Mawashi Geri (Roundhouse Kick) is one of the more common kicks used in all martial arts. It is similar to a volley kick in football (soccer) and can cause a significant amount of damage if done correctly. While in many sport martial arts it is common to see a Mawashi Geri used to strike an opponent in the face and win extra points in a point sparring match, I will be discussing only the combative side of this kick and how to effectively use it in a real fight for your life.
There are the same four steps in Mawashi Geri as in Mae Geri (Front Kick), how you perform those movements is a bit different though. The four steps are:
These movements will vary if you are performing this technique in different stances or using the lead foot instead of the rear foot. For simple instruction, I will be talking only about performing Mawashi Geri from a Zenkutsu Dachi (Forward Stance).
Assuming you are already in Zenkutsu Dachi, the first movement is to bring the knee up. Similar to Mae Geri, the higher you bring your knee up the better. The difference here is that you want to bring it up so that your leg is parallel to the floor rather than perpendicular. This could be considered your chamber position before you strike.
The second part is the attack itself. You snap your leg out towards the opponent with the intention of cause as much damage as possible. Your strike hinges on your knee, but should also be propelled forward by your hips. The more hip work you are doing, the less strain that is on your knee. The striking surface for this attack is the top of your foot on the Cuneiform bones or as low as the Metatarsus bones. It is not a toe kick for 99% of the people who perform it. Those wearing steel toe boots and those extremely well conditioned toes are in the minority.
While Mae Geri can be either a thrust kick or a snap kick, Mawashi Geri is always a snap kick. The “snapping” motion of quickly kicking your leg out and then retracting it is what generates its power. The more important thing, it keeps you from being drug to the floor. You pull the leg back to the same position it was in during the “Up” stage. From here you can decide to move forward or back to your original Zenkutsu Dachi.
This stage is where you set your feet back onto the ground either moving forward or back. It is important to develop the balance to get back to this step. Many new karateka will perform Mawashi Geri and then just drop their foot to the ground immediately after striking in the “Out” stage. This leaves them highly vulnerable and is sloppy technique.
This is one of the fastest kicks in Karate because it is always a snapping motion. Your target is normally a softer target below the chest. The stomach, ribs, and kidneys are all excellent targets. In some cases it is very beneficial to attack the sides or back of the opponents knees, but this requires practice and should not be done without some initial supervision. If anyone has a different method for doing this technique, please share it with everyone. My next article will cover a great exercise to practice this attack from Kiba dachi with the front foot.