How to

Thigh Kick/ Mawashi Geri Gedan

Photo 02-10-2014 21 03 13 (9)

This article covers how to perform thigh kicks or in Japanese, Mawashi Geri Gedan.  Around the world different martial arts and combat sports have a variety of methods for teaching and executing this technique.  Which one is the best?  The answer to this question is simple – the one which works best for you.  We are all different and so each individual will favour a method that is suitable for them.

In this article I describe our approach to Mawashi Geri Gedan.  This kick is devastating and can cause a lot of pain and even prevent the opponent from being able to stand or walk.  Correctly executed the kick may be equivalent to being hit by a weight of up to two tonnes (metric).

We have a lot of variations of this kick.  For example sometimes we kick with the foot/shin travelling upward, sometimes the kick drops down and pushes into the thigh and sometimes the kick is just a tap to score a point.  All of these variations have their uses, but personally I believe that the best results are achieved when the kick is done in its most basic form where it travels along a single horizontal plane using correct body mechanics with the muscles tensing at the appropriate time.

A thigh kick is most effective and safe when performed with the shin, as the foot is fragile. The part of the shin that comes into contact with the target is the sharp edge of the bone where there is little muscle.

Impact point on the shin

Impact point on the shin

When kicking this way there are two options for the setup of the foot – the toes can be pointed or the foot can be pulled back.  In both cases the aim is that the foot muscles are tensed.  Many injuries are caused when a kick is performed with the foot relaxed.  This is because if the foot is relaxed not only are the muscles in the foot relaxed, but also the muscles in the lower part of the leg are relaxed.  Kicking with the lower leg muscles relaxed can result in a broken shin.


The following description provides an overview of the basic mechanics of a thigh kick.

Let’s start with the supporting leg. The correct setup of this leg is crucial to performing a powerful thigh kick (or indeed any kick).  I will describe the kick from a fighting stance where our left foot is forward and the right leg will kick.

The left foot steps outward slightly (to the left) to just past the centre line of the opponent’s body. When stepping the toes on the left foot turn outwards.

Photo 02-10-2014 21 01 43 (1) b

This move allows us to open out hips and protect our knee from over twisting.  It also gives more power to the kicking leg.  After moving our supporting foot we then shift our body weight to the front leg and start to lift the kicking leg up.

Photo 02-10-2014 21 01 53 (2)

Our body is now ready to pivot on the support leg with the knee of the kicking leg rising to the side (we imagine that our kicking leg will have to pass over a chair that is placed right in front of the right leg).  This lift gives us momentum to pivot and our kicking knee should travel in a wide arc towards the opponent, making sure that it passes the centre line of the opponent’s body.

When we pivot on our supporting leg, our body has to work like a door – the left side of the body is hinged and the right side of the body can move freely about this hinge.  The upper part of the body works like a counter weight and so the right arm will travel in the opposite direction to the right leg.

Photo 02-10-2014 21 01 44

At the point of impact our shin hits the thigh of our opponent and at the same time our supporting knee works like a compressing spring, which makes the shin drop down further, giving us more energy.  When our shin comes into contact with the thigh all of our muscles have to contract and our mind has to focus on the delivery of force to the target. Our aim is to kick just to the side of the thigh where the nerves are placed.

Photo 02-10-2014 21 01 52Photo 02-10-2014 21 03 13 (8)

After kicking the right leg is pulled back quickly to avoid being caught.  In our basic practice the return path is the same as the arc followed when the kick went in.

This description provides an overview of the mechanics of the kick, but is limited by the static pictures.  Next week I will provide a video of the kicking motion.  However, neither of these can replace the feeling that is experienced when actually performing the kick therefore it is always best to train with an instructor.  Below you can find a set of pictures that provides the sequence for the whole kick.

Photo 02-10-2014 21 02 46 (4) Photo 02-10-2014 21 02 46 (5) Photo 02-10-2014 21 02 46 (6) Photo 02-10-2014 21 02 46 (7) Photo 02-10-2014 21 02 46 (8) Photo 02-10-2014 21 02 46 (9) Photo 02-10-2014 21 02 46 (10)

Photo 02-10-2014 21 03 13 (1) Photo 02-10-2014 21 03 13 (2) Photo 02-10-2014 21 03 13 (3) Photo 02-10-2014 21 03 13 (4) Photo 02-10-2014 21 03 13 (5) Photo 02-10-2014 21 03 13 (6) Photo 02-10-2014 21 03 13 (7) Photo 02-10-2014 21 03 13 (8)

Many thanks for reading.  I hope you found it useful.  Please feel free to share!

5 replies »

      • Anything about traditional martial arts that promotes realistic fighting and wide ranges of options like low kicks, stuff that could be used in real fighting while studying the traditions and self defense concepts is good to me.

  1. Good explanation. I’m missing something however: In your explanation, you skipped over when you’re supposed to twist on the ball of your supporting leg’s foot. This is something I’m struggling with, do you have any tips on the twisting with your foot without losing your balance or power?

    • Hi thanjs for comment, there are few options which depend from your preference. Some people prefer to pivot during the kick others turn foot before kick. In first option hips have to go farwards which gives more stability. I prefer to put my foot turn before kick it needs to move over opponents center line. It is just more comfortable for me, try different options and find one works best for you 🙂
      Regards Les

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.