The round house kick is the bread and butter of Muay Thai, and a fundamental part of any stand up striking sport that involves the legs. As with any skilled movement, there will always be room for improvement, and although it may look very basic, the round house kick has a lot of fine tuning.
Note, this article is written from a regular stance, which is left foot forward. For anyone that is a Southpaw, simply reverse.
Opening up the hips
The first step for the round house kick, is opening up the hips to gain rotational power. This is done by moving the ball of the left foot, slightly to the left. The step shouldn’t be too big, about three inches. You want to keep the step small, to ensure that you’re not telegraphing the kick (making it obvious that you’re going to throw a kick).
Thrusting the hips
The second step to an effective round house kick, is hip rotation. Hip rotation is important to develop the power necessary for the strike. You will push off the back leg to help lift it off, but the hip rotation is the key for developing the power. I like to think of my leg as a whip when I throw a kick, where my hip is the handle and my leg is a dead weight. This will create a whipping effect that will be a lot more effective.
Pulling through the core
Pulling through the core uses the oblique muscles which will help increase your rotational power. Using your upper body in the kick, rather than breaking at the core, allows for the use of your full body weight. This also prevents you from leaning back and losing your balance.
The shoulders are more important in the roundhouse kick than you might think. The shoulders work with the core to maintain your upright position. Remember, whichever leg you’re kicking with, to twist the same shoulder under your chin. To help achieve this, use the same hand to try and touch the punching bag.
Weight distribution needs to be a 70/30 from back to front.
When throwing a leg kick, it isn’t necessary to come on to the ball of the foot. Staying a bit flatter footed will allow for more stability and power.
Hand placement is also very important when throwing the kick. I like to bring the opposite hand I’m kicking with up across my forehead for protection.
The shoulder goes into the kick, but the hand comes down and behind the body, to counter act the kick.
If you’re really set on improving your kick, go over these points, and record yourself kicking. Then break it down and analyze what’s working and what isn’t.
Nathan Sharp teaches Muay Thai classes and does personal training at Bloor Street Fitness & Boxing.