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Is it more beneficial to kick with the front leg or the back leg while on a normal fighting stance (e.g. boxing, taekwondo, etc.)?

I have practiced tkd for some time and I decided to quit practicing back leg kicks due to the time required for delivery. I feel that it is possible to deliver front leg kicks (to the waist/abdomen/ribs) that causes a meaningful impact while preserving the speed needed to cause impact before the opponent blocks it.

Is it cost effective to exchange speed for power by using back leg kicks (like some MMA matches)? Will that extra power be necessary?

Let's keep the discussion limited to real life combat senarios.

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  • I can block both equally as easily. If your opponent is well-trained, it doesn't matter which one is faster. Thats why step-kicks are better than the kicks you learn in tkd
    – Firestryke
    Aug 20 at 18:04
  • @Firestryke | What skill level are your opponents usually of? It is extremely abnormal that a trained practitioner would throw front leg kicks that are easy to block. By the way, step-kicks are very common in tkd, so... Aug 22 at 6:39
  • Time-to-target isn’t the only thing to consider—fights aren’t won by who’s “faster”, but by who’s better, and speed is only one component. Timing and accuracy are more important. Sep 9 at 11:58
  • @ Dave Newton | Nice addition :) Sep 10 at 9:33
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Oh this is my bread and butter.

So let’s get the big generalizations out of the way first.

  • Without stepping, kicks with the back leg will hit harder.
  • Kicks with the front leg will be faster.
  • Kicks with the back leg have more reach.

Now, I use kicks a lot, and I mean a whole lot, and what I’ve learned is that context and situation matter a whole lot when it comes to what kick you use. For instance, when point sparring I almost exclusively use my lead leg round kick to score points. I can throw it from almost any position to any target, it’s way too fast to stop if I time it right and I can easily control the power. Conversely, the last time I used my right leg side kick (usually my back leg) I accidentally broke my opponents ribs and bruised his liver.

So what do you want to do? Front leg front kicks work like a slightly slower but much longer range jab, while rear leg spin hook kicks are legitimately considered to be potentially lethal. Kicks from the rear leg can be devastating and often end any confrontation as soon as they land. My advice is to find what works best for you and train that, but don’t limit your options. Remember, everything works on somebody, but very little works on everybody.

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The ideal situation would be to have both options. But if your back kick is strong enough, and your timing is good. You'll be very hard to beat in a fight.

Here's one of my favorite fighters:

Samkor Kiatmontep The Lethal Left Kick Legend Muay Thai Highlight

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To quit practicing the use of your rear leg kick is, in effect, throwing away a very effective weapon for no reason. Please rethink your decision.

If actual combat most relevant to you (and I sincerely hope you never seek or are forced to experience a serious fight - if you haven't already), it would be very, very rare for a front-leg kick to employed to any significant effect in a close-quarters combat situation, unless you are fighting against someone who is untrained and/or defensively weak and hesitant/unmotivated (in which case, you will often be able to avoid any brutal conflict). Exceptions might include the case in which you are quite talented, fast and possessed of excellent timing. A front-leg kick driving through an opponent's kneecap (frontally or laterally) is potentially effective, but requires significant forward commitment if it is to be delivered with any substantial body-weight momentum. Inaccuracy/inadequate impact is likely. A simple front push kick to the torso is also possible, hopefully giving you time to escape. A sharp snap to the testicles is feasible, but again, sufficient accuracy and contact is unreliable. High kicks using the front leg are are prone traps and can result in terrible take-down injury.

I would spend some time thinking about how skilled you are in avoiding/preventing those situations in which you are required to fight. Do you know anything about tactical communication? Are you able to diffuse volatile situations? Are you able to identify those situations which have potential to become unnecessarily violent? Are you experienced in dealing with the massive adrenaline dump that occurs when you are confronted with extreme danger? It is easy to romanticise the street fight, but the reality is that people sustain brain damage, fractures, loss of teeth, internal organ damage, bites/scratches (which may lead to transmission of infectious disease), and death. Even if you are the victor, how would you feel if, thanks to a freak of timing, you landed an effective punch which caused the other party to crack their head open on a gutter and sustain a permanent cognitive and/or physical disability?

If you are forced to live in an environment which is particularly dangerous, and you can't reasonably move to a new environment, then yes, learning close-quarters combat is probably important. Never imagine though, that it will go the way you expect, or that people will fight according to your expectations, ability or sense of fairness/etiquette. Cowardly use of potentially lethal weapons/techniques is relatively common.

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  • "...it would be very, very rare for a front-leg kick to employed to any significant effect in a close-quarters combat situation" I do not quite understand this statement, according to my experience, roundhouse kicks and side kicks thrown by the front leg could do significant damage to the opponent if executed by a trained practitioner. The kicks you listed as example are actually not the emphasis of my training, so maybe your idea of kicking is quite different from mine. By the way, I live in a safe area, but there are threats from illegal schools and other violent adversaries to some extent. Aug 10 at 2:00
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In real-life fights, your assailant is almost certainly not going to stand back in kickboxing range looking for an opening. I suppose they might just still be posturing, so if you kick first YOU'RE the attacker and subject to criminal prosecution. (And no, the court is not going to take your "He was threatening me" as a reason for you to avoid doing jail time for assault and battery.)

But, given that it probably has happened at some point in history, I'd guess that it's more likely the guy has probably trained in martial arts, in which case he'll guard against kicks to some extent. If not, then front leg kicks are faster but weaker, while back leg kicks take longer to develop but hit harder. So, "It depends" (tm).

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    I can back off to kicking distance or force the attacker back and kick. It's completely possible. Jul 13 at 10:08
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    Sure, anything is possible, but is it likely? In a dojo/dojang, sure. In a parking lot, it depends on how effective he is overwhelming you with surprise multiple face punches and clumsy grabbing, and how many friends he has with him. In a crowded room, where you lurch into things and lose your footing, a lot less likely. But anyway, see my next-to-last sentence above. Plus, not every strike has to be full-power with its associated setup time (e.g., a half second to get your back kicking foot just right before swinging around in a strike which would do max damage) - you'll tire a lot faster. Jul 13 at 14:22
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    Being in “kicking range”, which covers a fairly wide range, isn’t unusual. Sep 9 at 11:54
  • Keep in mind that low kicks are easy to throw, hard to block, dodge, or anticipate, and can do horrific damage.
    – Nick
    Sep 19 at 13:03

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