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We see it a lot in MMA, and probably in Muay Thai too (never trained in that). Fighters kick the inner or outer thigh; from what I've seen, they usually kick quite low on the thigh, just a little above the knee area, because this is where it hurts the more (from experience at least).

When I try to do it in "light sparring with friends" (I have a martial arts background which doesn't employ low kick, they don't have any), they just raise their knee. In such a case, my kick is ineffective, and it's more painful for me than for them.

If someone without any martial arts background can lift their knee in time to avoid being hurt by my kick, how can I expect this technique to work with someone who has minimal training?

I guess that this kick could/should be "thrown" when the opponent doesn't expect it, so that they wouldn't have time to raise their knee and therefore receive a maximal impact. But again, watching UFC matches, they usually just throw the kicks "out of nowhere" and it seems to work.

Are there any tips to time the kick so the opponent doesn't block it with the knee? Is there something about the angle of the kick that would make it harder to block?

I'm looking for overall tips to connect more often and with more power on low kicks to the thigh.

4

The thing is to time your kick to make contact when your opponent's balance is on the leg that you are kicking. That way your kick will do more damage as they can't absorb much force with no give on the leg. If their balance is on the opposite leg, your kick can be checked.

This is why small rapid steps during mobility gives you the time and balance to react and check a leg kick in time, so you don't get caught getting your legs kicked from under you!

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I supose that you are talking about the low-kick aka kick to the thigh. I would like to make a difference between a kick with the front leg (1.) and a kick with the back leg (2.) (keep in mind that you are standing in fighting stance where one leg is in front and one back).

My proposal would be the following:

  1. A kick with the front leg is faster because the path the leg needs to travel to hit the target is short and can be used to break the attacker's rhythm or intercept his forward motion and bring him out of balance - during this motion he will not be able to bring up the knee for defense.

  2. A kick with the back leg has far more power, but a longer path to travel and gives your opponent more chance to recognize and block it. I would ALWAYS prepare the kick with the back leg whether executing a feint before kicking or following a combination, preferably punches, to raise the opponent's attention to the upper body.

  3. Try to identify the proper technique for your body type. If you compare the kicks from Fedor, Feitosa and Mirco CroCop, you'll notice a big difference in style which was perfected by each of them to their fighting style and physical ability. Try to find a technique where you can execute the kick as fast as possible with the most power. You will also notice the points mentioned above if looking at some of the fights.

1

One very simple way to avoid the opponent's knees during sparring is to angle your kick down. Don't kick to the side as you would usually do when aiming for ribs (horizontally) - when you kick the outside of the thigh, aim high to low, as if you would kick their hips and then turn the inside of your leg down - it's WAY harder to defend and to accidentally hit a knee. If curious, take a look at Kyokushin (full contact) karate fighter Hajime Kazumi making some real damage doing that.

I personally use it to avoid getting hurt while sparring white belts and new people at the dojo.

1

Distraction - continuous attacks with fists, and allow opponent to block it, establish an attacking pattern that he is used to and then break it by landing the kick.

Fakes - lift the front leg as if to kick. Bait the opponent into starting to block. Now kick with the other/same leg

The lesson here is, for a beginner/intermediate; the chances of your first direct kick to score/land are low. You need to have combinations and make use of distraction, fakes, shuffles. Fighting is like a fast paced chess game.

I have a book coming out on Amazon that has this as one of its topics

  • 1
    Welcome to the site. Make sure you look at the help center. In general, we are looking for more than one line answers. Could you expand yours? – Sardathrion - Reinstate Monica Feb 21 '18 at 12:59
  • This could be a great answer if you could give examples of the listed tactics. What makes a distraction different than a fake? How/where to shuffle? Etc. – JohnP Feb 21 '18 at 14:36
  • Thank you for updating your answer. Have an upvote to keep you going. Could we have a link to the book? – Sardathrion - Reinstate Monica Feb 23 '18 at 8:23
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I guess you have to set it up properly. This comes with experience. For example, watch how Jose Aldo from UFC sets up his kicks with distractions such as jabs and crosses. Even an experienced fighter like Anderson Silva had a broken leg with a nicely timed knee block by Chris Weidman, so I guess, luck also plays a role in it.

The set-up becomes easier if both fighters fight at the same stance. For example, if you and your opponent both fight southpaw, then you can easily use your left kick to aim at your opponent's right outer thigh which can cause considerable damage.

This video might give you a hint.

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