I don't practice in a club, so I just try to work on muscle memory for combinations, at home, with no equipment like impact targets or hanging bags. It is a rental apartment with stipple plaster ceiling, so no hanging things from the ceiling.

I haven't found a way to practice kickboxing combinations with roundhouse kicks. This is because the combinations assume that the roundhouse hits a target, which resets your body position. Without a target, the kick follows through, unlike for the karate roundhouse, which is like a flick followed by a rechamber.

Some examples are here and here. These are particularly good examples of the difficulty because the are switch-kicks, where the kicking leg is repositioned to momentarily be the back leg. The ensuing roundhouse is therefore meant to be a powerful drive-through rather than a snappy slap. The kick is followed by a cross, which I can't do without a target for the kick because I spin through.

Is there a trick that would permit me to drill on such combinations without a striking target?

3 Answers 3


When you're doing solo kick/punch drills and lack a bag or a target of some sort to give your impacts some resistance, your only choice is to practice the drills with a bit of acting and imagination. It's less about conditioning your body than it is about training your mind / body connection. It's about getting those combinations drilled to the point where you can use them without thinking about it.

You can stop yourself in the air in the same position that your leg would naturally be in after kicking a bag. It won't feel the same, of course, but for what you're actually training, it's okay. All you're doing is working on the right sequence of movements. You can do that with your imagination.

Now the worry is, if you do a proper Thai round kick, it will cause your round kick to go through the imaginary target, which will result in you having to reset your body position after that kick lands on the ground where it's not supposed to be. So to fix that, you're not going to let it go past that imaginary target. It's an imaginary target, so imagine your leg being stopped by it.

If you're worried that's going to change the way you do your kick, well it will. At least for this drill, it will to some degree. It will mean you have to start the kick the same way, but you'll have to slow it down in the air as it hits that imaginary target.

This is not a problem. You're still not doing the "slap" style kick of, say, Taekwondo. You're still performing the kick the proper way in Muay Thai. It's just that you're slowing it down in the air as you imagine it hitting that target.

The purpose of this kind of training is to train your mind body connection. It will drill those combinations. It's fine, but it's not done for conditioning. If you want conditioning also, you need a heavy bag.

Incidentally, there are options for when you need a bag to use for conditioning but don't have access to one. You can try open gyms which typically cost $10 to use the bags, weights, and other equipment. You can rig your own bag at home if it's possible to do without annoying your neighbors (no apartments). You can also try wrapping trees with mats and bungee cord. Or get a friend to come over and hold one of those foam body shields.

Hope that helps.

  • Thanks for confirming the limitations that I have to work under. I have in fact improvised in the past by wrapping matts around building support columns or resting cushions against them. I've also paid umpteen bucks to access a community gym with a bag, but I don't have time these days to actually go anywhere. Plus, very few facilities for the public have bags in my area. If I trained regularly on a target, I think I could get away with imagination, but I need to actually hit a target, not so much for conditioning, but so that I can teach my body to properly throw weight into the kick. Commented Apr 8, 2023 at 4:58
  • I forgot to add that I am in an apartment, so targets are not an option (either a real bag or the improvisations above). One of the staff doesn't mind if I use the common room for drills if no one else is using it, and is even kind enough to let me train beyond opening hours. But that's only good for kata and shadow boxing. Commented Apr 8, 2023 at 5:02
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    @user2153235 That is good information. I think you're right about how kicking a solid target would allow you to work on correct body mechanics. Kicking only imaginary targets will potentially drill the wrong mechanics into muscle memory. Imagine harder! Go slower if you have to really think about the way the kick will feel and the way the rest of your body has to move when done at full force. But when your life changes and allows for you to kick a heavy bag or setup something to kick, go for it. Think about how to make that happen, and maybe something will occur to you. Commented Apr 8, 2023 at 15:08
  • I find that incredibly challenging even when kicking through (imagination). For the combinations that require resetting, I may go with the karate snap rather than the kickboxing drive through. It doesn't really fit the combination, but it may be a good to develop that mental dexterity. Commented Apr 8, 2023 at 17:33

'Shadow' kicking (a la shadow boxing) is an incredibly valuable training method. Without a bag or other target to catch your kick, you train muscles throughout your body to stop the kick in midair and return it to a useful position.

This trains you to maintain composure when you miss your target (which happens often in fights), and greatly improves your retraction speed and balance, which is of immense value in combat situations. It effectively increases the speed of your combinations, equips you to perform multiple kicks with greater speed, helps you to maintain poise when countered and also trains you to feint kicks, such as when transitioning from a front-kick feint to an upper roundhouse.

Most fighters who train solely on bags never develop these abilities to any great extent, and whilst they may learn to develop great power, they miss out on the benefits outlined above.

The absence of facilities you are experiencing likely mirrors the absence of facilities which necessitated the more traditional, bagless training styles still present in many traditional curricula. Take advantage of this to hone yourself into a precise, sharp, poised kicking machine.

Tip: Get a chair. Place it in front of you so that the back of the chair is positioned where the apex of a mid-roundhouse would be. Begin by performing a mid-roundhouse over the chair and landing on the other side, as you would when following through. Once this can be done with ease, practice retracting the kick back to the starting position, maintaining form the whole way. Then, as you get stronger and more balanced, try pausing the kick at the apex or just beyond, and retract from there, so that there is no floor to push off. It's tough. The slower you do it, the more you'll be working kinetic chain strength. Try holding the kick at the apex for a couple of seconds. Depending on your build, flexibility and strength, this can prove enormously challenging to do with good form. The faster you do it, the more you'll work balance and retraction ability. You can of course increase the height of the chair by standing it on phone books or by using a bigger chair for more of a challenge. Don't forget to work both legs.

Regardless of whether or not you use the chair drill, training without a bag regularly - providing you maintain good technique (a full-length mirror is an excellent, space-efficient training tool) - will pay big dividends. What seems to be a burden now may in the end be of great benefit to you.

  • Thanks, Futilitarian. That's more of the karate style kick that I was trying to avoid, but I may fall back to it. It doesn't really make sense for the combination drill, but I may do it anyway for the mental dexterity. Commented Apr 8, 2023 at 17:36
  • When it comes to a fight, a good roundhouse is not so much 'karate-style' or 'Muay thai-style'; it is any effective kick. A good roundhouse in Kyokushin is a good roundhouse in a MT or MMA fight and vice versa. Re. your videos, there is no reason you can't train these without a bag, using the retraction drills described. It takes a long time to develop the joint and core strength to do them properly, but you will be better off for it. Muay Thai schools frequently teach techniques (inc. s/kick) without bags, because they understand the benefits to posture, form, balance and composure. Commented Apr 9, 2023 at 5:34
  • I'm not saying that a snap kick is bad, nor a switch kick in the air. In fact, I have a combination with the latter in which I occasionally drill in the air. However, I haven't found examples of switch kicks in the air without follow-through, much less one followed by a cross, the latter requiring a change in direction of hip rotation. Would be you be aware of any videos demonstrating this in training? Commented Apr 9, 2023 at 21:10
  • Jumping switch kick. To right cross, you can try landing it the moment your kicking foot is retracted, launching off the ball of your foot whilst stepping forward slightly with your front foot. Note though that my post wasn't advocating for snap kicks in particular, but was describing why training without a bag can benefit your kicks, regardless of whether you follow-through. Many people who can do a switch kick against a bag will not be able to do one without, as in the link I've included, and will have trouble with kick recovery after a miss. Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 2:47
  • That's a nice kick, but it's different from the ones in the videos that I cited in my question. Here is what most people mean when they say switch kick. I am giving it a go with the karate flick/slap kick + retraction, but it seems very unsuited for the combination. Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 4:12

A surprisingly effective middle ground method is to suspend a blanket or rope from the ceiling. The fabric actually provides a decent amount of resistance for you to work against, and if you hit too hard, the blanket just slips off of wherever you're talking it to, rather than pulling down part of the ceiling. A blanket or rope is also useful in general to train against because it provides resistance, but also allows pass through if your balance suffers.

It of course does not provide as much resistance as a proper striking target, falls down more often, and has a slight risk of getting entangled at the wrong angle, but 90% of the time it's pretty decent. At the least, it will be a bit better than shadow boxing the movement.

  • Thank you for that idea. I neglected to mention that home is a rental apartment with stipple plaster ceiling, so no fastening anything from the ceiling. There are ground-based targets that bob back and forth, but I have nowhere to store it. So I literally have just enough space to practice some movements. Commented Apr 8, 2023 at 14:42
  • I found this example of someone with a huge balcony. I would be concerned about what my neighbours think of the noise. Not having a balcony, I'd be doing that in the living room. Not sure if they would hear it more in that case. Commented Apr 8, 2023 at 14:59
  • It is possible to more loosely suspend the blanket, but it does generally still require something on the ceiling, or something overhanging, that you can tuck it into. It will, of course, be more likely to pull itself off, and I advise not doing it with things like chandeliers, because there's always a chance of it gripping more than you expect at the same time that your leg gets entangled. Outside, you can often drape one end over a tree branch. Commented Apr 8, 2023 at 15:26
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    Thanks, but I don't want to break into the stipple ceiling. Commented Apr 8, 2023 at 17:37

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