LOW LINE KICKING
A NEW PERSPECTIVE
Scott J. DaDante
With the popularization of reality based fighting these days, a new emphasis on low line kicking has resurfaced. Although the popularity of the UFC has increased the interest for Maui Thai kickboxing, famous for their low kicks to the thighs and shins, there are multiple styles that focus on low line kicking and I believe it would be to your best interest to seek out these other styles to help expand your kicking vocabulary.
Referring back to the UFC, which I'm a supporter of and a fan, you can kind of narrow it down to just two styles that we constantly keep on seeing the majority of these fighters training in. Jiujutsu (Or another popular style simply being Roman Greco wrestling) used for their ground game and Maui Thai, which is used for their stand up. These two styles combined make a very effective style, which has been labeled as mixed martial arts. The question I ask is if the majority of these fighters pretty much train exclusively only in these two types of styles than there is only going to be a small group of fighters who will be able to capitalize in their victory. In a way, the people who are able to apply these techniques or who are better conditioned in these styles will be better suited to win this type of competition. Another key factor is body composition and build.
Now take into factor that dedication, time spent, drive and motivation are all key elements into one's success and I believe if you ask for it and really believe you can achieve it and willing to do what it takes then you can achieve anything. But the reality is that some of us have an easier time adapting to things than others. These people are sometimes referred as naturals.
Well how can we as dedicated martial artists get the edge on these so called naturals? Do we need to train harder than them to be able to defeat them? How can we beat an already established master of a game that I want to be champion of?
Well it is my belief to look for these answers through others systems of martial arts. By exploring other options and expanding your vocabulary so you can become more of a cunning fighter, in turn providing more deception in your attacks. This will also allow you to improvise with situations by being able to go with the flow of the fight. By knowing more than the next guy and the key is being able to apply these expanded tools should in itself give you a variety of techniques to work off of.
Since this article is on low line kicking, let's talk about other styles outside Maui Thai that could expand your kicking arsenal. I'm going to break this down into different Asian regions and focus on one system from each area to make it simpler. Every system of the martial arts has something to offer, some specialize in things that others do not while some systems try and focus on all aspects of fighting. These are the styles in which I will focus on now.
When one thinks of Korea, Tae Kwon Do usually comes to mind. Known for their well executed kicks and flashy aerials maneuvers, for years TKD has been referred as the world's greatest kickers. Being a Black Belt in TKD myself, I know the discipline of kicking, but I also know some of the limitations of the style so I would suggest researching in the Korean style of Hwrang Do. This style is without a doubt the most complete and realistic fighting art to represent Korea. This style survived the battlefield and will definitely survive the ring. All of Korea's martial arts styles have blossomed off of this system in some way or another and it contains all the styles combined. Although they display all the high kicks and aerial maneuvers the same, their main specialty is in their practical low line kicking techniques with the sole intent to render their opponents dead in their tracks.
Japan known for the straight forward fighting arts and their dedication in disciplining their bodies into taking punishment is world known. Some label their style's as solid and hard in form, in some ways this is true, but many of their styles are very fluent in form. One style that I believe encompasses the Japanese arts is Ninjutsu. The Ninja had to master all the moves from all styles while still mastering their unorthodox style. The ninja in some ways were looked upon as dishonorable men as they fought to win with disregard to honor and low line kicking was part of the victorious arsenal. Like schoolyard fighting of when we were young, that carried the secret code that no one was allowed to hit to groin, that's where the ninja would hit first. He had no time for rules because he had a more important mission to fulfill. Their ideas of low line kicking played off the visual height levels of their opponents and contributed to their larger than life image. Like the Hwang Do, the Ninja destroyed their opponent's limbs to eliminate their movability fast and accurately.
The Ninja also used certain kicks that are exclusive to its style, although some of these kicks can also be seen in other styles; the Ninja had a unique approach to them. One being the oblique kick, which uses the inner part of the heel in a thrusting out manner destroying the leg and also keeping your opponent at bay. Another kick is the inverted kick, like a roadhouse kick, but kicking into the inner part of your opponent's thighs with the instep of your leg destroying the internal part of the leg.
From China, we have Kung Fu, for kicking purposes we will focus on the Northern styles where the climate is colder and the terrain is rougher making it harder to kick freely. So the northern stylist relied heavily off of great upper body technique and low line kicking for fast foundational attacking defenses. Their advanced sweeping and leg locking techniques are famous world out and to add these to your kicking arsenal would be a devastating addition in controlling your opponent's foundation while in turn increasing your stability. Their approach to low line kicking is a free moving style incorporating stances, locks and checks which all form to make a unique approach to kicking. Their secret is in their footwork and footwork is the key to any styles success, but that's another article.
The Southeast Asian countries are something of interest. Often overlooked with the exception of Thailand and their art of Maui Thai. Although this is a defiant art to take interest in, the art I will encourage you to look into is the Filipino art of Kali. Kali is another complete system that I believe displays all the aspects of the styles of this region. Kali is brutal in nature like the natives and arts in these areas, but beautiful in form like their surrounding landscapes. Low line kicking referred as "Panagatman" is a critical part of their curriculum and is used exclusively in Kali. It is said that some of the fighters would grow their toenails long and file them down to resemble the blades of knives so when they would kick they would be actually stabbing their enemies. Now that's having the edge on your opponent. Kali is also famous for their unique approach in utilizing their knees as weapons, which concentrates on leg destructions.
With the popularity of styles like Krav Maga now surfacing, we see how the above mentioned styles have influenced this style in its brutal reality based fighting. This style unfortunately does not have any real place in a sport competition like the UFC. If you're interested in a brutal system like Krav Maga, then I suggest that you check out the Russian system of Systema. This style, I believe is more thought out and combat effective and in many ways is more of a complete system which completely specializes in low line kicking. This system is also not recommended for the sport of the UFC and in many ways Kali is not either, but Kali is so adaptable with its loose grappling, destructions and sheer versatility that anything's possible.
Last is the US and what it has to offer and I can't help but stress the art of Kenpo, not only is it our own but it's utterly brutally real effectiveness is in many ways unmatched. Born in the Hawaiian Islands which are home to all the above mentioned Asian cultures, Kenpo is the true melting pot of all the martial arts, just like its home, the United States.
Kenpo has always been known for its fast and furious hands and has seemed to have its kicking overlooked throughout the martial arts community.
Like Kenpo and many other styles that emphasize low line kicking, sometime these arts are viewed as having sloppy kickers; this false perception is due to a lack of understanding of the true nature of kicking. By studying these suggested styles and others, you will find different interpretations and applications of kicking. Expanding your personal vocabulary by adding what kicks your style does not cover or by understanding a different approach to a common kick already in your style will immediately increase your odds toward victory.
These theories will enhance your kicks and build up your arsenal of natural weapons. Knowing how to use them, when to use them and how to defend against them. Bruce Lee once said, "Take what is useful and disregard the rest." Disregard, to me, does not mean throw away, but to only use what is necessarily needed to secure the success of your technique.
Your knowledge is like your personal files. When approached with an attack, only pull out the necessary files to complete the job. You do not need to use more than what is actually needed for this messes with your timing, reaction and efficiency of your technique. By understanding every aspect of your kicking enhances your speed, focus and effectiveness giving you the resources to pull out what file (technique) is needed to make it, possibly, a one move defense.
Kicking offers a visual rush to the human eye. It's the eye candy of the silver screen, which always seems to be highlighted in films. The kicks usually displayed take a lot of skill and dedication and are great kicks, but the realism displayed in the movies are often unrealistic for a reality fight, but remember they are set for the camera and high aerial acrobatics make the movie goers dream that it could be them performing those moves. Although this type of kicking is personally rewarding; I mean let's face it who does not like to see height and to hear the power of one's own kicks, there are more ways and more practical approaches to kicking than one might believe to be and I hope I shed some light on this subject throughout this article. Before I move on, I'd like to say that high and aerial kick do work and are quit efficient, but are not the emphasis of this article.
The practicality of low line kicking displayed through sports like the UFC and of course through reality combat have proven their place for today's martial artist. These low line kicks have always been around and will be around as long as we are around. They have been battlefield tested and have made the weakest defender defeat the strongest attacker. In most cases, if the foundation is destroyed the attack is destroyed. These simple examples should offer, I hope, enough reason for you take an active interest in exploring other styles to expand your kicking vocabulary. A common saying down at our studio is, "If I want to kick your opponent in the face than put them to the ground first."