Kookie Combat (A martial-arts YouTube channel, posting content covering topics around: MMA (UFC), Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Boxing, BJJ, Wrestling, Self-Defence, & Fitness.):
Bruce Lee was well known for his dynamic powerful side kick, featuring in many of his famous fight scenes. Often we see Bruce sending people into orbit, kicking them well off the ground with his side kick. But is this realistic and can you achieve similar results? . . .
Perhaps you have seen this footage… or this footage, both iconic clips of the phenom Bruce Lee with his very well-known side kick, sending guys flying into orbit.
How realistic is this side kick?
Kookie Combat here, we’re gonna specifically focus on the way in which Bruce Lee applied this side kick in many of his famous media, in many of his famous movies. And of course, we see these clips where he’s sending guys well off the ground, hitting them backwards. Now, is this legitimate? The short answer for this video is, yes with some limitations. But make sure guys you continue watching so you understand these limitations and more importantly how you can really build up your side kick and perhaps gain some of what Bruce Lee was able to achieve.
Now, first and foremost, Bruce Lee, he was a well disciplined and regimented martial artist. Now, a lot has been said about he was more of a movie actor, more of a fight choreographer. However, that is not to belittle his extent of knowledge in martial arts and no doubt he had a very sickening work regimen, a very sickening work ethic and it shows when you see… when you see him throw his side kicks. To be able to achieve that level of speed, that level of explosivity even if you’re just shadow boxing that shows a level of dedication to his craft.
First way guys, you need to build up your side kick to be able to send guys flying is practice. You need to do repetitions, repetitions, repetition that goes with any technique but I thought I’d mention this just as a prerequisite, so that you know there’s no one magic trick. Ultimately, it will come down to how much work are you going to put in to really master this technique.
Now on caveat, I would say to Bruce Lee’s side kick and when he was sending guys flying was, this is definitely on a pound-for-pound basis forever side kick. If you’re hitting someone around your own body weight, you can definitely in my opinion, lift them off their feet and send them a few feet backwards. However, if you try fighting someone with a good amount of weight on you, maybe 15 kg over you or more, you’re gonna find it’s much harder to knock them over or especially gain any significant air time.
If you hit pads with a body shield and you do side kicks and you’ve got a nice big strong guy, grounded guy holding the pads, you’re going to find it hard to lift him off regardless of how hard you can kick unless you really kick like a mule, like a donkey which you know we’re only human. There’s only so much force that our body can generate. It’s going to be hard to lift a much bigger man off his feet.
Now, when it comes to the technique of how Bruce Lee threw his side kick and what really granted him this ability to send guys into orbit to really achieve that stylistic airtime. Now, when you look at how Bruce threw his side kick, he would hit at an upward angle. So with the side kick you can obviously go straight in and straight out like a telephone pole right into your opponent’s breadbasket. If you’re trying to lift them off their feet, if you’re trying to knock them down, you want to actually aim for that chest region and you want to be hitting an upward angle. And when you see Bruce Lee throw his side kick, he has that famous little skip step into it and that builds the initial momentum and then his league leg is hitting at upwards (45 degree angle). And he’s essentially getting his hips and his rear leg and his whole body weight underneath his opponent and that way he can really lift him and knock them off balance. And obviously guys, your center of mass is going to be around your hips and the lower you are the harder it’s going to be to knock you over. So if you hit someone higher up on their center of mass, you’re going to be able to topple that tower much easier, i.e knock them down.
Now, timing is a key aspect to knocking someone down with their side kick. Often if you can throw your side kick with that right angle whilst your opponent is walking onto it, that can especially contribute towards you knocking them off balance. Alternatively, hitting your opponents whilst their weight is heavy on their back leg will make it easier to knock them down. And fighters who stand especially tall such as Muay Thai style fighters, often they are very susceptible to being knocked down with a side kick. And in fact, if you watch Stephen Wonderboy Thompson and we’ve talked about him before on this channel guys, because in my opinion, he really is the most proficient side kicker in mixed martial arts. If you look at his fights with the likes of Gamebred Masvidal, even Vicente Luque, you see that he was able to knock down his opponents who are, you know, excellent martial artists in their own way. And of course guys, power and the amount of force you’re generating is going to be an overwhelming and underlying factor in how you can knock someone over with a side kick.
Now, once again, looking at Bruce Lee’s form and his technique. Notice guys, that he gets his whole hips and his whole body weight behind the technique. The purpose of this big skip step where he’s sometimes covering as much as six feet is to really maximize his body weight with momentum to really maximize the amount of force he’s putting into the target, into his opponent. So guys you must really get used to incorporating all the necessary muscle groups which are involved in the side kick. It’s not just a leg kick, it’s your hips, your glutes, your lower back, the base leg has a big role in pivoting, that is that rotation, that explosive movement so you just have to drill it. And also, train the surrounding muscle groups you know, your posterior, lateral chain, squats, horse stance, all these types of exercises contribute to a strong side kick and of course none of that can substitute practicing and drilling the side kick in of itself on a heavy bag in practice, in sparring.
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