Yoko Geri

Yoko Geri

Side Kick

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
Slide
Up
Thrust
Back
Down
Out

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.

Slide

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.

Up

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.

Thrust

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.

Back

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.

Down

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.

Back

With the weight now on the front foot, you slide back to your initial kiba dachi stance.

Conclusion

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?

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Theodore Kruczek is the founder and head writer of the Okinawan Karate-do Institute. He is a 4th Degree Black Belt in Okinawan Shorin-ryu with more than 14 years of experience. This site was created as his way of both teaching his own Karate and learning about others.

Comments (5)

  1. Video explanation of the kick is now online. Please give me some honest feedback on this video. If it is well received there will be plenty more. If no one is interested, I can focus on other things.

  2. Great demonstration. I find it interesting to see the variations of basic techniques from style to style. I’ve been studying Shotokan for about 3 1/2 years and don’t pretend to be an expert on anything but Im always interested in learning more every day. Our school seems to teach “side snap kick” and “side thrust kick” as two different kicks. At times when you stepped across and then kicked, it made me think of our thrust kick which is striking with the heel and uses the glutes for power. The other low strikes to the leg seem to be our snap kick with a quick snapping action in the knee that ends in a strike with the side of the foot. The higher strikes make me think of what I would expect of as a more “Chinese” style side kick which we don’t seem to practice in my school although I would like to. Nothing negative, it just seems like there are three kicks there in your demonstration. Maybe that is the point to have it flexible for different situations. Just curious about your thoughs on this.

    • Thanks for the input Lee! Yoko Geri is literally translated as “side kick” so my thrusting vs snapping kick are all thrown under that name. Similar to how a thrusting Mae Geri is lumped in with a snapping one. There are probably better terms for the specific kicks, but I am not fluent by any means.

      As for the high chinese kicks – I’d agree. A high kick for me is to the stomach – most people think of it as a face kick. I think one of the reasons the chinese have these kicks and the japanese (Shotokan) do not is the average height of the people. It is just far more practical to kick them in the knee when they are taller.

      I defintely did not take your comments negatively, and you are right – there are many different variations to that kick, as are there many variations to every move. If I were to punch your cheek, my hand would move slightly differently than if I punch your chest. It is subtle, but different. With practice (against an opponent) we begin to notice which variant works better in different situations.

      I think people should practice as much as possible with real opponents and naturally connect the dots – rather than me writing a book on which variants to use when. One, because that would be a boring book. Two, because you learn Karate best by doing. That muscle memory is key to a successful fight.

  3. In my experience with Chinese gong fu, I seem to see more low kicks than high kicks. I have been training in JKA/ISKF Shotokan for going on 10 years now. Lee is correct in the the way we have two distinct ways of executing the side kick. My Si-hing is a Instructor in Northern five animal gong fu and also a Southern system of Hung-Gar. Now this just might be his style of fighting but the low kicks really seems prominent…my shins agree with me haha. I have seen a great deal of high kicks in the northern forms, but in combat they don’t seem to go above the waist and tend to frequent, quick, sharp(and painful), distracting kicks to my shins and ankles. The above explanation of the side kick is great, and the break down will really help beginners know what to look for when doing this kick. Also, when I was sparring with a group from a Taekwondo school they really had some high awesome kicks. No, I didn’t spar them all at the same time. Although I would have liked to. Keep training. Great post. Osu.

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