Probably the most underused attacks among Wing Chun practitioners are the Wing Chun kicks. Although Wing Chun is known as a close range art with emphasis on hand trapping techniques, Wing Chun has devastating kicks. In fact, since Wing Chun utilizes short range trapping and punching, kicking will be your primary weapon and strongest weapon from medium to long range. Here we explore a few of the most common kicks used in Wing Chun and how to use them.
The first kick that is most commonly used in sparring is the straight front kick from either the lead or rear foot. The straight kick is performed in many ways depending on the situation, but in generally, it’s executed by pulling your knee straight up and kicking straight forward. Your knee should be facing the ceiling, kicking with the heel. In Muay Thai and other martial arts, this kick resembles the “teep.” One difference is the teep connects with the ball of the foot, whereas the Wing Chun straight kick connects with the heel. Some say hitting with the heel can hyper-extend the knee if you miss, but this risk is not lessened by aiming with the ball of the foot. I find aiming with the heel flexes the quadriceps and actually tightens the muscles around the knee helping to prevent hyper-extension.
A few notes on this kick. First, like all Wing Chun kicks, power is generated from the hips. The hips must shoot forward in advance of the kick fully extending. This improves the leverage in the kick. Otherwise, when you kick you will fall backwards hitting a heavy target or opponent. Secondly, when the hips shoot forward, there is a tendency for the kicking hip to shoot more forward than the hip of the standing leg. This type of kick is more committed and typically used when your target is moving back from the kick and you need more range. It can also be used to switch leads if you fight orthodox and kick with your rear right leg, you can bring the leg and hip through the kick and step down into southpaw. It’s best to practice keeping your hips evenly balanced for a sound structure when kicking, but understand in battle, your kicking hip may come forward some unintentionally or intentionally to switch leads.
Also, when executing this kick, you don’t have to bring the knee all the way up to your chest, nor do you have to bend you kicking knee at a 90 degree angle. This is a good way to practice in the beginning to generate power in the kick. However, in sparring and fighting, often, you will only bend your leg slightly and lift your knee just high enough to deliver the kick to the intended target. This increases the speed of the kick. No needed to exaggerate bending the leg. Kicks tend to be slower than punches anyway, so if you’re able to increase the speed of your kick by eliminating excess movement, this may aid in landing the kick. Of course, less bend in the knee and hips decreases the power of the kick, but regardless of how high you bring your knee or how much you bend it, you still should push the hips forward for power, speed, and to avoid getting pushed back.
The problem with this kick is that it is relatively easy for your opponent to see coming because it can only be effectively executed at long range. At a closer range, it tends to get jammed up. Hence, the need to work on speed. Also the target area is generally well-guarded by most fighters. The target is usually the sternum, stomach, or chest. Most fighters keep their elbows in this general area. Also, most fighters tend to stand at an angle, so even if you do land the kick, you will not do so cleaning. It often slides off to one side or another especially if you’re sparring or ring fighting bare foot against a sweaty opponent (speaking from experience here). If your opponent stands relatively square to you, then you should be able to land it pretty clean.
The straight front kick is perhaps the most commonly used kick above the waist in Wing Chun. Most kicking in Wing Chun is below the waist to the knees and groin. The two most common ways to kick to the knee are the oblique kick and the side kick. The oblique kick is similar to the straight front kick except, the toe is pointed outward providing the optimal striking surface to the knee. This kick uses the middle of the foot for a striking surface. If you use the heel here, you will likely miss the opponent’s knee as it’s a smaller target. If you kick with the ball of the foot, you will have less force as the ball of the foot has more give, more spring, and less impact power. This kick is used to smash the knee in and break the leg period. Since it is a low kick, the knee only comes up slightly, enough to jam through the leg forcefully. Like the front straight kick, the hips need to be forward to add power. When performing this kick like all other kicks, keep your hands up and guarding your upper body and head. You may or may not successfully land the kick.
This kick requires a relatively close range compared to the other kicks. It’s nearly impossible to perform with bringing the kicking hip more forward to extend the range because the toe is pointed out. Like the front straight kick, it is best used with the hips squared and balanced, but this shrinks the distance. This kick is nice to use after a series of punches or perhaps a feint to distract your opponent high while you kick him low. In sparring and competition fighting, kicking to the knee is illegal, so often sparring partners will at least kick to the shin to build competency in the movement.
The last kick I’d like to cover here is the low side kick. I call anything a side kick if it goes straight out while your body is turned sideways. This one is also done typically to the knee. I have seen some practitioners side kick to the body as well. The nice thing about the side kick is that it is the longest range standing kick period. A Muay Thai roundhouse kick is perhaps longer if you’re striking with the instep of the foot, but the instep is frankly a very weak striking surface. The bones break easily when checked or blocked with a shin, knee, or elbow. The side kick generates length and power by turning the hips to the side and thrusting the hips into the kick. Like the other kicks, you don’t bring the knee up unnecessarily high before you kick. The goal is to kick from where you are with little set up or retracting of the foot prior to kicking. Kick fast and kick hard. The striking surface is like the oblique kick, the middle of the foot.
This is perhaps the sneakiest kick of all and the most useful. It’s naturally quick because it takes advantage of the straight line between two points and it targets the closest area of your opponent, his front knee. Unlike targets in the upper areas, the legs are unguarded. Legs must guard themselves by checking kicks or getting out of the way. Most fighters smartly will not lower their hands to protect their legs, so the legs are prime targets of attack. The knees are the most vulnerable target on the leg and deal the most damage. The side kick is so long and so sneaky in that it generally goes under the opponent’s field of vision. It can also be used as a stop kick to temporarily stop their footwork advance or lead leg attack. Again, in sparring, this kick is illegal. You can target the thigh or shin with it, but it will likely not be as effective as Muay Thai’s roundhouse kick in a sparring or ring situation. Hence the reason Wing Chun is easier to use in the street, but harder to use in the ring or cage. Regardless, still kick ‘em anyway.
The point of this article is to tell you to kick. Kick, kick, kick, kick ‘em. If they have stronger punches than you because they are bigger or they throw wild punches, kick them. With gloves on, Wing Chun punches are severely weakened in that they rely mostly on short range power. Kicks are the great equalizer. If someone is punching you with hard shots from typical boxing range, kick ‘em. Keep kicking. Often, they will rush in after blocking one kick, keep kicking or punching from multiple angle and timings. Keep them guessing. Is one kick coming or two? A kick and a punch? Keep kicking. Because of our emphasis on the horse, your base, your structure, generating power from the ground, Wing Chun has devastating kicks, even kicks that can be used in the ring. Thank you for reading.
Wishing you peace and compassion.
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