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Karate Side Kick Training

by 
author image Henry Halse
Henry Halse is a Philadelphia-based personal trainer, speaker, and writer. He's trained a wide variety of people, from couch potatoes to professional athletes, and helped them realize their own strength, determination and self-confidence. Henry has also written for various fitness and lifestyle publications, including Women’s Health, AskMen and Prevention.
Karate Side Kick Training
Karate Side Kick Training Photo Credit: master1305/iStock/GettyImages

In Karate, the side kick is a powerful tool that you can use to quickly and powerfully strike an opponent. The kick has incredible stopping power and can be particularly effective if it's planted into the ribs or solar plexus of an opponent. Add variety to your kicks with these five popular variations of the side kick.

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Read more: List of Martial Arts Exercises

Kicks in Karate

The art of karate is primarily a combination of kicks, punches and blocking techniques. It's designed more for self-defense, so there are a plethora of techniques designed to stop an attacker. The side kick can be seen as both a defensive and offensive maneuver.

The three most popular kicks are the front kick, side kick and roundhouse kick. The front kick is performed facing straight forwards. The roundhouse is performed with the back leg; you twist your body as you kick to add power. Think of side kicks as being between these two: You stand to the side as you kick, adding extra power but maintaining the speed of a front kick.

The flying side kick is impressive but hardly practical.
The flying side kick is impressive but hardly practical. Photo Credit: Eugene_Onischenko/iStock/GettyImages

Read more: What Is the Difference Between Tae Kwon Do, Karate & Judo?

Side Kick Training

Kicks may not come naturally because they require strength, balance and flexibility. If you're struggling with practicing your kicks, try using stretches and balancing exercises to help you build a strong physical foundation to build off of.

Balance Drills

To work on your side kick, you have to be comfortable spending time on one leg. Once you're comfortable and can balance while kicking, you can start to work on things like kick height and accuracy. However, if you feel like you're going to fall every time your leg goes up in the air, focus on balance training.

Standing Knee Raise

You can add this simple drill to your warmup to help you develop rudimentary balance. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bring your hands up to your face with knuckles clenched, as though you were in a fight. Raise one leg up, bending the knee. Hold it for as long as possible, then switch legs.

Once you become comfortable, you can increase the difficulty by closing your eyes while standing on one leg.

Standing Leg Twist

When you throw a side kick, you have to cock your leg to the side before you thrust towards your target. Ideally, you should be under control as you turn your leg so that the bottom of your foot faces your opponent.

Build up your balance in this position with the following drill. Start in your fighting stance. Lift up your front leg with the knee bent. Make sure you have your balance, then, lean backwards and twist your raised leg so that your shin is parallel with the ground.

Hold this position as long as you can, then switch sides so that your opposite leg is in front. Once you can balance in this position, you'll be better able to control your side kicks.

Kick Height

The higher you can kick, the more options you have when you try to strike someone. Some martial artists can kick up to head height. Increasing your kick height takes a blend of flexibility and muscle strength that you can improve through a simple drill.

Wall Supported Kick

Use this drill to work on improving your kick height. Put one hand against a wall to support yourself, then raise your front leg as though you were about to throw a side kick. Keep the knee of your kicking leg bent, holding the leg up with your hand. Raise the kicking leg as high as you can, then slowly extend your knee to a full kick.

Bring your kicking leg back by bending your knee. Try to raise your kicking leg even higher, then kick out again. As you raise your leg, slide your hand down the wall and lean your torso back towards the wall. Repeat this process three times total, then rest and switch legs. Each time you practice this drill, try to raise your leg higher and use less support with your hand.

You can reverse this drill by using the wall to support your kicking leg. Stand facing the wall, a few feet away. Slowly perform a side kick, aimed at the wall, planting your foot flat against the wall. With your kicking leg straight, slowly inch your foot up the wall. You should feel a stretch in your inner thigh on both legs as you slowly increase height.

Kicking Accuracy

Strength and flexibility are crucial for getting your kicks up to par in Taekwondo. Once you have the raw physical ability to perform a kick, you need to hone your skills and develop precision. When you gain control over your kicks, you'll be able to pick and choose where they land, giving yourself a tactical advantage in competition.

Pad Drills

In martial arts training, one of the best tools to help you develop kicking accuracy is the kicking paddle. It's very similar to a focus mitt that boxers use to work on punching precision. A kicking paddle is a soft paddle, a little larger than the size of an open hand, with a target in the center.

To train with this tool, have your training partner hold and move the kicking paddle, telling you when to strike. Have them hold it at various heights, from their waist to their head. You can either stay in your stance and kick or move around and practice throwing kicks on the go.

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