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What is Kickboxing?

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Kickboxing is any physical activity where kicking and punching are allowed. Points of contact are mainly hands and feet, but sometimes elbows and knees. Different styles exist for various purposes. It can be a fighting style or a workout. Kickboxing comes from Japanese karate and combines multiple types of martial arts.


Stance: Orthodox vs. Southpaw

When taking a boxing stance, your natural stance depends on your hand dominance, though you will practice both poses. Boxers don't face their opponents' head-on but face slightly to their target's right or left.



To get in your stance, imagine the bag is at twelve O'clock. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. If you're right-handed, your right foot will be back, and your left foot will be in front, and your toes will point towards two O'clock. If you're left-handed, your left foot will be back, and your right foot will be in front, and your toes will point towards ten O'clock.


The fists hover close to your chin. In an orthodox stance, the left hand is slightly in front of the right hand. In a southpaw stance, the right hand is slightly in front of the left hand. Some kickboxers call this "hands at home."



Boxers use this stance, so they are a smaller target. The dominant side is back because, in that stance, the dominant side can create more power. It makes more sense when I explain the different punches.

Punches (upper body): Jab, Cross, Hook, Uppercut, Elbow, Hammer

Jab: This punch uses whichever hand is in front. In an orthodox stance, the left hand. In a southpaw stance, the right hand. The fist goes from the chin to the target, turning the palm down and hitting the mark with the flat part of the fist, then snaps back to the chin.



Cross: This punch uses whichever hand is in the back. In an orthodox stance, the right hand. In a southpaw stance, the left hand. The fist goes from the chin to the target, turning the palm down and hitting the mark with the flat part of the fist, then snaps back to the chin. The hips turn to face the target, and the back foot pivots to allow for the movement.



Hook: Either hand can perform a hook; some training programs only allow the back fist to throw this punch, but for the most part, workouts allow either hand to hook. The fist goes from the chin to the bag's, the palm turns toward the person, and the fist hits the target with its knuckles, then snaps back to the chin. The hips turn to face the target, and the back foot pivots to allow for the movement. I compare it to throwing your arm around someone in a hug.



Uppercut: Either hand can perform an uppercut. The fist goes from the chin to the bag's underside, the palm turns toward the person, and the fist hits the target with its knuckles, then snaps back to the chin. A kickboxer uses an uppercut to hit someone under the chin, so when hitting the bag, the person should aim for the rounded part of a wrecking ball or uppercut bag. The person should lean forward and use the whole body to throw the punch.



Elbow: Either elbow can perform an elbow. Like a hook, the elbow swings around to the side of the bag, and the forearm strikes the bag. After the hit, the arm returns to the "hands at home" stance. The hips turn to face the target, and the back foot pivots to allow for the movement. An elbow is performed differently in various training programs. For example, some programs teach that the elbow should swing over the bag and hit it's top. Others teach that the point of contact is the elbow, meant to cut the opponent or bag. If you are hitting a bag in your training program, I would recommend that the point of contact be your forearm; else, you will develop rug burns on your elbows.



Hammer: Either hand can throw a hammer. When throwing a hammer, the arm swings over the top of the bag. The fist's bottom hits the top of the target, then snaps back to the chin. The person should lean forward and use the whole body to throw the punch.


Kicks (lower body): Front Kick, Roundhouse Kick, Shin Kick, Side Kick, Back Kick, Knee

There are four parts to every kick: load, hit, recoil, and plant. In the loading part, the foot leaves the ground. In the hitting part, the foot contacts the target. In the recoil part, the foot snaps away from the bag. In the planting part, the foot returns to the ground.


Front Kick: To load, bring the knee up. Hit the bag with the ball or heel of your foot; either is correct, though some programs will teach one or the other. To recoil, leave the knee up and snap the foot away from the bag. Plant the foot on the floor. Imagine you are kicking someone in the knee.



Roundhouse Kick: An athlete performs a traditional roundhouse kick with their back foot but can act with either leg. I will describe a classic roundhouse kick here. If you are in an orthodox stance, the left foot turns out, so the foot's arch faces the bag. It helps to transfer your weight to this foot, especially the ball, as you kick so that you can pivot. Bring the right leg up like you are stepping over a fence, turning the hip over and bringing the leg parallel to the ground. Pivot on your left foot. Hit the heavy bag with the strings of your shoe. Snap the foot away from the bag and swing the leg back to the ground, landing in the orthodox stance. The trick of this kick is turning over the hip so you can hit the bag with the foot's top.



Shin Kick: This kick is with either leg. To load, bring the knee up. Hit the bottom of the uppercut bag or wrecking ball with the strings of your shoe. To recoil, leave the knee up and snap the foot away from the bag. Plant the foot on the floor.



Side Kick: To perform a sidekick, face perpendicular to a heavy bag. If the bag is at twelve O'clock, face at three O'clock or nine O'clock. To load, bring the knee up and foot out to the side like a dog peeing on a fire hydrant (excuse the crude reference!). Hit the bag with your heel. Snap the foot away from the bag, into the loaded position, and put it onto the ground.



Back Kick: Otherwise known as a back push kick, a back kick is like a front kick, except kicking backward. Either leg can perform this action. To load, raise your foot behind you, bending at the knee. Kick a heavy bag with the heel of your foot. Bring your leg back to the loaded position and return your foot to the ground.


Donkey Kick: Either leg can donkey kick. To perform a donkey kick, get on your hands and knees under an uppercut bag or a wrecking ball. Keeping your leg bent at a ninety-degree angle, bring your leg up towards the bag. Hit the bag with your heel and bring your knee back down to the ground.


Knee: There are two ways to hit a bag with your knee. The first way is using the top of your knee to hit the bottom of a wrecking ball or uppercut bag. The second way is using the front of your knee to hit a heavy bag. To perform this hit, bring the knee up and push the front of the knee into the bag. Recoil your body away from the bag and plant the foot back onto the ground.



Avoidance Moves: Duck, Slip, Block

Duck: The purpose of ducking is to avoid an incoming hook. To duck, keep your hands at home, squat, and roll your head in a semicircle under the punch. In orthodox stance, duck from left to right. In southpaw stance, duck from right to left. When you're finished, you should return to your boxing stance.


Slip: The purpose of slipping is to avoid an incoming punch; it can be performed with either hand. To slip, lean forward and bring your fist from your chin to your face. Imagine a punch sliding past your raised fist. To complete the move, reverse the action and return to your boxing stance.


Block: The purpose of blocking is to deflect an incoming punch; it can be performed with either hand. To block, bring your fist from your chin, swing it in a small circle away from your face. Imagine deflecting a punch out from your face with your arm. Bring your fist back to your face. I often call this move the wax-off, a Karate Kid reference.


Kickboxing combines these moves to create the best workout. For example, jab, cross, hook, and front kick. These combinations can be as straightforward or as complicated as needed per the person's skill level or fitness level.


For the most part, a kickboxing workout isn't going to combine the kicks and punches in a way that would be effective in a fight. In some instances, a professional kickboxer would never do the workout combinations in the ring. The moves are purely for exercise and are not intended for self-defense.