The Oblique Kick

Oblique Kick

An effective, but relatively obscure technique of traditional Okinawan karate and Chinese martial arts, the oblique kick (also called the shovel kick) is slowly beginning to gain popularity. One would expect this popularity to be in the dojo, but it can actually be found in the cage. Karateka have known about this kick for a long time, but many seemed to forget about it as sport karate grew in popularity. Mixed martial artists like Jon Jones, Benson Henderson, Carlos Condit, and Conor McGregor, among others, have been using this kick to great effect. The world of martial arts and combat sports has taken notice, and people are starting to talk about it.

What Is It?

The oblique/shovel kick is a strike with the heel or edge of the foot that is executed across the body by either swinging the foot upward in a scooping motion, or by stomping with the foot in a linear motion, with the toes angled outward. It is present in martial arts from all over Asia, and can be found in several Okinawan karate kata. The most obvious example would be the Naihanchi/Tekki series of kata, which utilize this kick in both their cross-stepping motions and their nami-gaeshi (returning wave) sweeping motions. Older versions of Passai and Kusanku also include these movements, and they can also be found in Chinese forms and the dances of Silat.


Despite the technique feeling awkward and being difficult for some people with limited flexibility, it has a wide variety of uses. The kick can be directed at the ankle or knee to disrupt balance, or to cause injury to those joints. It can be directed, instead, to pressure points along the inside of the leg, which can be found from just above the ankle all the way up to the groin. For those wishing to put their opponent on the floor, it can be used to facilitate a sweep by kicking the lower leg out from beneath a person. Similarly, it can be wedged into the back of the knee to force that knee down to the floor. At longer range, it can be thrown to the hip joint or stomach like a stop-kick to prevent someone from closing distance, or it can be thrown to the front of the thighs for the same effect.


In order to be able to use this kick effectively, you must train both power and accuracy. There are three primary tools that should be used for this–a heavy bag that touches the floor, a makiwara, and a partner. The heavy bag will help you learn to use this kick powerfully and with proper form, as well as allow you to work it in combination with other techniques (if your bag is tall enough). The makiwara will continue to develop power, but with the added benefit of conditioning your foot for potential collisions with knees and shin bones, and it also requires you to be more accurate than the heavy bag does since it is a narrower target. The partner work should be done with pads so that you can strike at the targets you actually intend to kick without causing your partner too much pain or injury–this should go from simple repetitions of the kick, to combinations that include the kick, to incorporating the kick into your regular sparring and drilling.

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By Noah LegelNoah Legel on Facebook Visit author's website

Noah Legel has been training in martial arts since 2006, and holds rank in Shorin-Ryu (Iikyu), Shuri-ryu (Sankyu), and Judo (Gokyu). In addition, he has training in Okinawan kobudo and Japanese Shinkage-Ryu Iaijutsu, and cross-trains with other martial artists whenever possible. He currently runs his own blog, Budo no Kaizen, and is a frequent contributor to the Okinawan Karate-do Institute and offers great insight from the Non-Black Belt perspective.

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