Kicking in self defence


To kick or not to kick, that is the question.

This debate comes up regularly on martial arts forums and such discussions tend to produce variations on a number of regular characters:

  1. The person who is convinced that whatever he or she does in class will work.
  2. The person who sees kicking as a low percentage strategy but advocates low kicks if kicks are used at all.
  3. The person who has used kicks ‘in real fights’ and therefore believes that they are a high percentage effective strategy, especially high kicks.
  4. The person who has used kicks in competitive fighting and therefore believes they can do so in self defence.
  5. The person who has no opinion but just wants information.
  6. The troll.

So who’s right?

When it comes to applying martial arts techniques in self defence, context and training methods determine the results. We get good at what we train for.

If you don’t train kicks regularly then the likelihood of being able to use them in a self defence situation decreases considerably. Whether you can use kicks bears no relation to what someone else has reputedly done in self defence or in the ring, it depends not only on how much you train them, but how you train them. If the opportunity to kick comes in the form of relative positioning and pressure that you are used to then you are likely to be able to employ that skillset. Everything comes down to how you train and to a large extent how many of the six things you should do in physical training for self defence are present in your approach.

Last year I put together a video showing all the kicks and attempted kicks used by participants from a range of different martial disciplines in my scenario training. The clips came from hundreds of simulations, but featured very few kicks indeed. This was in part due to the enclosed environment, but primarily because most people had no experience in trying to kick at that range under those conditions. Although we don’t kick in many of our regular drills, my students kicked the most because the environment and range was familiar. This video contains profanity from the start.

So can you kick in self defence?


Only you can decide that.


  1. Great Article John. The clip is brilliant and in places hilarious

    1. Glad you liked it Chris!

  2. I think kicking and every other weapon is essential when it comes to self defense because when you are in that situation you just want to save yourself and of course that time you will not think what to do and or should I use kick or not.

    1. Good point “you won’t think in a self defence situation”. This is very true, in fact you will react. If you have been regularly kicking in compliant or pad based training, you may well try to fire off kicks when there is little space or someone is rushing you. The fight may well end up.on the floor of you lose your balance and so on… what happens then? The important thing when you kick is how you train and of it is self defence you are looking for then you must train in realistic scenarios like in the videos on this page! It is only then that you will learn to make adjustments which will embed themselves into your natural reactions. Great videos by the way!

  3. Execellent post. thanks to share this.

  4. […] skills or targeting accurately and this should be reflected in applications (for example see my kicking in self defence video). The same hormonal cascade (along with other substances) may render pain compliant / dependent […]

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