The side kick, called the juktek in Jeet Kune Do, is one of the most powerful, punishing attacks the human body can deliver. It is seen throughout many martial arts, from Taekwondo to Muay Thai. Martial artists like Cung Le have used it to great effect in Sanda and MMA. Because of its stomping action, the side kick is an excellent technique for self-defense, especially when aimed at low line targets such as the knee and thigh. The founder of Jeet Kune Do, Bruce Lee, was known for his side kick. In Chinese boxing competitions such as Sanda and Leitai, the side kick is an essential technique for any fighter. In one of my first competitions, I spent a good portion of the match running right into my opponent’s side kick. You can imagine how my ribs felt afterward.
These issues can be avoided through proper footwork and cover. The method below is one taught to me by my sifu, Harinder Singh, and one that my own fighters have employed in Leitai and Sanshou. If you have not read my article on developing your jab, I would suggest going back and reading it, as I will be referring to concepts relayed there.
For this combination, we are not going to be initiating the side kick from long range. As mentioned above, this increases the reaction time our opponent has. Side kicks at long range are best used as counters against rushing opponents. We’re going to be using this side kick after entering on our opponent and coming in to boxing range.
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After setting up your opponent using circular footwork and repeater jabs, enter with step and slide footwork and a jab to your opponent’s face to draw their guard upward, using your jab to cover your entry. Having entered into boxing range, you would typically be considered too close to throw a side kick. As with everything else in fighting, the key is in footwork.
When you enter with your step and slide footwork on your jab, bring your rear foot completely forward to your front foot. This is called stealing step because it allows you to close the distance without your opponent becoming aware of the new position of your base leg. In order to use your side kick though, bring your feet heel to heel, similar to ballet’s First Position. Your toes should be pointing to your 6 o’clock. From this position, bring your knee straight up to the side, perpendicular to your target, and fire your kick out. By drilling your steal step properly, you will be able to chamber your leg for a kick at close range.