Low kick 101: Everything You Need To Know About The Low Kick

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Chop the base, and the whole tree will fall. Low kick a.k.a cut kick, round kick or leg kick carries the same motives.

A low kick generally includes a range of kicks including the groin kick, calf kick, low front kick, low push kick, low roundhouse kick, low side kick, sweep kick, stomp kick, shin kick or low toe kick.

But a general low kick refers to the usage of the shin or the instep. When your shin leaves your opponent’s legs frozen, you know you’re doing something right.

Whether it’s breaking the opponent down or knocking them out, low kicks are always up to the task.

Low kicks or leg kicks are the kicks in which you use your leg primarily your shinbone or foot to attack the lower body of your opponent i.e. thigh or calf.

Low kicks target the longest and the widest nerve in our body – Sciatic nerve. This nerve begins in the lower back and continues all the way to our lower limb. 

A venomous low kick can force your opponent into a ‘Mannequin Challenge’ and most of the time it’s enough to knock them out.

Impact of a low kick

Low kick, without doubt, helps to rattle your opponents. When you target your opponent’s legs with a low kick, you can make them unstable, decrease their mobility and cause loss of dexterity.

By repeatedly targeting the thighs or other parts in the lower leg, you can damage your opponent’s muscle tissue, ligaments, joints, and bones.

A proven method of breaking your opponent’s will to fight, low kicks are great for technical knockouts.

You can use a low kick to leave your opponent in agony or you can stop aggressive fighters in their tracks.

If your low kick is on point, your opponents will most likely want to maintain the distance. After all, they got to be standing to even stand a chance in the bout.

Ok, this sounds cool, but how do I begin with low kicks in the first place? Well, here’s

How to low kick?

  1. Get into the stance: While low kick is not complex as the other kicks, you do need to get your body behind the legs. Most of the low kicks thrown today are unpredictable and do not come from an active stance, however, you as a beginner you do want to stay in stance and keep moving.
  2. Set your target: Before you even land the kick, the sciatic nerve is what we’re aiming for. Whether it’s your opponent’s inner and outer thigh, knees, lower abdomen or groin. Regardless of your target, most fighters mostly target the inner and outer thigh. When it comes to setting up the target, you must make a quick decision as to whether you’ll go for their inner thigh or the outer thigh. Based upon that you’ll use your legs. If you want to hit the inner right thigh, you’d use your left shinbone, contrastingly, if you want to attack the outer right thigh, you’ll use your right shinbone.
  3. Pivot: Once you’ve decided the target, for instance, your opponent’s outer right thigh, you would want to pivot your left leg. Followed by that, you must swing your right leg like a baseball bat for maximum impact.
  4. Body Movement: Move your body in the same direction. You must back your kick with a considerable force and use the momentum of your body to sting your opponent.
  5. Set it up: You can’t just go around keep throwing low kicks hoping that one would connect with your opponent. Low kicks are often a part of a set-up or are used in a combination. For instance, the punch or jab before the low kick. These punches and jabs deceive your opponent and hide the low kick which is going to be unleashed.
  6. Maintain your defense: Just because you’re going bezerk on an attacking front doesn’t mean you let your guard down. You shouldn’t forget about the defense and at all times, protect your head or body from the alternative attacks.
  7. Kick with your shin: As opposed to the majority of the kicks which promote using, heels, flat or ball of the foot, the low kick begs to differ. In a low kick, you’re required to use your shin to breakdown your opponent. Do not use any other part of your leg other than the shinbone.

7 Common mistakes to avoid when low kicking

1. Improper Set-up: As mentioned earlier, low-key is never used as the fury of kicks. It’s an application and clever. Most of the time, fighters use it to slow the opponent down. Other times they look for a technical knock-out or to set something bigger.

Just going on with full force without a proper set-up is not a huge mistake that practitioners generally make. Martial arts especially Muay Thai is where smart fighters win. As a beginner, there’s nothing smarter than learning how to slow your opposite number’s engine down and creating an opening.

2. Not using your shinbone: Generally, most of the kick requires you to use your heel, ball of the foot or your flat. However, low kicks emphasize utilization of shinbone. If you use any other part of the foot, say the knife-edge, you might end up with a broken leg.

Given the distance, shinbone is the most effective part which is very difficult for the opponent to absorb or deflect. If you train your shinbone, it can turn out to be the most destructive part of your body.

3. Not gathering momentum: One element which is quintessential in all kicks is momentum. You’ve to gather momentum and back up your kick with movement.

You can’t let your body go sideways or against the force. Practitioners often miss out on these little details and end up delivering ineffective kicks.

4. Loosening your defense: Though you’re trying to take your opponent down or wear him, don’t get too overwhelmed. Do not lay back and let your defense loose when you’re low kicking.

Often fighters end up exposing their groin, chest and head area which usually results in a knockout or a counter which takes the momentum away.

5. Not following through One thing you should know about kicks heavily used in Muay Thai is that they require you to follow through.

All Muay Thai practitioners use low kicks. Though it’s not as common in other martial arts forms such as Karate and Taekwondo, this kick is at the heart of all Muay Thai kicks.

Low kick requires you to kick through the legs of your opponent. It basically resembles a scythe used to cut the crops.

6. Not targeting the right part: You don’t just want to land your kick anywhere. You want to target the place where it’ll create the most impact.

The area we want to land our low kick on is an inner and outer thigh, knees, lower abdomen or groin. If you land your shinbone anywhere else other than these targets, your kick isn’t going to be fairly effective.

7. Not using in combinations: Similar to setups, where you follow a punch or a double jab with a low kick, you should also use a combination.

A combination is nothing but a mixture of kicks, punches, and jabs which you do in quick succession. Most practitioners

Importance of hand movement in low kicks

You can use your hands in either of the three ways: Hold Up, place them before the face or rest them on your opponent’s shoulder. Let’s understand these three movements in-depth.

1. Hold-Up: Majority of the fighters like to hold both the hands up before the moment of impact. Keep both the hands stable allows them to exert all the pressure in their kick. Furthermore, the movement acts as a guard preventing the face from being directly exposed.

2. Blocking your opponent sight: By placing your other hand before the eyes of your opponent, you can block their sight and then use the low kick. This technique is quite popular when it comes to setting up the low kick. Your low kick is essentially disguised behind your hand movement.

3. Hands-on the shoulder: Another great way to maximize the impact of the kick. Herein, you move your hands towards your opponent’s shoulder blades. Moreover, you use their shoulder to deceive them by setting up your defense followed by a vicious low kick.

While there’s no doubt that there’s always room of improvement and innovation with regards to hand movements, these are the three standard techniques used to shield, disguise or attack your opponent.

When should you use a Low Kick?

The most ideal time to throw a low kick is when your opponent’s approaching with a punch in a straight line. Their inclination towards landing the punching will attract most of their commitment and momentum. This is the most perfect time to derail them and make them lose their balance with a low kick. However, there are many other circumstances in which using a low kick can prove to be quite favorable. Thus, you must low kick when you want to:

1. Get in a Clinch: Low kick is extremely effective when you want to clinch your opponent. The reason why it’s beneficial is that you temporarily derail your opponent. Given that your opponent is dominating the bout, you might want to clinch and slow it down a bit.

2. Stop your opponent: When you want to stop your opponent’s advances, you can use low kicks to great measure. Regardless of how quick your opponent is, a good low kick will be enough for you to sting your opponent for some seconds.

3. Takedown: Low kick is quite effective in MMA. You can use it effectively to hurt your opponent. Effective utilization of this kick will make your opponent lose his control and concentration. If you’re good at ground and pound, the takedown is certainly what you’d go for.

4. Scoring points: The only reason why it’s not very popular in the sports involving scores is that it’s not a lucrative kick. It’s not a kick to the head, it’s just the legs. It doesn’t score points. It doesn’t please people. However, if you use low kicks in combination, you can really score some amazing points. For instance, imagine you doing a low kick, as soon as you land and rotate, now imagine yourself following it up a spinning hook kick to the head. Won’t that help score points? It’s just how effectively you can use it.

5. Technical Knockout (TKO): Though direct knockouts have taken place in the past. Low kick is great for technical knockouts. Mainly. Because it renders the leg ineffective. If you target Sciatic nerve and land continuous strikes, it is bound to leave a devastating effect that might not leave your opponent in a condition to continue.

5 crucial elements to countering a low kick

1. Absorb: Sustaining low kick works towards countering it. If you can sustain your opponent’s kick then you can follow it up with a low kick of your own.

Herein, you can turn inside, not too much, but just slightly so you make your thighs stronger for absorbing the kick.

Once, you absorb the kick, you can counter with a back kick or any other kick to the torso or perhaps land a quick combination followed by a clinch.

2. Slide out: Most effective technique is to slide out. This requires a lot of practice and understanding of low kicks. The stance mechanism of low kicks and when is the opponent looking to throw it.

If you can read the body language then you must master sliding out. It helps you move out without any damage and gives you enough room to land your own counter – perhaps a spinning hook kick, roundhouse kick or front kick.

3. Check: Checking out is raising your knees to cancel out the low kick. Not as effective as sliding out but its easier than slide out. Why? You just need to lift your knee to hurt your opponent’s intention.

He is aiming for the thighs and the moment you lift it; he misses the intended target. More often than not, opponents might end up hurting their shinbone with the wrong connection.

4. Defend: When you see an opponent gearing up a deep low kick. The moment you catch their intentions, simply play your flat of the foot on their knee joints.

It’s the best form of defense and it will help kill the low kick altogether. Once you’re done it, you can follow it up with a roundhouse kick from the opposite leg.

Another way to defend is by raising your knees and pulling it backward as the kick is approaching, this will help take the sting out of the kick and help you set up a counter-attack.

5. Salvage Counts: Blocking a low kick is not an easy task. Most of the time, when you’re unable to access your opponent’s quick movements, you can defend with salvage counts.

Salvage counts as described by Kwonkicker is knowing you’d get hit but using it as a setup to launch an attack of your own.

In low kick especially, this matters a lot as if you’re not sliding out, you’ll most probably eat that low kick in some way or the other. So, you can deploy it is a salvage count where you minimize the impact and then counter.

5 Best low kick combinations for beginners

1. Jab + Low kick: This basic combination requires you to jab first followed by a low kick. It’s the most basic of combinations you can use to conceal your low kick. It’s great for beginners as it gives them an extra edge and maintains the element of surprise.

2. Upper Cut + Low Kick: Uppercut is a great move to block your opponent’s vision and land a low kick in disguise. It’s a great technique, though not as easy as the jab, it certainly is more deceiving than the jab + low kick combination.

3. Jab + Cross + Low Kick: Similar to the jab and low kick combination, the Jab + Cross + Low kick combination involves cross which is not thrown at a 100% power and it’s a fake cross job to disguise the low kick.

4. Hook + Low kick: Instead of punching straight, hooking has a more relaxed feel to it. It’s not as quick as the jab but hook can be deceivingly powerful when you want to land a low kick. You can easily curtail the low kick under the hook.

5. Hook + Uppercut + Low kick: Another great combination for starters is adding an uppercut in the mix. It adds more surprise to the combination. While hook might be predictable if your opponent has done his homework, adding uppercut makes it hard to predict.

Role of the instep in low kicks

It might come as a shocking subtopic but that’s true. Most of the people undermine the role of the instep in a low kick. The fact of the matter is that yes you want to low kick.

However, it’s not necessary that you will get the right connection. Thus, it’s important that you condition your instep in such a way that it acts as an important arsenal. 

Many practitioners refrain from using instep because they feel it might leave them injured. However, that’s not true.

With proper conditioning, you use your instep as a great tool. The instep is great to target those vulnerable spots, likewise, shinbone is ideal to target the long muscles.

Thus, having a strong condition instep won’t harm your equation but will only add to your attributes.

Drills to improve your low kicks

Looking back at my career, it was one of the weapons I used to set up all of my knockouts and ultimately finish my opponents.’ – Joe Valtellini

Low kick is an under-used weapon in kickboxing. Here’s how you can make the most of it by practicing the drill and perfecting the art.

1. Single Pad Drills: This stationary drill is a great way to understand which part of the shin do you want to land and where do you want to land.

It’s a beginner drill that can help you set your target and understand the different muscles, bones, and ligaments which you can target.

The two things you’re focusing on in this drill is taking a small step ahead and transferring your weight before the impact.

2. Set-up low kicks: As the name suggests, a set-up low kick aims at setting up attacks. When you’re doing a set-up low kick, you would want to use the lower part of your shin bone.

You can practice this drill by asking a partner to hold a pad or you can set it up against an object.

3. Finish low kicks: When you’re looking to deliver a finish low kick, your angle of impact must be higher and the upper area of your shin bone should connect with your opponent. You can practice finishing low kicks with either a partner or a pad.

4. Shadowboxing: Shadowboxing can work with or without a partner. It’s a great way to practice combinations along with low kicks.

However, try to train with a sparring partner, it will improve your boxing speed along with your overall sense of combination usage as well.

Mixing up different hand combinations with a low kick is a skill you must develop.

5. Draw attack: It’s a great drill to practice with your partner. Herein, your partner moves closer to you as you incite an attack, however, as he gets within the range, you catch him by surprise.

When you’re backstepping, your opponent is not likely predicting a low key and thus when you time your step, you can easily throw a low kick.

Having learned about these techniques & drills, the following are the exercises which will help you improve your shinbones:

low kick drills
low kick drills
low kick drills
low kick drills
low kick drills
low kick drills
low kick drills

How to hold a pad when practicing Low Kicks

1. Use a kicking shield or a suitcase pad: The best gear to practice low kicks is the shield. Using these gear helps to protect the knee joints and leg from injury.

2. Keep your thumb besides index finger: Don’t hold the pad with your thumb away from your index finger. If you do so, it’ll jeopardize your thumb joint.

3. Don’t dig your knuckles: When placing the Thai paid, you don’t want to dig in your knuckles as that might lead to a terrible damage. Thus, pass your thighs and let your wrist guard your body.

Variations in low kicks

It’s important to understand that all the limbs have different functions. Thus, when you low kick, based upon what you’re targeting and the leg you’re using, the effect of the kick will be different.

Lead Leg Low Kick: Though it’s not so much about power, this kick is brutal when wanting to achieve speed. Thus, this is a great weapon for sports that follow scoring patterns. As it enables you to land a quick kick and score a point.

This kick is useful in disrupting the balance but it’s in no way used to damage significantly. More often than not, it’s used to set up other strikers. It’s a great tool to distract your opponent momentarily while you’re preparing a surprise strike.

Due to its quickness, lead leg low kick allows you to get into position quickly thereby enabling the freedom to follow-up in quick succession.

Rear Leg Low Kick: This kick as compared to lead leg is more powerful because of the force exerted.

It is often aimed at the outer thigh because of the target range. Contrastingly, you can even use it to attack the shins of your opponent, which can cause a devastating impact.

However, the majority of the practitioners use rear leg low kick to sweep the opponent of the floors and weaken their legs by generally kicking the hell out of their thighs.

Inside kicks: Similar to the above two variations where you choose your leg, in this variation you choose the target. i.e. attack the inside.

The medial compartment’s muscle group – thigh and calf on the back side are a soft target. With inside kicks, you want to target these and affect your opponent’s leg. Preferably medial collateral ligaments are targeted with the inside kicks.

Outside kicks: As opposed to medial compartments, the outside kick targets the lateral and anterior compartments. It basically emphasizes on the largest muscle in the thigh which can cause more damage and switch the legs off temporarily.

Outside kick with perfect landing on the quadriceps can freeze the opponent for a certain period. Furthermore, you can also freeze the opponent by targeting the tibialis anterior muscle – which generally covers the lower leg bone i.e. the tibia.

Constant kicks in these areas might make it harder for your opponent to put weight on their leg.

Muay Thai Style: Picture it as if you’re trying to cut the tree with an axe. Now just replace the tree with your opponent’s leg and the axe as your shin.

Following a downward trajectory, the Muay Thai style low kick is perhaps the most popular low kick in mainstream MMA.

The objective here is to sink your shin as deep as you can in your opponent’s quadriceps muscle. The ideal target is where the quadricep ends and the tendons connect.

You can use your arm in numerous ways in this technique to generate more power. Furthermore, pivoting is a crucial element in this kick.

Dutch Style: The usage of low kicks in the Dutch fighting style is because of the speed. Their fighting style largely relies on boxing and usage of hands.

Thus, they set up a leg kick with their hands. A major difference from the Muay Thai style is that there’s little to no pivoting. It’s simply a combination of jab + cross + low kick.

You can simply stand your ground, do the combination and get back. This low kick can have either a lower trajectory or an upper trajectory based upon your preference and the situation.

Inside leg kick: It kicks off with a pendulum step. It’s a great way to shorten the distance. When doing so, your shoulder is up high, preventing your face and you shuffle in with the kick to the inside and shuffle back.

Inside Scoop/Calf kick: You must have seen Liam Harrison and Kevin Ross using this type of kick a lot. This kick is tactical.

It’s not thrown with the intention of damaging but rather to widened your opponent’s stance. Herein, you try to use your legs to scoop your opponent’s leg outwards to ruin their balance. It’s more of a hook-based attempt rather than a snap attempt. According to Kevin Ross, a jab-cross-jab combination works perfectly.

Advanced low kick technique

Mel Menor in a popular video called Sports Science Hardest Kick showcased just how powerful a low kick is. Mel’s kick reported 770 lbs of force.

Compare them to soccer or a rugby ball kicker, it’s thrice the power. The fighter than follows his kick on to a baseball bat made of Ashwood. A dangerous challenge as if gone wrong could break his bones.

However, he took the challenge and broke the damn bat. The reason why I’m sharing this is that advanced fighters always focus on the techniques and spots rather than speed.

As seen in the video, Mel attacks the perfect spot of the baseball bat. Stemming from this, there are few advanced low kick techniques which you must keep in mind. These will come in handy as you progress:

Use your back leg: If your opponent has protected himself with your front leg kick, try catching him up with a back-leg kick with horizontal force aiming to chop his legs. This will physically and psychologically bother him and make the process of defending harder for him.

Target your low kick a little higher: While the majority of the low kicks are targeted at either tentacle above knees or middle of the thigh, advanced fighters kick the spots which aren’t conditioned. For a beginner trying to kick a seasoned professional, he would hardly do any damage since the area you’re hitting is well conditioned to handle the kicks.

However, if you hit slightly higher, you might catch your opponent by surprise.

Kick the back leg over front leg: Experienced fighters master the art of containing the front leg kicks. They can defend and even counter very well.

Furthermore, even if you connect with their leg, it won’t hurt them much. However, if you target the back leg, it will not only take them by surprise but will also leave them reeling.

Keep head kick in the mix: As mentioned above, do not rule out head kick. As soon as you throw a low kick and rattle your opponent, simply follow it up by a head kick. This can very well turn out to be a knockout blow. If you connect, the knockout is the only conclusion.

Keep the hands close: With a defensive motto but keeping the hands close helps deliver a better kick in more than one way. I have already covered the importance of hand movements in a low kick.

Mainstream effectiveness of low kicks

Ain’t no two ways about that. Recent fighters who are on their path to becoming legends – Cowboy Donald Cerrone and Jose Aldo have proved the dominance of low kicks in mainstream media through UFC. Even Edson Barbosa has been a fine specimen when it comes to displaying low kick effectiveness.

These fighters have left opponents with damaged muscles, ligaments, dislocated joints and broken bones. Talking about bones, Jon ‘Bones’ Jones over the years has displayed some outstanding low kicks.

Legends acknowledge its importance

Maurice Smith, Daniel Ghita, Paul Slowinski, and Rob Kaman are some of the legends who have closed a bout with a low kick more than twice. 

Low kicks are like the jab with legs – a great move to attack your opponent’s inner or outer thigh. Based on your stance, you can either go for a front leg kick or a rear leg kick.

If you do connect with your opponent, you’ll leave them reeling. They’ll find it hard to walk as many fighters describe low kicks as a painful, frustrating and an unpleasant kick to eat.

FAQs about low kicks

Is Inside leg kick really effective?

Well, that really depends upon how good a fighter you are and how well your shins are conditioned. You can make your opponent feel the pain and agony in any area if your shin is conditioned to do so.

Is low kick overrated?

Considering the role, it plays in modern combat sports, I would say No. It’s actually true to its hype and has more to it than what people give it credit for.

Is Jon Jones the best low kicker in MMA?

Oblique kick? Yes, might be. Overall leg kick? Not Sure. There are many contenders. There’s Edson Barbosa, Jose Aldo, Anderson Silva to name a few. Is Jon the best amongst them? I’ll leave that up to you.

How do I train my leg for a better low kick?

There’s an entire section dedicated to helping you improve the strength. Follow those drills and exercises as they will help you develop a strong low kick.

Why are power and technique preferred in a low kick?

Power and technique are preferred because the goal is to kick through the opponent for lasting impact. However, it’s not true that speed is not the motive. The Dutch style follows a combination of punch with speedy low kicks. Thus, ultimately it falls onto your personal fighting style.

Conclusion

I hope that this all-inclusive guide helped you understand about low kicks in detail. Keep practicing the low kicks to progress towards the higher ranks. 

By far, it’s amongst the most effective kicks in martial arts. However, it demands conditioning and a great amount of practice. 

So be ready for the tedious amount of conditioning and developing crazy leg power which will freeze your opponent indefinitely.