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…]

The overlooked part of effective techniques

Last week I was reading an interesting article (if a bit dry) about deceleration of movements in sports. You can read it here, I think it’s worth it. One of the points it made is that little attention is given to studying deceleration. I agree. Compared to acceleration training, the attention deceleration receives is almost minimal. I always found that strange, as I learned many years ago that it is a hallmark of combat sports and martial arts, but it’s routinely overlooked. I’ll explain in a bit but first a quote from the article:

High levels of eccentric strength are required in tandem with appropriate training of deceleration technique specific to sporting performance, while the demands of the sport situation determine the critical distance, direction, and time that the deceleration must occur.

In other words, you need a specific kind of strength (eccentric) instead of the one you use for acceleration (concentric) while at the same time adjusting on the fly to changing conditions.

This is a bit of an oversimplification, but it’s a good rule of thumb. It is particularly true in martial arts and self-defense. Here’s why:

overlooked part of effective techniques power and control

Power is nothing without control…

One of the ways sports are classified is into specific types of movement: cyclic or acyclic (also acyclic combined but we won’t cover that now.)

Cyclic means a repetitive movement pattern like swimming, running or cycling. In those sports, you pretty much do the same movement all the time. The only main difference is if you do it with endurance as a goal (run as far as you can) or with speed (run as fast as you can.) I know this is also an oversimplification, but bear with me.

Acyclic means several different movement patterns are necessary. Examples are team sports such as basketball or volleyball, but also fencing, tennis and boxing. In all these sports, you perform a variety of techniques/movements and go from one technique to another. Acyclic sports typically require good technique, speed and power.


Whenever you fight, in the street or in competition, you perform acyclic movements. You punch, then you kick, then you move then you grapple, then you punch again, etc. It always changes. What’s more, these changes happen because your opponent does the same as you. You have to adjust whatever you’re doing to his movements. That leads to only one conclusion if you follow this reasoning: [Read more…]

100 Man Fight and what it could mean for you

A little while ago, a friend of mine showed me this trailer of the 100 Man Fight video. If you don’t know hat that is, check out this article. Anyway, I watched it and responded with this:

Did a lot of that kind of training when I was younger. Still paying the price for it…

Another friend replied to that as follows:

Wim, can I ask you to elaborate? I hear a lot of people talk about old wounds, etc., but are you talking muscle damage from a medicine ball to the gut? Carpal tunnel from whacking a log with your forearms like this dude? I don’t hear many people mention the specifics types/methods of training that have consequences like this.

Check out the video first and then read on after the break:

Here’s what I said in response, with some additions left and right:

[Read more…]

The pitfalls of slow practice

One of my training brothers shared this article and made some comments about it. I went over to the site and after reading the article, I could only agree with his statements. I’ll get to that at the end here, but first, go read the article. It’s not that long.

There are a couple of minor issues I see here and a fundamental problem. Let’s start with the issues.

  • Slow practice is no secret. In fact, it’s a fundamental training methodology, both inside and outside of martial arts. In pretty much every sport or activity, you learn a new skill or technique slowly to get basic competence in it. Once you have that, you add speed, power and other aspects. Typically, when you want to correct errors, you slow it down again to figure out what’s wrong. Once you do, you go faster again. Granted, only a limited amount of martial arts make it a big part of their training, but this has been known for a long time. I really don’t see the secret here.
  • Slow isn’t always possible. I’m going to take an extreme example to make this point: take a look at this kick. How exactly can you practice this slowly? I don’t see how you can pull that off. I’m no karate expert, but I’ve seen more than one jumping technique in their forms. I’ve also seen them do many less extreme movements that require some form of dynamic balance, which makes it impossible to do them (correctly) at anything other than speed. For instance, try to do this type of footwork at a slow pace and still bounce.
  • There’s also “too slow”. In the article, the author suggests taking 2 minutes to perform one front kick. In my experience, that’s way too slow to train the kick correctly. At that pace, you’re mainly working the stabilizer muscles, which has a lot of value. But there are better ways to train those for 2 minutes than to insist on performing that front kick at the same time. More about that in a bit.
  • Not all TCMAs are the same. This is a minor quibble, but it needs to be addressed because it is factually incorrect. The author writes: “Slowness is vital in TCMA (Traditional Chinese Martial Arts), the historical progenitor of Karate.” I’m not going to touch the “progenitor” part, but as for TCMAs, that’s simply not true. There are hundreds of different styles and only in a handful (those that are considered “internal”) is slow practice a vital part of the training.

All in all, these points aren’t all that important to the main issue. Primarily because we can argue about them and there are all sorts of conditions that apply. So I’m not going to belabor the point. I am going to address the fundamental problem with the assumption that slow training is going to “Improve Your Karate Like Crazy.” [Read more…]

Book review: Ender’s Game

I promised this a while ago so here’s my book review of Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. I also added a link to this book on my resources page. You can find lots more useful stuff there that I both like and use personally, so check it out if you like.



Before I start, there are a couple things I need to mention. First of all, I listened to the audio version and it was pretty good. If you prefer audio over paper or e-books, you’ll probably like this one too as the production quality is great. The added benefit is that you get an extra piece spoken by the author himself, explaining why he wrote the book, why he refused so many movie deals and more. Well worth it and partly the reason why I write this review.

book review ender's game

Click the image to buy Ender’s Game.

Second, this is a relatively old book as it was first published as a novel in 1985. This shows in certain regards and apparently, the author updated the book in 1991 to make it more relevant to modern times.  But don’t let this stop you from reading it; there’s nothing in the book that is too closely related to the past that it might hinder the story. On the contrary, in many ways it is still relevant today, perhaps even more so than back then. I won’t go into that here to avoid spoilers.

Third, this is a science-fiction book. If you’re a fan of the genre, you’ll already know about it as it’s one of the classics. If you’re not, consider it anyway. The sci-fi stuff is done well and also not as intrusive as in other books. Once you accept the basic premise, you don’t have to do lots of leaps of the imagination to follow the story. Some authors mess up in this genre, thinking they can get  away with anything. Orson Scott Card didn’t, he got it right and placed the characters, their motivations and thinking, their evolution from children into warriors, all this comes first. So don’t let the genre scare you off either.


That said, a quick word about the story:

Ender Wiggin is born sometime in our future in an Earth at war: humankind has started exploring the universe and encountered an alien race that attacked them, starting a series of wars. Earth cleans up it’s act and starts working together on a global scale to avoid being annihilated. They set up a special program to find the brightest children and send these off to military school in the hopes of finding the one who can lead them to victory.

Ender is one of those children and the book follows him on his journey. I can’t really say more without giving too much away so I’ll leave it at that.


The relevance to self-defense training

Like I mentioned in my post about The Walking Dead and Self-Defense, I like to use examples from movies to illustrate concepts that are valuable in real life. To a degree, you can do the same things with books with the only real difficulty being the need for the other person to actually read the whole book. As this takes a lot longer than watching a movie, I can’t always convince people to do so. No big deal, I just have to find another movie reference then…

Anyway, why am I so enthusiastic about this book? [Read more…]