A back kick or spinning back kick is one of the most underrated kicking techniques in traditional martial arts such as Karate or Taekwondo. Often overlooked, practitioners tend to rely more on kicks such as roundhouse and side kicks as they believe that back kick doesn’t have enough power.
The undermining of this kick is ironic as it’s, in fact, the deadliest kick both in traditional and contemporary MMA. Inarguably, back kick or spinning back kick (iteration) carries a ton of momentum and torque which is enough to knock your opponent out if appropriately connected.
A perfect back kick or spinning back kick can shatter your opponent’s ribs. Case in point, the video below, herein, Aaron (the person in black) demonstrates back kick on Shane (the person-in blue) from FightTips. What’s astonishing is the ground that Shane loses when a back kick is delivered just at 35% of Aaron’s power and that too with the guard on. Imagine 100% power and connection without the guard! I can imagine the sound of rib cracking already just like Wonderboy Thompson
What makes Back Kick powerful?
Back Kick utilizes the big muscles in your body – back, hamstrings and glutes. These are the strongest muscles which if trained regularly can strengthen the entire body.
Back Kick carries a tremendous amount of impact and usage of these strong muscles. Furthermore, back kick involves a follow through, viz, letting your kick leave the maximum impact without retracting it in the normal position.
But the reason why back kick is extremely vicious is because of the heel. As opposed to other kicks in martial arts, back kick involves the usage of heel instead of the ball of the foot or shin. Moreover, it’s the heel that has the rib shattering element if connected properly.
How to back kick?
Getting into the fighting stance
To do a back kick or a spinning back kick you would want to take a fighting stance with your front foot facing towards your opponent. Be proactive and always ready for the move; also attempt a back kick only if you sense an opening. While doing a back kick, it’s crucial that you are in line with your opponent’s rib and your follow-through isn’t landing in a different direction. You want to kick through the ribs of your opponent, and thus your fighting stance will play a vital role in adding the viciousness to your kick.
Use your hand
Most practitioners underplay the role of the hands in blocking the opponent’s move before we turn to back kick. Using your hand helps to create a shield across the body along with generation of power. Contrary to the other kicks, a back kick or spinning back kick requires you to keep your hands close to your body to generate more force.
If you hand moves in the opposite direction, the force gets bifurcated into different direction which takes away the sting from your back kick. Thus, use your hand to not only shield yourself but exert force and pressure into your back kick.
Do a Back Turn
Back Turn follows the fighting stance & pivoting. You start with facing your opponent and as soon as you see an opening for the back kick or a spinning back kick you would want to turn your back while looking at your opponent from over the shoulders. Back turn needs to be super quick because if you’re slow, then the opponent will be able to read your intentions easily. Due to this he might counter easily or adjust himself in such a way that the back kick ends up hurting you or causing an injury.
Raise your back leg
When you turn backwards, you must raise your back leg and bring it in line with your front leg. Upon doing so, you must fold it and ensure that your knees are straight and aren’t sideways. What separates back kick from other kicks in martial arts is its simplicity and effectiveness. You don’t have to turn all the way and get into motion or waste your time; you have to turn around, raise your back leg and land the kick straight onto your opponent’s body.
Once you have the knees in proper stance and your target set, you can go on and hit back kick. Remember, the essence of back kick lies in kicking straight and without any circular motion. Many practitioners while delivering a back kick often lose their stance and end up lifting the back leg sideways viz., absolutely wrong.
The picture above is an accurate demonstration of a back kick. Look at how his pillar foot is straight; his attacking leg moving towards the ribs of the opponent without any circular movement and the power generated through arms can be visible with the blurred right hand.
Similar to the Muay Thai Roundhouse kick; the back kick requires you to follow throw your opponent’s body as well. The major difference with regards to movement is that if you opt for a jump back kick, then you jump a little to get an extra edge and flexibility while kicking. A little hop gives you a split second more to adjust yourself before landing the kick which in most cases ends up making the difference.
When to use a back kick or spinning back kick?
Back kick is the most underutilized kick in all of the martial arts. Majority of the practitioners consider it as a fancy kick with minimum impact. Most of them just think that it causes a basic thrust and nothing more than that. I used to think the same way before I researched and learnt about the dominant force that a back kick carries.
Firstly, the intention of the back kick when attacking with it is to leave your opponent in tremendous agony. Back kick can achieve so through penetration and force which helps leave a maximum impact on the opponent. When you sense an opening, you can go ahead and deliver the back kick.
There’s a misconception, and you can’t deliver a back kick from a close distance, but that’s not true. Regardless of the area you have, you can still work out within the space and deliver the blow. A major reason why most practitioners are reluctant is that the distance is the primary element that is considered when teaching back kick.
Back Kick can be a great counter to a roundhouse kick or even sidekick. If your opponent fails to land a roundhouse kick, you can quickly take the advantage and deliver the back kick.
As opposed to the attacking scenario, back kick in counter-attacking term requires you to be quick and short rather than long and penetrating. You can see an effective counter-attacking usage of the back kick in the following video:
Losing your target
When your opponent tries to deliver a short kick, you can readjust your body by moving to the left or right and counter with an unexpected back kick. The key here is to invite your opponent’s back leg into the kick and then moving out followed by a back kick of your own. If you have a strong back kick, this can help you score many points in Taekwondo or even finish off your opponent in combat sports.
If you’re in a Taekwondo competition or any other sport with a scoring system, you know effective kicks can get you more points as compared to punches. A back kick is a great way to lure your opponent into punching you for a point and following it up with an effective back kick which can help score up to 3-4 points depending upon where you land it.
Take them by surprise
Back kick needs to be quick and surprising. That is when it leaves the mental and physical impact. Throw a back kick when your opponent is least expecting them as it will catch them by surprise and leave them stunned. You can follow back kick up with a great combination and take advantage of your opponent’s inability to get back into the proper frame of mind.
Common Mistakes to avoid while doing a back kick
Shoot the kick, don’t spin
A wrong practice is that the practitioners are trying to spin the back kick rather than shooting it. Back kick or spinning back kick follows a linear motion and thus doesn’t involve spin. There’s no circular motion in the back kick as seen in videos above; it’s straight. Turn around, glance at your opponent, raise your leg and deliver the kick straight.
There’s no leg raising sideways or hitting the foot in a different direction. Thus, if you’re spinning your back kick, i.e. giving it motion, please avoid that, it’s not the right way to do so. You’re doing hook kick rather than a spinning back kick when you do the circular motion.
Pay attention to the footwork
Do not take the footwork lightly. It very much determines the effectiveness of your kick. While doing a back kick, you need your body behind the kick with your heels facing your opponent. Most of the practitioners end up hitting a back kick with the ball of their foot, which is bizarre. It doesn’t serve the purpose and might cause an additional injury to make matters worse.
Foot work also causes you to spin which yet again doesn’t serve the purpose of a back kick. Cross-stepping – a general practice in MMA leads to the circular motion which minimizes the penetration.
Connect through the body
When delivering a back kick, a common mistake people make is that they don’t follow through. They retract their leg thinking they have scored a point. However, this renders the effort ineffective as the purpose of the back kick is to penetrate and leave your entire body behind the kick to deliver maximum impact.
Most of the practitioners keep the body rigid while delivering a back kick. That’s not a wise practice but rather a mistake. Sliding your leg gives you the freedom and time to adjust your kick while you’re in the air.
Sliding can help you launch your opponent across the ring. Thus, don’t just keep your foot planted and rather slide to cover a distance and operate with more flexibility.
Not using the heel
A part you’d be already familiar by now is not using your heel in a back kick. This is a major yet most careless mistake when hitting a back kick.
Though hitting with the ball of the foot or toe seems lucrative, it is not effective and won’t serve the purpose. Thus, use your heel let it embed itself first followed by the rest of your foot.
If you have trouble understanding through words alone, the following video will help you to learn about these common mistakes while doing a back kick:
Drills to improve your back kick or spinning back kick
To deliver a perfect back kick you need to balance your body accurately. Only if you’re in control of your body will you be able to deliver a devastating back kick. If you’re starting with back kicks, you can take the support of the wall or your trainer to help improve your balance while delivering the kick.
Kicking through the opposite leg
Though back kick is generally targeted at the ribs, you can also knock your opponent by targeting the head. For this purpose, you should try kicking higher at different angles. Fully extend your knee and hips, and kick higher.
Short distance kicks
A simple way to make back kicks effective is by learning to deliver them in tight spaces. You can do this drill with the help of a pad or a partner. Keep the pad or your partner as close to you as you can and practice back kick. Start with turning first followed by quick pivoting, switch and then kick. The more you practice this drill, the better you’ll be able to work the tight spaces.
There’s a good amount of chance that you’ve heard about squats before. Bring one foot in front of the other. While on toes of your back foot, ensure you squeeze your glutes. Bend the knee to form a 90-degree and align the knee over the ankle. Keep switching.
A widely popular exercise known to strengthen glutes, calves and hamstrings all of which is required to deliver a devastating back kick. Stand straight with your shoulders and feet wide apart. Go down in a squat position and then jump upwards with force while raising both the arms towards the sky.
Names of back kicks in different martial arts
The back kick is known as a mule kick, donkey kick, turning back kick or even horse kick. It has so many names because of the form in which this kick is delivered. In Chinese Wushu, this kick is called as the half-moon kick which is a slight variation of this kick. In Wushu, the attacking leg is lifted even higher to achieve large curvature and thus the name half-moon.
1. Karate: Ushiro Geri (Japanese term for turning back kick)
2. Taekwondo: Dwi Chagi spelled as “D-we Cha-gee”
3. Muay Thai: Spinning Back Kick
4. Wushu: Half Moon Kick – follows a slightly different arc as compared to normal back kick.
5. Kick boxing: Back Kick
6. Savate: Revers (follows more of a hook pattern with sole of shoe contact)
Variation of Back kicks or Spinning Back Kicks
There are several variations of the back kick namely Jumping Back Kick, Flying Back Kick and the Fade-Away Back Kick. Back Kick with its spinning attributes draws a similarity to hook kick, but it’s quite different. Let’s focus on the three variations of the back kick:
Jumping Back Kick
Jumping Back Kick is an iteration of normal back kick with a slight jump before the delivery. This ensures flexibility and better reach and impact than a planted back kick. A jumping back kick leaves more room to modify and reset your target. This kick is often underrated as it is considered as a show-off Hollywood style kick with little to no impact. However, the reality is quite different.
Flying Back Kick
A flying back kick also known as the 360 Back kick is a slight variation of the Jump Back Kick. A major difference between the flying and the jumping kick is the body momentum. Our body, while we deliver the flying back kick, is in the air as opposed to the normal back it. Furthermore, it’s an advance kicking technique which is usually practiced after one has learnt back kick and jumping bac kick. You can watch the following video to learn more about the 360 back kick and how to do it correctly:
Fade Away Back Kick
Another adaptation of the jumping back kick, the fading away back kick involves fading away instead of moving up and down. It’s like moving out of the frame while delivering the kick. For instance, jumping requires you to jump a little before you land the kick; however, with fading back kick; you step away from your opponent while delivering the kick. Though it’s quite the opposite to the back kick principle, it’s often used to score crucial points in Taekwondo.
Difference between back kick and a jump back kick
Before understanding the difference let’s understand what’s common between these two kicks. Both back and jump back kick require you to maintain the fight stance at first. Followed by that, you’re required to turn and pivot.
After turning and glancing at your opponent from over your shoulders. Until here it’s the same procedure. However, here’s where the twist comes, while a back kick just requires the heel to hit hard against your opponent, a jump back kick requires you to jump a little before you land the kick.
Misconception about spinning back kick
Most practitioners have got the concept of spinning back kick wrong. The term spinning back kick has much confusion surrounding it. Spinning back kick is a normal back kick. However, the name spinning doesn’t correctly justify the movement as the kick is hit without any circular motion or a swing. It’s a linear technique.
Thus it goes straight into your opponent’s body without any circular motion. Though there’s a turn; there isn’t spin. Furthermore, there’s no movement in the kick, and rather it’s just the body and pivot, both spinning and jump back kick are identical.
Hope this all-inclusive guide on back kick proved to a valuable one. I hope you’re driving home some valuable lessons from this all-encompassing guide. If you are interested to learn about roundhouse house kicks, make sure to check out (Roundhouse kick guide). If you have any suggestions or opinions about this blog or any other blog, please drop them in the comment section below.
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