Karūma-geri, the wheel kick is the one of the most iconic marital arts moves, and a staple VHS action movie fight scenes. This is a rarely-used technique, but karateka have a cultural expectation to perform wheel kicks; no one will take you seriously unless you can do this. Wheel kicks are reserved for advanced students, because all other students should worry about developing 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 demoralize an untrained opponent. However, it is best to rely on other techniques. Wheel kicks are intrinsically dangerous since they:
- Force you to turn your back to your opponent.
- Briefly place you in an awkward, twisted position. However, if you ever find yourself in an unfortunate twisted, position, using that as a wheel kick setup can force your opponents to momentary retreat, buying you the time needed to recover your balance.
- Add another step to the kicking process, which increases your total response time.
- Require 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.]
Wheel kicks strongly resemble spinning hook kicks, but they are different techniques. Both are high-risk, high-reward techniques; even if they are blocked, they will damage whatever blocks them. The wheel kick's stiff-leg offers a greater range than a spinning hook kick, but with a greatly reduced snap. Wheel kicks telegraph more than other spin kicks, but 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.