The Yoko Geri (Side Kick) is one of the strongest kicks in the karateka’s arsenal. Unlike the mae geri and the mawashi geri, the yoko geri (as taught here) is a thrusting kick that generates a great amount of power capable of breaking a knee or a rib.
The process is similar to other kicks we have discussed. For this particular example, we will start in kiba dachi (horse stance). The steps are:
Point the Knee
As always, there are different stances this kick can be performed from including, shiko dachi, zenkutsu dachi, and shizentai dachi. The example technique is used a lot in sparring matches as an initial strike. It is very powerful and can be used to disable an attacker.
Point the Knee
The first part of this technique is to point the knee at your target / in the direction of the attack. In pointing the knee, you also turn the foot in the same direction. This sets up the torquing motion of the attack and helps add power to the attack. It is additionally useful in protecting your knee cap from a counter attack from your opponent.
After you point the knee, you can either slide the rear foot immediately up to the foot that is now pointed at the attacker, or you can shuffle forward leading with the front foot towards that target and then finish by sliding the rear foot up to the lead foot.
As in most kicks, you lift the attacking foot (the front foot in this case) up off of the ground. The higher you lift it the more power you will generate (to a certain point). If the situation changes, you can stop the technique here and use this as only a block from an attack.
This is the most complicated part of the technique. The supporting foot pivots from its current position at a 45 degree angle, 90 more degrees towards the outside of the body, so that it ends up at a 45 degree angle facing the rear of the body. As this foot pivots, the foot that is in the air torques in a cork screw motion so that heel thrusts towards the target. The striking surface is usually said to be the “knife edge” of the foot (the outside ridge), but I have found it to be more effective to try and point the toes down and try to strike with the heel. If you can’t twist your leg that way and make contact with the knife edge, that is better than having trouble with a knife edge and striking with the toes pointed towards the ceiling.
It is important to note that this technique is never used above the lower ribs. It is a knee, ankle, or rib attack and can put you in danger of being reversed if you aim for your opponent’s head.
As the title suggests, you retract the foot so that the knee is facing the ceiling and the supporting foot is back to its initial 45 degree angle. It is important not to drop the foot straight down after the attack because it leaves you vulnerable.
The attacking foot drops down to its position prior to being lifted off the ground. Knee is still facing the target and weight is going to be shifted to it before the final part of the technique.
With the weight now on the front foot, you slide back to your initial kiba dachi stance.
This is a powerful attack that can be seen in many movies and at most sparring tournaments as the initial attack by new karateka hoping to surprise their attacker. The same process can be used, omitting the thrust, to perform a mawashi geri quickly while gaining ground between yourself and your attacker/opponent.
As always, questions and comments are welcome. This is my preferred method of teaching this technique, does your school start students off with a side kick from zenkutsu dachi? We also teach this as part of the second group of kicks learned at 8th Kyu time frame. Do you teach new students this powerful attack?