating every champion in the world?

 


Aerts looks down, as though he is about to execute a low kick. The opponent also prepares to defend the low kick by lifting his leg. All of a sudden, he switches to a kick to the head.
Almost every knockout kick Peter Aerts (Holland, 3 time K-1 champ) had performed were being done this way (80% KO rate).

Low Kick

Among all types of roundhouse kick, or any kick for that matter, the low kick is used most oftenly (in the matches allowing the low kick). It can be used either as a jab or an effective knockout strike. It is more stable and quicker to execute, allowing more easily to be included in combination moves. At the same time, it is sometimes a neglected technique, being sloppy and simple in looks, but there is a wide variety of ways and moments to execute. Some traditional Karate and Chinese styles only teach to kick below the waist for the practicality in real fighting.


Low kick has the power to break a bundle of 3,4 wooden baseball bats. Notice the momentum he creates using his whole body, arching like a bow.

 

Rick Roufus has been a world champion in the sports of Boxing and American style Kickboxing (allows no kick below the waist), and also became a champion in K-1 USA. Francisco Filho from Kyokushin Karate (allows no punch to the face) has been doing exceptionally well in K-1 rings, notwithstanding the fact that he had no prior experience in the glove match (facial contact). Filho defeated Roufus solely by the low kicks he had been throwing round after round, and it's a good example of how effective the low kick can be. However while seeing Filho's fights so far, it is obvious that his punches are still very awkward, and the importance of Boxing foundation in Kickboxing is still to be strongly emphasized. Here's the clipse of the fight.

 
Kyokushin fans? check out other sites:


Back Spin Kick

It's abrupt, confusing movement (contrary to all other kicks, your right kick comes out of your left side) and it's extreme power (because of its full 180 degree momentum, and the use of your heel and buttocks muscle) have created many knockout scenes. With a risk of momentarily turning back to your opponent, with a care it can even be used as your first attack, and the moment of you facing back to your opponent can be shortened for him to react against. Although it is not an original Muay Thai technique, many full contact Karate fighters and Kickboxers have been utilizing this technique.

 

.

When you kick with your right leg, it is more effective if you target more to the right side of your opponent's body, in effect only your heel would hit the target, otherwise you hit with the sole of your foot which lessens the impact or your foot may slip to the other side. Feel as though you are hitting the target with your hip, rather than with the feeling of a quick extention or push of your leg --- you end up just pushing your opponent, or worse, causes an overextention of your knee when misses the target. How the punches are taught to execute in Boxing is an analogy to the principle in kickings.

On the left, Michael Thompson (Britain, Kyokushin), who was losing on the rounds before, executes a back spin kick right at the beginning of a next round that caught him a knockout (against Champuek Kyatsongrit, Thailand, Muay Thai). Here's the clipse.

Here's a clipse of Ernesto Hoost's (Holland champion) knockout kick against Mark Russel (Britain champion). Here's a clipse of Francisco Filho (Brazil, Kyokushin) beautiful knockout kick (against Vander Marv, S.Africa).


Front Kick, Side Kick

 

In self defence or Martial Arts in general, the front kick is a fundamental and widely used kick that is said to be practical, and a good technique to learn the basic elements in kicking such as the balance, coordination and the use of the quick snap in knee and hip joints. However, in the sport of Kickboxing, it is executed with more of a push or thrust, rather than a snap.


Orlando Veits' uppercut-like front kick

goes right through the blocking arms to his jaw

On a Kickboxing ring it is rather difficult to knock down an opponent with the front kick or side kick (the reasons may be its rule allowing no kick to more vulnerable lower stomach, and the trained fighters being able to take the blows to the stomach). You can also aim a front kick to the face, but both kicks are typically used to control the distance between your opponent, to stop an opponent's attack, to create an opening or the forward momentum onto the opponent. Side kick is another technique practiced widely in other Martial Arts, while its application in the sport of Kickboxing has been comparatively small and it does not exist in Muay Thai (or rarely being used). But it's not meant to be stated that side kick is impractical.

Side Kick is also similarly used. It , but its But

 
Michael Thompson effectively executes his front kick to stop a powerful low kick from Champuek Kyatsongrit. As you see, he is pushing the opponent's left side of the hip to minimize the body rotation needed for the low kick. Here is its clipse.


Ax Kick, Reverse Roundhouse Kick

 

The Ax kick, a rather flashy kick difficult in achieving a knockout with, is sometimes used to confuse the opponent. As Kickboxing being a professional exibition, the audience love to see it. It is confusing because you don't usually expect a foot coming from up to down. A clipse shows. A clipse of Andy Hug effectively knockouts an opponent. Another clipse shows how this kick can sometimes be difficult to deal with.

Reverse roundhouse kick usually is aimed to the head, and it can effectively utilize the reverse snap of the knee, creating difficulty in blocking as the foot can come around the opponents blocking arm at the point of the knee joint. Andy Hug knocked out his opponent at the final match by a unique reverse roundhouse against the opponent's leg, as he became a K-1 champion of that year.

 

A regular roundhouse kick missed the target. Using that momentum,

Orlando Veit follows the rotation with a reverse roundhouse, successfully hitting the opponent's face.

OTHER STRIKES

Elbow, Knee

 

Bending down when ducking or clenching, as how it often is being done in the sport of Boxing, creates a big opening for a knee strike.

Many Kickboxing styles allows clenching as part of the fight, and elbow and knee can effectively be used. You can knee to the head, body or even to the leg. Elbow is not allowed in many Kickboxing events.

COMBINATIONS

 
a knockdown scene of a straight right followed by left kick.

Combinations in Kickboxing is rather difficult to perfect compared to those of Boxing. When you practice combinations without a target to hit, as in a shadow boxing, you feel the combination of a punch followed by a kick on the same side (eg. right straight, right kick) is more balanced and natural. On the other hand if you actually hit a bag, you may find that a punch followed by a kick on the other side (eg. left hook, right kick) generally yields more power with the balance, and thus practical. This is because when you hit a target with your left arm, for instance, the impact from the target (the opposite reaction) makes your body turn the other way around, in effect letting you naturally to follow kick with your right. This is a clipse of left uppercut followed by right kick. Here's a clipse of the famous combination move of Ernesto Hoost, who is nicknamed as "Mr.Perfect" for his perfected moves as this one.

 

A left jab.
A fake right straight. The opponent drops his hands to protect his abdomen.
With the momentum created by the fake right, right roundhouse is followed naturally, KO'ed the opponent.

However, this is not to mean that other types of combination are impractical. You can create an opening with your right punch, followed by right kick. If you miss or intentionally fake a right punch, you can follow with your right kick. This is a clipse of a left jab, followed by a fake right punch, followed by a well balanced right roundhouse kick. With this combination, Nakazato (Seido Karate, Japan) decisively knocks out a Muay Thai champion.

A combination usually ends with a kick. Combination of a kick followed by a punch is a bit more difficult. This is because when you execute a kick, as you lift your leg up your upperbody leans backward, so you must then lean back forward quickly in order to follow with a punch. Here's a clipse of right kick followed by right punch. When you kick with your right leg, your right arm tends to swing backward to maintain your balance, so you can utilize that position to thrust a punch.