Chapter Nine – Legs — The Definitive Self-Protection Handbook

Dead or Alive by Geoff Thompson

Copyright © Geoff Thompson 2004
The right of Geoff Thompson to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with section 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, nor transmitted, nor translated into a machine language, without the written permission of the publisher.

As attacking tools the feet are both powerful and accessible, though less immediate than the hands, and harder to master. Basic, low kicks are favourable if you choose to employ the legs as attacking tools.

Kicking techniques can be invaluably destructive – in theory. In reality, live situations lack the space and distancing to employ the kick to its full potential, and just the fact that you are using your legs as attacking tools renders you less mobile.

Great kickers (they are few) will doubtless disagree with me, and work effectively every kicking technique and theory that I would deem as ineffective. But they are an exception to the rule. The techniques that I promote and practise are aimed at the greater majority who would or could never, even given the right distance, employ a successful kicking technique, and not at the minority who probably could. To the minority I apologise profusely before I start, because I am sure you will not like what I have to say. Even the minority would, I'm sure, agree that when aiming at the masses one is obliged to promote techniques that will not take a lifetime to learn. I can get a complete novice punching hard and accurately on the focus pads in one session, preparing them, in a small way, directly for the street. To do that with a kicking technique is a near impossibility.

Personally, I use kicks to bridge the gap (when the gap between you and your opponent is too great to employ punching techniques), or as a finishing tool (to finish off a felled opponent). In these scenarios feet are unrivalled, especially in the latter. As independent attacks, in most circumstances, I do not endorse them. I only kick if there is no other option open to me, though I always, without exception, finish off with feet.

Front kickFront kick

Very basic and effective, especially when directed at the lower regions such as groin, knees and shins. Balance is not impaired (if kept low) and little skill is needed in execution.

May be used as a thrusting kick attacking with the heel by pulling the rest of the foot back; as a snap kick attacking with the ball of the foot by pushing the ankle forward and pulling back the toes; or by attacking with the in-step by pushing the toes forward.

Any area below the waist is a safe and legitimate target; more specifically the groin, pubic bone, testicles, kneecaps and shins. 
The most important aspect of the front kick is the utilisation of the hips. Forward hip thrust is pivotal if any power is to be generated. A fast recovery of the spent kick is also imperative (this applies with all kicks), as a lazy kick will be grabbed by an adversary.

Side KickSide kick

Very powerful and accessible, though restricted by its high skill factor. May be executed to the front or the side attacking with the heel or the side edge of the foot by turning the attacking foot inward and pulling the toes back tightly so that the side of the foot is taut and prominent. If attacking to the side: lift the knee of the attacking leg upward and thrust the foot sideways at the target whilst simultaneously pivoting on the supporting leg so that the foot of the supporting leg is pointing in the opposite direction to the target. This will ensure full hip commitment. After connection with the target, recover the attacking leg quickly along the same route as it was aimed.

Roundhouse kickRoundhouse kick

Very powerful and accessible, with a much higher skill factor than the front kick. Any target below the chest is a safe and legitimate one, more specifically the ribs, kidneys, lower abdomen, groin, pubic bone, testicles, thighs, knees and shins. The higher the target area aimed for with this kick, the more danger there is of impaired balance and a slow recovery, unless you are highly skilled.

The attacking part of the foot can be the in-step or the ball of the foot. If employing the ball of the foot, pull back the toes and foot so that on impact with the target the heel is higher than the toes. If employing the in-step push the toes and ankle forward and strike with the bone at the front of the foot. It is important to lift the knee of the attacking leg high and to the side, throwing the designated leg around and into the target by pivoting on the supporting leg and thrusting the hips behind the technique on impact with the target. After contact with the target, quickly retract the leg by pivoting back on the supporting leg and pulling the hips back to their original position.

Back kickBack kick

Potentially a very powerful kick. Accessible whilst attacking to the rear, a high skill factor if aimed at a forward-facing opponent. The latter is therefore not recommended for the novice.

When using the heel of the foot to attack any of the lower anatomical regions, more specifically the solar plexus, ribs, groin, pubic bone, testicles, thighs and knees, hours of practice is needed if accuracy is to be gained.

Attacking to the front: a potentially hazardous kick because it is necessary to turn your back, for a split second, on the opponent when twisting around. Due to this 'twisting' action disorientation often occurs.

If using the right leg to attack, lead with the left leg. From this small compact stance lift your right leg up and toward your left leg, wrapping the in-step of the right foot tightly around the back of the left calf muscle. Pivot around on the left supporting leg so that your back is directly facing your opponent, simultaneously turning your head so that you do not lose sight of him. Thrust the heel of the right foot, propelled by the forward thrust of both hips, into the target. After connection with the target, twist your body around and place the attacking (right) foot on the floor so that you are now facing the opponent.

Attacking to the rear: turn your head around so that you can see the target/ opponent. Lift your right knee up to waist height and directly in front of you. Thrust the attacking heel directly behind you and into the target/opponent, propelled by the forward thrust of both hips following the route of the kick. After connection with the target, retract the kick sharply back to the 'knee lift' position in front of you. Replace the foot on the floor. Alternatively, after connection with the target, twist and place the attacking foot on the floor so that you are now facing the opponent.

Stamping kickStamping kick

Simple, accessible and very destructive. Used mostly as a finishing technique, but may also be used in vertical grappling as an ankle or foot stamp. Effective on any part of the horizontal human anatomy, more specifically the head, neck, ribs and legs.

Lift the knee of the attacking leg high and directly in front of you. Stamp the heel of the attacking foot into the target.

Sweeping kick

Sweeping kickUsed to sweep an opponent's legs from under him. Devastating if followed up with a stamping kick. May be used to attack and sweep the opponent's front leg, or both legs by attacking the opponent's rear leg.

Front leg sweep

Used to attack an opponent who has one leg leading (right or left). Attack the shin of the opponent's lead leg with the in-step of your right foot (left if attacking his left leg) sweeping his leg across the front of his own body, spiralling him to the ground.

Especially effective if the opponent is transferring weight onto the leg as you attack it, or if he already has weight on the leg.

Back leg sweep

This attack relies heavily upon the opponent who is standing with his legs/feet close together. Attack with your strongest side, again using the in-step of the foot. Attack the back of the opponent's knees, lifting him completely off the ground, toppling him to the floor.


All kicking techniques, for realism, are best practised on or with a 'live' partner. However, other implements may be used for the development of power, distancing and accuracy.


Ideal for practising front kicks, roundhouse kicks, side kicks and back kicks. If you lie the bag flat on the floor it is also good for practising stamping kicks.

When executing front kicks, side kicks and back kicks on the punch-bag you may swing it, kicking it with the designated kick as it comes back toward you. This is excellent for practising distancing on a moving target.

For low kicks and sweeps, a long 6ft bag that hovers just above the ground is recommended.

Focus pads

Specifically good for practising front snap kicks (using the in-step rather than the ball of the foot) and roundhouse kicks, will help to develop power, distancing and more importantly accuracy.

By holding one pad to the thigh, target area pointing outward, it may be used to practise low roundhouse kicks. If tucked under the opposite armpit, target area pointing outward, it is ideal for mid-section roundhouse kicks. If held at groin level, with the target area pointing to the floor, it may be used to practise low front snap kicks, using the in-step of the foot to attack. If held across and slightly in front of the body, target area pointing outward and at face height, it may be used for face height roundhouse kicks.

Strike shield

Excellent for developing power in all the kicks because the shield is held along the contours of the holder's body, the practice has the added bonus of realism. If the holder tucks the shield tightly to the backs of the legs and bottom, the attacker may practice realistic low roundhouse kicks and sweeps.

Article written by Geoff Thompson

Geoff Thompson claims that his biological birthdate is 1960, though his hair-line goes right back to the First World War.

He has worked as a floor sweeper, chemical worker, pizza maker, road digger, hod carrier, martial-arts instructor, bricklayer, picture seller, delivery driver and nightclub bouncer before giving up 'proper work' in 1992 to write full time.

He is now a bestselling author, BAFTA-nominated screenwriter, magazine columnist, playwright and novelist.

He lives in Coventry with his wife Sharon, and holds a 6th dan in Japanese karate, 1st dan in Judo and was voted the number one self-defence author in the world by Black Belt Magazine USA.