Are High Kicks Effective? Here’s The Truth

Are high kicks effective? -

If there’s one debate in martial arts that seems to go on and on, it’s whether or not high kicks have any places in real fights. Their opponents claim that they’re simply too slow and leave you open to getting your foot grabbed. Their proponents say that when used properly, a high kick can be incredibly effective.

So, are high kicks effective? A high kick is very effective when carried out by someone with training and at the right moment. In martial arts that permit high kicks, as well as in street fights, high kicks be very useful in catching the opponent off guard.

Let’s look deeper at the pros and cons of high kicks.

The Main Arguments Against High Kicks In The Martial Arts (And Why They’re Wrong)

There are three main arguments against high kicks that are deployed by people who think they need to stop being used: high kicks are not fast enough to be effective, high kicks are for children, and when someone grabs your foot, you better believe your fight is over. Let’s take a look at each of them and see why they may not be good arguments.

High Kicks Are Too Slow To Be Effective

This sounds good and it’s certainly true that in some situations a high kick can be too slow. But then again, so can any form of fighting move. Watch two boxers get in the ring and you will see that, if they are skilled, many of the fastest possible jabs will miss an opponent.

It doesn’t get any faster than a jab, so why don’t we all give up martial arts of all kinds and go home? Obviously, the key here is skill. A skilled boxer can evade some of his opponent’s jabs but over time, he is unlikely to evade all of them.

Get into a fight with some random, however, and it seems unlikely you are going to be facing down another highly skilled martial artist with similar training to you. How long do you think a fight between “some guy in a bar” and Mike Tyson (in his prime) would have lasted?

While there are boxers out there that could have leapt out of the way of Mike’s jab, the truth is that they would be unlikely to be in the same bar as him. His jabs would be more than fast enough to have an impact.

The key with using a high kick effectively in a fight is to understand its limitations. There tends to be an over-reliance on kicks with inexperienced fighters. They prefer kicking because it keeps them at a distance from their opponent and thus, reduces their own chances of being hit.

However, this is a bad strategy which a skilled opponent will punish. The right way to approach things is to get in close and use hands as much as possible and then unleash a kick once the fists have created an opening for it. In these circumstances, a kick doesn’t need to be faster than a speeding bullet, it just needs to be fast enough to sail through the gap in the other fighter’s defenses and there is no doubt at all that a kick can be fast enough to do that.

High Kicks Are Only For Kids

This argument is not necessarily calling high kicks childish. It is more a recognition of the fact that a young child tends to be very flexible, thus, learning to high kick when you’re 9 or 10 is very easy. You can launch a high kick because your body is ready to bend in any direction you demand of it.

Once you get older and taller and, perhaps, you haven’t had any major physical training for a while, well, things aren’t so easy. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t develop flexibility through practice and while it may be true that the vertical kick to someone’s head remains beyond you – is anyone seriously arguing that a good kick to the chest, collar bone or rib wouldn’t be every bit as effective in a serious fight or match?

So, though there are concerns here, the truth is that this objection can be overcome by practice and discipline. These are two aspects that are supposed to underpin all of our martial arts training, right?

When A High Kick Is Grabbed, It’s Game Over

In practice, this is not realistic. Try grabbing someone’s foot with one hand and you’ll find that it’s very, very difficult to keep hold of it. Sure, you can grab a foot with two hands but who fights in such a way that both their hands are in the perfect position to grab a kick when it comes hurtling towards their head?

In fact, assuming somebody is foolish enough to try and grab your foot with one hand – then they’re doing you a favor. Sure, they might be able to deflect the kick but they just opened up their defenses and made it very easy for you to land punches on them and because you were kicking, you have both hands ready to take advantages of this.

If your opponent is foolish enough to grab your feet and try to control you, you don’t spend any time worrying about it. You just start slamming with a bunch of punches, they’ll let go soon enough.

On top of this, assuming you’re kicking in the way that you were trained to kick and not following the script of some cheesy 70s movie kick, then you should find your kicks are too well executed for anyone to grab.

When you deliver a kick, it lands, and then recoils near instantly. That’s if you’re doing it right. Learning to kick like this takes time and practice but that’s why we learn martial arts – to put in the time and practice.

It’s also worth noting that the training to develop a good high kick is pretty much the same training as that used to deliver a good low kick. So, you’re not wasting time learning a skill with no benefits, unless you’re arguing that kicking has no place in martial arts.

Are High Kicks Effective In Street Fights?

A high kick can be just as effective in a street fight as it can be in a competitive bout of your own martial art.

However, to be capable of this, you need to ensure you have the right skills and these are essential:

  • The ability to unleash a high kick anywhere. That is without any form of warm up or warning.
  • The right kind of clothing. If you’re wearing the kind of tight denim that John Travolta might have chosen in the 1970s, high kicks are out. You need to be able to life your leg freely and unobstructed for them to work in a fight.
  • The right surface. If you’re stood on concrete, you have the right surface. If you’re on wet grass? Not so much. You need to ensure that you will keep your balance as you kick.
  • No tells. If you let your opponent know you’re going for a high kick, you might as well ask them to knock you off balance. You don’t spin around, you don’t wind up, you just kick.
  • You must be accurate. If your kicks typically flail all over the place and never land where you want them to – you don’t want to introduce them to a street fight.
  • You must have balance. That is you must have balance in your body before you launch your kick and when you return to position. If you want to lose a street fight, the easiest way to do it is to fall to the ground.
  • You must have practiced. As with using high kicks in your actual martial art, the success of kicks will depend on your ability to use the kick effectively.
  • You must time it right. The best time to release a high kick is after you’ve landed a few blows with your fists. Don’t just launch into a high kick the moment the fight starts.
  • You must put enough power into it. When you use a high kick, it should only be used with the intention of knocking your opponent out or over. If you can’t unleash explosive power in the kick, don’t do it.


Are high kicks effective? Yes, they can be. They must be used in the right way, however, and that means you will need to spend a lot of time training and practicing them. They can even be effective in street fights if you have the right level of preparation.

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