Your All-Inclusive Guide to The Roundhouse Kick

The roundhouse kick is at the heart of various martial arts. Whether you’re practicing art for personal development, self-defense or to become a professional fighter, you will certainly come across Roundhouse kick and would try to perfect it. 

The roundhouse kick is called by different names in different martial arts, and it has several variations. Though it looks easy, it might take a serious amount of practice to perfect this kick. Roundhouse kick is a special kick and can be used in more than one way. 

For instance, in Taekwondo, it helps score many points. Its application is not just restricted to Taekwondo; it’s also used in Muay Thai, Karate, Chinese Wushu, MMA, professional wrestling to name a few.

Application of a Roundhouse kick

The Roundhouse kick’s mechanics and motions are similar to swinging a baseball bat, except the former can cause a little more damage. It can be used against numerous targets. For instance, you can target the low end viz., against the knee, or high viz., chest area. Roundhouse kick requires a lot of precision and control because its basic form involves holding your knee parallel to the ground at a hip level. This looks easy but it’s pretty daunting at first.

Each Roundhouse kick serves a different purpose

Based on martial art, each Roundhouse kick serves a different purpose and is used in a unique way. For instance, in Muay Thai, a full 180° motion is used with the intention of knocking out the opponent. However, in Taekwondo, it’s much softer and is applied at 45° to 60° angle which main intention of scoring points, thus the impact is much less as compared to Muay Thai. 

Additionally, in Taekwondo, the kick is supposed to come back after the hit whereas, in Muay Thai, the roundhouse kick follows through its target, which creates additional power and force and impacts your opponent. Roundhouse kick is great for targeting the body and legs of your opponent; however, if you go for the head and connect, it’ll most likely result in a KO.

How to Roundhouse Kick?

In this excerpt, we are going to teach two ways of doing a roundhouse kick; one is TL, CR version and the other is an in-depth version of how to roundhouse kick. First let’s start with a TL, CR version followed by an in-depth version. In case you don’t have time, you can read through the summarised version.

1. Watch your breathing
2. Keeping the legs loose
3. Your form is crucial
4. Your kick should be in rhythm
5. Don’t rest your arms
6. Bring your leg up and to the side
7. Snap your leg forward, pivot the other foot
8. Pivoting is key
9. Kick through your opponent
10. Retract your leg and return to the neutral position

Visual Guide

Detailed steps for a perfect roundhouse kick:

1. Watch your breathing

In combat, synchronizing your breathing with your movements is crucial. If you want to move smooth – kick, block and punch your opponent without gasping, you should focus on breathing. When your opponent is at a distance from you, ensure you take deep breaths, this will help you gather your stamina and will prevent you from feeling exhausted. Science proves that vocalizing or exhaling during the fight might help exert more pressure or force in a punch or a kick.

2. Keeping the legs loose

Don’t put your legs under pressure when about to deliver a roundhouse kick. Your legs should be in resting position at first. In Muay Thai roundhouse, there should be a dead weight being guided by your hips, torso and shoulders. In Taekwondo however, your legs have to be tight while you’re setting up the chamber. Thus, based upon which martial arts you follow, the application might differ.

3. Your fighting stance is crucial

The position you hold during a fight, aka the stance, matters the most. Your stance determines the way you give or deal with a blow. Practicing your stance helps you to learn about your style, learn how to attack quickly & powerfully. It also helps you to shield yourself from the attack and place you in an effective position to counter.

  1. If you’re left handed, take a big step forward with the right leg to get in a guard
  2. While doing so, let your left foot naturally pivot towards the side
  3. Raise your hands post making the two fists so that your arms are set and forearms are elevated.
  4. Your right fist must be higher as compared to your left which will be close to your waist.
  5. If you’re right-handed, simply reverse the stance.

This visual guide will help you choose the best fighting stance for you

4. Your kick should be in rhythm

When you are delivering a Muay Thai kick, it’s important to blend your roundhouse kick into your rhythm. This will not only improve the balance but will help you shift directions at an unbelievable speed. Furthermore, it will make countering much more effective. Rhythm is crucial in any form of martial arts and is more so when delivering a roundhouse kick. With a well-balanced form, you can easily evade your opponent’s strikes and prevent yourself from going off balance.

5. Arms shouldn’t be resting

While performing a roundhouse kick, your arms shouldn’t be resting. You must keep them raised, ready to both attack and block. While practicing, you can take time and improvise your posture but when it comes to fighting, you want to be careful while executing your moves. Consequently, you cannot let your guard down i.e. let your arm rest, as it will give an opening to your opponent. Keep your hands up and active while performing a Roundhouse kick. It will help you prevent vulnerability and stay ahead of your opponent.

This visual guide will show you how to  use your arms when throwing a roundhouse kick

6. Raise your leg to the side

When raising your rear leg for the kick, ensure you bend it backwards enough that the calf almost touches the thigh. Raise the bent leg to the desired position with knee pointing sideways. Balance is key in this position and guiding your kick in the right direction is the must. 

During a roundhouse kick, you’re required to lean your body in the opposite direction. When doing so, your lower leg ‘pivots’ which helps deliver a powerful kick. Balancing is not easy and if you’re trying the roundhouse kick for the first time, you’ll need to take up several balancing exercises before you practice the roundhouse kick.

7. Snapping the leg and pivoting the other foot

According to Erich Krauss’s book Muay Thai Unleashed, the power of pivoting is often undermined. It plays a crucial role in any move or form in martial art. Especially in Roundhouse kicks, pivoting and snapping your leg is what helps generate enormous power and strength. 

It’s not just the roundhouse kick, but overall martial arts which benefit from the pivot. 

Coming back to the topic, during a roundhouse kick, while you raise your leg towards your target and as you’re about to hit, you must pivot the other foot. Remember, your knee should be bent while your leg has already reached the target; this will deliver maximum power on follow through. You can either connect with the instep or with your shinbone. Know that shinbone can be painful to both you and your opponent.

8. Pivoting is the key

In general, the power of the roundhouse kick lies in hips, torso and pivoting. The hip movement with pivoting is what ensures a kick worthy of a knockout. Pivot hard. Don’t undermine the role of your back leg while emphasizing on your attacking one. Watch this video to learn more how to pivot while delivering a roundhouse kick.

9. Kicking through your opponent

When you perform a roundhouse kick, especially in Muay Thai, it’s crucial to kick through your opponent. Since, the goal is to knock your opponent out; kicking through your opponent leaves more impact on their body as compared to the retracting kick as done in Taekwondo. Now in Taekwondo & Karate, roundhouse kick is usually done to score points, however, in Muay Thai, the intention is to knock out.

10. Retract your leg and return to the natural position

Once, you deliver the kick, make sure to return to your guard by retracting your leg. Quickly retract your leg in its mid-air folded position post the contact, at this stage, you can either go for another kick or bring it back down.

The purpose of this video is to show that you can chamber your leg and keep on attacking your opponent if you sense blood and weakness. Quick kicks have much energy and are capable of shocking your opponents. Snappy kicks with energy value are better than slower kicks with power as the latter helps push the target rather than finishing them off.

Common Roundhouse Kick Mistakes

While there are many executions and formational mistakes which can take place as per the scenario, we’re here to learn about the most common ones. These mistakes are related to your form and decision making which either lowers the impact of your kick or leaves plenty of room for your opponent to manoeuvre.

1. Not enough motion with hips

The most common mistake is when you don’t turn your hips over. You must keep your back leg away from the opponent and keep your legs in sync with your hips.

2. Early leg extension

Do not extend your leg too early. Often, the attacker forgets about the bent leg and misses out on kicking the opponent in half. Do not forget the intention of the kick (Move your leg through opponents).

3. Minimal or no arm movement

Roundhouse kick requires your arm movement which includes your hands and your shoulders to assist with the kick. Moving arms can help protect in case you misjudge the kick

4. Not supporting your leg

A silly mistake often made by the roundhouse kick practitioner is that they do not step out before they begin with the motion of their kick. The form must not be off, and thus you must step out to support your leg at a 45-degree (Taekwondo) or 180-degree (Muay Thai) angle to deliver the fatal blow.

5. Not following your kicks with punches

Roundhouse kick stuns the opponent, it lays down the foundation for you to jab, use a hook or unleash a combo and wrap it up. Don’t let your opponent ease out after the kick has landed, follow it up with a decent combination of punches and jabs and knock them out before they do so.

6. Not measuring the distance correctly

To deliver an incisive roundhouse kick, you need to understand the distance well. Incorrect measurement of distance between you and your opponent won’t just result in a block alone but might give him/her the chance to counter.

7. Undermining the power of pivoting

Pivoting is what gathers strength, the ultimate venom in the kick is eventually a result of hip movement and pivoting. Never undermine the role of pivoting in delivering a devastating roundhouse kick.

8. Leaving room open

Roundhouse kick can be countered in many ways and one way is when you expose yourself to the opponent. You can’t stay far away from the opponent as you will end up leaving enough room for your opponent. Stay close, create space and deliver the kick. Don’t stay far.

9. Not making use of the chamber

The most beneficial part of Roundhouse kick in Taekwondo is that you lock your kick midair before striking. That chamber position can be used to strike your opponent more than once in quick fury roundhouse kicks which will leave him shocked.

10. Not committing yourself

Unless you aren’t committing yourself to the kick, the chances of it turning out to be right are very slim. You must commit and go with full force, make use of the chamber for fury kicks in Taekwondo, follow your leg onto the body as in Muay Thai and hurt your opponent by making the effort count.

Visual guide of the mistakes to avoid

Different types of Roundhouse kicks

Snap Kick

A snap kick is usually used in Karate and Taekwondo. A snap kick involves chambering of leg before & after you deliver the kick. Chamber adds balance, accuracy and speed to your kick. In snap kick, you are required to bring the knees close to your chest followed by the pivoting movement of your trailer leg which helps turn the hips. Then after chambering your leg, you’ll try to connect with your opponent through the instep/bottom half of your shin.

Thai Style Kick

A Thai Style Kick involves a 180-degree movement. It’s more direct than a snap kick. It involves combing your hair back movement to generate the power through hips. The goal here is to not stop as we do in Snap kick, herein; we want to follow through to leave the maximum impact. If you go for the head, you want to knock them out, if you decide to go for the ribs, you want to crack them, if you decide to attack their legs, you probably want to chop them off. Thai Style Kick carries more venom and is intended to hurt your opponents.

Mawashi Geri Chusoku

Similar to the snap kick, but it involves using the ball of the foot instead of the instep or the shin. This roundhouse kick version is quite helpful in penetrating your opponent’s blocking. Using the ball of the foot allows additional reach thus would help to leave a considerable amount of impact on your opponent. However, it requires a lot of practice. If you do it without considerable practice, you might break your foot.

Countering Roundhouse kicks

Roundhouse kick, though popular can be countered with skill and combination. There are numerous ways in which a fighter can counter roundhouse kicks. Let’s look at some of them below:

1. Spinning Hook Kick

A great way to counter a roundhouse kick is to throw an accurate spin hook kick at the same time. Distance makes much difference in this counter, and spin hook kick gives you enough reach as compared to the roundhouse kick and thus is effective in countering it. You have to make sure that you lean back and then land the spin hook kick. Even if you fail to connect, you’ll minimize the damage that was intended.

2. Jump Spin Hook Kick

This kick helps give more room, it’s quite similar to the spin hook kick expect you’re required to jump. In a bout where the opponent is closing down quickly and is leaving no room for you, Jump Spin Hook will help you create space to land the kick.

3. Jumping Back Kick

The jumping back kick is a dangerous counter but an effective one. This kick requires you to attack at the same time as your opponent and thus take a hit. However, if you’re precise, you will considerably lower the impact of your opponent’s kicks. Ensure that you do not lean back and instead push your body towards your opponent.

4. Jumping Round Kick Counter

An effective counter for a roundhouse kick thrown at hip level or below. It’s an offensive counter-attacking strike, and thus you launch yourself towards the opponent. Similar to the jumping back kick, you launch yourself at the same time. While performing the jumping round kick, you must get the jump right, or you’ll be in trouble. Jumping Round Kick helps you achieve more height and thus creates sizeable impact and force when you hit your opponent.

 You can learn these four counters, in the following video

5. Inplace Kick

Countering your opponent’s kick by landing a kick of your own towards the ribs. Inplace kick if connected can startle your opponent and leave a lot of room for you to attack.

6. Jump Step Sideway

Quite the opposite to in place kick, jump step sideway as the name suggests requires you to move quickly towards the either side and counter with a roundhouse of your own. The quick sideway moment is the key in this counter. Another advantage is the jumping form which helps generate more inertia.

7. Hop Stop Backward

An underrated counter, hop stop backward requires you to take a step back and deliver a roundhouse. This ensures that your opponent misses his cue and you land yours effectively. Judging the flight of your opponent is crucial in this counter attack.

8. Pivot Step Backward

Perhaps the element which plays the most crucial role in the roundhouse kick can be the very counter against the attack. A pivot step backward requires you to pivot yourself backward and land your own kick. This counter does not require you to move a lot but move smartly.

9. Switch Feet Inplace

A counter which leaves your opponent bamboozled for sure. Switch Feet In place requires quick footwork before you attack your opponent. Herein, the opponent while attacking loses his attention as he’s not aware about which leg are you going to land on him.

10. Pivot Step Sideway

This counter requires you to pivot aside before you scissor you opponent. This type of counter is popular in Taekwondo, Karate and even Muay Thai.

Roundhouse kicks in different martial arts

Roundhouse kick is also known as a round kick, used in taekwondo (known as Dollyo Chagi), in Karate (known as Mawashi Geri), in Muay Thai (known as Tae Tud) and in Chinese Wushu, Kickboxing, Professional Wrestling and MMA. Its speed, power and range are elements that make it amongst the finest kick in the martial arts world. Having seen these various names, let us learn about the difference in their application based upon the martial art form:

1. Roundhouse Kick in Taekwondo

Roundhouse kick in Taekwondo is known as dollyo chagi, performed by drawing the knee in a chamber position. In taekwondo, the roundhouse kick’s chamber position resonates with that of side and front kick which often leads to confusion. However, the benefit of this chamber position in Taekwondo is to keep the opponent guessing as to which kick is coming their way.

While other roundhouse kicks such as Muay Thai tend to incorporate rotation before you hit the kick, taekwondo emphasizes on rotation along with snapping your attacking leg and pivoting of the back leg to generate power. 

Performing the roundhouse kick in taekwondo is mainly done with the intention of scoring points. If you want to do a taekwondo roundhouse kick, simply take a 45-degree form with your non-kicking leg. Make sure you open your hips and bring the knee up to the target (lower, mid, higher) level. Turn your hips, extend your leg, hit the desired area while pivoting your leg and bring your legs back into the natural position.

2. Roundhouse kicks in Muay Thai

Roundhouse is popularly known as an Angle kick or rising kick in Muay Thai. Its effectiveness and its capacity to inflict damage has made roundhouse kick widely popular.

A properly executed Muay Thai roundhouse kick often draws a comparison with a swinging baseball bat. It is used across various MMA competitions including UFC, K-1 kickboxing and One Championship.

Muay Thai roundhouse kicks are different because of the methodological trait wherein; the hips are rotated into the kick which helps generate inertia. Thus, instead of snapping, an attacker tends to follow up with full force and momentum. Hip movement allows greater pivoting speed which then leads to increased power followed by a KO if connected to the desired area. It also believes in using the shin more than the foot as the former is more durable.

3. Roundhouse kicks in Savate

Roundhouse kick is also known as a fouetté whip kick. In this kick, the hips pivot on the front leg forming a solid whip hammer. Followed by this, the back leg’s knee is bent upwards and projected towards the center-line of the opponent. At the last second, the foot is snapped over the knee and smashed in the opponent’s face. Powerful muscles of the thigh yank over the tendon over the knee and if connected properly, Fouette or whip kick can finish off the opponent in 1/3rd of a second.

4. Roundhouse kicks in Karate

Roundhouse kicks or mawashi geri as it is widely known in Karate can be delivered in numerous ways. While the original way involves raising your knee, swiftly turning the hip and snapping the leg towards the opponent and striking him/her will the ball of your foot. 

It’s quite similar to the Taekwondo roundhouse kick except it doesn’t have the chamber as widely used in Taekwondo. Furthermore, mawashi geri prefers ball of the foot to attack as it’s supposed to be more effective & dangerous. 

However, in recent times, modern karate schools have infused the usage of shins in the roundhouse kick. They seem to add new versions to this kick, namely cutting roundhouse which aims at lifting legs higher than the intended target and then gets the opponent during a follow up (downward cutting movement). 

There are additional variations which use the instep and hip rotation to generate more power. Some schools also prefer maintaining shin as the point of contact while attacking the ribs and thighs.

5. Roundhouse kicks in Chinese Wushu

Yes, roundhouse kick is a part of the deadliest martial arts too. A variation of a roundhouse kick is used in Chinese Wushu which involves impact with instep or ankle. To perform a Chinese Wushu roundhouse kick, you must lift the knee and let the foot follow. Twist the ball of the foot on your attacking leg until the toes are pointing away from the opponent, extend the hip and hit the opponent using the foot’s instep. If you must have noticed, this kick is more direct as compared to the other roundhouse kicks.

6. Roundhouse kicks in Capoeira

The Capoeira roundhouse kick is said to be deadlier than other roundhouse kicks in other martial arts. Such is the impact of this kick, that National Geographic ran a test to measure the power and speed of all the roundhouse kicks. A considerable study by experts led to the conclusion that Capoeira roundhouse kicks have more power as compared to Karate, Taekwondo and Muay Thai.
You can watch National Geographic’s coverage of Capoeira kicks in this following video

7. Roundhouse kicks in Pro Wrestling & Popular Culture

Many pro wrestlers make the use of roundhouse kicks. These include CM Punk

Trish Stratus, Mickey James and many more. The moves combination of power and motion gives it a vicious feel even in the entertainment industry. Popular culture has various references of Roundhouse kicks with actor Chuck Norris often letting his feet talk.

Roundhouse kicks are also heavily utilised in puroresu competition – viz, Japanese Professional Wrestling. Majority of the wrestlers coming from striking backgrounds tend to inculcate roundhouse kicks in their style. Shinsuke Nakamura along with other NJPW stars heavily rely on roundhouse kicks. It helps add a devastating feel to the competition with shoot-style feel to it.

I hope this all-inclusive roundhouse kicks blog helped you drive home with a detailed knowledge about the art.