Yoko-geri, the side kick, is one of the most devastating weapons in the karateka's arsenal. Side kick is also the single most complicated technique we will ever show you. Teaching the hardest lesson early-on is probably not the best pedagogical approach, but side kicks are so amazingly great that it would be cruel not to teach them.
- Chambering: Enter a walking crane stance, just like a front kick. Additionally, you must "open your hip." Skipping this step leads to weak, flicking kicks which rarely exceed knee-height. Spread your kicking leg out, so that your knee points 45° from both the direction you are facing, and where your opponent is standing.
- Kicking: Point your hip at your opponent; aim your kicks with your hip, not your foot. Concentrating on where the hip is pointed always enables the kick to reach its mark, since the foot is connected to the hip, via the leg. To kick, simultaneously drop your knee and fully extend your leg. Strike your target with the blade of the foot.
As you kick, perform the same motions used in side exercise kicks:
- Switch your hands to protect your face and groin.
- Rotate your supporting foot 90° as you kick, from toes pointing forward, to toes pointed away from your kick.
- Arch your back while kicking for additional power and stability.
- Avoid leaning to the side to increase the height of the kick. You will have to lean somewhat to throw a side kick — this is unavoidable — but you should not deliberately exaggerate this to make your kicks higher. There is no reason to throw a side kick higher than your opponent’s solar plexus or floating ribs. Kicks above that level have a poor benefit-cost ratio; they’re more trouble than they’re worth.
- Re-chambering: Return to crane stance as quickly as possible; kicks should return twice as fast as they went out. While re-chambering your kick, switch your hands back to a side-facing guard (like in side exercise kick), and rotate the supporting foot 90°, so that your toes point forward again. Do not use you kick as part of a giant step.
- 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.
[video of regular and step-up side kicks front the front and side, chambering as you step up, fast and slow.]
Side kicks are commonly thrown from an attention stance. You can enter attention stance from a horse or fighting stance either by pulling your front leg back (to draw your opponent into overextending themselves), or by pulling your back leg up (a step-up side kick, which covers more ground). The choice depends on the distance between you and to target. Training with a hanging heavy is crucial to develop this sense of distancing. Another way to evaluate the quality of your techniques is to kick over a horizontal pole, held at knee height, 1’ (~30 cm) away from your kicking leg. Good kicks will always clear the pole, and poor kicks will provide instant feedback.
[video of pole training]