The roundhouse is the most powerful kick if delivered correctly. This is because it incorporates centripetal (spinning) force of your whole body, with added acceleration from the counter-spinning force of your upper body and arms. It take a lot of practice to get the technique right. The idea is to use minimal muscle effort and rely mostly on the spinning force to deliver it. This way you can deliver numerous kicks without muscle fatigue.
While this kick can be delivered on its own, it’s most effective if delivered at the end of a jab-cross-hook or similar combination. In the video below it’s aimed at the opponent’s rib section, however the roundhouse can also be extremely effective delivered to the opponent’s thigh which is often left open to such a kick. It’s often said, “the bigger the opponent, the harder he will fall”, and this is especially true for kicking a heavy opponent numerous times on the thigh muscle often leading to TKO where the opponent’s injured leg muscle simply fails to hold up.
Watch the videos below as I try to explain the key aspects of this kick:
- It’s about efficiency and repetition. While a good placed kick on the thigh can bring most opponents down right away, even the toughest opponent will buckle if multiple kicks are delivered to the same spot on the leg. Unlike punching, kicking saps a lot of energy, so to get through a round of regular kicking, the technique has to be very efficient.
- While a kick to the head might look great, delivering one to the thigh of the opponent is a lot easier and often more effective, especially if the opponent is distracted by a combination of punches to the head prior to the kick. This is the most common combination in Muay Thai.
- Commitment is one of the keys to this kick as you’re aiming to kick “through” your opponent’s thigh. In training (shadow boxing) fighters are taught to spin all the way around 360 degrees when delivering this kick. This is another reason why delivering this kick to the thigh is more effective, as the opponent can pull back and dodge a head kick whereas getting your legs out of the way in time is almost impossible, especially if distracted by some initial punches to the head.
- Your shin is the point of contact, NOT your foot. The large shin bone gets tough with practice, to a point where fighters have been known to break baseball bats with their shin kicks.
- Distance from the opponent is very important as well. Too far and you’ll connect with your foot, possibly damaging delicate foot bones if the opponent lifts his leg to block with his shin (common blocking technique). Too close and the kick cannot be delivered effectively.
- Position of your arms and hands/gloves is also critical. One arm and glove (opposite arm to the kicking leg) protects one side of the head. The other arm helps to generate momentum, while pulling up the shoulder to protect your chin on the other side of your head. See video to see what I mean. Often in fights and in training I have seen fighters delivering a roundhouse kick, at the same time lowering their opposite arm. If both fighters are going for a kick to the head at the same time, the fighter with his opposite arm down will get kicked in the head and often get knocked down or even out.
The next two videos demonstrate the effectiveness of the roundhouse to the leg: