How to train the leg kick for MMA

I’m busy editing and shooting the pictures for my Leg Kick book, so I’ve been testing ways to train the leg kick with my students for a while now. There are many possibilities, too many to mention, and what I explain in this article is not the only way to train. But it is something I haven’t seen many coaches use, so I wanted to share it here.

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That said, here goes for the training drill.

How to train the leg kick for MMA

Before we go on, some key points:

  • If you are new to the leg kick, this drill isn’t for you. The assumption is that you have trained the leg kick already and know the different variations of it.
  • This drill isn’t the only way to train the leg kick; there are plenty of other ways. But in this drill we focus on something very specific so you have to follow the instructions. If you want to do other variations, change the drill.
  • I’ll explain my reasons why the combinations are set up the way they are, but that doesn’t mean you always have to do it that way in a fight. The combinations in the drill are like that because they force the student to train in the precise way I want them to train so they learn what I want them to learn. There is a time for improvising and free play; this drill isn’t one of those times.
  • The drill is not supposed to teach you good technique; you should already have that. Instead, it teaches skill within technique. Meaning, having the ability to change and adapt the technique depending on ever changing circumstances and do so instantly, without needing time to think it through.
  • The drill incorporates a key principle: compare/contrast. You might have had to write essays in this manner back in the day, but this method works just as well for training the leg kick in MMA. By comparing two techniques, the similarities and differences become clearer and your understanding improves. You contrast them by putting two versions at opposite ends of the scale next to each other. This makes those similarities/differences stand out even more.

Now that we have the context out of the way, let’s look at the drill itself.

How to train the leg kick for MMA

How to train the leg kick for MMA

The drill

The drill is done in a progressive manner, starting from simple to a bit more complex. You only go to the next phase when you can do the drill consistently without error. [Read more…]

How not to train the leg kick

I’m busy working on the leg kick book and came across this video below. It features an unknown genius who tries to train the leg kick on a hard object that has no ability to move upon impact. You can imagine the rest…

Let’s just say this isn’t the smartest thing to do…

I think we can safely say Jean-Claude Van Damme is to blame for this thing still going on. For those of you who didn’t see the movie, here’s the relevant scene:

The movie had a bunch more nonsense that no true muay Thai fighter would ever do, but the tree kicking scene spoke to the imagination of youngsters all over the world and started leading a life of its own. To be clear, there is no upside to train the leg kick this way, none at all.

You can still find videos of Thai’s kicking banana trees, but mostly, this is a training relic from the past. Nowadays, virtually all gyms use heavy bags, which are both more practical and versatile to train the leg kick on.

The worst offender I’ve seen was in this video here in which a fighter (or trainer, I don’t remember) tries to show off hitting a wooden pole:

Please don’t do that. Ever.

The only thing this does is damage joints, bones and ligaments in the long run. He mitigates some of it by rolling his arms and legs to take the brunt of the impact on the muscle as opposed to the bone, but his shoulders, hips and knees still take a beating.

When I started training some 30 years ago, I did a lot of this kind of stuff. My teacher was hardcore into body conditioning and we’d hit and kick wooden poles like this or concrete pillars. Let me put it this way: osteoarthritis sucks and this guy is heading straight towards it. If he’s unlucky, it will be there before he hits 40, with an ever decreasing quality of daily life from then on out.

If you want to train the leg kick effectively in a safe manner: kick the heavy bag and the kicking shield. Do so regularly and build up the power of the kick gradually. For most people, that is the safest way to condition the shins while you also develop good technique.

how not to train the leg kick

Damaging your shins, not a good idea..

 

Just a quick update on my leg kick book, this is the current chapter list:

Introduction.

Chapter 1: Fundamental principles.

Chapter 2: The weapon.

Chapter 3: The lead arm.

Chapter 4: The rear arm.

Chapter 5: The hips.

Chapter 6: The torso.

Chapter 7: The legs.

Chapter 8: Variations.

Chapter 9: Footwork.

Chapter 10: Conditioning.

Chapter 11: Drills.

Chapter 12: Combinations.

Chapter 13: How to defend against the leg kick.

Chapter 14: Basic tactics.

Chapter 15: Advanced strategies.

Chapter 16: Case studies.

Chapter 17: Troubleshooting your leg kick.

I have seven chapters left to finish, with 4 of those already half-written. Some chapters might still get lumped together or get deleted depending on how things go. Writing a book can be a bit weird like that sometimes. Once that’s done, I can shoot the pictures and if possible do some videos too, as a bonus.

If you want to be notified for the release, sign up for my notification list here. Don’t forget to click the link in the confirmation mail you’ll receive right after signing up, or you won’t be on the list.

 

Bouncer leg kicks drunk guy

One of the things you hear more and more in combats sports (in particular in MMA) these days is that “leg kicks don’t finish fights.” Somehow, people are under the impression that therefor the leg kick is not a worthwhile technique. Not just in the cage but outside of it as well. I know for a fact this is patently wrong, having use the leg kick both effectively on numerous occasions. As always, it depends on the person throwing that kick, the circumstances, etc.

I’ve written extensively about the leg kick and how to block it so I won’t repeat that here. I’ll post some links in the resources section down below. What I want to show here is the leg kick in a street situation because it can certainly work there to end a fight. There are other videos that demonstrate this, but this one is a great example.

Take a look:

As always, I wasn’t there and neither are you. We also don’t have the entire event on video, nor can we hear clearly what is being said. We can only go by this video and what it looks like. That said, it looks like the bouncer went a bit overboard:

  • The drunk guy is perhaps obnoxious but he doesn’t seem to be aggressive. The bouncer shoves him back and the guy doesn’t seem to respond other than just standing there. His fellow bouncer (I assume) comes in and starts directing the drunk away. Again, no aggressive response.
  • The bouncer announces his intent. You can clearly hear him say “I’m gonna leg kick this guy.” Now I don’t know where this happened or what legal authority bouncers have there, but it seems a bit early in the conflict to go out of your way to make it physical.

Again, I wasn’t there. There might be other factors involved that justify this leg kick, but I don’t see them right now. If you put that aside, let’s look at the technique itself: [Read more…]

Anderson Silva, his leg kick break and how to avoid it


I watched UFC 168 last night and saw Anderson Silva’s leg kick break. Frankly, it didn’t surprise me one bit as he makes a rookie mistake in how he throws it. He isn’t the first, nor the last, not even at that high level of competition. Does that mean he’s a bad fighter? Not at all. But his mistake is a basic one all muay Thai and kickboxing fighters learn in their first couple lessons in the gym:

You do not lead with the leg kick.

There are exceptions to this rule (Gokhan Saki, who’s leg kick is as fast as a jab…) and some people get away with it for a long time but eventually, there is always a price to pay eventually. Anderson Silva paid that price, just like all the others before him have. He now faces surgery and at the very least 3 months of recovery before he can even consider training again. There will be a long rehab process and only then can he resume training. I don’t expect him back in the Octagon in at least 9 months. 12 months is much more likely, if at all.

He’s also 38 right now and coming near the end of his career. There’ a good chance that he just had his last fight. Going out in this way is really sad for a champion of his stature. Even more so because I believe it could have been avoided. I’ll explain why here below, but first the video (not for the faint of heart):

So what went wrong?

Before I answer that, you might want to read up on my “How To do a Leg Kick” guide and a few other articles. I wrote that guide 4 years ago and just spent some time updating the videos because some of them were no longer available. Some of the terminology I use won’t make sense if you skip those posts, so it might be practical to take a look at them first or do so after you finish reading this post. Here they are:

Now let’s get back to the question: What went wrong and lead to Anderson Silva’s leg kick break? [Read more…]

Gokhan Saki vs. Freddy Kemayo

After yesterday’s post on Daniel Ghita Vs. Errol Zimmerman here’s another fight of the K1 GP in Seoul:  Gokhan Saki vs. Freddy Kemayo. I also posted about Saki in the past, specifically on his leg kick. Since then, he’s matured a lot as a fighter and I was anxious to see how he would do against Kemayo, who is no push over. I was pretty sure there was going to be a knockout and wasn’t disappointed…

Here’s the video:

The fight is short but very spectacular: Saki dominates his opponent from start to finish and is never in danger. What stands out for me is:

  • Saki’s timing has improved a lot. He picks his shots very well and places them with great accuracy.
  • He stays in control. Despite landing some great shots early on (the 4-count combo at 55sec is just one example) he doesn’t become overconfident, nor does he rush things.
  • His leg kick is still a weapon to be feared but no longer the only one. His punching has improved a lot, especially his accuracy: just look at how he places his hooks and uppercuts spot on at 2min27.
  • Even so, his leg kick is still insanely hard. He literally rips Kemayo’s leg out from underneath him when he lands on the inside.
  • He’s a bit leaner than a few years ago but is still quite flabby for a fighter. He desperately needs to put on a good 10Lbs of rock hard muscle. Not much more though as that would change his fighting style. But with just a bit of extra muscle, his strength and speed would be over the top still. It would also help him deal with the really big guys in the K1, like JLB or Sem Schilt.

A great fight and another spectacular KO. I look forward to seeing more of Saki in future K1 events.

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