How to throw a roundhouse kick
How to throw a roundhouse kick in Muay Thai
Disclaimer -I’m rubbish at Muay Thai, but I am decent with biomechanics & physics
When teaching the roundhouse kick, the symbolic technique of Muay Thai, I think it needs to be broken down into 2 major elements, and maybe another 2 or 3 sub-elements.
1. Turning the standing foot
The main power of the kick, comes from rotation of the body, rather than the actual kicking leg.
Keep you eye on the fighter’s left foot and how it rotates to the left / counter-clockwise:
If you are kicking with your right foot/leg
The standing left foot should face towards your opponent when you initiate the kick
It should be facing to your left when the kick lands
There are 2 ways to do this –
The Traditional Way – Rotate on the ball of your foot (the fleshy bit below your big toe)
The Unorthodox Way – Step across to your left
The Traditional Way is much quicker, but the Unorthodox Way can generate more power.
It’s also easier and quicker to use the traditional method when ending a punch combination with a kick.
When someone isn’t checking the kick, or when throwing a kick straight off without a set-up, I do like to step across and turn my foot to the side, rather than rotate on the ball of my foot.
I’m not trying to give it the biggun, but here’s an example of what I mean, note the giant step that initiates the first kick:
For maximum power (slower but more power)
- Push off with your right foot
- Step across with your left foot & slam your left heel down
- Throw your right arm back
- Point your right knee at the target (usually angled down a bit)
- Swing your leg & strike with the shin
- Drive again on contact to ‘push’ the shin in
On the GIF – you can see that I’m not rotating my left foot on the ball of my foot…
I jump-step forwards and to the left, to create the rotation in my hips for the kick. I even push off my right foot first, before stepping across with my left foot.
This gives the kick more power, although it does help that my opponent is walking forwards and into the kick.
By stepping across with your left foot as you throw the right kick, you penetrate the opponent’s “centre-line” by a much more significant amount.
This means that more of your body weight contributes to the power of the kick, and you ‘displace’ more of the opponent’s leg.
2. Hip Extension & Rotation on contact
As you land the kick – extend your hips/straighten your body and keep rotating your hips & upper body
As you land your kick, you should initiate a second movement – push your hips forward so that your body straightens, and rotate your upper body so that it is inline with your hips again.
If you are throwing a right kick, your hips should straighten, and your left shoulder should rotate all the way backwards, so that you are almost looking behind yourself.
Skip to 2:30 of this video:
Not to pick on my friend Lee – this was his first time training, but you can see how his upper-body doesn’t rotate at all as he throws his kick.
In contrast, the other handsome guy in the blue top is rotating his upper body so that his upper body is completely side-on to Lee when the kick lands, and his left shoulder is facing away from him
3. Picture kicking all the way through your opponent’s legs
Imagine your chopping down a tree
You don’t want to make a little 3 inch dent in the tree, you want to chop all the way through from right to left (or vice-versa).
For a leg kick, don’t think about just kicking the leg, think about driving all the way through and through his centre-line (represented by a red line in the pic below).
4. Imagine Kicking down into the leg
Again like an axe, chopping into a tree at a 45 degree angle
On one of my instructional DVDs, the fella says kick down into the leg by ‘pointing your knee where you want the shin to land’
i.e. angle your knee down towards the lower/mid thigh
– Condition your shins – A decent guy will check most of your kicks (especially if you jump/step into them like me), you need tough shins(unlike me)
– Power really comes from the hips – extension and rotation
Olympics lifts help with hip extension; you can use band, hammer and medicine ballexercises to make your hips have more rotational power. I’ve also noticed on a few Countdown to the UFC videos – people doing jumping/rotating exercises and plyometrics. E.g. face forwards, jump up and backwards and rotate to face backwards.
– Hips rotate first, then the leg follows, then your foot – as with a hook, when throwing a round kick, think about getting your hips through first, this loads your leg with elastic energy as it whips through after your hip has rotated. With a hook I tell people to imagine throwing a discus, the hand with the discuss comes through after the hips and shoulders. Same for a hook, and kind of the same for a kick.
– Bend your leg and then extend it before it lands. Some people say not to do this, and to imagine your leg as a baseball bat and kick it straight.
If you pause this video at 38 secs though, you can see Ernesto Hoost bends his leg when he kicks:
How to Defend a Roundhouse Kick
To defend a roundhouse kick you must either
- Check the kick by lifting up your leg (normally your front leg) and turning your shin outwards to meet the kick
- Step forwards and counter with punches as soon as the opponent initiates the kick
- Counter with a front kick/teep
You will need to condition your shins to use the checking technique. Do this by kicking a bag
Disclaimer – You should only kick people who have agreed to it