The leg kick is a staple of most striking martial arts, but its importance and significance to the fight vary from sport to sport. Because it is used so often, learning how to check a kick is vitally important.
To check a kick is essentially blocking a kick with your leg with the upper part of your shin bone or knee. This damages the attacker’s foot and shin and in the worst-case scenario can end in a broken leg for the kicker.
The leg kick is usually thrown with the purpose to debilitate your opponent, slow his movements and score some points. It’s also a great tool to change the levels of attack and give the opponents more things to worry about.
This does not mean it doesn’t have a fight-ending potential, as has been proved countless times across disciplines. That’s why it’s very important to learn how to properly defend a leg kick.
What Is Checking A Leg Kick
The most popular defense for the leg kick is called a check. Notice how the name is different from other defensive moves like the parry and block. A check is essentially blocking a kick with your leg. This gives the check a unique property.
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Unlike other forms of defense, a check can badly hurt the attacker if done correctly. A good check is done with the most upper part of the shin bone (tibia) or the knee. The goal is to oppose the strongest part of the bone against the kicker’s weakest, the bottom of the tibia or the instep.
Although both the kicker and defender will receive a painful blow in the bone, the attacker always gets the worse part of it.
Why Should You Check Kicks?
A leg kick is either targeted at the thigh or the calf. A few powerful kicks to the thigh muscle will severely reduce the ability to fight. Balance, power transfer, and mobility can be heavily impaired. The calf has significantly less muscle to protect the nerves and bones, so even a couple of kicks there can completely shut down the leg.
The peroneal nerve is located just below the knee and it travels very near the surface. A common victim of the calf kick, the nerve is responsible for the sensations and control of the muscles on the outside part of the shin and the top of the foot.
Experienced fighters can tolerate a huge amount of pain, but if the peroneal nerve is damaged you just lose control of the foot and no amount of guts can compensate for this. Much like the liver when struck hard enough, the part of the body just shuts down.
The extreme potency of the calf kick has been proven in the last few years in many high-level MMA matches and has even changed the meta to a degree unseen since the earliest days of the sport.
That’s why it’s much better to check kicks than to take them on the muscles. Of course, the best form of defense in all cases is evasion, but this is not always possible. So, the next best option to stop a leg kick is the check.
As I mentioned above the check is a defensive maneuver and a very dangerous weapon at the same time. A perfectly executed check to the weakest parts of the kicker’s foot can lead to one of the most gruesome injuries in combat sports- the snapped or broken leg.
This can not only end the fight but be a career-ender as well. In recent years Anderson Silva, Tyrone Spong, Chris Weidman, and Connor McGregor amongst others have broken their tibias during the fight because of well-executed checks.
How To Check A Low Thigh Kick
A good check is not simply lifting your leg vertically. There are a few key points that need to be followed for the execution of a solid check. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to do it properly.
- Keep a strong and balanced position. The center of mass must remain centered with more weight transferred in the back foot.
- Lift your front leg vertically with the shin perpendicular to the ground.
- Rotate your hip out and point your knee at a 45-degree angle. This is the most important part. The rotation lets the force of the strike be transferred to your hips rather than just to the leg. If the blocking leg is pointing towards the opponent the kick will still contact the muscles outside the leg and can heavily disturb your balance.
- The foot must be flexed. This way the muscles around the shin are contracted and provide extra protection to the bone.
- Keep a solid guard with your hands. The opponent may change the direction of the kick and aim higher.
This check can also be used for inside low kicks. The principle is the same, but the leg must be turned at a 45-degree angle to the inside. Even a body kick can be stopped like this. This is a very popular defensive method in Muay Thai The execution is the same as the outside leg kick, but the knee must be lifted further.
How To Check A Calf Kick
Defending the dreaded calf kick is a bit different. The calf kick requires less dedication from the attacker and can be thrown from further away. But the main principle is the same. You should always aim to take the strike on the hard parts of your legs and not on the muscles. There are two ways to check a calf kick.
Foot Anchor Technique
This is the same as a thigh kick check, but the leg is not lifted or is lifted just slightly. Just turn your shin towards the kick at a 45-degree angle, anchor your foot with the toes on the ground for stability while also keeping a strong base and a good guard.
The second method comes from karate and has lately been used in MMA by Jose Aldo to completely negate the power of the calf kicks. Here is how to do it.
- Keep your center of gravity centered. Don’t put your weight on the front foot.
- Lift the leg very slightly from the hip.
- Move the lower part of the leg from the knee down to the inside foot pointing inward.
With this defense, you are essentially removing the target of the kick and don’t while remaining in place to deliver a counter. A standard check is still painful to the defender, but with this technique, you avoid damage to you and the attacker completely.
A good defense is a key component of a successful fight style. The low kick can be very painful and debilitating, so a good response to it should be trained along with conditioning of the legs to be able to take more punishment.
Besides making the opponent miss and not presenting a target in the first place, checking a kick is the best option for defense. It has the potential to really hurt the kicker and leave you in a good position to deliver a counterattack.