I remember one Sunday evening while I was a new bouncer at the bar. Eight guys powered past me before I could card them and ordered some beers. The obviously had already consumed a fair amount of beers. I was a bit nervous as there was the old bartender, a few dancers and everyone was depending on me to keep the peace.
I calmly walked up to them and asked them to meet me outside. The six big guys followed me outside and I told them they were out for the night since they had not followed the rules. They were having none of that and they attacked me! More on this later but what could I do against six big guys? I mean I was 155 pounds to their 200 and over?!!!
In this post I will address somewhat of a lost art – the much maligned sidekick! What? Yes once a staple of karate is not considered somewhat of a risk to use in a fight for some reason. Back in my day the sidekick was a great equalizer. I mean most people were inept at kicking and did not really understand how a little guy me could quickly gain the upper hand without a punch!
Here is a quick video showing some of the mechanics of the sidekick.
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This short video shows a good example of a basic front leg sidekick. Back in the 70’s this was staple of point and full contact sparring because of the speed and power of this kick. One could safely stay out of punching range and deliver a kick somewhat like a jab into your opponent’s side! What’s more the shuffle side kick could be more powerful than your best punch!
I have seen the sidekick break the defender’s arm in tournments even though it did not hit a “vital’ area (no point was awarded). Ideally if targeting the ribs – you can break the ribs or arms if the kick lands squarley. I have also seen plenty of guys kncked down with the front leg shuffel sidekick!
There are a bunch of ways to throw sidekicks. Offensively and defensively (moving forward, in place or moving back, jumping and/or spinning), with the front or back leg, with our without initial movement and using the side edge of the foot or just the heel.
Just doing a quick count I come up with 24 combinations and their are probably more if one includes snapping or thrusting. The point is there are a lot of ways to skin this cat (throw this kick).
What I tend to do is used initial movement along with critical distance and timing to set up this kick. I was sparring recently and found many of the newer guys that do not use this kick much anymore – do not know how to defend against it well. I was able to keep them honest (out of striking range) because they did not want their arm or ribs bruised anymore! I was taking it easy on them.
How do I use the sidekick? I generally throw my front leg defensively with a hop back (if they are coming in fast) or with initial movement offensively. I don’t do much with spinning kick or back leg. I like to move around a bit and take advantage of any positional mistakes (switching footing within my range) or if I am fighting a blocker, mistakes cuased my a shoulder, hip or body fake. Whatever mistakes I can provoke on my opponent I like to take advantage of them with a good slip-sidekick.
The target depends on if it is for keeps or not. I mean if I am just sparring with someone – I’ll push the kicks up to the ribs (or arms) and keep the power down a bit (so I can spar for a while). But if the guy has good initial movement (can blow by my distance) – I increase the power to the ribs and if I have to – aim down to the hips to knock him back. I understand the hips are not really a legal move but I can generally get away with it and it changes they way my opponent attacks once he understands the price.
Sparring in the school I generally tend to use the side-edge of the foot too because this is the softer of the kicks. If you kick a guy with the side edge of your foot – the force is spread over four or five square inches. On the street or a tournament or for keeps – no such niceness from me. I use the heel! One square inch of directed force increases whatever power I am able to generate with my slip-sidekick. It is often enough to stop an attack from all but a seasoned fighter. The opponent will often start shying away after feeling a couple of these kicks if he has not already retreated.
So there you have it – a basic kick that generates more than enough speed, power and damage to end many fights. Why then is this kick not used much today?
I think it is because fighting has changed a bit since UFC 1 and Jiu-Jitsu. Since UFC 1 and the Gracies showed the world the grappling was a force to be reckoned with fighters have had to consider how to counter the ground game. At first not many fighters knew how to do this and Muay Thai kick boxing started to be dominant in MMA – quick karate style kicks lost of favor. MMA fighters tended to not throw snap, side and rear kicks that Jiu-Jitsu practitioners could easily use against them.
I think there is still a lot of that mentality today even though the ground game is easily countered if the fighters understand grappling. The telegraphed Muay Thai power kicks are easily subverted if one understands distance, timing and initial movement too but again I think many fighters today favor power and grappling and sidekicks has become somewhat of a lost art.
Here is what I think. Side, front snap and rear kicks are all more powerful than hand strikes but take some skill and knowledge of fighting strategy to pull them off. If a fighter is willing to take his or her fight game to the next level – he or she can learn some old fashion fighting skills to use in their bag of tricks. I know for me in late middle age – the power moves are out. I depend on relaxed speed, torque, distance, timing and initial movement to have the same effect as brawlers who favor the power moves. I like to say I can stand toe to toe with anyone to 3 minutes. This is ok for me as most fights on the street with one opponent should not last more than 15 seconds.
The recent rash of UFC snap kicks and Cung Le using spinning rear and side kicks should demonstraite that yes – even the sidekick can still be relevent in today’s martial arts.
To finish my mass attack experience, I have to half flip and twist out of the attack and lost my shirt (literally). I then challenged them to fight like a man, one at a time. I knocked three of them out in a row with a defensive reverse punch and then it was a running battle. I attacked whenever I had one of them in my sights. I used lunge punches, side kicks, wheel kicks an at the end I let the last three of them surround me – I was side kicking them whenever then encroached on my distance. You see they were scared of me by that point but where half heatedly making an attempt to find my weakness.
The cops rolled up and it was kind of funny to see 6 guys saying I attacked them. They wanted to know what I knew. I did not say a thing but later when the cops asked. I told them I was a brown belt in kenpo karate. Those cops signed up at the studio.
So remember the lowly sidekick is a force to be reckoned with – even if it falls out of style with some that do not know how to use it effectively!