Roundhouse kick

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Mawashi-geri (literally: “go-around kick”), the roundhouse kick, traces a large, arcing path towards its target, as opposed to the purely linear techniques which we have shown previously. Because of this, roundhouse kicks look spectacular, and frequently appear in movies and television. Roundhouse kicks were what you pictured yourself doing in your own internal cinema when you decided to learn karate. Don’t lie. However, before we indulge your fantasies, you need to take three heaping doses of reality:

  • Never perform roundhouse kicks with the rear leg. Though rear-leg roundhouse kicks are powerful and spectacular, their semicircular paths are, by definition, π-times longer than those of front kicks. As a result, rear-leg roundhouse kicks will take about three times longer to perform than front kicks of equal speed. This is why rear-leg roundhouse kicks are the absolute easiest techniques to block; they are impossible not to telegraph. Training to develop speedy techniques can only mitigate the hard limits which geometry imposes; this limit can never be completely eliminated. Since the front leg is, by definition, closer to the opponent, it travels along a shorter path, and requires less time to reach its target.
  • Round or circular techniques should never be the first in a series of attacks. Roundhouse kicks work better as follow-up techniques, because they have a slightly longer range. When the opponent is struck by linear technique, they may be knocked back -- not far -- but just far enough to put them in range of a roundhouse kick.

Like all of our other kicks, throwing roundhouse kicks is a four-point procedure, so be sure to do it by the numbers:

  1. Chambering. Enter a walking or fighting crane stance, as per usual. Again, raise the knee of the kicking leg as high as possible, and your knee must be “past parallel” -- with your knee higher than your hips.

  2. Kick. Open your hip to the outside, like a side-snap kick. Then, simultaneously extend your leg, and turn your knee to the inside. This will be difficult, but it will be made easier by pivoting the supporting foot to the outside, like in a side snap-kick. Curl your toes back, so that you strike your opponent with the ball of the foot, just like a front snap-kick.

  3. Re-chambering. Pull your foot back into a walking or fighting crane stance as quickly as possible -- at minimum, twice as fast as the kick went out. This will keep the opponent from catching your kick, or using your leg as a lever to rotate your body. Rechambering from roundhouse kick is difficult, because that technique ends in an extremely awkward, extended, sideways position. It will take lots of practice before this step becomes smooth. Do not use you kick as part of a giant step.

  4. Stepping out. After kicking, return to a bent-knees attention stance, and slide either leg into whatever stance you chose. Again, never step forward from crane stance into some other stance. You can -- and will -- be swept.

[Roundhouse kick videos, fast and slow, from the front and side.]

While the Goshin-Jutsu roundhouse kick is essentially “the backfist of kicks,” they still pack enough power to crack a man’s ribs.