How viable is kicking as a self defence tool?
Last week I spent a long time reviewing the footage of every single normal speed self defence scenario that I've ever run since I started using body armour. That meant looking at hundreds of videos of participants engaged in role play in armour. I made a decision that I was only going to set aside videos that met the following criteris:
1. The speed was normal (ie not a slow skills access rehearsal).
2. The scenario was not pre-rehearsed, so the trainee(s) involved had no prior knowledge as to whether an attack would occur or not, who the attacker was, what the nature of the attack would be.
3. I would only include kicks made by people who were not role playing, so those who kicked while acting as an aggressor and already fixed on an attack strategy would not be included (though they feature if the defender also kicks in the same video).
4. I would include all attempts at kicks, whether they landed or not, whether they were successful or not. I would not count knee strikes as kicks. As a result I was looking for front kicks, roundhouse kicks, side kicks, flying kicks etc...
5. I would include less intense attacks if the recipient was an inexperienced student. We have people who are ungraded trying our Sim days in addition to people who have 6th Dans. As our aim is to push people rather than crush them, students who have shown themselves to be less able in early acclimatisation stages will face more intense attacks as the day progresses, but role playing attackers will still go easier on them than on more able participants.
The footage in the video below shows the results of the above search criteria from a pool of approximately 350 videos. There were 60 participants in the pool in total, 20 of them my DART Karate students, 40 from other styles. The participants ranged from people for whom this was there first ever form of martial arts training to people who had been training for decades (in one featured clip there is a 6th Dan JuJitsu Instructor and a 6th Dan TKD instructor) and included people as young as 12 years old. The non DART pool of trainees comprised people from the following backgrounds: BJJ, K1, Seido Karate, Wado Ryu Karate, Goju Ryu Karate, Shotokan Karate, Mushin Bushikan Ju Jitsu, Krav Maga, Choy Lay Fut, Modern Arnis, TKD, and San Shou.
One thing I found interesting was that the majority of kicks, successful or otherwise came from my DART Karate students. I found this of interest because we drill kicks against pads, but we have only one set drill that involves a kick (a round kick to the leg). The kicks they used (excluding knees which are bread and butter to us) were the front kick and the leg kick, although under pressure they frequently did not turn into the leg kick enough to get the power through. I stress kicks as a means of closing and creating distance, but all our drills are tactile and close range.
There are students participating from other systems who have done as many Sim Days as my guys who did no kicks, and a number of these come from styles that have a heavy emphasis on kicking training, so I think that the key factor here was not so much familiarity with the chaos of the simulated environment as familiarity with the possibilities of the range. A number of my students kicked on their first ever pressure training session.
If you've not seen this type of video before, be warned it looks messy and scrappy. The contact to the head is always pulled, but the students always try to go full contact to the rest of the body (bar the neck) - some of them manage this, others don't, but that is part and parcel of the psychology of this form of training and shifting between no contact and contact training depending on background.
WARNING - VIDEO CONTAINS SWEARING!
Some of the kicks were game changers, whether launched from the standing position or on the ground. But an ineffective kick attempt could also cause a lot of problems.
I hope there are things that people can take away from this footage. Comments welcome!