The leg kick is increasingly becoming more popular and is a staple of most striking martial arts, especially in Muay Thai. Because of its extensive use, many athletes get stuck on a fundamental question: how to check a leg kick?
A lot of incorrect information revolves around this question. You must be sick of people telling you to lift your leg as high as possible, thinking that your shin is enough to protect your from the attack. The correct way to check a kick is not that, but to stop the kick with the uppermost part of the shin near the knee.
Why Is It Important To Check Leg Kicks?
Checking a kick is primarily blocking a kick with your leg using the upper part of your knee or shin bone. It can damage the attacker’s foot and shin and even end in a broken leg for the kicker in a worst-case scenario.
The leg kick essentially debilitates your opponent and scoring some points by slowing their movements. It is also one of the most powerful tools for changing levels and giving your opponent something different to worry about.
However, this doesn’t mean that leg kicks don’t have fight-ending potential. There are several instances of fighters effectively ending fights with leg kicks. That means learning how to check a leg kick is essential for fighters. Practice makes perfect, and if you check a kick correctly, you can put off your opponent from throwing more for a while.
Leg kicks are one of the most powerful ways of compromising your opponent. If you take away the fighters legs, you take away their ability to generate power. A check essentially means blocking a kick with your leg and is different from the other forms of defense.
A good check is carried out to oppose the strongest part of the bone against the kicker’s weakest part, which is the bottom of the tibia or the instep. Although it affects both the defender and the kicker with a painful blow, the attacker always suffers from the worst part.
A leg kick that hits the peroneal nerve can be especially brutal. If the kick is well-placed it’ll cause fighters to lose sensation in their foot completely. The peroneal nerve is present just below the knee, and it goes very close to the surface. This nerve is responsible for regulating movement and sensations on the outer part of the shin and top of the foot and is commonly affected in a calf kick.
Notable UFC Leg Kicks
It causes them to stumble or fall, giving you a big window of opening. We all know what happened to star Sean’ O Malley at UFC 252: the young star went up against Chito Vero. In the very first round, Vera landed a calf kick that aggravated Sean’s peroneal nerve. He eventually lost the fight via TKO, as his foot stopped functioning properly.
There are plenty of fighters in MMA that are exceptional at throwing leg kicks. One of the most exceptional leg kickers is Justin Gaethje. He’s capable of completely dismantling opponents with sharp leg kicks. On the other hand, fighters like Adesanya are experts at using the leg kick to distance opponents and open up his striking.
Fighters primarily target a leg kick at the calf or the thigh, and a few powerful kicks to the thigh muscle can significantly hamper the ability to fight. It can also affect a fighter’s mobility, power transfer, and balance. Since the calf has relatively more minor muscle to protect the bones and the nerves, even a tiny number of kicks can completely shut down your opponent’s leg.
Defending yourself against a brutal leg kick without checking a leg kick is impossible. Checking the kick also causes considerable damage to your opponent, and we have the example of the UFC 168 where the world witnessed a leg break in the fight between Anderson Silva and Chris Wiedman.
The event took place on 28th December 2013 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Anderson threw a leg kick at 3:49 minutes of the second round, and the world watched in horror as it visibly broke his leg. Thankfully, Anderson recovered from his injury and returned on UFC 183 on 31st January 2015.
How to Check a Leg Kick Properly
If you want to start fighting properly, you’ll need to learn how to check a leg kick properly. Leg kick are painful and debilitating. Not only do they hurt a lot, they can slow fighters down and make them prone to more damaging strikes.
One other factor that adds to the efficiency of leg kicks is that the human mind tends to focus on the parts that hurt. Thus, the pain thoroughly distracts you from everything else. In turn, it makes the fighter more vulnerable to other strikes.
Although there are four leg kicks that you can possibly meet with, the technique of blocking them is primarily the same. The shin area you use to check is the same area you need to kick with, and it is the top of the tibia just below the knee.
It is the densest and thickest part of the level and is known to absorb immense force effectively. Additionally, the sharp protuberance of the bone (which is also known as the tibial tuberosity) digs into the shin of the kicker. It is a lot more painful than it sounds and can even split your opponent’s skin. If that happens and your opponent bleeds profusely, they lose the match by default.
Let us look into the technique of checking a leg kick:
1. Shifting your weight onto your help
Checking one leg requires balance, and thus you need to shift your weight onto the other heel. It requires you to keep a flat standing foot to establish balance without tripping over.
2. Lifting your leg
It is crucial to life the checking leg in a straight line from the knee. The straighter you keep the line, the cleaner your check would turn out. If you want to strike your opponent’s shin directly without moving around, manage your leg as it goes. Keep in mind that checking will undoubtedly result in damage, and thus you need to minimize that damage as much as possible.
3. Meeting the opponent’s shin with your own
Meet your opponent’s shin with your own, but don’t clash with it. Knocking your shin against the kicker will damage your leg pretty bad. Also, make sure that you stop the kick effectively as if catching it.
Under any circumstances, don’t attempt to absorb the lift with the fleshy and muscular part of your calf. That part contains the anterior tibialis muscle, and damage to it would result in a nasty crook leaving you unable to stand. If you can’t stand, you cannot fight.
4. Keeping your checking leg firm
You need to ensure that the kick stops flush, which won’t be possible if your foreleg is not firm. An intelligent opponent is most likely to pick up on it and kick straight through your check to strike your standing leg the next time around. You must be well-conditioned to both check and kick effectively. A kicker needs to condition their shins on a sandbag to improve their kicking technique out of sight.
What not to do when checking a kick?
Kickers usually have a lot of momentum going through their leg when kicking, and this translates into a large amount of stress in your shinbone in the form of a bending moment. Enough momentum can cause the shinbone to snap because bones resist compression instead of being elastic.
It is crucial to remember that the knee is bent but not entirely on the checker’s part. It causes the impact to bend further until the calf potentially strikes the thigh. The leg bending, acting as a cushion, absorbs part of the hit’s energy.
Not bending the shin or fully bending the knee can cause increased bending moment, resulting in a snapped tibia. The unnecessary crunching of the body can also cause immense damage on the kicker’s part.
Is learning how to check a leg kick enough?
Some fighters believe that simply checking a leg kick is enough to win a game. That is not true because even when you check a leg kick, both you and your opponent are bound to sustain damage.
That is why it is crucial to condition your shin in a way that withstands a considerably forceful leg check kick and minimizes as much damage as possible.
Using the kneecap and shinbone, both of which kind of stick out from the body, to check the kick means receiving a kick straight on the bone instead of the muscle tissue.
Similarly, a strong kick on the side or back of the thigh can cause considerable damage, resulting in a reduced balance, hampered mobility, and less powerful kicks.
Checking with a bone does reduce the long-term damage sustained and the pain, as there are fewer pain receptors in a bone than in a muscle. However, the chances for a kicker’s leg to break before the defender are higher.
Checking the kick simply redirects the blow to an area that is more likely to withstand the force or absorb it, at least as compared to the kicker. When checking, it is crucial to keep a strong and upright posture and position your shin perpendicular to the ground.
You should also turn your hip out at an angle and point your knee at about 45 degrees while contracting your glutes. In addition, try your best to avoid common mistakes, including bending your shin, crouching your body, and pulling your leg straight up. Checking a leg kick is a powerful phenomenon, and you can use it extensively to your advantage once you master these techniques.