Side Kick 101: Everything you need to know about a side kick

I’m using my longest weapon, my side kick against the nearest target, your kneecap. This can be compared to your left jab in boxing, except it’s much more damaging.” – Bruce Lee

A side kick is a crucial element in any martial artist’s arsenal which can effectively be used to defend, attack or counter-attack your opponent.

Similar to the front kick, the power in the side kick is generated through the hips and core, which makes it nasty. While front kick offers versatility, side kick offers variations.

This blog specifically emphasizes on a basic or regular side kick. The objective here is to uncover the variations of side kick in the latter half once we understand the basic mechanism behind it.

Why is Side Kick so powerful?

Side Kick’s power can be accredited to hip and core movements. In majority of the kicks without chambering, the movement doesn’t necessarily make a major difference.

However, when it comes to side kick, front kick or back kick, chambering along with the hip movement does make a difference.

Many people try to land a quick side kick, however, there’s not much velocity in it which renders it ineffective.

How to Side Kick?

As mentioned before, there’s a basic side kick followed by flying, jumping, skipping and slipping side kick. As a novice, our efforts here is to understand the side kick pattern in detail.

Yes, we’ll cover those advanced kicks as well but let’s get the basics right first. A basic side kick is of two types – The front leg side kick or the real leg side kick.

In a front leg side kick, your leg is already aligned with your opponent’s ribs and thus it makes it much quicker and easier to land a kick.

However, with the rear leg kick, you move your trailing leg forward while putting the pressure on the non-kicking leg before you land the kick.

While setting up for the position, ensure that your ankle is flexed along with the blade of your foot i.e. the outside edge. 

Front Leg Side Kick Visual Guide:

When starting out, it’s advisable to try kicking at a lower level. Once you practice it enough, then you can move towards targeting the upper body or even head for that matter.

Rear Leg side Kick Visual Guide: 

When wanting to do a side kick with the rear leg, you must bring the rear leg in front, hold the chamber position, and then drive your legs and extend them fully to create maximum impact. Having seen the visual guide let’s start with the visual decoding:

1. Take your Position: You can either be standing sideways or in a neutral stance. If you’re in a neutral stance, you should switch side ways to perform the side kick.

As a beginner, you must start with the side position only, later on as you master the technique you can move towards the neutral stance.

However, for starting out with side kick, it’s advisable to start sideways to master the kicking motion and foot usage technique.

Additionally, you should ensure that your back is straight and you kick straight with your heel pointing towards your target prior to the impact.

2. Bring your knees towards your target: Once you’ve taken your position, it’s time to straighten your leg and raise your foot to match the body height of an opponent. Initially, your toe should be pointing in the downward direction. Make sure your blade of the foot is tightened up at this point.

An ideal stance will require you to raise and tuck your kicking leg with your knee to your side, pointing back behind you. See the difference between the right and the wrong stance as seen in the picture below:

Side Kick Kwonkicker

Your knee should not be in front of you. The kick should extend from underneath your similar to that of the horse kick.

3. Chambering and pivoting: Similar to the other kicks that we’ve mentioned, Side Kick requires chambering too. The chambering of legs gives you freedom of operation.

You can either consecutively kick or bring your leg in the normal position based upon the circumstances. If chambering is important then pivoting your foot is ideally important. Most practitioners downplay the role of pivoting.

When you lift your leg and chamber it, you must turn your back leg towards a 45-degree angle, trust me, it adds more power and velocity to the kick than you would assume.

It helps generate more power in combination with hips and that results in a devastating force.

4. Use the blade of your foot: While many kicks require you to use an instep or the ball of the foot, for side kick, you want to use the blade of the foot. 

While aiming your body towards the opponent, and your heel higher than the toes, you want to connect with your opponent’s ribs, face or legs with the blade of your foot, not the ball or the instep.

5. Rechamber: While you do have the option of bringing your leg down directly, rechambering your leg provides you with flexibility and opportunity to kick consistently. 

It allows you to land fury of kicks in no-time as you don’t have to adjust your kicking leg time and time again.

6. Bring it to the ground: Once you’ve connected and decided not to rechamber, you can simply bring your feet back onto the ground.

Common Mistakes when Side Kicking

1. Not enough rotation: To deliver a side kick, you obviously need to have a side stance. Many practitioners often miss out on changing the position and end up hitting side kick while they’re standing straight. 

Such kicks, though they might look cool are not a wise choice as they don’t do any damage and may lead to injuries.

2. Not pivoting Enough: Time and Time again, I keep specifying the importance of pivoting and that is because it’s a make or break element. 

When delivering a side kick, you want to pivot with your front leg to up to 180 degrees. As you’re rotating, you will bring your rear leg forward and raise it to your waist level and lock it in the chamber just before you land the kick.

3. Using Instep or ball of the Foot: Another mistake a practitioner often makes is that of not using the blade of the foot. In side kick you need to use your heel or blade of your foot. 

Ball of the foot is great for thrust however, if you’re looking for a devastating impact you must use the blade of your foot. The sole of your foot (Outer edge of your foot) should connect with your opponent’s body.

4. Raising leg in the wrong position: As seen in Fig. 3, your kick should extend from underneath you. It should not be in front of you. 

See how the heel of your foot is visible (in fig. 3) to you directly and the kick is in line with the body movement. However, on the right side, your kick is not in sync with your body and you cannot see the heel of your foot. 

Thus, measuring your kick and targeting it becomes fairly difficult.

5. Not applying the body force: The whole point of hip movement and pivoting is to add the body force to the kick, so it creates tremendous velocity. 

However, most of the practitioners end up leaning backwards which divides the force and works in the opposite direction which takes the sting out of the shot.

Thus, apply your body force behind the kick for maximum effect.

How to throw an extremely powerful side kick?

For a side kick to be powerful, you have to throw your body pressure into the kick so translates the added energy. And that is what makes the kick so destructive. Putting the body force behind the kick makes it deadlier. 

Furthermore, unlike the front kick where your target is usually the mid-level area, you can throw a side kick wherever you want. However, similar to the front kick, Side Kick is most effective when thrown at torso height.

What to target in a side kick?

Side Kick is usually targeted around the rib area, similar to the front kick. However, you can also target the head. Side kick because of its flexibility can be directed towards the ribs, solar plexus or even the head for that matter. 

The trajectory is not limited and you can choose what do you really want to target with your side kick.

Side Kick – A chamber of secrets

Side Kick is not defensive in nature. Its role is not to defend but rather rattle your opponent. An effective side kick can easily result in broken ribs. 

It’s more dangerous than it looks and carries much more venom than we can perceive. A side kick also referred to as the piercing kick, can be performed in two ways – side ways and neutral stance.

The basic side kick involves the following movement: Turning the body sideways with hip turned slightly.

Chambering the kicking leg at a height where it’s diagonal to the body and finally extending the leg in a linear angle towards the target. Since the motion involved is linear and not circular, the side kick is referred to as piercing kick.

Tips to improve Side Kicks for Beginners

Though it looks easy, you very well know by now that It’s not easy to get started with a side kick.

There’s a balance, position, hip flexibility, hip strength and kicking height factoring in when it comes to delivering a powerful side kick.

If you’ve just started out and are finding it difficult to do a side kick, here are certain steps to help you out:

1. Creating space through quick movements: Side Kick being a liner kick works in a straight line. If you stand in front of the line, there are fewer chances for you to protect yourself. Your best bet would be to move to the other side and create an opening for a counter.

The reason why this works is even if you move backward, you can still get caught with a double side kick, thus move out of the line will not only take your out of the line but will present you with an opportunity to deliver a kick of your own.

2. Using your lead leg to create an opportunity: In this counter, you use the lead leg and fake run on the other side.

It’s similar to what we do in the above point, however, it’s the lead leg this time around. In this type of movement, you keep your shoulder, hip and your feet in line, however, you move your lead leg in the other direction.

A successful movement will present you with an opportunity to land a hook kick or a high turning kick on your opponent’s torso or head.

3. Throwing a reverse punch: You’ve to be pretty careful in this technique. While trying to move behind your opponent, you want to ensure that you don’t keep your body open.

If you do so, you’ll expose yourself to a kick from his/her standing leg which can be brutal.

The idea here to grab your opponent’s foot by inciting an attack. When you do so, you don’t leave any room for your opponent to rechamber.

You can follow it up by reverse punching since your opponent’s body will be totally engrossed in that kick.

4. Restricting your opponent’s movement: if you restrict your opponent to a bent knee, he/she won’t be able to deliver the side kick. 

Similarly, if you move towards the side, you can counter with a kick of your own. All of this requires quick movement. 

Don’t passively wait for your opponent to land the kick you desire, instead you move quickly and take control. The key to countering a side kick is by inviting your opponent to use the side kick.

Variations of Side Kicks

Similar to Front kicks, side kicks too have a lot of variation. These are not just aesthetically pleasing kicks but are devastating with regards to impact. 

Among the many variations of the sidekicks, four versions which stand out are jumping side kick, flying side kick, skipping side kick and spinning side kick.

1. Jumping Side Kick: Jumping Side Kick is perhaps the least complex version of the side kick. It’s similar to the flying kick but with less motion. 

To do a jumping side kick, first, start with jumping with both your knees reaching above the hip level. Once you’re done, all you have to do is land the side kick. 

Remember, when you’re doing a side kick, you tuck your non-kicking leg behind the kicking leg. A quick demonstration of a jumping side kick can be seen in this video by Ninja Nate.

2. Flying Side Kick: A variation of a side kick which involves jumping with the non-kicking leg and performing side kick in the mid-air.

To do a flying side kick, you need to step with your standing leg and lift your knee high into the air. Once you’ve done it, follow it up by jumping and tucking the non-kicking leg behind the kicking leg.

A flying side kick is an advanced variation of the jumping side kick. A jumping side kick ends up looking stationary in front of a flying side kick due to the additional steps involved.

A perfect flying side kick tutorial demonstration can be seen in this video by Alex Wong.

3. Skipping Side Kick: Skipping Side Kick also known as a hopping side kick or slipping side kick, requires you to move to cross your back leg behind your front leg turn your back towards your opponent and execute the side kick.

The skipping or hopping movement helps generate additional power and land a lethal blow when you’re working in a tight space.

Instead of locking your feet in chamber position, skipping side kick allows you to hop cross way and still land the side kick.

A beautiful demonstration of a skipping side kick can be seen in this video by TaekWonWoo.

4. Spinning Side Kick: A spinning side kick though visually appealing is quite effective. You might see the quick fury of spinning side kick in a lightweight bout.

The spinning side kick requires you to step across, look over your shoulder before you land the kick. Do not keep your neck straight.

Follow the kick, look at it and then launch it to whichever area you are targeting. A great example can be seen in this video by Sensei Joe.

Names of side kick in different martial arts

A side kick with its many variations is used in more than one martial art. Though popular in Taekwondo & Karate, this kick is also used in Muay Thai, Kick Boxing, and several other martial arts.

  1. Karate: Yoko geri kekomi (Side Thrust Kick) or Yoko geri keage (Side Snap Kick)
  2. Taekwondo: Yeop Chagi (Ye Op Cha-gee)
  3. Muay Thai: Muay Thai Te Tad
  4. Kickboxing: Side Kick

Traditional Side Kick vs Modern Side Kick

Over the years, the traditional Side kick has evolved to become stronger, faster and more practical. Below is a comparison table specifying the difference between a traditional and a modern side kick:

Traditional Side Kick

Modern Side Kick

Hips are pushed out

Hips are in line with the kick

Foot is not in line with the body

Foot is in line with the body

Rear foot isn’t 180-degree

Rear foot is at 180-degree to generate more power

Lack of body weight transmission into the kick

Body weight is added to the kick thereby making it more penetrative

Lacks force

Has Brute Force

Lack of support behind the kick

Posture supports the kick

Front leg side kick vs Back leg side kick

There’s always a difference of opinion between the front leg side kick and the back-leg side kick. Let’s look at some of the major differences in the table below:

Front Leg Side Kick

Rear Leg Side Kick

It’s generally a long-distance kick

It’s used to control the range

It’s executed from a side stance

 It can be executive from multiple stance: neutral and side the popular options

Requires you to step forward and cross-step at the same time

From a neutral stance, you’re required to rotate your heel slightly inward

Force can be delivered through the knife edge or your heel

Majority of the force is delivered with the heel

Delivered from one straight line (alignment)

Involves hip rotation at a 180-degree angle as you chamber your kicking leg

Side Kick as an alternative to crunches for developing the core

Many exercise gurus have talked about the effectiveness of side kick when developing your core. A simple side kick is known to activate your core twice as much as crunches.

Side kicks are a great way of burning calories and increasing your heart rate.

I might sound crazy but many people like side kicks because it’s known to shape and tone the butts. All of this while strengthening the hips and its mobility. 

Side kick works because it’s able to activate the large muscle groups along with the core.

It directly works our glutes, quads and outer thighs which ultimately lead to a solid framework. The best part? Side kick doesn’t require any equipment.

You can simply power through certain sets of side kicks and develop your core along with the rest of your body.

FAQs about Side kick – Our Answers

Which part of my foot should I use when doing a side kick?

Using the knife edge of your foot a.k.a blade of your foot is the ideal part you want to use. However, the heel is used to maximize the impact along with the blade of the foot.

What are the best counters to a side kick?

If you or your opponent is not protecting yourself. A roundhouse kick or a spinning hook kick to a torso can prove to be fatal.

Is front leg side kick more powerful than rear leg side kick?

Yes and No. Yes, because you can attack much quicker with the front leg side kick. It’s already in line with the ribs of your opponent.

Thus, if you back your kick with the hip and body momentum, it can quickly turn into a knockout blow. However, rear leg kick covers more ground and generates more velocity. Thus, it’s not far off from the front leg side kick.

How do I deliver a powerful side kick?

Well, the entire blog above is dedicated to that. However, if you’re looking for quick tips. Here it goes – Improve your balance, sharpen the blade of your foot, improve the hip flexibility with your leg range, perfect the trailing leg position.

Side kick looks pretty dull. How is it a powerful kick?

The magic lies in swinging the hips. When the hip movement is combined with the final extension of the leg. It proves to be a fatal kick. Add the factor of solid surface presence, and side kick can even outdo the likes of front kick, roundhouse kick, hook or axe kick.


I hope this in-depth front kick guide helped you learn about the side kick and its many variations.

With this guide, you learned about the importance of a side kick, how to throw a side kick, common mistakes to avoid while doing a side kick and drills as to how you can improve your side kick.

Don’t treat your side kick like your side chick, it’s more important than that. Having control over your side kick will put you in an advantageous position in any bout.