Combat sports has become extremely popular in the United States of America, and since the Ultimate Fighting championship began in the 1990’s, the culmination of different Martial Arts has been integrated into one explosive style. One of these elements is kick boxing, and over the years some of the best fighters like Ernesto Hoost, Peter Aerts, Semmy Schilt, and Mirko CroCop have lit up the stage with their dynamic striking style. Learning a comprehensive Martial Art form like kick boxing takes a lot of hard work, mental and physical conditioning, consistency in training, and an aptitude for strategic planning.
What this article covers:
- What Is Kick Boxing
- Different Kick Boxing Stances
- How to Effectively Use Kick Boxing
- Kickboxing Training
One of the first concepts to learn when an athlete begins training in kick boxing workouts is the fighting stance. This can be an extremely important aspect, and this is due to the diversity that an opponent will show in competitive fights. There are different kinds of stances that each individual athlete will use, and once they understand how they can benefit the athlete, they can polish up their kick boxing combos.
Athletes can choose from a traditional stance like the orthodox stance, or use other stances for certain situations like the southpaw stance, the Muay Thai stance, the hands down stance, or the savate stance. Moving between different stances in kick boxing is a proficient way of negating an opponent's attack, while showcasing their own proficiency in striking.
WHAT IS KICK BOXING
Kick boxing is a hybrid version of other Martial Arts like Karate, Taekwondo, and Boxing. The art incorporates a full contact combat sport, that is based purely on punching, and kicking. The fight will usually take place in a Boxing ring, and will usually consist of both athletes wearing gloves. There are many different styles of kick boxing like Karate, Muay Thai, Japanese kick boxing, American kick boxing, Sanda, Taekwondo, and Savate. Each form has its minor differences and some even use an entirely different system of controls like Thai clinching. Kick boxing has been traced back to ancient Greece, and ancient India where many combative athletes would fight brutally using their hands and their feet.
In more modern times the art has derived from different styles like Taekwondo, Savate, Muay Thai, Boxing, and Karate in the 1950's, and the actual term of kick boxing was created in Japan, in the 1960's. The American form of kick boxing was created in the 1970's, and was showcased more prominently In 1974 when the PKA held their first historic world championship. The hybrid nature of kick boxing has become increasingly popular throughout the 1970's, and into the more modern era of combat. The popularity of different organisations like Glory, K-1, ISKA, One Championship, and WAKO, has propelled this form of combat into the future. Kick boxing was also a contributing factor, along with other styles of combat like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Wrestling, and Boxing to help with the emergence of Mixed Martial Arts.
DIFFERENT KICK BOXING STANCES
There are multiple stances that athletes will utilise in combat sports, and each of them can pose a tactical advantage for the athlete. The orthodox stance is the most traditional one, which involves an athlete standing with their left foot forward, and their right leg backwards. Their left hand is forward and guarding the temple, while their elbow protects their rib cage, and their right hand is back protecting their chin. They must make sure their feet are a shoulder's width apart, with their knees slightly bent, while ready to pounce on the balls of their feet. The left is always the jab, while the right hand is the straight, the cross, or the overhand punch.
The second most important stance in Martial Arts is the southpaw stance. This is another term for a left handed striker, because it is the mirror image of an orthodox stance. The athlete will stand with their feet a shoulder's width apart, with their right foot forward, and their left foot in the backwards position. The right hand will be up and used as the southpaw jab, while it guards the face, and their left hand cocked back guarding their chin, and ready to be a power punch. The southpaw is traditionally a left handed stance, but it is common to see an orthodox striker switch into a southpaw stance to confuse their opponents momentarily, as they throw valuable kick boxing moves.
The Muay Thai stance is a heavily weaponised stance, and this is due to the art of eight limbs. This means that Muay Thai fighters will use eight different points of contact in their striking, the fists, the feet, the knees, and the elbows. The Muay Thai stance has a very squared up posture with their hips facing forward, and their hands guarding up high to counter elbow, and high kicks attacks. The athlete will keep their chin tucked, and their toes pointing forward so they can easily check low kicks from their opponent. In Muay Thai, the conditioning of the shins is formidable, and receiving any kind of hard kick to the thigh or above, can spell danger for an athlete. The Muay Thai stance uses evenly distributed weight in both legs, so the athlete can maintain their balance when defending attacks. A Muay Thai stance does not use a huge amount of footwork, and this is because in a Thai fight, backward movement is seen as losing, therefore Thai fighters are always moving forward, meeting head on with their opponent. This stance is more about aggression, and hard striking rather than swift evasive maneuvers.
A traditional kick boxing stance is somewhere in the middle between a Boxing, and a Muay Thai boxing stance. Kick boxing incorporates many boxing fundamentals, just with the added advantage of using kicks. Now with the addition of clinching, and elbows into the K-1 Boxing organisation, the importance of using more boxing techniques is crucial. The athlete will stand with their feet a shoulder with apart, and with their front foot in the same line as their back foot. The front foot is always pointing forward, and both knees are slightly bent. The athlete's lead hand is in more of a forward position, while the rear hand stays guarding the chin, as their weight is evenly distributed between both feet. This stance is designed specifically for an athlete to counter incoming kicks, as they use their own kick, or switching action to utilise different kick boxing kicks.
In Mixed Martial Arts kickboxing is a huge draw card for many strikers. Because MMA is a hybrid version of all Martial Arts combined into one, the traditional Mixed Martial Artist will use a variety of different boxing and kick boxing stances. It is quite common to see an MMA athlete switch between an orthodox, and a southpaw position, as they engage in different boxing methods. In MMA an opponent can be taken down to the ground, so there is always an added instinctive aspect that the athlete will remain in a guarded position. This is why two combatants inside an MMA cage will be extremely cautious with how they kick, check kicks, or attempt punching combinations. In Mixed Martial Arts, the fight is about identifying what the opponent brings to the table, and this means that all athletes will come in with a game plan to combat their opponents style. This means there is no definitive MMA stance, instead there are only variations of different stances used, depending on what style an opponent comes in with.
Savate fighting is known as French boxing, or French foot fighting. The art is a form of French kick boxing that uses punches, and kicks, and has combined English Boxing with a series of technical kicking techniques. The Savate stance incorporates an athlete to stand with their feet a shoulder width apart, with an even weight distribution on each foot. The heels will be slightly raised off of the mat, with one side more angled towards the front. This is so they can access a wider range of kicking techniques. This type of stance will give an athlete a better structure to defend, and a more even platform to throw striking combinations. Savate fighters are well known to move gracefully, and quickly, as they focus on lateral movements to escape, and change their angle of attack.
Boxing stances can be modified, and applied to kick boxing platforms, which many old school professionals like Ernesto Hoost, and Semmy Schilt have done. Mike Tyson made the peek a boo stance famous, as he decimated many challengers in his fifty win fight career. This stance is more of a defensive one, and involves both of the athlete's hands to be firmly held up high, guarding the chin. The athlete's hips are squared off and facing forward, while their elbows are tightly tucked into their rib cage, which will protect them from strikes to the body. Moving in at an opponent with a front on method, can open up a different range of techniques like straight punches, especially with the added factor of head movement. The hands down stance is more of a showboating concept, and this involves an athlete to leave their hands down by their waist, leaving their chin unguarded. An athlete will rely upon anticipation, and speed to avoid dangerous punches, before using hand, and head movements to distract the opponent. Traditionally throwing punches from outside of the natural line of sight can be hard to defend, but leaving an athlete's head exposed to punches from their opponent, might be a little too concerning.
HOW TO EFFECTIVELY USE KICK BOXING
Beginners in the art of kick boxing can be extremely overwhelmed at the start, and because of the nature of most striking Martial Arts, students will need to implement some tactics to help their transition. The most important factor at the beginning is to stay calm, and relaxed. An athlete that is tensed, or using too much strength can often find themselves having a range of different problems. The key component to staying calm is breath control, and athletes will need to regulate their breathing so they can keep their adrenaline levels low, giving them a calmer nature, which enables a more calculated and intelligent style of attack. An athlete that panics will commonly over commit, which can lead to undefended counter attacks.
Setting goals is another highly important factor, and is how any athlete will ultimately build up their skill sets in kick boxing. Jumping in the deep end, and throwing seven hit combinations that finish with high kicks are just not sustainable, especially for beginners. To develop an effective method of kick boxing, an athlete should start by punching the jab, and this means to throw short combinations, and really start to practice creating enough space to be able to follow through, and execute kicks. Athletes should start off by kicking low, and build their way up to the midsection, and then to the head, and this is the only way they will develop a significant series of high calibre kicks. The lure to kick an opponent in the head may be strong, but a good leg kick is much more effective, and will land more times out of ten than a high kick will. Not to mention kicking at an opponent's head can compromise an athlete's balance structure, whereas a low kick has a better centre of gravity, and will enable them to continue executing punching combinations.
Consistency is crucial in developing any form of high level striking, and this means to participate in regular training. If an athlete only trains twice a week they may still slowly improve their skills, but they won't necessarily improve the fluency or the connection of all of their systems. Training four sessions per week will allow the athlete to find their rhythm, while at the same time developing a significant amount of physical, and mental conditioning. Becoming a world class striker with a highly effective form in kick boxing, involves building core strength, and a comprehensive cardiovascular fitness. Running, kettlebell training, and shadow boxing drills can be some of the most effective methods of functional kick boxing training. All athletes will need to commit to a high intensity of exercise, so they can build strength, fitness, and efficient Martial Arts skill.
Developing an athlete's kicking accuracy, and power can take a lot of dedication to their kick boxing training. One of the most common ways to train kicks in Martial Arts is by using Muay Thai pads, Boxing bags, and kick shields. Athletes will throw different combinations with their feet, and most of these combinations incorporate different punching elements. It is important to develop a systematic flow, and symbolic nature between a kickboxer's punching, and kicking. This is the only way to build a comprehensive kick boxing game that can be utilised in a professional fight. Athletes will usually throw lighter to heavier kicks, depending on what type of combination they are using to set up their opponent. This could be a teep, before rushing in and throwing a jab cross combo, and finishing with a hard leg kick.
Athletes can use the kick shields to practice the power within their kicks, and commonly in a kick boxing training session athletes will be made to throw a volley of shots, using significant power to build up the conditioning within their shin. Kicking relentlessly into a kick shield will build up a significant power within the kick, but will also build endurance muscle within the striker's kicking ability. Trainers are good at using pads, and will commonly help an athlete to fine tune their striking combinations by giving them intricate patterns to follow. This is basically like a Boxer hitting the focus mitts, and a trainer will sometimes wear a rib shield so the athlete can throw punches into the focus mitts, and kicks at the same time. This is why Thai pads are also extremely versatile, because they act like focus mitts, but can still be used to kick at the same time. A good concept for an athlete to follow is to become just as skilful at holding the pads, as they are at kicking them, and this is because holding the pads will help them to understand how to throw each combination effectively.
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