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Essential MMA techniques #2: Kicks to the body

In the second part of this series we will continue our analysis of the most effective MMA techniques. This week: kicks to the body

In part one of this series we analyzed basic low kick attacks for MMA and kickboxing. In this second part we will continue our analysis of basic MMA techniques focusing on kicks to the body.

As in the previous post, we will include video tutorials from YouTube as it is important to provide all information required in order for MMA practitioners to make these techniques work under pressure.

UFC 235 Photo by Hans Gutknecht/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images

Instructional videos are a great source of information for athletes and coaches alike, but it is not easy to identify quality content between a large number of available videos. With that in mind, we reviewed hundreds of videos and have collected here the most efficient ones for your viewing pleasure.

Keep in mind that these techniques are provided in isolation, meaning that they are not explained within the context of a combination or counter. We will focus on combinations in follow-up posts.

Kicking the body: some thoughts on effectiveness

When it comes to kicking the body, most MMA schools focus on Muay Thai versions of these kicks. However, modern MMA fighters originate from diverse types of disciplines and training backgrounds so we had to include sport Karate and Taekwondo kicks in this post.

Some of these kicks, like the spinning back kick, have certainly proved to be effective in the Octagon. But there is always the eternal question when it comes to technique effectiveness: if nobody trains certain moves at the gym and therefore these techniques are never applied in competition, how do we know if they are effective or not?

For example, twenty years ago, who would have thought that oblique kicks would be effective in MMA? Nobody used them back then. If It was not for Jon Jones who popularized the use of this specific kick we would still believe that it is not effective.

My rule is that if a certain kick generates adequate power on the heavy bag and does not compromise your defense or posture, then it probably works in competition. This is true especially if you can consistently catch partners in sparring using this move. Additionally, unorthodox moves can be more effective sometimes because they are not expected and opponents do not train on countering them.

How to train body kicks

Most kicks to the body can be trained on the heavy bag and on the double Thai pads. A belly pad can be used for straight or back kicks but roundhouse kicks generate a lot of power so fighters need to train on harder and heavier targets.

Differences in damage

In order to understand the different types of impact caused by different kicks imagine that a kick to the head is like a whip, a kick to the body lands like a hammer and a low kick lands like an axe. All kicks look similar but their end-result is different depending on the angle, speed, distance, trajectory and acceleration of the kick.

The importance of proper distance and angle

UFC Fight Night: Barboza v Hooker Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Body kicks are powerful offensive tools but this power does not come without risk. When you land a kick to the body, your opponent can often reach your head with a punch. That is why it is important to set-up body kicks with other strikes and also kick from a safe angle. Remember: a fighter’s head needs to move with every strike.

That being said, it’s time to list the basic kicks to the body and watch some videos. Please take your time and watch all videos below. Most offer unique details on how to properly apply these kicks but a combination of videos is often needed in order to get full picture.

Muay Thai teep kicks (front and rear)

These are two very popular kicks. Generally teep kicks are used like foot jabs in order to check the distance, force the opponent’s guard hands to come down and push opponents away. Here is a basic tutorial:

Here is another one.

In the two videos below you can see some great drills that can help you improve your teep kicks.

Power teep

Here is a version of the teep kick that can generate more power:

Front snap kicks

These kicks (also known as Mae Geri) are used in Karate tournaments. They can do real damage if they land on your solar plexus and they can always surprise you by going higher and land on your jaw, especially if you are in a crouching stance.

The snap kick looks similar to a teep kick. Here are the main differences:

Here are different variations of Mae Geri/front snap kicks:

This is an interesting “old school” drill to help you develop proper form:

As you can see in the video below, old school Mae Geri technique ends with a change of stance and landing with your right foot in front. This was done on order to follow up with punches but I personally do not recommend landing like this in MMA unless you immediately go for the clinch or change levels for a takedown. The problem with Karate is that, unlike boxing, it lacks proper head movement. You can also notice in the video that the supporting foot stays flat on the ground during the kick.

Left round kick (switch)

This is a great kick that can be very effective, especially if it lands on the opponent’s liver.

More important details:

Here is another video:

Bellow is the double kick version, often used in Muay Thai competition:

Finally here is Mike Winkeljohn and John Dodson teaching their version of the kick:

Left round kick (no switch)

Here is a faster version of the kick without the switch.

Right round kick to the body

This is a powerful kick. It can be used with or without a switch.

Here are some more useful tips:

Side kick to the body

This was a kick popularized by Bruce Lee in his movies and instructionals but most of the times it can be used to push opponents away without doing any real damage. It also forces you to move sideways which can leave you open for takedowns.

Here is a basic tutorial:

This kick can be used as a stop-hit, in order to stop opponents as they are launching their round kicks. You can see an example in the pictures below and in this gif. This is Sergio Pettis applying the move from a southpaw stance.

Also, in this clip you can see Bruce Lee applying this technique in the movie “The Way of the Dragon” (1972) against Bob Wall.

Here is a side-kick/stop-hit instructional:

Full contact karate legend Bill “Superfoot” Wallace was famous for his continuous sidekick attacks. In the video below you can see him explaining his philosophy:

Finally here is Joe Rogan’s version of the kick:

Spinning back kicks

This is a spectacular kick which is also very effective, especially if you can land it to the liver. There are various versions of this kick depending on the discipline. Again, I really like Joe Rogan’s approach:

Here is Joe teaching the kick to Georges St-Pierre:

More Taekwondo applications:

More tips:

This is a modified Karate version:

Finally here is Chuck Liddell teaching the kick:

Jumping spinning back kick

As you can see in the highlight videos below this kick was made famous by kickboxing legend Benny “the Jet” Urquidez.

Here is a basic video tutorial of this kick (southpaw version):

That will be all for now. In our next post we will analyze high kicks to the head.

For a list of my previous technique breakdowns on Bloody Elbow, check out this link.

About the Author: Kostas Fantaousakis is a researcher of fighting concepts, tactics, and techniques, and a state-certified MMA, grappling, and wrestling coach in Greece. He teaches his unique Speedforce MMA mittwork system © which combines strikes, takedowns, knees, and elbows applied in the Continuous Feedback © mittwork system of the Mayweather family. Kostas is a black belt in BJJ under MMA veteran and BJJ world champion Wander Braga (the teacher of Gabriel Napao Gonzaga).

Follow Kostas on Twitter: and search #fantmoves for more techniques.