Watching martial arts is always exciting and yet, it often raises questions which aren’t answered by the fighters or the commentators on TV. One such questions is how strong can martial artists actually hit, and how would we measure that?
So, how hard can a martial artist kick? A martial artist can kick with around 9000 Newtons of force. That is a reasonable estimate, though at least one martial artist has recorded a kick with over 12000 Newtons of force!
Let’s take a look at what that really means (what are Newtons?) and which 5 martial arts train the hardest kicks.
How Hard Can A Martial Artist Kick?
Before we can define how hard a martial artists kicks, we need to define what exactly is “the hardness” of a kick – without any formal measurement system, we’d be making stuff up, rather than providing useful data.
The Science Bit
Force of blows is generally measured in Newtons (N – which are the official unit of force) but it can also be measured in pounds force (lbf) if you use the imperial measurement system.
1 Newton is 0.224809 lbf or 1 lbf is 4.448 Newtons. This doesn’t make the conversion from one to the other particularly easy.
1 Newton is defined as the force that you would need to use to give a 1 Kg mass a steady acceleration of 1 meter per second squared.
Thus 100 Newtons can either move 100 Kg mass to a steady acceleration of 1 meter per second squared or it can move 1 Kg to a steady acceleration of 100 meters per second squared.
Now, these definitions are quite nice, but they don’t really tell you what they would feel like. So, let’s take 1000 Newtons, which is a fairly big force, it’s what it would feel like if a person weighing 100 Kg stepped on you. (This is because gravity supplies downward acceleration at 9.8 meters per second squared.)
Depending on how big you are – that could seriously hurt, right?
So, now we can turn to “how hard can a martial artist kick” and put the force of their kick into context.
According to Live Science, a trained martial artist can kick with a force of up to 9,000 Newtons! That’s the equivalent of 9 x 100 Kg people standing on each other’s shoulders before standing on you!
The bigger the martial artist is, the more they force they can put into a kick. Which might make you think twice about stepping into the ring with a 7-foot-tall guy weighing 200 Kg.
Is Kicking Stronger Than Punching?
Can people kick harder than they punch or is it vice-versa? After all, it’s pretty clear that the thigh muscle is appreciably bigger than most people’s biceps, right?
Yes, they can. In fact, it’s estimated that a professional boxer (who is probably the master of delivering an effective punch) can only punch about 4,000 Newtons at a maximum. That’s less than half of the force of an effective kick from a martial art’s master.
How Much Force Is Needed To Break A Bone?
It depends on the bone to a large extent. You can break a bone in somebody’s hand rather more easily than you can break, say, the femur. This is why many boxers wear gloves, but nobody wears a thigh guard for unarmed martial arts practice.
However, you can smash a rib with as little as 3,300 Newtons of force and this does happen pretty regularly in fights, ribs are fairly delicate and they’re very close to the surface of the skin.
Someone’s femur would require a force of 4,000 Newtons to break which is much less than the 9,000 Newtons people can kick – so, why don’t people in martial arts end up with broken femurs?
There are two main reasons – the first is simply that the femur is surrounded by muscle, that muscle will absorb much of the blow, whereas a rib has no such protection. The second is that, most of the time, fighters aren’t out to seriously injure each other – breaking a rib is an unfortunate accident, breaking someone’s femur would require a serious and deliberate effort.
How Much Force Do I Need To Knock Someone Out With A Kick? (Do Not Try This)
In general, it’s not about how hard you hit or kick someone’s head but how fast their head moves after the blow. If the head is driven back fast enough the neurons in the brain come under huge levels of stress and then the brain will temporarily switch itself off in defence – that’s when someone appears to be knocked out.
So the force just needs to impart about 43,000 RPM to someone’s head in just under a second. That can be done with as little as 22 Newtons of force! So, don’t think you need to become some arch-ninja in order to knock someone out, a blow that strikes someone in the right way is far more important than how hard that blow actually is.
Which Martial Arts Have The Strongest Kicks?
Now, we get to the contentious part of this article. These 5 martial arts claim to have the most powerful kicks. 2 of them are recognized for having the hardest of kicks.
Karate: So Many Kicks To Choose From
With over 34 types of kick (when you include jumping/flying kicks) karate really does bring out the kicking ability in its practitioners. For a while, karate was written off as a sort of martial art’s dead end with other arts being favored in MMA competitions but recently karate has made something of a comeback and even Conor McGregor uses some karate in his bouts.
Kickboxing: It’s Got “Kick” In The Name
Kickboxing also incorporates large numbers of different kicking techniques. As you’d expect a martial art with “kick” in the name tends to be very good at teaching people to kick.
Kickboxing is also, often, seen as a solid grounding in the kind of fighting techniques that you need in mixed martial arts. Check out Alastair Overeem who is one of the finest kickboxers of his generation. You’d be amazed at how hard he can kick.
Taekwondo: Another Super Strong Contender
Taekwondo has a ton of excellent kicking techniques incorporated and it’s often trained in conjunction with Muay Thai (which we will come to soon) to allow the fullest range of kicks in mixed martial arts bouts.
Anderson Silva is a renowned fighter with a real love for Taekwondo and you can watch him training for the Olympics in 2016, on YouTube here:
Muay Thai: Military.com’s Hardest Strike In Sport
Muay Thai is one of our two contenders for the hardest kicking sport. Military.com declared the kick by Shogun Rua to be the heaviest strike ever delivered in sports. They said that he managed to pack in 2,749 lbf or 12,227 N of force in a single kick!
What is certainly true, is that Muay Thai may be the most effective kicking discipline in Mixed Martial Arts and you can find numerous top fighters that have incorporated it into their style.
Capoeira: National Geographic’s Pick For Strongest Kick
National Geographic, on the other hand, offers a different strongest kick. They weren’t looking at a single exceptional blow as per Military.com with Muay Thai – they wanted to know which martial arts discipline offered the most consistently strong kick and they decided on capoeira, the Brazilian martial art.
It’s a very distinct fighting style but it can be hard to use in MMA situations because it can leave a less-skilled fighter open to attack. However, Conor McGregor is a big fan as you can see here:
How hard can a martial artist kick? Shogun Rua has kicked at 12,227 N. That’s probably the hardest kick in history so far. But most martial arts kicks are nothing like as hard as that and you’d expect a more typical kick from a top martial artist to be delivered with around 9,000 N of force. That’s still a very heavy blow!