Everybody can do a front kick, but not everybody can do it with power, accuracy, and precision. If you’re an MMA fan, you might remember Travis Browne knocking out Alistair Overeem, Anderson Silva knocking out Vitor Belfort and Lyoto Machida knocking out Randy Couture with a front kick.
All of these knockouts were delicious. Legendary front kicks which knocked the wind out of their opponents. Surprisingly, two of these three happened on a single night – UFC 129 right before one another.
A front kick is an upward angle kick usually targeted towards the chin, groin, ribs or solar plexus. You can either use the front kick to defend or to attack. Front kick is ideally known for knocking an opponent cold by connecting ball of the foot with their chin, groin or ribs. A perfect landing on a chin might deprive them of future tinder matches. Jokes aside, let’s move towards the meaty part.
How to Front Kick?
A front kick is not similar to the stomp kick or push kick. It follows an upward angle and doesn’t flow in a straight angle. Though easy to deliver, Front kick demands flexibility and quickness. You can easily bring down your opponent if you perform an effective front kick. And to do so, you must follow the steps below:
- Relax Mentally: Before you deliver any kick. Just relax your body. Stay calm and composed. Even if you’ve lost a lot of energy and points, it’s important to stay composed. Relaxing your mind before you deliver your kick, helps you hit the kick effectively. If your blood’s boiling over your opponent’s fighting style or you’re coming up second best, still make sure to relax your body. After all, you are just one connection away from bringing the assailant to the ground. Thus, the first step is to stay relaxed all the time.
2. Get into the fighting stance: The general rule of thumb is to keep a front fighting stance. It comprises of leaning forward with your front leg bent at a 45-degree angle. It is followed by a straightened back leg which slightly stretches the back-leg muscles. Remember, stance differs based upon schools, martial arts, and individual fighter’s approach. In a real-life scenario, you’re most likely to avoid the front leaning stance and lean towards a fighting stance.
3. Turning your foot: Right after you get into the fighting stance, you are required to pivot your non-kicking leg in a 45-degree angle. This allows the opening of hips, making it more squared so you release the kick with momentum and added velocity.
4. Set your target: Before you even lift your leg, predetermine your target. Usually, the front kick is used for a thrust in the groin area. However, you can even target the face (chin) and other parts of your opponent’s body. All in all, choose your target before you lift the knee up.
5. Form the front kick chamber: An important part of Taekwondo kicks is that majority of them have chambering. The front kick too requires you to lift your kicking knee up as high as you can and form a chamber. You can form a chamber at whatever height you wish to kick, If you want to target the groin, you can keep it low, but if you want to target the chest area, then your knee should be lifting on chest height.
6. Extend your leg: Chambering beckons the moment of impact. Herein, you release the foot and attack your opponent with the ball of your foot or instep. While the foot can be pointed downwards initially, it’s always advisable connect with your opponent through the ball of your foot. It works in all circumstances – when you’re attacking the chin, ribs or even the groin.
7. Recoil your leg back in the chamber: Once you’ve landed the kick, you must quickly bring back your kicking leg into the chamber position i.e. recoiling your kicking leg. This practice is similar to that of the roundhouse kick and back kick.
8. Bring your leg to the ground: It’s advisable to land your kick in front or either back post the chambering. Maintain the fighting stance when bringing your foot back in its natural position.
What to target in a front kick?
The most effective areas where you can land the front kick are ribs, chin, groin and the solar plexus. Only a handful of fighters like to target the head with a front kick. Mainly because it’s off the trajectory. It is most effective if you’re targeting any other area than the groin. On the contrary, when you target the chin, a front kick results in a brutal blow and can knock your opponent out.
Common mistakes while doing a Front Kick
1. Striking when imbalanced: When you chamber your legs, ensure that you have a perfect balance. If you try to land a front kick when imbalanced, you will not be able to land the kick properly let alone cause substantial damage. Thus, ensure balance and form before you look for the impact.
2. Not exerting the pressure forward: Usually, schools teach students to lean forward when delivering a front kick. And that’s absolutely right. Leaning slightly forward allows you to take the force of your body and exert it in the same direction as your kick. It will help generate more velocity and power. Additionally, move your hips forward as it will help land a stronger kick. If you don’t exert pressure, your kick won’t be venomous.
3. No pivoting well with the rear leg: Before you chamber your legs, you should turn your non-kicking leg in a 45-degree angle. This will activate your hip and will enable you to exert your pressure forward thereby translating into more power and velocity. Most practitioners often undermine the role of pivoting. It might be a small movement but it can make a major difference with regards to the effectiveness of a kick.
4. Keeping the non-kicking leg stiff: While you’re landing a kick with your leg, don’t keep the non-kicking leg straight up stiff. If you do so and your opponent targets it, there’s every chance in this world that it will snap. You might have seen Jon Jones use these low/oblique kicks to great effect. Note how the fighters keep their knees slightly bent so to prevent extensive damage. Thus, make sure not to keep the leg straight and stiff. If you bend it a little, you can prevent your leg from snapping.
5. Not connecting with the ball of the foot: The ball of the foot is denser and has a lower surface area thus it is able to penetrate into the target and cause severe damage. Due to the versatility of the front kick, practitioners also use instep but that isn’t quite effective. You can use the instep or the ball of the foot while attacking the groin but the lower surface area in the ball of the foot translates to more power and better impact.
Defending Front Kicks
- Parrying the attack and circling out: A basic way to defend yourself from a front kick is by parrying the kick using your front hand and circling out. It’s a great technique to reset. Additionally, there’s minimal risk as you’re maintaining your distance while doing it. It’s a great way to disrupt the flow of your opponent as their intention is to lock your in with the front kick.
- Leaning Back & Covering: Not a preferred technique, but can help you get a breather in tough situations. All you need to do is lean back with your upper body while covering yourself. This technique works when your opponent is not fully committed. Thus, do not rely on this defending technique every time.
- Cover Punch: A great way to defend is by coming up with an attack of your own. This technique requires you to get the timing right. If you miss the timing then you might hurt yourself or leave yourself open for more attacks.
- Kick under or over their front leg: If you’re facing an opponent who is taller or shorter than you, then you can use this technique to great effect. If your opponent’s taller, then you can kick to their ribs from under their leg and vice-versa. Even if it doesn’t work as you imagined, you’ll still be able to reset your opponent.
Countering Front Kicks
Though there are many ways to counter front kicks, the most effective one is by using your hands along with an active stance. Your best shot is to move backward and use your hands to derail your opponent. Let’s look at some of the most effective front kick counters:
1. Counter kick followed by a Minor Step down: Move out of the kick’s path, bring the hand down and forcefully deflect the kick. Use the momentum to your benefit and take a step back before you counter. Taking advantage of your opponent’s position, deliver your counter strike – Perhaps a Roundhouse kick.
2. Sweep their back leg: It all starts with grabbing hold of your opponent’s leg. Once you have caught it, use your other hand to grab it. After you’ve grabbed it, move the leg across and lock it before you move closer to your opponent. Followed by that, you can simply sweep your opponent’s back leg and start with the ground and pound. However, when trying to catch hold your opponent, don’t use one hand as it will be easy for your opponent to push you away.
3. Knee down the middle: Yet again, a counter which starts with holding the kick. Once you grab hold of it, you can pull your opponent closer towards you and land a knee down the middle. You must have seen wrestler CM Punk do this a lot of times. There are many variations as to how you can do it but knee down the middle can sometimes take your opponent out, thus it’s an effective counter.
4. Lift their leg: A similar counter to sweeping your opponent’s leg is by lifting their leg. This counter requires you to pull your opponent closer, place your arm across and then lift their standing leg from the ground.
5. Kick to their back: Once you grab hold of their leg, instead of getting close or bringing your opponent down, you can release your opponent’s leg by swinging in the opposite direction. Once you derail your opponent, you can kick your opponent’s back and land terrible damage.
Drills to improve your Front Kick
To land a perfect front kick, you need to work on developing full control of your limbs. It sounds impossible at first but if you can control your hands, why not your leg? With continuous drills and constant practice, you can control your legs and use them effectively in a front kick. Here are the following drills to improve your front kick:
- Improve balance: Before you even get into kicking drills, make sure you have balance perfected. Not just the front kick but in any type of chambering kick, balance is pivotal. You can improve your balance by practicing kicking while holding a wall. For a front kick, you can support your body with your hand to initially to improve the balance. You can take support of a wall or a chair to improve your balance.
- Improve Chambering: Chambering is like a delegation centre which will drive efficiency. When you chamber your kick, it very much determines where you’re going to land it. Chambering also helps generate more power if you pivot well. If you master chambering, you can land a defining front kick to your opponent’s groin or his/her head.
- Holding your kick: An effective front kick comes with complete control. For this reason, you must improve your front kick by trying to hold your kick in the middle. The more you try to stretch it forward and hold it up, the better control you’ll possess over it. Hold your kick mid-air and count the seconds.
- Try Variation: While using the ball of the foot is the most effective way to front kick, you should also try the instep. Practice your front kick variation with a bag to understand which area works the best for you and how effectively can you use it against your opponent. You can try it against a pad or a solid object to measure the impact.
- Hip Stretching: Front kick is all about reach, though not as much as the spinning hook kick, you still require your front leg to stretch forward. Furthermore, you need to improve your hip movements. Since the power and the velocity of your kick largely relies upon the hip movement, you should do squats, splits, deep horse stance to begin with.
Variations of Front Kicks
Even for a novice who’s learning front kick as his first kick, balance and flexibility are paramount. A front kick needs to be quick, sharp, powerful and must hit with venom. The amount of versatility this kick has to offer is crazy. You can use the front kick either to defend or to attack. Either to protect yourself and rest or to turn the lights off for you opponent.
1. Snap Kick: It is performed by snapping the lower leg onto the target. Power is generated from lifting the knee and chambering. Though quick and effective, the snap kick doesn’t use as much hips as the thrust kick. Thus, practitioners can maintain their centre of gravity and balance. A snap kick is to derail the opponent and catch him off guard.
2. Thrust Kick: It is widely used in Muay Thai as a thrusting kick. A defensive kick to push your opponent backward. A thrust kick uses the hip motion to derive power. The thrust of hips allows you to activate the biggest muscles in your body thereby landing a penetrative kick with impact. As said earlier, in both a snap or a thrust kick, ball of the foot is generally preferred. However, most people also employ heel and instep when it comes to targeting groin.
3. Rear Leg Front Kick: Rear Leg Front kick is the most common type of front kick as the majority of the fighters prefer using the rear leg. It’s comfortable and can help generate more power for some fighters. Since it’s a natural motion, it’s more comfortable to shift the balance and add weight to the kick by leaning forward. Especially when delivering the kick from a deep stance, the rear leg front kick can help break opponent’s block. Some people even try a revised version of this kick where they target at a 20-degree angle.
4. Lead Leg Front Kick: As opposed to the thrust kick and rear kick, the lead leg front kick is way quicker. However, it’s less powerful. The lead leg front kick is defensive in approach and is generally used for self-defence. There are many variations of the lead leg kick which are used to prevent the opponents from moving closer. Remember, penetrating is not the objective of lead leg front kick. It’s rather keeping your opponent at a distance.
5. Double Front Kick: The Double Front Kick as the name suggests involves using both your legs in cohesion to deliver the impact. It may look simple, however, it’s amongst the most advanced front kick variations.
7. Jumping Front Kick: A slight variation of the original front kick. The jumping front kick requires a practitioner to raise his/her back leg and then use the trailing leg to jump and throw a jump snap kick.
Front Kicks for self-defense
If you have trouble understanding front kicks. Here’s a simpler version. Think of front kicks as straight punches. Take the front-legged kick as a jab whereas the rear-legged kick as a cross. Now imagine a situation where an attacker is edging closer towards you with a knife or perhaps a punch or kick. Herein, you can effectively use a front kick to create the distance between you and the attacker. Not just that but you can also target the attacker’s groin, solar plexus, kneecap, gall bladder, and shins. If you connect properly, you might even render them unconscious.
Names of a front kick in different martial arts
As mentioned earlier, a front kick is also known as a thrust kick or snap kick. While that is because of the variation, the names below indicate the original names for the front kick in respective martial art forms:
- Karate: Mae Geri
- Taekwondo: Ap Chagi (Ap Cha-gee)
- Muay Thai: Push Kick (Teep)
- Savate: Chassé (Collective term for piston action kick)
- Kick boxing: Front Kick, Snap Kick, Thrust Kick, Push Kick
Usage of Front Kick in different martial arts
Though it’s the most basic kick in martial arts, it does serve the purpose for more than one martial art form. For Taekwondo professionals, it’s a kick capable enough of winning a point through impartment of trembling shock. For Karate practitioners, it’s a great technique to target the opponent’s solar plexus. For Muay Thai practitioners, it’s a great defensive move used to push the opponent backwards. Thus, you can see the application and relevancy of front kick in different types of martial arts and how versatile it is with regards to it. Fighters can use it as an offensive weapon or can also deploy it in a defensive sense just to stun the opponent. That’s the beauty of the front kick.
Application of front kick in Muay Thai
There’s a common misconception that a front kick is not a part of Muay Thai since it’s not defensive in nature. Muay Thai fighters argue that Front kick a.k.a push kick is not similar to Teep as the latter is just concerned with pushing an opponent. Front kick covers a broader range and that goes against the belief of teep which is defensive in nature. For example, front kick is intended to knock an opponent cold, however, that’s not the motto of a teep kick. Their argument can be further understood in a visual comparison below:
Get the difference? In the front kick image, the fighter is gearing for the chin with the ball of his foot. In the second image, the fighter is just trying to push his opponent in order to create some room for himself.
Solving FFPs – Frequently Faced Problems
When executing a front kick, my thigh level falls down than the initial waist height. I cannot hold my leg up in hair for more than 2 seconds when I’ve reached the maximum height. How do I improve?
As per my understanding, you’re lacking the combination of flexibility and technique. In your case, where you can’t hold up your leg at maximum elevation for more than 2 seconds, you’re likely facing flexibility issues. I mentioned the technique because though stretching your hamstrings might help, if you don’t apply the proper technique, you’re going to lag back in execution.
Is chin a good area to target with a front kick?
What’s better than knocking your opponent out cold? Front kick emphasizes the usage of the ball of the foot and that part of the feet has ‘Fatality’ written all over it.
Is chambering important in a front kick?
Unless you’re referring to Kung Fu, where there are two types of front kick, chambering is quite an importance. In Taekwondo and other point-based sports, chambering allows you to launch a quick attack without getting into the normal stance time and time again.
What’s the most important tip for a beginner starting with a front kick?
Develop control over your knees through various drills. Keep them in line with your body as explained upon. Usually, when practitioners are starting out, they tend to bring their knees up as they shoot the kick. It often results in losing balance and power.
I hope this in-depth front kick guide helped you learn about the kick, how to throw it, how to counter it and how to improve it. Start practicing the front kick today and don’t look back.