Your lower body houses the most powerful fighting weapons that you can use at maximum fighting range. Your knees, shin bones, and the balls of your feet (especially when clad in shoes) serve as hard and durable striking surfaces. When you kick or knee your opponent, you use your body's largest muscle groups, including the gluteals, quadriceps, and hamstrings. The leg is usually two times the mass if not more than arm, hence, the added power. If, as with punching, you put your entire body mass and strength behind your kick or knee, you can deliver a devastating blow, no matter your size or weight.
STRAIGHT KICKS AND KNEES
If I face an unavoidable physical confrontation, provided I have the proper range and timing, I am going to preemptively kick the assailant. My preference is a sidekick targeting the aggressor's knee or a straight kick to his lead knee or groin followed by whatever additional retzev combatives are necessary to stop the threat. Retzev is a used in krav maga to describe "continuous combat motion." Or by using your body instinctively in combat motion without thinking about your next move.
By using a linear preemptive kick, I limit the defensive reactions I must consider. In other words, it doesn't matter what type of combative the assailant throws at me. I target his vulnerable anatomy with my longest range intercept weapon: a kick. In addition, most street thugs do not train to defend against a quick, powerful low-line kick. By moving towards me, the aggressor is placing his weight on his front leg. Kicking the knee of a weight-bearing leg is devastating and one of the best methods to stop an attack.
You can perform krav maga kicks at low, torso and head-level heights. To deliver head kicks, you'll need flexibility, balance, and enough strength to lift your leg. The Israel Defense Force, (IDF), in developing its krav maga program, set up tested candidates, many of who were talented martial artists, to run extensive distances with full combat loads. After an exhausting run in combat gear, the candidates were told to defend against an attack using whatever techniques they felt most comfortable. Few test candidates favoring high kicks could perform them. Their physical exhaustion prior to the fighting tests made high kicking extremely difficult.
The IDF recognized the need to use fighting techniques that would work for all trainees, especially under trying circumstances. Therefore, low kicks combined with upper body combatives became integral to krav maga training. When asked if krav maga favored kicks to the head, Imi Lichtenfield, founder of the krav maga self-defense system replied, "Of course we kick to the head, but first we beat him to the ground and then we kick to the head."
For most kicks, you'll make contact using the ball of your foot or your heel. To practice and prepare your feet for striking, curl your toes up toward you, exposing the heel, and repeatedly pound the ground with the ball of your foot. Note this heel exercise is a combative kick in itself, the stomp.
For all straight kicks and knees, think of your kneecap as a direction finder or pointer. Wherever the knee is pointed, the kick or knee will follow. Hip alignment is paramount to keeping your leg on target. Note: Do not fully extend the kicking leg unless you are impacting a target. Rather, only extend about 90 percent. As with punches, you can hyperextend your knee by locking the joint.
Lead Straight Offensive Kick
To practice the lead straight offensive kick, starting from your left outlet stance, take the longest possible step forward with your left leg. As you step, turn out your right foot approximately 90 degrees. Notice that your left outlet stance facilitates the movement of your base-leg foot. Notice how your body elongates and your non-kicking leg naturally pivots out, with your toes pointed to your right. (Although the optimal turn is 90 degrees, some people experience knee discomfort when they turn the knee this far.)
Turning out on the ball of the foot of your rear base leg will thrust your hips forward, giving you maximum extension and power using glicha or sliding step to carry your body weight through the kick. This enables you to throw your body mass behind the kick. You will actually launch the kick from low to high or "under the radar screen" of your opponent's vision. Connect with the ball of your left foot against your target. Do not raise your knee up and then push out to kick. Let your body move your front leg in a natural upward trajectory. Do not snap or thrust the kick towards the target.
After impact, land with your kicking leg forward. If you are in a de-escalation or passive stance, as you launch the kick, thrust your hands forward and up into a fighting position, as this accelerates your entire body through the kick. When defending, try to keep your hands up the entire time. Many people unconsciously drop their hands to improve their balance. (Note: You can practice keeping your hands up by grabbing your shirt collar as you kick.)
The Rear Straight Kick
For the rear straight kick, you'll use kicking and base-leg movements similar to the ones you used for the lead straight kick. These will maximize your reach and kicking power. As you close the distance to your opponent following your kick, linear straight punches and palm-heel strikes are strong follow-up combatives into elbow and knee strikes to facilitate retzev.
In practice, from your left outlet stance take the largest step you can with your right leg and remain in that position. You will notice how your body elongates again and your non-kicking base leg pivots to approximately a 90-degree angle, with your toes pointed to your right. To actually perform the kick, thrust your rear leg out as though you are pushing the ball of your foot through a target, again, "under the radar screen." Let your body move your rear leg in a natural upward trajectory. Do not snap or thrust the kick towards the target. After impact, land with your kicking leg forward. If you are in a de-escalation or passive stance, as you launch the kick thrust your hands forward and up into a fighting position, as this accelerates your entire body through the kick.
When defending, as always, try to keep your hands up the entire time. Many people unconsciously drop their hands to improve their balance. As you kick, keep your hands up to protect your head. To enhance your footwork and balance, learn to deliver the kick and then retreat back into an opposite fighting stance. As your kicking leg touches the ground, use the retreating footwork you learned with your straight punches to move your body backward.
Using Pocket Change as a Distraction, Combined with a Rear Straight Kick
To ambush your opponent with a rear straight kick, you may launch pocket change or any other istraction, including liquid from a cup, spittle, chewing gum, etc., at his face. It is best to keep the distraction hidden and not telegraph your intent. Conceal the loose change in your hand slightly behind or your back or at your side. Do not make it obvious that you have something in your hand. You may launch the change using an underhand throw (which I prefer) or palm-down throw. As you launch the change, begin your kicking motion using a sliding step with base leg to propel your entire kick through the opponent. Target his groin or his midsection. Be sure to properly align your leg to kick and use the ball of your foot to make impact. Follow up with retzev combatives as necessary.
Comments on Stomps and Sidekicks
Using your heel to kick someone is likely your most powerful combative. You can recruit all the muscles of your leg while simultaneously moving your body weight through the kick. The following kick options harness this instinctive mechanism.
The Heel Stomp
If you knock the attacker to the ground while you are still standing, the Heel Stomp is a simple and highly effective combative targeting the top of the attacker's foot or other exposed areas such as the groin, head, and throat (in a deadly force encounter), ribs, kidneys or hands. Note, you can also strike his Achilles if he is kneeling, which will likely hobble him.
The sidekick may be the most important krav maga tool in your arsenal, provided you are at the correct range to use it. The sidekick and rear straight defensive kick build your arsenal of combatives, enabling you to kick a threat to your side or rear. The sidekick and rear defensive kicks will become some of your most formidable striking weapons. The sidekick is highly effective against lateral attacks such as straight punches, where you can use the kick's superior reach and power against the attacker's forward knee, thighs, or midsection. If you vary your outlet stance or "cheat" by positioning your feet almost perpendicular to your opponent, the sidekick can target an opponent in front of you. Execute the sidekick with your front leg, which is closer to your target. Once again, pivoting and aligning the base leg in the appropriate direction is essential to maximize reach and power.
To perform the sidekick, raise your front kicking leg until it is bent 90 degrees and your thigh is parallel to the ground. Deliver the kick by thrusting your raised leg out, pointing the heel toward the target and curling the toes toward your body. Keep your foot parallel with the ground as you make contact. As with every other kick, your body weight must shift forward into your target.
The above is an excerpt from Krav Maga Combatives: Maximum Effect by David Kahn, pub date June 2019, YMAA Publication Center, ISBN: 978-1-69439-681-6.