Seeing that I am a newbie when it comes to kicks, and I have a BJJ mindset, this question should be relatively easy to answer.

I see people doing these spinning roundhouse kicks, and me, thinking like a BJJ practitioner, am concerned about giving up your back when you turn around. I understand that these are done fairly quickly, so there might not be time to grab the back. However, does this mean that they shouldn't be used for self defense or MMA until you've mastered them?

  • Why is this tagged bjj? In any case, its hard to grab the back when a very strong kick is heading your way. You move forward to take you're just going to eat the kick.
    – TheBatman
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 16:52
  • If you move forward into the kick, you'll take a much, much weaker kick than if you stand where you are and attempt to block it. The power comes in at the end of the kick. Same as a punch.
    – tye649
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 17:17
  • @TheBatman Its' tagged BJJ because I'm talking about a BJJ mindset of taking the back. I wouldn't tag it like this if it wasn't at least partially related.
    – LemmyX
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 22:59

2 Answers 2


While my background is Karate, rather than BJJ, hopefully this answers at least part of your question.

The first thing to remember is that this is a specialised technique. As I tell my students: 90% of the time, you'll be using the first 10% of the syllabus. That is, after all, why we teach those techniques first - they are relatively simple to learn and use, and widely applicable to most situations. Spinning kicks are not part of that 10%, and most of the time you won't (or shouldn't) use them.

Of course, since they "look impressive", they are frequently given disproportionate prominence during demonstrations and showcases. Usually, you will be using this to improve or demonstrate your control, flexibility and skill, rather than as an actual attack. That said, this isn't purely an exercise - it does have practical applications.

The second thing to remember is that (outside of basic training) techniques do not exist in isolation. A spinning kick is rarely something to lead with - it is, however, something to lead into, or to follow up with. Here's a very basic scenario:

You throw a straight kick forwards, but your opponent steps back out of range. As your foot comes down - and while their momentum is still "away" from you - you push it slightly across your body, then twist your momentum into a spinning roundhouse kick

Now, because your opponent is still reacting to your previous (failed) attack, they are unable to change direction fast enough to capitalise on the brief opening. In addition, the reach of the roundhouse kick means that they are not longer - as they had thought - at a safe distance, but completely within your range. And, by folding the momentum from the previous kick into the spin, you make the entire move faster. This isn't just a case of learning to throw the spinning kick correctly, there are several secondary skills involved.

There are a number of movements that can "lead into" a spinning kick - even a simple block across the body with the opposite hand - but you need to be able to judge both how fast you can land the kick, as well as how long your opponent will be open or unable to counteract it for. As with anything, you have to both spot an opening, and recognise which moves can exploit it.

In a "self defence" situation, you generally won't have either the need or the occasion to use a spinning kick - keep it fast, simple, straightforward, and maintain solid footing. Similarly, MMA fighting spends most of the bout at a range which is unsuitable to apply this technique. However, when the opportunity presents itself, these techniques are effective - for example, the 2004 Olympic Taekwondo Heavyweight final, which was won by knockout. (The technique there isn't actually a good 'clean' example, as the kicker didn't manage to land properly. On the other hand, they hit the floor conscious, unlike their opponent - which one-on-one is of greater practical benefit)

While I could go into far more detail about when spinning can be good (and not just for kicks - remember, a spin doesn't have to be on the spot, you can travel at the same time), versus when it should absolutely be avoided (hint: this category is a lot larger than the other!), the best way is for you to learn is to practice - at first against the air, and then say to your sparring partner "I want to try something, could you please come in with this for me to counter". You'll get a feel for "this won't ever work" versus "I'm not yet fast enough for that" or even "I want to try that in a normal spar".

So, even once you've "mastered" them (and isn't that a loaded term - say perhaps instead "learned the basic form") you should only use them sparingly.


"However, does this mean that they shouldn't be used for self defense or MMA until you've mastered them?"

There are many techniques that involve putting yourself in a "weak" position to execute it. You have interest in BJJ; if you try to do a triangle choke to defend yourself but you're not 100% comfortable with it, you'll probably get some punches to the head before you can execute your technique.

The same goes for many martial arts techniques. Kicks put you in an unbalanced position; throws and locks aren't effective if they aren't executed properly and you end up in punching distance of your opponent with your arms busy trying to execute your technique.

My point is : Whatever the technique you're looking to use in self defense, you'll want to have mastered it beforehand otherwise things will probably get bad.

With experience, you'll learn when is the right time to use a certain technique without giving your opponent a chance to react. That's why you don't see many fancy things in MMA even though these guys are pros. But once in a while, you'll see a KO fron a fancy kick or a grappling technique that's out of the ordinary.

So, yeah, spinning kicks may open your back the same way trying to throw a punch might expose your legs to a takedown or the same way a triangle choke exposes you to getting punched in the face. It's all about when to use a technique you're comfortable with.

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