An all-inclusive Guide about Axe Kick

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An Axe Kick a.k.a downward kick or a hammer kick involves imitating an axe motion with a vertical leg position. You must kick fear aside when you want to do an axe kick. Axe kick is known to crack the toughest of opponents. Legendary fighter, Andy Hug cracked opponents’ head in Kyokushin back in the days with this kick. Over the years, we saw him knock down many fighters with multitudes of kick combination with axe kick being one of them. An axe kick carries tremendous power and can be thrown from both the front leg and the rear leg. Furthermore, you can also throw the kick from outside of the body or from the inside based upon your preference.

Axe Kick

Your opponent doesn’t fear the 100 moves you know but he does fear that one move which he’s not expecting. As compared to the other kicks such as roundhouse kick, side kick, spinning hook kick, an axe kick is way too unpredictable. It’s deceptive with the number of variations you have with the kick. You can fake spinning hook kick or a roundhouse kick and transform it into an axe kick at the last moment. In such cases, you don’t leave any room for your opponent to think let alone counter.

What separates the Axe Kick from other kicks?

It’s primarily the movement. While the majority of the kicks require you to chamber. Axe kick doesn’t. When throwing an axe kick, you hold your kicking leg straight in the upward direction and land with full force. It derives its name Axe and Hammer mainly because of the impact it delivers when it comes down towards your opponent’s face or collarbone.

Axe kick as a part of a successful combination

I would like to explain this point with the help of the Blue-Eyed Samurai – Andy Hug’s fighting style. If you must have watched Hug’s fight, you would rarely see him throw the axe kick in a predictable manner. His arsenal comprised of numerous leg techniques which he would use to chase down his opponents. These techniques included using alternative kicks, spinning, rolling out, body feinting, switching stance and so on. 

The intensity with which he used to attack would paralyze his opponent’s thoughts. And after they were overwhelmed with the fury of kicks, Hug would then land a surprise Axe kick from out of nowhere. Before they could even evaluate, their face was already under Hug’s heel. Hug was simply an ambassador for the axe kick and the moment he landed that kick, there was only going to be one result. If you guessed it, let’s understand how to throw an axe kick. 

How to Axe Kick?

An axe kick is a signature kick which consumes an incredible amount of energy. Moreover, you need to have exceptional hip flexibility as you’re going to be raising your leg and landing them in a tight space. As a beginner, you should emphasize flexibility drills and work on your reach before you attempt this advance kick. Don’t get disheartened if you’re starting out, you must know that it’s an advance kick and you should not use it in sparring unless you’ve perfected it. Having said that, here’s how to axe kick:

Axe Kick Guide
  1. Get into the stance: If you’re in a neutral stance, you would want to take a small step ahead from your lead foot or might even want to switch it up as you gear towards delivering an axe kick. You can deliver an axe kick with your front leg or with your rear leg. To keep it simple, we’ll be focusing on the rear leg kick for now.
  2. Shifting your body’s movement: To crack your opponent’s head, your kick needs to work in sync with the momentum of your body. Thus, step forward when you’re about to axe kick.
  3. Activate your hips: You can throw the axe kick in two ways – from an inward angle or an outward angle. While the decision rests in your legs, one thing is for sure – you must turn your non-kicking foot to activate your hips. Activating your hips helps to harness additional power and deploy more strength into your kick.
  4. Lifting your knees: Once you’re in the right stance and have activated your hips, raise your legs either inwards or outwards at a 45-degree angle. When lifting your knee up, ensure that your shin is completely vertical.
  5. Transferring the balance: As you’re lifting the knee, transfer your weight towards the back leg. This will help you maintain balance and control. Your leg should be straight as it reaches its maximum height. Furthermore, while lifting your leg for the kick, lean your upper body slightly backwards and support your kick with hips. Doing so will help you get a better reach.
  6. The moment of Impact: Your hips should not be perfectly square at the time of impact. Your kicking hip should be slightly ahead of your non-kicking hip. Bend your knees slightly during the movement of impact to prevent it from hyper-extending. You should strike your target with either the heel of your foot or the flat side. The hard bone in your heels is more effective as compared to the sole or the ball of your foot, thus, try landing your axe kick with the heel.
  7. Landing after the kick: Focusing on the impact and momentum your kick carries when coming downwards, you must make sure not to land it directly on to the ground. If you fail to control your kick, your foot or heels specifically can face a terrible impact when they come in contact with the ground. Thus, hold it right before it’s about to touch the ground.

Difference between the Inward/Inside Axe kick and Outward/Outside Axe Kick: 

Steps

Inward Axe Kick

Outward Axe Kick

1

Take the fighting stance with the intention to kick from your rear leg

Take the fighting stance with the intention to kick from your rear leg

2

Turn your front foot to release your hips

Turn your front foot to release your hips

3

Lift your leg up towards a 45-degree angle on the inside

Lift your leg up towards a 45-degree angle in the outward direction

4

Shoot your leg upwards & drop it on your opponent’s head

Circle your kick inwards & drop it on your opponent’s head

 

 

5

Strike him with your heel or the flat of the foot

 

Strike him with your heel or the flat of the foot.

Common Mistakes when doing an Axe Kick

  1. Not pointing your foot before impact: Pointing your foot before impact is pivotal as it compresses the Achilles tendon behind your heel. It will help prevent injury which is very common in case of a misplaced axe kick. Ensure that your ankle tight is braced tightly by your muscles.
  2. Using the ball of the foot: Axe kick derives its tenacity and viciousness through heels. Due to the density of bones in the heels, it’s advisable to hit an axe kick with your heel. Many practitioners also like to use the flat of the foot, which is fine too. However, you should at all cost avoid using the ball of your foot as it will render the kick ineffective or at most won’t serve any purpose.
  3. Not stepping forward: To land a devastating axe kick, you want your momentum to back you up. Thus, by not stepping forward, you’re missing out on the force that your body can add leading towards the kick. Especially, when you’re kicking from a neutral stance, make sure to step forward.
  4. Not activating your hips: Activation of hips is important is any type of kick. More so when it’s an axe kick. Thus, turn your front leg slightly before you lift your knees.
  5. Lifting the rear knee incorrectly: While you do have the liberty to lift your rear knee towards the inside or the outside, you do want your shin to be vertical and pointed. When doing so, you can shift your body weight over to your supporting leg.
  6. Not bending the knee before the impact: This perhaps is the most common yet the costliest mistake fighters make. When you don’t bend your knee before the impact, you risk over stretching which can cause hamstring problems. Thus, bend your knees slightly just before the impact.
  7. Not pivoting your non-kicking foot: Pivoting can make a decisive difference. As seen in an image below, see how Master Woo pivots his planted leg to generate more intensity.

When to Axe Kick?

Throwing an axe kick requires prior calculation. You cannot just ram into your opponent with an axe kick. Mainly because it requires a lot of energy and if you happen to misplace it, you might get seriously injured. Thus, the knowledge of when to axe kick really helps to make the most out of this lethal weapon in your arsenal.

  1. Against a stationary opponent: When you’re sparring against a person, who isn’t moving much. When you sense that your opponent is reluctant to cover the ground or chase you. It’s the best time to throw an axe kick.
  2. Against a charging opponent: As opposed to a stationary opponent, a defensive axe kick can be effectively used against a charging opponent. They won’t see it coming. If you get it right, you might swing the tie in your favour.
  3. Covering the distance: As explained above, you can utilize the many variations of the axe kick when you want to cover the distance. In such a scenario, you can make use of long-distance axe kick, cut-axe kick, tornado axe kick, trap axe kick or a spinning axe kick.
  4. When you’re energetic: As mentioned a couple of times before, axe kick requires tremendous energy. If you’re low on it, simply avoid it. If you sitting back, revitalizing yourself feeling you have enough energy, only then should you spend your energy in an axe kick.
  5. Surprising your opponent: Axe kick is all about surprises. We can learn that from the master – Andy Hug himself. Thus, when you want to surprise your opponent, throwing an axe kick into the mix is a great way to take the sting out of your opponent.

10 Ways to do an Axe Kick

  1. Traditional Axe Kick: A traditional axe kick involves activating your hips and landing your heel on the head or chest of your opponent in one shot. Traditional Axe kick is wonderful in a close distance sparring. Everything you saw above stems from a traditional axe kick. However, practitioners nowadays dwell in a modern axe kick mainly because the bouts are technical. Fighters a reluctant to make the first move.
  2. Modern Axe Kick: A modern axe kick involves lifting your knees above the hip level before the impact. The modern axe kick has an additional step where the practitioners try to lift before the elevation. This allows more freedom to deliver or to retreat your leg if you have a change of mind.
  3. Front Leg Axe Kick: In the front leg axe kick, you are required to bring your knees around before the impact. These days most competitors like to come towards you, thus a circular movement is a great way to deceive your opponent before you land the front axe kick.
  4. Long Distance Axe Kick: As the name suggests, a good long-distance axe kick helps your measure your opponent from a long distance. In terms of movement, this one’s similar to the skipping side kick where you take a small leap before you land the kick. The distance helps generate more power and an even powerful impact. This axe kick is suitable against an opponent who likes to sit out and is reluctant to attack.
  5. Front Leg Side Axe Kick: This axe kick is effective against a person with slow movement or a fighter who likes to jam. You can use an Axe Kick as a great alternative to a roundhouse kick in such a situation. An advantage with front leg axe kick is it’s impossible for your opponent to predict. Thus, it helps you catch them by surprise.
  6. Tornado Axe Kick: A visually appealing and equally effective variation of the axe kick. It’s quite similar to the tornado kick. However, you switch the roundhouse kick into an axe kick. It works wonder against a heavier opponent. Many practitioners often freak out when they see your heel above their head. Thus, it’s a great way to stun them.
  7. Cut-Axe Kick: A combination of dual kick which helps you cover a lot of distance. A cut-axe kick is great if you want to chase your opponent down. You start with targeting their torso and once you connect, you quickly follow it up with an axe kick. It’s called the cut axe kick because you’re cutting the initial intention of an axe kick and then following it up with an actual axe kick.
  8. Trap Axe Kick or Sneaky Axe Kick: A dangerous variation of a traditional axe kick. This axe kick requires you to move your head in first, lean your body back and then bring your leg up, all of it to surprise your opponent. It spells deception from the movement you go forward. If judging a tornado axe kick was hard for your opponent, this will nearly be an impossible task.
  9. In-place Axe Kick or Defensive Axe Kick: A great way to catch your opponent when sitting back. In a hyper-active sparring session, in-place axe kick is fruitful. Especially when your opponent is charging against you, this axe kick can help protect yourself.
  10. Spinning Axe Kick: Perhaps the most underutilized kick. A spinning axe kick is hardly seen during combat. However, these are effective can help catch your opponent off-guard as they cannot see it coming. This kick only works when you wear down your opponent and they are stagnant in one place.

How to Counter Axe Kick?

The biggest disadvantage of an axe kick is you leave your groin exposed. Though it’s a great kick, your opponent can easily counter it if he/she is active.

Side Kick: Once you sense an axe kick and take a step behind, you’ll have an open body to land your counter. You can follow it up with a quick side kick. Since his/her body will be perfectly aligned with your foot. Throwing a side kick is the safest bet which can help you deliver the devastating effect.

Roundhouse kick: It’s similar to the side kick version. The only difference is that instead of landing a side kick, you decide to put your opponent to bed with a roundhouse kick. With quick movement backwards you can attack the body of your opponent which is fully exposed. You can even attempt a roundhouse kick if you’ve stepped sideways.

Front Kick: Yet another effective counter which makes a way when you step back. Creating room for your opponent to attack and once he misses his kick, you land a front kick of your own. This might leave your opponent trembling.

Back Kick: The easiest way to change the tempo is by using your footwork. While doing so, you can easily counter an axe kick with a back kick. A back kick is a great counter attack against an axe kick. You can learn from the visual representation below:

Technically, majority of the axe kick counters come from body feinting. The following video below showcases how the opponent steps back and creates a huge opening. It’s your movement which provides you with options. Whether you move towards the side or the backwards, you can come up with an effective counter to an axe kick.

Drills to improve your Axe Kick

Axe Kick heavily relies on flexibility as compared to any other kick. Your flexibility has to be at its level best if you wish to do an axe kick. In this section, we will learn about certain drills for stiff people and beginners to help improve the axe kick:

  1. Movements: You have to be a live wire if you intend to throw an axe kick. Ain’t no escaping from that. The sharper you are, the better openings you’ll be able to create. You can do various movement drills such as reaction ball training, mirror drills, kicking paddles, focus mitts, clapping push-ups and so on.
  2. Front Splits: Axe Kick as we learnt above requires front flexibility. i.e. when you’re kicking in a front angle and trying to target your opponent’s head or his/her upper body. Front Splits are a great way to enhance your reach and improve your strength.
  3. Side Splits: Though not the most predominant factor in an Axe Kick, side splits are pivotal as they help with the movement. Especially when you want to switch a fake roundhouse or a fake side kick into an axe kick, side splits will provide you with increased flexibility in your side movements.
  4. Leg Stretch: Since the height of the kick is of extreme importance, you should practice drills which help you expand your reach. You can do a variety of leg stretches such as figure four, splits, knee splits. Moreover, you can also train with your partner and try kicking a pad by increasing the height after every session. The goal is to lift your leg above your opponent’s height – your opponent can be anywhere between 4”-6.5” or more. Thus, it’s vital that you practice those leg stretches.
  5. Hip Flexibility: How are you planning to do an effective kick without flexible hips? Is it even possible? Hop flexibility is important in almost every type of kick. Add to the fact that you need to generate force, the role of hips becomes more crucial in an axe kick.
  6. Improving your heel: Quite an unusual entry but axe kick does require you to use your heel or the flat. You can improve your heel by doing several drills such as walking on your heels, practicing kicks with your heels and perfecting the heel movements.
  7. Additional Drills: Improve your mobility with air squats, side lunges, ballistic stretches. Though many might advise you against ballistic stretch, the bouncing motion really helps in a combat situation.

Role of Crescent kicks in an Axe Kick

A crescent kick helps you set up an Axe Kick. Especially for beginners who struggle with flexibility, crescent kicks are a great way to start with improving flexibility. There are two types of crescent kicks which you can do to improve flexibility. These are:

  • Inward Crescent Kick
  • Outward Crescent Kick

An inward crescent kick is simpler than an outward crescent kick. An easy way to do it is by following the steps below:

  1. Get into the fighting stance
  2. Turn your front foot to release your hips
  3. Lift your leg outside to a 45-degree angle
  4. Circle your leg inwards
  5. Place your leg in front or recoil your leg

An outward crescent kick is a variation of the traditional vertical kick. It is slightly complex as compared to the Inward Crescent kick. You can do it by following the steps below:

  1. Get into the fighting stance & perform the kick with your rear leg
  2. Turn your front foot to release your hips
  3. Lift your leg inside to a 45-degree angle
  4. Circle your leg outwards
  5. Place your leg in front or recoil your leg

Difference between an Axe Kick and a Crescent Kick:

A crescent kick is a great way to improve flexibility. However, it is not the same as an axe kick. Crescent kick follows a circular motion whereas an axe kick follows a perpendicular motion. Areas where these two kicks match is till you do a circular motion. As we have learnt by now that modern axe kick follows a circular movement only till you get the elevation. Once you’ve got the elevation, you want to land it straight onto your opponent’s head or chest.

How to Axe Kick like Andy Hug?

To learn from the legend himself, we need to follow his footsteps. From movements to techniques, let us dive a little deep in our understanding of how to axe kick like Andy Hug.

Andy’s biggest weapons were spinning back fist, hook tornado followed by a devastating axe kick. By far, his axe kicks are something to swear by. Remarkably he was able to throw it in the ring against opponents of all size. Let us look at a breakdown of his technique:

  1. Early straightening of your kicking leg: Majority of the fighters tend to raise their knee up before they axe kick – using deceptiveness as we mentioned above. However, it can lack the same amount of power. Andy used to lock his knee quickly to ensure full body commitment, as a result, he was able to generate more power. By lifting his foot up in a wide arc, Hug used to take advantage of his opponent’s blind guard and land a devastating kick.
  2. Pivoting on the foot: Hug used to pivot using the ball of the foot to open up a greater extension.
  3. Hips Forward while leaning backwards: Andy used to push his hips forward while leaning backwards. This helped him get a better range while shifting his momentum downward.

These were three steps which show a slightly different approach taken by Axe Kick King Andy Hug. Though these are advanced techniques for a beginner, if you practice keeping these points in mind, you’ll surely be better than the lot you’re training with.

Suggested book : Bruce Lee Striking Thoughts

Criticism of an Axe Kick

The biggest criticism of an axe kick is that it leaves you susceptible to attack. When you commit yourself in an axe kick, you leave your body wide open for a counter. Most of the time, it lacks power due to an improper mix of technique and movement. Furthermore, it renders you off-balance most of the time. Even a successful axe kick does leave a room for your opponent to deliver a counter.

An astounding study showcases that Hug never ended any of his contest with an Axe Kick. Thus, he scored zero knockouts with an axe kick. However, he used axe kick in the mix with roundhouse kicks and other basic kicks. His fundamentals with axe kicks were to create an opening. An axe kick works wonders when you want to create opportunities but if we go by the stats, it’s not knockout worthy.

Axe Kick in different martial arts

An axe kick is known as a hammer kick or stretch kick in the world of MMA. However, it derives its roots from Karate and is widely popular in several other forms of martial arts such as Taekwondo, Karate and Kickboxing. Here’s what axe kick is known as in different martial arts:

  1. Karate: kakato-geri or kakato-otoshi
  2. Taekwondo: doki bal chagi or naeryeo chagi or chikka chagi
  3. Chinese Wushu: pigua tui
  4. Muay Thai: Muay Thai Te Khao
  5. Kick Boxing: Axe kick, hammer kick or stretch kick

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Axe kick

How can an axe kick be effective in such a short range?

Axe Kick is not for everyone. Especially when you lack flexibility. If you have flexibility or working towards developing it. I’m sure you won’t have this question. Axe kick is as effective or perhaps more devastating than any other close-range kicks. The ability to stun your opponent in limited space is the most crucial element in an axe kick.

Which area should I target with axe kick?

While a straight forward answer to this question would be your opponent’s head. You can even aim for the collarbone or chest.

I lack flexibility. How can I improve it for an axe kick?

There’s a complete section dedicated to improving overall flexibility for an axe kick. You can simply go through that. It has enough material to help you drive some great points home.

Should I use axe kick for a knockout?

Firstly, I don’t think you should heavily rely on an axe kick since it consumes a lot of energy. However, if you do so. Make sure to mix it with other basic kicks i.e. the Andy Hug combination.

Is an axe kick more effective than a roundhouse kick?

Though both kicks are phenomenal, we can’t simply rate one above the other. However, if you’re looking to score more points in Taekwondo or Karate, I feel an axe kick would work extremely well in combination with a roundhouse kick.

Conclusion

I hope the aforementioned guide served the purpose of helping you with the understanding of axe kick. In my opinion, it is amongst the most underutilized kick in combat sports. Mainly because of its misrepresentation. Though I believe that you can knock your opponent out with it, using an axe kick in combination with other kicks is what proves to be extremely effective.