I am learning self defence. I don't intend to become a master at martial arts. So I think it is wise to keep things simple. I want to concentrate on a few basic moves, and learn them well.

Should I learn this low kick? At 3:30 minutes. Video: Bas Rutten vs Warpath. Bas Rutten immobilises Warpath with a kick to the thigh muscle.

I'm not sure how effective it would be in a real fight, and I don't see it being so devastatingly in MMA very often. Maybe it would only work if I had the exceptional leg power of Bas Rutten, which is never going to happen.

4 Answers 4


This kick is called (not so descriptively) a "leg kick". It is an effective long-distance tool to have in the self-defense toolbox, alongside push kicks like the teep. Trained use of this kind of low round kick to the thigh against an untrained, unconditioned opponent has a good chance of making them less mobile. It can end a fight. People are rightfully terrified of a good low kicker.

The leg kick has long been assumed to be a "safe" strike for non-fighters to experience. It often ends poorly for the receiver, such as when Pedro Rizzo literally sent a reporter flying, Forrest Griffin accidentally broke a reporter's leg, or Fabricio Werdum floored an interviewer. None of these kicks were full power. All of them were expected, so the receiver could prepare for impact. They were devastating anyway. One can reasonably expect a single well-executed leg kick to debilitate a non-fighter.


No. Don't learn it. If you want simple moves look at basic boxing. If you need kicks and have been drinking or wearing jeans then this kick won't be easy if you have not practised a fair amount.

  • 1
    Boxing certainly has its merits, and is both easy to learn and difficult to master, but it certainly isn't an all inclusive win button. Boxing is primarily a sport, and is as much defined by what it isn't as by what it is. Training in boxing alone will make you better at boxing, but everybody isn't going to agree to Marquess of Queensbury rules. People kick. Learning to use one's legs as a weapon is advantageous, and learning to defend against kicks is even more important (and not taught in boxing). The same is also true of grappling.
    – Zen_Hydra
    Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 17:52
  • I was going to suggest a front push kick or teep, but looking at the basics then I would not use feet in a street fight scenario. One of the biggest issues with people unaccustomed to fighting is being "shocked" by being hit. Boxing should desensitise the individual to being hit and hitting others. In a self-defence scenario I would personally use elbows, but requires some training and grappling as you mentioned.
    – NeilNeil
    Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 10:03
  • If any kicks at all, low-kicks (in mawashi- or mae-) to the knee/thigh and the groin are one good way to go in self-defense, as you do not have the high risks of going off-balanced or exposing yourself. Boxing has the big disadvantage of having trained with thick gloves and wristbands. You will probably break your hand/wrist when punching without them and not having learned how to punch properly. Basically, if you can't punch a wall at at least 60% power without injuring yourself, don't even bother to use punches (esp. to the head, the best-protected part of the body) in self-defence. Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 1:26

This is not a bad kick for self defence. I intentionally write that in the double-negative form because it is easier to identify elements that make a kick poor for self defence than it is to enumerate elements that will give you a "best" kick.

  1. The specific target aside, low kicks are safer for the kicker because:
    1. Low kicks are harder for the defender to catch without exposing other targets.
    2. Low kicks are easier to maintain balance while executing.
  2. The kick does not require spinning or jumping, elements which are flashy but time-consuming.

Do not expect, however, that this kick will be as devastating as the video examples in this question and answers show. Just as punches do not usually result in knockouts, this kick will not usually result with the recipient on the ground.


Low kicks to the thigh can be effective for slowing an opponent's footwork and can cause painful, and occasionally disabling, muscle spasms. However, it is generally more appropriate for combat sports than it is for life-and-death self defense situations.

For self-defense it is best to disable an opponent as quickly and decisively as possible. The knee is a much more vulnerable part of the leg, and if self-defense is your aim, I recommend the use of oblique kicks to the knee (particularly the inside of the opposite knee) in lieu of something less effective like a low kick targeting the thigh.

Opening with an oblique kick to the inside of the opponent's knee when combined with a simultaneous volley of fist and elbow strikes, can often end a fight straight away. Few people are prepared to defend their head and knee(s) at the same instance. This is even true of many martial arts practitioners.

It should take fewer strikes, with less energy, to disable an opponents knee than it would their thigh. However, kicking the knee in such a way can cause permanent ligament and soft-tissue damage. It is important to consider the stakes of the situation before you attempt to destroy someone's knee joint, but if forced into a situation where one must protect life-and-limb it is best to end the conflict as quickly as possible.

  • I question this: "It should take fewer strikes, with less energy, to disable an opponents knee than it would their thigh." The knee is a solid joint and is hard to target accurately. The thigh is a big target on which most people aren't prepared to receive strikes. Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 16:43
  • In practice knees aren't significantly more difficult to target than a thigh is, and the manner of kick used makes a big difference. A wide-arcing low kick to the thigh (as depicted in the OP's linked video clip) is generally easy to see coming and take defensive action against. An oblique kick to the inside of your opponent's knee follows a much shorter path with less time and distance with which to react (especially when coupled with feints and attacks with the upper body). The knee isn't well suited to resisting against the application of violent lateral force.
    – Zen_Hydra
    Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 17:42
  • 1
    This is also suspect: "For self-defense it is best to disable an opponent as quickly and decisively as possible." There are plenty of self-defense scenarios where maiming someone is a bad idea. The dichotomy between sport and self-defense is false in general, but is pointedly so when one considers the many common self-defense situations that aren't life-or-death. Commented Dec 15, 2016 at 2:38
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    @DaveLiepmann: While of course proportionality and dynamics of the situation have to be taken into account when speaking about self-defence, I would in general argue that of course you are aiming for the knee instead of the thigh if it becomes dangerous. Simply because all the protecting muscles end above or below the knee and compared to a trained and conditioned muscle, the joint is very fragile. With years of training you should be able to hit at least very near to the knee if you want to, because you know the timing as well (weight-shift on the leg). Commented Dec 15, 2016 at 14:26
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    @Sardathrion Again, this is not the place for your opinions about the legality of one hypothetical situation or another. You have neither the insight nor perspective to make a meaningful judgment about anyone else's legal knowledge, and as you pointed out - you are not a legal professional. Everything you have stated here regarding the legality of self-defense is nonsensical and without context, and in most legal systems context is everything. If you can't meaningfully contribute, please refrain from comment.
    – Zen_Hydra
    Commented Dec 15, 2016 at 15:42

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