Despite its power, the side kick can be a difficult technique to master, and a difficult one to land on a moving opponent. Because it uses the length of the leg, it usually needs to be fired from a given distance from your opponent, so as not to jam yourself. This is a drawback though, because it increases the reaction time your opponent has to deal with the kick. To throw a powerful side kick requires proper alignment of the hips and lower body, and this can lead to a more sideways stance in relation to your opponent, similar to what you see in Olympic Taekwondo. The drawback with that outside of Olympic Taekwondo is the vulnerability to takedowns, sweeps, as well as being kicked in the lead leg.
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.
It is important to note that this kick is not the same as a long distance sliding side kick thrown from outside kicking range. Your jab is not just a flick out to distract your opponent from a range where you couldn't hit them with a punch if you wanted to. It must be an actual jab with your footwork bringing you into boxing range. If you have used repeater jabs, other striking combos, and circling footwork as your set-up, your opponent will not see your side kick slip under their guard.
To develop your jab, develop your step and slide footwork. A simple way to remember how to move using step and slide is that the foot that steps will match the direction you are going. From your fighting stance, step forward with your lead foot, and slide the rear foot along back into your balanced stance. To move backward, step your rear foot back, and slide the front foot into place. To step right, step with your right foot, and then slide the left into place. To step left, step with the left foot and then slide the left foot into place. Thus, we call it step and slide. Practice moving all four directions to develop your step and slide.
Now that you’ve developed your footwork, get with your training partner to begin some pad drills. Start in the same lead. From your fighting stance, you’re going to hit across their body. So, if you’re in right lead, you’re going to throw your jab at the pad on their right hand. This is important, because you want to emphasize turning your hip into your jab as you strike.
For your first set, stand within arm’s reach of your partner. We won’t bring in your step and slide footwork just yet. Practice throwing your jab while turning your hip into the punch. Start throwing one jab at a time, breathing with each strike and turning your hip.
After a round of this, practice throwing a repeating jab. Throw a jab out with your hip turn, and quickly retract it back, making sure you pull your jab back to your guard and not dropping it. You do not want to leave your chin open to a counter punch. As soon as your jab has come back, fire it out once more, again snapping your hip into the motion.
Now, having done one round standing and jabbing, and a second round standing and repeating jabbing, we’re going to add in your footwork. In order to strike an opponent, you must move to them, but if you just step into range, your opponent can intercept and counter strike you. So, we use our jab as cover. For this third round, you’re going to practice stepping and jabbing at the same time. Move outside of arm’s reach of your partner. Now, using your forward step and slide footwork, step in and jab, timing your jab and your hip twist with your forward step. Once your jab lands, immediately step and slide back while retracting the jab to your chin. This will help you develop the ability to move in and out of range with your opponent.
For your next round, you’re going to expand on your footwork. Have your partner bring his pads close to his body rather than holding them out for you to strike. Begin circling and moving around each other, working on your step and slide footwork in all directions. Try and remain out of arm’s reach of your partner to develop a sense of distance. While moving, have your partner feed the pad out spontaneously. When he does, step and slide in with your jab, and then step and slide back out.
Be sure always to exhale on your jab. Breathing is the most important aspect of all combat and indeed all life. If we aren’t breathing, we aren’t moving!
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