Is it better to step to the right to generate more momentum, or would that typically be too slow?
For purposes of easing exposition, I will use basic-lead-snap-roundhouse (= no stepping to the right) and step-right-lead-roundhouse (= step to the right with your right leg and kick with the left leg) to differentiate between the two.
Context is King!
There is no way to tell whether one is better than the other without taking into consideration what your opponent is doing while you are kicking. There is always a trade-off. You must think about the effectiveness of a given strike/move by factoring in how your opponent might react.
What if you stepped to your right to generate more momentum for the lead inside roundhouse, but your opponent actually beat you to it and shuffled (or switched stance) to his right? This means you would fail to make any contact with his lead leg, and your momentum would carry through, making you off-balance. The momentum of your step-right-lead-roundhouse would open your back to your opponent who will be in the perfect spot for his power shots!
The step-right-lead-roundhouse is more powerful than the basic-lead-snap-roundhouse. But the latter is faster. An additional advantage of the step-right-lead-roundhouse (besides power) is that it pushes your head much to the right, meaning that your head will now be outside the center line of fire. And this is a great way to not get countered by the Cross or the Overhand Right.
When to use the basic-lead-snap-roundhouse?
First, here are some reasons to use the basic-lead-snap-roundhouse:
- It's a quick snappy kick to the inside leg.
- Takes minimal effort and energy.
- Does not require swinging of lead arm to generate momentum - because
"being powerful" is not the purpose of this kick.
- Does not require turning of the upper body like a fully committed switch kick.
Here are some situations when you should use the basic-lead-snap-roundhouse:
1. Use it to test the waters. Does he bring his leg up to check your kick? Does he bounce back to avoid it? Does it throw a counter kick or a punch? His reaction gives you an idea about what to expect from him when you actually throw the more powerful, fully committed, step-right-lead-roundhouse.
2. Use it when your opponent takes a step with his lead leg towards you. This will annoy him to his core. It will prevent him from getting into proper position to throw his combos.
3. Use it when your opponent throws a Jab-Cross combo. The Jab might graze your face, but if you land the basic-lead-snap-roundhouse to the inside of your opponents lead leg, your strike and his momentum from the Cross (which requires one to put weight on the lead leg) will throw him off this balance and open him to your follow-ups.
4. Use it if your opponent has good footwork and is able to move quickly. Since the basic-lead-snap-roundhouse does not require much energy, effort, momentum, or upper-body commitment, you can expect to throw it and quickly move out of the exchange. Use it like an in-and-out Jab.
When to use the step-right-lead-roundhouse?
Here are some reasons to use the step-right-lead-roundhouse:
- It's more powerful than the basic-lead-snap-roundhouse, because you put momentum and weight behind the kick.
- If landed in succession, the kicks can severely impair movement and cause instability in the lead leg; it will be hard for your opponent to actually plant his lead foot and throw the rear-legged power roundhouse effectively.
- When you step to the right for the kick, you also effectively get your head out of the center line of fire. This protects you from any counter straight punches.
- Stepping to the side to throw the kick also means you are kicking through your opponent's leg; naturally, any strike thrown to go past the target will hurt more than snappy strikes.
Here are some situations when you should use the step-right-lead-roundhouse:
1. Use it when your opponent has his hands up high guarding/covering his face. Most of the time, when someone covers up with both hands, they are bracing themselves for impact, or they are coming forward with a traditional Muay Thai march (trying to close the gap for clinching). They are heavy on their legs. It is difficult to move around, react to strikes, or step to the sides when both hands are up high covering the face. When you see this happen, use the step-right-lead-roundhouse. Destroy that lead leg. It is hard to throw proper, effective counter shots from a guard position.
2. Use it when your opponent is backing down or stuck in the corner. When you see your opponent moving back (e.g., say, after a teep or a body shot), use the space, close the space with a step to the right, and throw the step-right-lead-roundhouse. You will be in perfect position to generate the most momentum and power behind that kick.
3. Use it when your opponent is tired and is unlikely to be able to move quickly to avoid it.
4. [Advanced] Use it when your opponent throws a rear-legged body or head roundhouse kick. The key to this is to be good at spotting and reacting. When you see your opponent take a step to the left with their lead leg, chances are he is throwing a rear-legged-roundhouse-kick. If you are able to time this correctly, your step-right-lead-roundhouse will be a destructive counter. You will not only cause damage by kicking the standing/supporting/pivoting lead leg, but also move your head and body out of the way to avoid or reduce impact of his rear-legged-roundhouse-kick. Watch the demonstration here: Inside leg kick techniques. Here is something similar; the stances are different, but you get the idea: Fedor Emelianenko vs Mirko Cro Cop.
Jab + Cross + Inside Leg Kick: Which one and when?
Everything I mentioned above applies here. Your Jab + Cross, if thrown effectively a few times, will most surely warrant respect from the opponent. This means when you throw the Jab + Cross, he will cover up or parry (if he doesn't slip the punches or move out). This is a good time to throw the step-right-lead-roundhouse. He will be heavy on his legs, focusing on your straight punches, and this gives you a good opportunity to land the kick with some momentum. Your punches don't have to be strong, they are there just to occupy your opponents hands and get them to brace for the shots, which makes it easier to kick their lead leg. Also note that you can take your step to the right at the same time as the Cross. This will make this technique faster than if you were to bring back the Cross and then stepped to your right. Since the Cross is not the weapon in this technique, you don't have to throw it with commitment. So throw the Jab, and when you throw the Cross, step to the right at the same time.
Your Jab + Cross might also drive them back, which is even better because you can now take a slightly longer right-step and release the step-right-lead-roundhouse with more momentum and power.
If your opponent simultaneously throws his punches when you throw your Jab + Cross, or if he slips your punches to the left to throw his left hooks, use the faster basic-lead-snap-roundhouse. This will instantly throw them off-balance and give you the time to follow up. Throwing the step-right-lead-roundhouse will work against you in this situation. He is slipping your punches to his left, closing the distance with a forward left step while slipping, and throwing the left hook. If you throw the step-right-lead-roundhouse, you will be much closer to your opponent and will risk getting badly hit by his left hook. Even if you both connect, his is the strike that will decide the round.
I was taught three ways to do the inside leg kick. These are as follows, starting with the quickest and least strong to the slowest and most strong. Note that the difference in speed is actually very small.
- basic-lead-snap-roundhouse - as discussed above.
- slide-rear-leg-forward-lead-roundhouse - see 3rd kick in video below.
- step-right-lead-roundhouse - as discussed above.
The difference between 2 and 3 is that in slide-rear-leg-forward-lead-roundhouse you don't step to the right with your back leg, but you slide your back leg forward while simultaneously throwing the lead roundhouse. This is faster and more powerful than 3.
See this video - Joseph Valtellini Inside Low Kick - for the slide-rear-leg-forward-lead-roundhouse. I never did the 2nd variation Joe shows.