KICKING in the real world of Self Defense……An analysis from a Krav Maga point of view.
Follow “The Force”
In many traditional martial arts styles the students are taught excellent kicking form and tend to practice kicks in the air (i.e., without kicking anything with enough resistance to speak of). Focus pads or hand held focus targets are generally used to develop accuracy. All of this is excellent practice if your goal is to develop a correct kicking form, good targeting and in some cases speed. Typically, even if using a thick kicking pad held by a partner, the kick is pulled back more or less instantly after making contact, leaving the kicker more or less in the same place as he started.
Unfortunately the above is where most traditional martial arts kicking starts and stops without much additional thought.
Equally unfortunately this approach does little to prepare the kicker for a real world conflict in which everything involved is dynamic (i.e., moving erratically), surfaces are not necessarily level and adrenaline is high making fine motor skill activities virtually impossible to perform. Additionally, in this situation, the kicking target will, given the opportunity, strike back and with a vengeance.
Kicking is a strange animal. Some (a very few, percentage wise) people are natural fast, accurate kickers but most are not. Developing the instincts necessary to use your legs as offensive or defensive weapons for most of us takes a lot of practice, focus and determination. Even then, the dynamics of a real life threatening confrontation are never conducive to precise targeting and the variables are commensurate with the best side of “Murphy’s Law”.
How, then, does one train to use one’s legs and feet effectively in a real life, life threatening situation? First, one must realize that every time you kick you become the equivalent of a one legged stool and you can go down in an instant should things go wrong.
Power can be developed only by kicking something with good resistance. Regularly kicking heavy bags, “BlastMasters” or similar thick targets held by a partner and designed for heavy impact is about the only way to develop good and consistent power. In a dynamic situation where everything is moving or is likely to move, targeting is a waste of precious time. Generic targeting with power and deceptive movement will usually get the desired result. Kicking most anywhere from the solar plexus down is MUCH safer than “head hunting”. High kicks are impressive and beautiful to watch but the kicker is extremely vulnerable with this approach and if anything at all goes wrong he is likely to get hammered by his intended target.
Now let’s re-visit the practice sessions where we perform the kick and pull the leg back, ending up in the original starting position and in the original starting place. What could possibly be wrong with this approach in a real life situation? Pretty much everything in my opinion. Assuming that you execute the kick (one kick, one aggressor down and out is a nice theory but don’t be naive enough to count on it happening in a real world conflict). Assuming that you do land your kick it should indeed move the aggressor back or to the side or otherwise away from you to some extent depending on the angle, power, point of contact and whether or not he sensed it was coming and recoiled away to some extent. This, unfortunately, leaves more space between you and the original aggressor and gives him time, space and opportunity to attack. After being kicked, if he is not disabled or seriously hurt, his aggression will be amplified significantly and there is little chance you will have another opportunity to land a good, solid kick.
So……what to do? Really very simple. Our philosophy is simply to attack the attacker. Pre-emptive strikes (including kicks) are preferred over defensive reactions. Someone once said “If you are on defense you are losing”. There is much truth in this statement. This being offered, what you do is so simple that most of us never think of it: You simply follow the momentum and body mechanics (physiology) of the kick in its most logical and efficient manner. For example if you execute a hard front kick correctly your body mechanics and momentum will be going forward into the aggressor or target. Simply “go with the flow”, drop your weight naturally on the kicking leg to stabilize (keeping your balance) and drive into the aggressor (target). This closes the distance instantly and will significantly disrupt the aggressor’s mindset even if he is not badly hurt from the kick.
It is important to note that you do not necessarily “just fall” in the direction of the kick. You must let your body and the mechanics or dynamics of the kicking process direct your move to stability and balance, even if you must pull the kick back (a little) and then move forward (i.e., ‘drive’ your body) into or toward the aggressor. Moving into the aggressor instantly and with aggression will usually allow you to prevail. Pulling back and waiting for his or her next move will not.
Translate this concept to a roundhouse kick and it still works. The roundhouse kick, once landed, will tend to move the target to the side (away from the direction of the kick) so just follow it to a comfortable landing/balance spot for that foot. (Don’t look for that landing spot….your body will find it naturally). Your whole body will be trying to go there anyhow so why fight what is natural?
Other kicks can be handled similarly but the above are the most common “on the street”. Note that on landing, if you are very close to the aggressor (target) a hard, aggressive “shoulder check”, “body check” or shoulder or body ‘bump’ will be close to a natural result and can really shake a person if it happens with force and no advance notice.
In all of these instances, always either follow up with finishing techniques instantly and aggressively or disengage and escape as quickly as possible (the latter being preferred where practical).
All of this can be practiced on a heavy bag or with a partner holding a good quality “BlastMaster” or other kicking pad or target. Learning to follow up and follow through with your entire body physiology will be a little difficult if your training is in a more traditional style but rest assured it will be well worth the effort if you ever have to use kicks “out there” in an uncontrolled environment.
There are a number of other kicks very applicable to “the street” but these are more oriented to very close quarters conflicts so will be the subject of another blog post.
Hal Herndon 2013