HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR ROUND KICK
The rear round kick is one of the most iconic and devastating techniques in the muay thai arsenal. It is complex multi-phase movement which requires coordination, balance, and a certain degree of flexibility.
The divide between novice and experienced muay thai fighters is most starkly revealed in the way they kick. Although it is one of the first muay thai techniques students learn, it is often one of the last they master.
Why Improve Your Round Kick Technique?
“Do nothing which is of no use” – Miyamoto Musashi
Efficient technique and effective technique are one and the same. Improving your kicking technique will allow you to kick harder and faster with less effort and telegraph. You will score a much higher percentage of kicks with greater impact. Better technique will also you to more easily recover your fighting stance, putting you in a position to defend counterattacks.
Round Kick Concepts
“The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be.” – Bruce Lee
Muscle elasticity is key to a fast and powerful kick. Most beginners are overly tense throughout the entire kick. This reduces the speed and impact. The muay thai round kick is essentially a whipping motion. The more flexible the whip, the more painful the lash.
Your body should stay loose and supple until the moment of impact, allowing for maximum acceleration into the target. In contrast, novices tend to tense up the beginning of the kick. The tension in their body causes them to decelerate even before they make contact.
That said, it is important to fully engage your core just before you hit your target. If you fail to do so, you will diffuse the impact of the kick by allowing your posture to deform. A rigid core will maximize the transfer of rotational force.
Excess tension will telegraph kicks to your opponent. This is most often revealed in exaggerated hip movements at the beginning of the kick. Tension also causes some people to hunch over and bend forward. This makes it more difficult to maintain an upright and balanced posture throughout and turn over the hips to create rotational force.
Over-tension also causes you to expend unnecessary amounts of energy in the course of a fight or training session. While good athletes can “muscle” strikes early on, they tend to slow down quickly and “gas out” in later rounds. Efficient technical strikers can keep a high output and consistent power throughout.
Balance and Posture
“If you wish to control others you must first control yourself” ― Musashi Miyamoto
Maintaining your balance through all phases of a technique puts you in the best position to defend, course correct and counter attack. Poor balance will leave you out of position, prolonging the recovery phase of the kick and leaving you vulnerable to counters.
To have good balance for the round kick, you must always maintain an upright posture through the technique. If you do not keep your body straight, the rotation force of the kick will throw you off-balance whether you miss, land or get blocked.
Good balance begins from the ground up with a raised heel, a straight supporting leg, a neutral spine and a stable core.
“When torrential water tosses boulders, it is because of its momentum.” – Sun Tzu, the Art of War
While we obviously cannot change our bodyweight in the course of a fight, we can increase the amount of weight we harness in a kick with a slight forward lean. This is similar in concept to “sitting down on your punches” where move your bodyweight towards the target.
We will very often see beginners leaning backwards when kicking to compensate for deficits in flexibility or mistakes in the angle of the kick. This significantly decreases the force of the kick by pulling their weight away from the target.
Others may pull their head back for fear of being punched. However, the better way to address this is with proper footwork which allows you to angle off to the side and take your head off the center line.
To ensure good weight transfer, take an outward step to generate forward momentum at the beginning of the kick and maintain good upright posture during the follow through.
“When you decide to attack, keep calm and dash in quickly, forestalling the enemy…attack with a feeling of constantly crushing the enemy, from first to last.” ― Miyamoto Musashi, A Book of Five Rings
At its core, the muay thai round kick harnesses the rotational force (or torque) of your entire body. Your foot is the pivot point and your kicking leg is the lever. All things equal, the greater the angle of rotation, the greater the magnitude of torque. The more your body rotates, the harder you kick.
To maximize follow through, always think of accelerating and swinging your leg through the target. Too often, novices will just reach the pads with their shin, pulling their leg back immediately after making contact.
When practicing round kicks while shadowboxing, develop good follow through by spinning through the kick instead of stopping your leg in mid air. You should have enough angular momentum for a half to full turn.
“When the strike of a hawk breaks the body of its prey, it is because of timing.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War
As a general rule, it is best to attack when your opponent in the worst position to defend. The most common defense to a rear round kick is the knee shield. Assuming you and your opponent are in orthodox stances, a great time to throw a right round kick is when your opponent is heavy on his lead left leg. Putting weight on his lead leg means he will need more time to raise the left knee shield.