While kicks can be very powerful techniques, they carry some risks and may leave you very exposed to the opponent. A particular case is when the opponent grabs the kicking leg: things can go bad very quickly if this happens.

In the case of Taekwondo, I often hear this from other martial art practitioners, as an objection to the style's effectiveness in a fight. Of course, there is no definite answer, and the outcomes depend on the skill of the opponents, the styles they train, the context and rules of the engagement, etc.

Still, there is some point in the critique, and a kicker should be prepared to react when this happens. Thus my question:

How should a kicker react if his kicking leg is grabbed by the opponent?

For the sake of objectiveness, we can focus on the case of a roundhouse kick, although explanations of front or side kicks, would be also welcome.

2 Answers 2


How should a kicker react if his kicking leg is grabbed by the opponent.

Mostly the same ways you would counter someone grabbing your arm:

  1. Move weight on an angle and rotate the joint. Of course this is much more difficult with a leg and often requires falling to the floor.
  2. Ignore that leg. My opponent is using their arm(s) to hold my leg, what is now guarding their head? Use hand/elbow techniques to the head - they will let go of your leg soon enough. Relies on you being flexible enough and opponent not instantly tipping you
  3. Fall over. In most cases your opponent is not just going to hold your leg, they will try to tip or control you with it, you won't have much choice about it so be in charge of the fall to free your leg (almost a reverse of number 1).

On this whole leg grabbing business - there's a whole heap of arrogance in a fighter who goes for that high section kick right off the bat - in sparring competitions its fine as the consequences are very limited. For any more real circumstance (like in all martial arts) you would be taught - 1) avoid the conflict if possible. 2) when that fails - hit the closest/most available vital spot whilst protecting yourself - unless your foot just happens to be above your head when you get into a fight you are skipping all the targets below the belt, and all the targets in the torso - to go for the head.

So by one of the basic rules of defending yourself - don't move past one target to reach another - a disciplined student of a kicking martial art should not be at great risk of their leg being grabbed and (as they will be kicking low section) the opponent will have compromised themselves to achieve it.

  • For someone practicing kicks a lot (like any Taekwondo-in), in a stressful personal defense situation, where evading the situation was not possible, the most natural move is a front is roundhouse kick to the middle section. If the attacker is expecting this response, getting a let grabbed might not be hard. Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 8:26
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    @DanielReis I train TKD 5 days a week - my natural instincts now are hard to gauge - I am quick to kick a leg joint and strike the neck/face in training - the one time I was assaulted since starting my training - I blocked their swinging arm and broke their nose with a straight punch - my training had put me into a solid stance meaning the punch was damaging enough to end the confrontation - I never even tried to kick. Train out of this middle section kicking - kick to a target instead - get good at picking one out.
    – Collett89
    Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 9:19
  1. The normal grappling response is to weigh down the held leg and move away. The opponent wants to lift your leg higher to unbalance you and attack your standing leg or body. You make this harder for them by pushing your leg down, trying to place the captured leg between you, and not allowing them to close distance by hopping away when they move in. This is a grind it out approach to getting your leg back on the ground.

  2. Kick them with the other leg. Seriously, if the opponent is holding your leg up strongly, you can support yourself on this leg and kick with your standing leg. The target may simply be to rotate your leg over the opponents head to twist your captured leg free, or you can aim to kick their head. Their defense is at least partially tied up with holding your leg. This is obviously a very aggressive action because you will end up on the ground regardless of whether it works.

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