Warning! The content in this story is provided for illustrative purposes only and not meant to be construed as advice or instruction. Seek a reputable self-defense instructor first. Any use of the information contained in this article shall be solely at the reader’s risk. This publication and its contributors are not responsible for any potential injuries.

Editor's Note: This article is a web-exclusive supplement to Conrad Bui's article, Effective Kicks for When SHTF, featured in Issue 20 of our print magazine. To learn basic kicking techniques for self-defense in a life-and-death situation, start by checking out that article, then continue to the additional tips below.

Footwork Drills to Improve Your Kicking Skills

The godfather of modern mixed martial arts, Bruce Lee, advised, “Take things as they are. Punch when you have to punch, kick when you have to kick.” Sounds simple, but knowing how, when, and where to punch or kick only comes from proper training. To keep your combatives tools well oiled, here are four ways to train your kicks.

Solo Technique Practice

Above: Isolating the technique is the perfect approach to achieving proper form and for safety and effectiveness.

Benefit: Correct repetitions create proper form and are a good warm-up.
Equipment: Mirror to check your form.
How-to: Get in a comfortable stance and keep your hands up to protect your head. Start practicing the front, push, side, and back kicks in the air. Perform 10 repetitions of each kick with both legs.
Foot Note: With no partners and no stress, now is a good time to work on proper form. Check your form in the mirror. Breathe out with each kick, never kick to full joint extension (ouch!) and re-chamber the kicks.

Shadow (Kick) Boxing

Above: A dance of the deadly kind. The author is shown here doing the shadow box shuffle.

Benefit: Adding footwork and focus will make your training more realistic. Cardiovascular benefit from this exercise is an added perk.
Equipment: Timer or stopwatch.
How-to: Stand in a fighting stance with your hands up, feet shoulder width apart and your dominant leg slightly back. Move forward, backward, and laterally, before and after performing a kick. Go for one three-minute round.
Foot Note: Use your imagination and focus on the targets described in this article. Make sure to cycle through all the kicks and use both legs. Make sure to breathe with every technique.

Heavy Bag
Benefit: Hitting a bag will develop power and a sense of distancing. Improving your cardio and letting off steam is also part of the package.
Equipment: Heavy bag and timer.
How-to: Stand in front of the bag and unleash the destruction of the end times for three minutes. Maintain proper form and keep the hands up.
Foot Note: Make sure to combine your kicks with the palm, elbow, and knee strikes. Add in your blocks and retreats, because most fights are not one-sided ass-whoopings. Three minutes on your timer, and you are good to go.

Situational Training

Above: Conrad Bui and Sherman Chin get together to safely work effective responses to common attacks.

Benefit: Partner training allows the practice of different attack scenarios and improves timing and accuracy.
Equipment: Groin cup, training weapons, eye protection (if working with weapons), and a buddy you trust.
How-to: Have your buddy slowly attack you with common unarmed attacks like a right haymaker or wrist and lapel grabs. Weapon-based attack scenarios will involve a knife, club, or firearm. A true prepper will be ready for any of these situations.
Foot Note: Use training weapons and start slow before increasing the speed of the attack and defense. Remember, safety first. Do reps of three and switch roles. The techniques described in this article make a great place to start, but it is no substitute for a qualified instructor.

Kicking Mistakes to Avoid

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A well placed side kick can shatter a knee joint. A powerful front kick can burst open a door so you can free your daughter from your burning home. And a lightning fast front kick can crush testicles and fell even the biggest of thugs. Attacks using your legs are some of the most effective weapons you were born with. But they’re not foolproof. The following are common mistakes to avoid when attempting to use your lower extremities as weapons.

Above: Oh, crap. The author misses his target and makes a potentially fatal mistake of over-extending his kick. The injury is enough to cost him the fight, and possibly his life.

Joint Lock: Never completely lock the knee when kicking. Complete extension will damage the joint when practicing, and may rupture a ligament when executed with full force. To avoid injury, pull the strike back at about 10 degrees before complete lockout. Practicing strikes in the air, without the aid of a punching bag or pad, is the best way to prevent joint injury. (See “Solo Technique Practice” in the other sidebar titled, “Foot Work”).

Leg Only: Using body mass will increase the force of any strike. With a kick, bring your hip toward the trajectory of your strike. With both the front and push kicks, bring the hips forward. Side and back kicks will have your hips moving in those respective directions.

Above: Trying to cause major Van Damage with a head kick ends poorly here for Conrad Bui. He makes several mistakes: head hunting, no re-chambering, and no follow-up strikes. Sherman Chin survives the head strike, catches Bui’s leg, and throws him onto his back. Bui is now stationary and susceptible to stomps.

Head Hunting: Avoid high and fancy head kicks, even if you trained in Tae Kwon Do or Muay Thai since grade school. Head kicks are rarely required to end a confrontation. High kicks compromise your balance, and expose sensitive targets (ahem … guys) to your opponent. If you must go head hunting, use your palms and elbows. Save the kicks for low-line targets like the groin, knee, and shin.

Leave It Hanging: We get it. The meteoric extension of the kick is where all the flash and fireworks are. Bringing the leg back receives none of the press. But you must complete the kick by retracting the leg so you can kick again or simply run. Plus, the hoodlum will be less likely to grab your leg.

No Follow-Up: After retaliating with your kick, don’t just stand there admiring your handiwork. Be prepared to follow up with an eye jab, knee, elbow strike, or a mad dash to safety.


Above: The effectiveness of a head stomp aside, using this technique without justification could land you in a cell.

Head Stomp: When your attacker is on the ground in agony (possibly from the nasty groin shot you just administered), he’s no longer seen as a threat. Stomping on someone’s head may appear unreasonable to witnesses and subsequently the law. Using this deadly technique without cause can turn you from victim to assailant in a split second.

About the Author

Dr. Conrad Bui — a San Francisco-based doctor of chiropractic and frequent contributor to RECOIL OFFGRID — has been serving up kicks at karate tournaments since his youth. He later used them as a bar bouncer and continues to teach kicking techniques as a Muay Thai instructor at World Team USA. A self-proclaimed combatives junkie, he placed third in the featherweight brown-belt division of the 2016 World No-Gi Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championship. He is also a certified full instructor in Indonesian Kuntao Silat, Filipino Kali, and Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do, as well as a fifth-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

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