Karūma-geri, the wheel kick is the one of the most iconic marital arts moves, which was a staple VHS action movie fight scenes. This is rarely-used technique, but karateka have a cultural expectation to know how to wheel kick; if you can’t do this, then no one will take you seriously. Wheel kicks are reserved for advanced students, because all other students should worry about developing more-practical fundamentals. Wheel kicks are unique to martial arts, so brawlers, boxers, and wrestlers are not accustomed to them. Because of their appearance in movies and comics, wheel kicks can “send a message” and can demoralize an untrained opponent. However, it is best to rely on other techniques. This is an intrinsically dangerous technique since it:
- Forces you to turn your back to your opponent.
- Briefly places you in an awkward, twisted position. However, if you ever find yourself in an unfortunate twisted, position, using that as a spinning hook kick setup can force opponents to momentary retreat, and buy you the time needed to recover your balance.
- Adds another step to the kicking process, which increases your total response time.
- Requires an impeccable sense of balance to execute correctly; we practice this kick mainly as a balance-building drill.
Wheel kicks are essentially spinning exercise kicks. Directions on how to throw a right wheel kick are given below; changing the directions for a left kick is an exercise left for the reader.
- Origin. Start in a left fighting stance facing #1.
- Spin. Twist clockwise 270° to #2, pulling your right leg up into a left cat-like stance, except that your legs will be crossed, like you’re waiting in a line to use the toilet.
- Kick. Without pausing, immediately swing your fully-extended leg up and out, allowing momentum to carry your heel into your intended target at #1. Just as marksmen lead their targets, spinning karateka must trail their targets.
- Recovery. # Allow momentum to carry you back into a left fighting stance facing #1.
[wheel kick videos, fast and slow, from the front and side.]
While wheel kicks strongly resemble spinning hook kicks, they are different techniques. They are both high-risk, high-reward techniques. Even if they are blocked, they will damage whatever blocks them. The stiff-leg of a wheel kick offers greater range than a spinning hook kick, but with a greatly reduced snap. While wheel kicks telegraph more than other spin kicks, all spin kick are plagued by a high level of telegraphing. As such, wheel kicks should only be used on inexperienced opponents who don’t understand the importance of closing the distance.