fighting against a "kicker"

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fighting against a "kicker"

Post  Whiteape on Sat Oct 03, 2009 12:08 am

Jason posed this to me while we were training last week. There is apparently a guy he spars against who favors the tae kwon do type tactic of keeping the leg up high and performing fast kicks. This person has longer limbs and so presents range problems. Part of the the problem with this tactic IME, is that it really isn't a good position (Jason's opponent) to be in, in a real fight, with or without rules. Either this person has not been made to realize this by being knocked on his ass, or realizes it, but still presses this advantage within the context of light to medium sparring. Part of the problem with making this apparent is that it is difficult to make this so in a "friendly sparring" kind of way. If that is the context, then I would just take it as an opportunity to work on other tactics and more crafty and deceiving footwork. The opponents position with the leg up is ultimately exploitable enough, that there should be a way to sort of solve it. I've found a scissors take down to the lower leg to be effective and not damaging. This is not the type of tactic I would realistically prefer to take though. As a teacher in this situation, I would advise against the leg up type of position and if the student doesn't accept the advice after a while, I would prove the point without seriously hurting them. However, it shouldn't be too hard to show that the groin is exposed by just putting your foot there repeatedly. I've run into similar situations where a student starts to think what they're doing is actually working and they become cocky, not realizing that I am giving them plenty of leeway to start. If they persist, I then let them be exposed to a more effective tactic. My preferred method for approaching this particular situation, as I pointed out in training, is actually to just blast right through them baji-like thus exploiting the fact that you can only be so stable on one leg. Questions, comments, concerns?

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Re: fighting against a "kicker"

Post  wuxia_warrior on Sun Oct 04, 2009 10:38 pm

Well, I've only had one two-minute round of sparring with him, so I haven't gotten a representative sample of his style, yet. I also tend to focus on the stuff I didn't do well against and is different from other people I've sparred with, so I'm probably exaggerating it.

Being that I don't want to hurt the person, I don't do the shoot in and smash type tactics I would probably use against an opponent in a real fight. I don't even know how well it would work against him. He has a good guard and when I try to close he can very quickly step back and bring up a leg to take me out before I even get in range myself. My tactic lately (in general) has been to conserve my energy and just avoid a lot of attacks rather than trying to block everything. I think I just need to change that for this situation. I've come up with a few things to try. My first kung fu school taught us to use an X-block with the arms against kicks. My only problem with that is that it leaves me open to his fists. I've also been checking out Chen style and bagua counters to high kicks. I'll play around with different techniques as I get to spar with him more and see what works best. Increasing my speed and reaction time would probably help me a lot. I'm not quite sure the best way to do that.

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Re: fighting against a "kicker"

Post  Eryn on Mon Oct 05, 2009 5:18 pm

Using an X-block with the arms to block a kick is definitely impractical. With kicks I generally don't waste much energy blocking them unless they are threatening my personal space, if they don't they're just showy motions. To that matter I don't even spend much energy blocking in general, it is much better to counter-attack than to waste energy blocking. Why not spend the energy usefully by attempting to hit the opponent as he hits you, if you can pull this off. Muhammad Ali used this tactic alot in his fights, where his opponent would go in for a punch and he would dodge said punch and counter with another punch. This is was what Bruce Lee really stressed: the counter-attack. Attack the person right as they attack you. In fact, he even stressed that dodging was inefficient, that you should instead just become really good at reading the opponent's intent and strike back with another strike, no retaliatory motion involved. It throws them off-guard because they know you read what their intent was (if they know anything about fighting) and you are there already, forcing them to react double-speed in a situation severely tipped in your favor. Now if they react with a counter to your counter attack then it becomes a game of reaction-chess, which is what fighting really is, even point-sparring. This is the guiding priciple behind Jeet Kune Do: hit them before they can hit you (JKD stands for "way of the intercepting fist"). I really do believe this is the ideal to strive for regarding any kind of fighting (or game for that matter). Lao Tse apparently favored this strategy as well in "The Art of War," favoring the pressing attack. Seems to be a universal principle. This is a very popular strategy in the business world.

Whenever I spar someone, I never go even over 50% full. That would just be unconstructive. I play a game with myself to see if I can read what they will do before they have a chance to execute the motion. To me, Sparring should always be fun first, competitive second.

Getting good at counter-attacking requires a conscious effort in sparring, and can be a bit difficult at first. Once you get the hang of it it becomes a game, and--like a fine wine--gets better with time.
If you spar with this focus in mind you will get better at reading people's telegraphed motions and will throw them off their pre-conditioned rhythms. Often you don't even need to be quick or super strong, just a good mind-reader of kinetic motion. You can apply this principle to any kind of body motion, potentially making every attack you execute extremely effective. Fighting is mind-over-matter. You can however aid this with hard calisthenic training. Punching and kicking with weight attached to the limbs will highly increase your speed and strength, among other exercises.
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Re: fighting against a "kicker"

Post  Whiteape on Wed Oct 07, 2009 1:23 pm

Eryn wrote:Using an X-block with the arms to block a kick is definitely impractical. With kicks I generally don't waste much energy blocking them unless they are threatening my personal space, if they don't they're just showy motions.

This is was what Bruce Lee really stressed: the counter-attack. Attack the person right as they attack you. In fact, he even stressed that dodging was inefficient, that you should instead just become really good at reading the opponent's intent and strike back with another strike, no retaliatory motion involved. It throws them off-guard because they know you read what their intent was (if they know anything about fighting) and you are there already, forcing them to react double-speed in a situation severely tipped in your favor.

Lao Tse apparently favored this strategy as well in "The Art of War," favoring the pressing attack. Seems to be a universal principle. This is a very popular strategy in the business world.


Fighting is mind-over-matter. You can however aid this with hard calisthenic training. Punching and kicking with weight attached to the limbs will highly increase your speed and strength, among other exercises.

A few points here; I'll address them in the order of what I chose to leave in the quotes.

Agreed, X block is crude and leaves you open IME. In a sparring context I would definitely let someone wear themselves out with kicks. If they aren't efficient and timely they do waste a lot of energy. I would even bait the person in to throwing some extra kicks when possible. I.E. feint like you're moving in if you know their reaction will be to kick. This also allows more opportunity to read their timing, motion, and intent. In a real life, self-defence scenario This is all pretty much moot however. I would stress overall the most important skills to develop here are the abilities to neutralize and redirect, read intent and have superior timing. Most of those IME are really built off of good footwork and proper structure as I've often stressed. With these skills it becomes easier to neutralize the power of a kick and be in a superior position to strike.

To diverge a little from Bruce Lee's point, if a person who's about to attack is actually vulnerable, I would just strike before they even begin. Waiting to counter-attack can actually get you into trouble. That being said, the ability to arrive first when your opponent moves is echoed throughout chinese martial arts and philosophy. It is found in taiji and xingyi and so on. This again has a lot to do with reading intent and having the proper footwork and structure. When good at this, your motion can even seem casual and be slower, but you have read the person correctly.

Technical point here, it was Sun Tse not Lao Tse who is credited for writing "The Art of War".

This is just semantics, but if your mind and body are not working in chorus with clear intent, then it will be difficult to win. Mind over matter doesn't quite explain it to me. It's more mind-body IMO.

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Re: fighting against a "kicker"

Post  Whiteape on Wed Oct 07, 2009 1:35 pm

wuxia_warrior wrote:Well, I've only had one two-minute round of sparring with him, so I haven't gotten a representative sample of his style, yet. I also tend to focus on the stuff I didn't do well against and is different from other people I've sparred with, so I'm probably exaggerating it.

Being that I don't want to hurt the person, I don't do the shoot in and smash type tactics I would probably use against an opponent in a real fight. I don't even know how well it would work against him. He has a good guard and when I try to close he can very quickly step back and bring up a leg to take me out before I even get in range myself. My tactic lately (in general) has been to conserve my energy and just avoid a lot of attacks rather than trying to block everything. I think I just need to change that for this situation. I've come up with a few things to try. My first kung fu school taught us to use an X-block with the arms against kicks. My only problem with that is that it leaves me open to his fists. I've also been checking out Chen style and bagua counters to high kicks. I'll play around with different techniques as I get to spar with him more and see what works best. Increasing my speed and reaction time would probably help me a lot. I'm not quite sure the best way to do that.

I used your example, but it is something that comes up a lot in MA discussions. You bringing it up to me just gave me some food for thought. I thought it would be a good discussion for everyone. I didn't get the impression you exaggerated or it was a big deal, but I'm running with the topic.

If you can read his intent and have better timing, it should be possible to disturb his balance when he kicks without committing to fully blasting through him. It's tough but possible to gently knock someone down or uproot them. The direct thrusting kicks can be good for that like I was showing. You don't have to kick too high or even hard and can move in while bridging or striking. You should try to be in bridging or clinching range (assuming you can control these ranges better) as much as possible. You could also try to get him to kick by faking a move in and then close the gap quickly after the kick. Just some ideas. Sweeps and scissor take downs work if you care to work on those.

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Re: fighting against a "kicker"

Post  Eryn on Wed Oct 07, 2009 2:15 pm

Ah, getting my Chinese philosophers mixed up. It was Lao Tse who did "Tao Te Ching."

To diverge a little from Bruce Lee's point, if a person who's about to attack is actually vulnerable, I would just strike before they even begin. Waiting to counter-attack can actually get you into trouble. That being said, the ability to arrive first when your opponent moves is echoed throughout chinese martial arts and philosophy. It is found in taiji and xingyi and so on. This again has a lot to do with reading intent and having the proper footwork and structure. When good at this, your motion can even seem casual and be slower, but you have read the person correctly.

The point I was making was that at the highest level of skill it is mind-only training/ability. Actually, an even better wording would be instinct-only, the mind shouldn't even be present because it takes time to "think." Instinctual reaction is the fastest.

Definitely if someone is vulnerable I would strike before they begin, but it becomes more of a head-game if your sparring/fighting someone who doesn't make themselves vulnerable often. This guy you're sparring (Jason) sounds like someone who doesn't understand the vulnerability of what he is doing, so attacking him when he lifts his leg in preparation for a kick would be the best answer IMO.

I think both attacking and counter-attacking have merit, it all depends upon the situation. Two UFC fighters that come to mind when talking about counter-attacking are Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida. These two have the best counter-attacking skills in the game. Typically, in the fights I've watched, they wait for their opponents to strike then react with pin-point accuracy. They don't spend much energy attacking offensively, they prefer to wait and answer. They are just really good at reading people and exploiting openings, which is why they rarely get hit (and are currently undefeated). Fedor Emelianenko is another example, though he's a bit more aggressive.
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Re: fighting against a "kicker"

Post  Eryn on Wed Oct 07, 2009 2:32 pm

How about some short quick leg strikes. Say, when he kicks, you dodge and throw a gentle kick to his supporting leg (just don't throw them hard, bad for his knees). In theory this would cause him to lose his balance, but he may regain if he's quick enough. Also, if he throws a kick try to catch it and close the gap to clinching range like Blake said, this would neutralize his long range attacks. You're a sturdy guy, capitalize on that and use it to your advantage. Maybe even once you're in the clinch perform a quick but gentle hip toss. We'll work on some of these next time I see you.

Back to the kick catch... when he kicks ride under and catch it with your shoulder, then clasp your arms around his body (with leg still above your shoulder). This is a very bad position for him, you could instantly take him down with this if you could set it up and were fast enough.
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Re: fighting against a "kicker"

Post  wuxia_warrior on Sun Oct 18, 2009 9:40 pm

As to some of the previous comments, the problem was that he wasn't very vulnerable. I couldn't get anywhere near his supporting leg, or I would have gone for it. I can handle straight kicks pretty well, it's the round ones that I have more trouble with. My options, as far as I can see it, are to either retreat out of their range or enter in closer and neutralize it. Unlike a straight kick, I can't slip it beside it, and I find them harder to block with my own kicks than straight kicks.

So I had gone through some training materials, namely the Chen style sparring DVD and my Jiulong bagua books and videos and formulated my tactics. The next time we sparred it was just against Chris, not each other. He was too quick for me to try the Chen style tactic I had practiced, but my yin fire palm neutralization worked well on his front snap kick. Also, the Lenny was a great success at safely getting myself into the thick of things. So the next time I sparred Darrell I thought I might be somewhat prepared, but he used a very different strategy and it was like fighting a different person altogether. I tried a couple tactics that have always worked well against Chris, like my xingyi dragon-esque entrance and the Lenny, and they were both a failure.

I think the problem is that he's just better. At one point he was kicking with his right, I stop-kicked it, and he kicked left, and I managed to somewhat do the same to it but still took a hard hit to the torso. He's very good at keeping his range. I can't get in on him, even when I try to lunge in with something like the Lenny. I think I need to stop just trying different techniques and styles every time I have a problem and work on the fundamentals and limit myself to training fewer styles more in depth. I don't think I can progress much further just by learning a form or two in many different kinds of CMA.

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Re: fighting against a "kicker"

Post  Whiteape on Mon Oct 19, 2009 1:00 pm

wuxia_warrior wrote:

I think the problem is that he's just better. At one point he was kicking with his right, I stop-kicked it, and he kicked left, and I managed to somewhat do the same to it but still took a hard hit to the torso. He's very good at keeping his range. I can't get in on him, even when I try to lunge in with something like the Lenny. I think I need to stop just trying different techniques and styles every time I have a problem and work on the fundamentals and limit myself to training fewer styles more in depth. I don't think I can progress much further just by learning a form or two in many different kinds of CMA.

Sounds like a good assessment and a good training opportunity in general. I agree that the problem here is not a question of what style(s) and rarely is that the case. I'll re-iterate that I would stress structure and footwork and then the transition into your spatial relation and being able to read intent/have superior intent (which is pretty abstract). All the different techniques and tactics I mention are things I've done and seen work and are to add to the discussion, but it still comes down to what works for you.

I have in the past used the scissors take down that I mentioned earlier to get in to the support leg. I don't think it's a technique that suits your style of fighting so I wouldn't recommend it off-hand, but then again should you choose to train and work on it, I'm sure you could still pull it off. I guess I'm trying to reinforce the point that it comes down to your priorities in training. Also here's a good example of the brush knee-like takedown that I was talking about before. It is from a mid-level kick and as you can see it requires being able to sort of give up the side a little and know how to absorb the kick.



When he kicks is he bringing the leg right back down each time? If he's leaving the leg up there then I can guarantee that there is way to exploit this. If not, then perhaps he is just a good kicker. As you can see from the clip though even okay kicks are exploitable. It sounds like he is just adaptable too though, but you will do well and learn lots to make him keep changing his tactics.

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Re: fighting against a "kicker"

Post  Eryn on Mon Oct 19, 2009 4:16 pm

Yeah, that's such a great knockout; excellent example of kicking exploitation. Brush knee is so simple and highly effective. It doesn't take much at all to knock someone out with the execution of a strike at a good angle. He didn't even put much into that punch, just a small fajin expression and a well executed angle and he won. I think Silva was actually holding back a bit with that punch because he knew he didn't need alot of power to get the KO, just good structure and accuracy.
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Re: fighting against a "kicker"

Post  wuxia_warrior on Sat Mar 27, 2010 1:30 am

Update:

While I think my forms have gone downhill and I feel like I haven't really been getting any better, I do think I've been making small gains in actual combat with people. It depends a lot on the person, but I'm getting better at reading them an especially distancing. I was playing around with someone a couple weeks ago and we were playing the game of circling with arms touching and attacking each other. I could always tell when he was going to attack and often retreated, staying just ahead of him, and then ended with a smack on the head or something at the end of his assault. I was playing around with someone different this evening and even though they're much newer to kung fu (and not as good) I had a more difficult time with him (which is sad, since I have a lot more experience than him). He just didn't telegraph nearly as much and was perhaps a little quicker with strikes. I also played with my kicking buddy for a few minutes. I did a lot better intercepting his kicks with my own, though I still am too slow with kicks that are at dan tien or higher in height. My main problems are with round kicks.

I looked up on youtube some ideas and I have issues with all of them. First:

If I try that on one of his kicks, I'll get my arm/hand AND my face broken. He kicks HARD.

Second:

This is basically the brush-knee and push sort of tactic. You can also do it with the arm circling under the leg rather than over. My problem with this is that a good fighter will be punching you in the face as you're doing it. I've tried getting close and grabbing legs with Darrell and it's an open invitation for a punch to the head. While he'd probably end up on the ground, I'd end up with a really hurt face. As ugly as I am, I'd like to avoid getting my face rearranged.

Third:

I use this quite a bit. My main problem with this is that by stepping out of range your opponent can just come at you with another kick. Of course the idea is to rush back in as they're withdrawing, but I can't do that quick enough to get there before there's another kick coming at me. The last time I tried this I ended up in a situation that could have been really bad either way. As I came in for the counter-attack, he was side kicking at my chest. I caught it (with one arm on top, the other under) at a distance where it was just finishing and touching my chest. It could have been bad for me had I been a little closer (and I don't know how much of that was my distancing versus him not wanting to really hurt me) but since the distance was pretty much perfect and I absorbed the very little impact and had the leg, I could have pushed/pulled/twisted/whatever. I actually don't know whether it was good or extremely stupid.

Any other ideas for round kick defense?

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Re: fighting against a "kicker"

Post  Eryn on Tue Mar 30, 2010 2:27 pm

There are many good options you could do against a round kick. My favorite answer would probably a quick counter-jab to the jaw while stepping into the kick. Another answer could be a counter-kick to the round kicking leg. Generally, kicking to the hamstring or tender part under the knee usually works, if you can time it right and are accurate. The thing about round kicks is that once they miss there is almost always mandatory recovery time for the leg to return to the ground; this is usually a good time to react with something of your choosing.

I know you said that you were reluctant to try the step-in punch alternative, but I think that if you drilled it enough times you could become good at it. Speed is important, but timing is even more important. To get technical, try punching the side of the jaw opposite to the kicking leg. This forces the person's neck into a difficult position because there isn't much distance the head has to travel in order to run into structural resistance. If you caught the other side of the jaw there would be much more distance required for the head to twist in order to run into structural resistance. Hope that makes sense, it's sort of hard to teach this technique without actually showing someone hands-on.
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Re: fighting against a "kicker"

Post  wuxia_warrior on Thu Apr 01, 2010 2:14 am

"My favorite answer would probably a quick counter-jab to the jaw while stepping into the kick."

Unless you're fighting someone who doesn't really know how to fight, the kicker is going to be on guard even while kicking to block/punch, thus all I'd get for my trouble (most likely) is a solid roundhouse to the kidney again.

"Another answer could be a counter-kick to the round kicking leg. Generally, kicking to the hamstring or tender part under the knee usually works, if you can time it right and are accurate."

That's what I usually try to do. However, sometimes you don't see it soon enough to get your own leg up there. I'm looking for what to do in that situation, or also the situation where (especially with a tall person) I can't get my leg high enough to kick their leg. (Front/straight kicks come up from the ground so it's easy for me to get my leg in front of them. Since round kicks often come from the back leg I have to get my leg up at least as high as the kicker's hips, higher for a long-legged person whose foot is at my head while I can't even reach their hips.)

"The thing about round kicks is that once they miss there is almost always mandatory recovery time for the leg to return to the ground; this is usually a good time to react with something of your choosing."

Not in my experience. Chris showed him that flaw in his strategy early on, so often instead of returning the leg to the ground, it will return to chambered. That's how I got side kicked in the chest. I tried to rush in right after a round kick, only to find the leg had chambered and come right back out in a side kick instead of setting down.

"...try the step-in punch alternative..."

The biggest problem I see with this is that he's got a good guard, even while kicking. Not to mention his leg is MUCH longer than my arm. I'd have to be significantly faster to accomplish that, and I'm fairly slow and Darrell's pretty fast. Actually, I should get together with you sometime, Eryn, since you are quicker and longer than me like Darrell is.

Up until now, Chris has pretty much just let us go at it. He has just decided after much thought and talking to teachers at other schools and realizing how lucky he is no one's gotten seriously hurt yet to take it down a couple notches. While that may be good for keeping students alive and training, I think Darrell coming in and beating on me has been the best lesson for me. It's really opened my eyes and got me trying to improve, having someone hit me actually hard that I can't just ignore it and delude myself into thinking I can just take the hits and knock the person down. I was getting complacent. Now I realize how much I suck, but also where I have room to grow.

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Re: fighting against a "kicker"

Post  Eryn on Thu Apr 01, 2010 10:40 am

If you, Chris, and everyone else was game to this, I'd be willing to come in and teach an hour long or so class in sparring/fighting strategy. I'd actually like to full-on spar some of you guys in the school--controlled of course--including all-in (kick/boxing, ground/wrestling) tactics. Don't worry, I'm not coming in to destroy people, I just want to see where everyone is in their respective levels. Do you all have sparring gear?
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Re: fighting against a "kicker"

Post  wuxia_warrior on Thu Apr 08, 2010 1:08 am

You'd have to talk to Chris about that. You can either call (434) 973-0318 or e-mail the info@laughingdragonkungfu.com address. I'm not sure how he'd feel about it given liability type stuff. Since the weather is getting nicer, I could talk to people that might be interested in getting together outside of the school for some sparring info and practice sessions.

Those of us in the advanced class have headgear, mouthguard, and gloves (with fingers open). I don't really like sparring with that stuff, though as it's difficult to use palms/open hands and that's what I prefer. Intermediate students don't have the gear, but I think there's a number of decent people in there who would be interested in such a get-together.

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Re: fighting against a "kicker"

Post  Eryn on Thu Apr 08, 2010 10:20 am

That sounds good man. We'd have to find a place where we wouldn't get into trouble doing that stuff though. I'd prefer an indoor area mainly because of that reason, but also because it would just be safer. I'll give Chris a call and see if we could work something out. Much of the class would just be technical information on striking/grapping efficiency; I really like to get into the analytical science of the movement and body-feel elements. It also wouldn't be that often--only once a month, if that. The last 30 minutes would be actual application in free-form sparring. In the meantime, try to get some people on board.
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