Side Kick Tutorial and 3 Drills for Height, Speed and Power | Effective Martial Arts

The side kick is one of the most powerful kicks in martial arts, great for defense, as well as offense. Patrick Fulop offers you detailed instruction, along with 3 powerful drills to increase the height, speed, and strength of your side kicks. Enjoy!

Live instruction on the Effective Martial Arts (TM) curriculum is currently only available at Kung Fu West Island, in Pointe-Claire (Montreal), Quebec, Canada.

Video production, filming, editing and music by Sukhi Benning,


Hi I’m Patrick Fulop, this is Effective Martial Arts.  In this lesson: The Side Kick. The side kick is probably the most powerful kick you can deliver, and it’s great as a defensive move to stop an attack, or as way to bend your opponent in half and send him flying away on offense.  It does require a little more practice to master though than some of the other kicks.

But hey, with a little hard work and perseverance, you can do anything. So here’s how you do it.  Follow me as if you were looking at yourself in a mirror. Check out the side view for a different perspective.  The simplest way to deliver a side kick is with the front leg, and I recommend you start by aiming low, at the knee or thigh level,to make sure you have the proper technique.  It’s very effective as a low kick anyways. Later in this video I’ll show you some cool drills to increase the height, speed and power of your side kicks, so if you practice, you can also eventually use this kick to strike the body, or maybe even the face.

We’ll also be seeing some interesting variations like the chasing side kick, reverse side kick, as well as effective setups to make it work. But that’ll be for another video, first things first.  Basics. Final position.  With your hand keeping your balance on a wall or chair, face sideways towards your target, and simply lift your heel up, while maintaining your hip position,and keeping your toes lower than your heel.  Your supporting leg’s foot will be pivoted outwards, so that your joints are lined up with the direction of impact.  Both legs are straight, and make sure your heel, hip, and shoulder are in a straight line.  Keep your hands up in the guard to protect your face, and look at your target.  Your heel is your weapon in this technique.

Common mistakes include not turning the hips enough, pointing your toes up, sticking your bum out, and leaning forward.  So: toes down, hips in, back straight,look at your target… and breathe! Once you have this basic position, try togo higher and higher, while maintaining proper alignment.  Do this on both sides.

Next step is to break it down.  Low side kick first, from your fighting stance.

  1. liftyour knee up as high as you can, and turn your hips as you lift, so your heel points towards the target.
  2. extend the leg, kinda like you’re doing a side squat in the air,keep your heel in a straight line moving forward, and turn your hips completely sideways at full extension, keeping your body as straight as possible.
  3. chamber the knee back to prevent your leg from getting grabbed. And
  4. recover fighting stance.

Do this many times, correcting yourself, until you get every position on the first try.

  1. lift and turn,
  2. extend,
  3. chamber back,
  4. come back.

Notice that no matter how high you’re aiming with your kick, your shin should determine the line of fire.  So for a low kick: knee high, heel low.  Horizontal kick: knee and heel on the same level.  And high kick: heel higher than the knee.  Your shin is like your sight, and your heel is like the cross-hairs,pointing towards the target.

Once you understand the basic positions and motions, next step is to eliminate the pauses.  Simply do everything we just did smoothly,and slowly to start.  Lift, turn, extend, bring back.  Fluid motion. Once you got it, start going faster and faster, remembering to breathe out as you initiate the motion, and stay relaxed.  There’s a small muscle contraction at the end to add power, but don’t leave your leg there too long because your opponent will be able to grab it and take you down.  Just a fraction of a second.

Next, best way to understand the motion is to apply it on a target. However high you strike, really feel your heel penetrating.  The damage caused by focusing all the impact in your heel will be much greater than if it’s spread out on the whole surface of the foot.  It’s also important to be just at the right distance at the point of impact,with about 30% of your movement left when you make contact, so you can drive your strike into the target.  Too close and you won’t be able to extend your leg, too far and you’ll have no power left.  You can also badly injure your knee if you make contact with your leg already straight.  So be careful, and don’t hyper-extend your knee. Also, as you start kicking higher than your belt, gentlemen, I recommend you protect your manhood with your lead hand, making a fist.  Although groin strikes are illegal in combat sports, if your high kick misses or if it’s blocked in a self-defense situation, it’s easy for your opponent to counter, and you don’t want that.  No need to protect your groin though if you’re kicking lower than belt level, your leg is already doing the job.

Next, once you’re comfortable with the basic technique, you can add a little hop with your back leg as you kick to cover more distance and add power.  We’ll also be seeing the chasing side kick and reverse side kick ina future video.  Meantime, here are 3 essential drills you should be doing to increase the height, speed and power of your basic side kicks. The side kick is a complex technique, that requires flexibility, as well as the development of many hip muscles you probably didn’t even know you had.  It also requires good understanding of the direction of movement, as well as coordination to be effective.  The cool thing about it though,is that not many people take the time, or even know how to practice it well, so if you do, you’ll have a distinct advantage.  Once mastered, the side kick can be devastating.

Drill #1: The Held Up Kick Drill.  This drill is essential to help your body remember the position, as well as increase the height of your kicks by working on your flexibility and hip strength simultaneously.  Simply hold the final position of the sidekick, while holding on to a chair, wall or table to keep your balance, correct all the details of the position, and pull your leg up higher to develop flexibility. If you have a partner, ask them to support your heel so you can go higher.  On your own,you can use a towel or piece of rope to pull your foot up, or simply grab the back of your knee, or pant.  Make sure your heel, hip and shoulder remain on a straight line, and turn your hips in so that your toes stay lower than your heel.  You can do this drill while relaxing for flexibility, but I also recommend you practice forcing upwards, trying to lift the entire weight of your leg with your hips, even though you have support.  Then progressively lighten the support until your hold the position all on your own.  Make sure your body is not dipping backwards too much.  General rule of thumb is that the angle between your body and kicking leg should be equal or smaller than the angle between your body and supporting leg.  And always practice this on both sides so you develop your muscles symmetrically.  Doing this for just a minute a day per leg will dramatically increase the precision, power, and potential height of your kicks.

Drill #2: The Knee Up Drill.  The knee up drill will help you develop speed and explosiveness in the initiation of your side kick, as well as help you understand the perfect chambered position to be ready to fire away.  Simply lift your knee up as high and as fast as you can, turn your hips at the same time, and let it snap back down. You want to stay relaxed, and breathe out while you’re doing this.  When aiming low with your kick, your knee can go all the way up to your chest.  If you’re aiming higher with your kick, you’ll simply be pulling your knee more towards the back than straight up.  In either case, this creates a stretch in your buttocks and back of the thigh, which adds to the power of your kick with elastic energy. Also, you don’t want to fire your reps too close together.  Give yourself a bit of time to breathe in between, so you can breathe out when launching the movement, be relaxed,and really develop your explosive speed.  Do this till you feel you’re using your full range of motion, and can go at full speed, on both sides. And this brings us to

Drill #3: The Side Leg Extension Drill. This one is for the second part of the motion, from the chambered position, to full extension. This will help you understand the direction of motion, as well as develop great power and control in your hips muscles.  The purpose of this drill is to make sure your heel travels in a straight line forward from your hip to full extension, while keeping your knee behind your heel for maximum power.  Start by doing this in the air, and then add some resistance to challenge your muscles.  For resistance you can have your partner resist against your movement, use a pulley if you’re at the gym, or even push a heavy object so you’ll develop specific strength in that movement. Do this regularly and you will not only understand the motion much better, but your legs will get much stronger as well. And those are your 3 basic drills for improving your side kicks: the held-up kick drill, the knee up drill, and the side leg extension drill. Once you’ve practiced these, finish your training by doing a couple more regular full motion side kicks in the air, or on a bag, and notice how much higher, faster, and stronger they will be. And that’s how you throw a basic side kick.

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