Techniques>Kicks>Heel kicks

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Heel kicks


Heel kicks strike with the back of the heel. Since the heel is the largest and most massive bone in the foot, strikes using the heel can be devastating. A heel strike may be used in other kicks, such as a hook kick or axe kick, but this article deals specifically with heel kicks.

The heel kick is usually performed as a spin heel kick, but it can be performed with the lead leg using a turning motion, a sliding motion, a step behind motion, etc. A jump may also be added to the kicks.

Sometimes the heel kick is confused with the crescent kick. However, in the heel kick, the held horizontal and the back of the heel strikes the target, while in the crescent kick, the foot is held vertically and side of the foot or ankle strikes the target. Also, the heel kick can be confused with the hook kick but there is one important difference between the two kicks. In the hook kick, the kicking leg hooks (or bends) as it is pulled through the target. While, in the heel kick, the leg stays straight throughout the kick until the foot is near the floor at the end of the kick.

Heel kick

To perform a heel kick:
  • Keep the lead leg straight as you lift it straight up while turning the hips over as if you were doing a side kick. The kicking knee and toes point to the outside. 
  • Contract the core muscles and swing the straight leg into the target. The motion is similar to swinging a baseball bat. 
  • Strike with the back of the heel and pull the leg through the target and back to the floor, keeping the leg straight throughout the kick.

Spin heel kick

The spin heel kick requires a lot movement, so it is relatively slow when compared to other kicks. When used in combination with another hand or foot attack, the telegraphing motion of the spin may be hidden. In a self-defense situation, the kick is used as a finishing blow after the opponent has been stunned and unable to react to the kick. Like all kicks, the spin heel kick has its good and bad points.

Good points

  • If it contacts the head, it may cause devastating injury and even death.
  • If performed properly, the telegraphing motion may be hidden.

Bad points

  • Since it is most often aimed at the head it is easily evaded by experienced fighters.
  • It requires a lot of energy to execute.
  • It is difficult to control so it cannot be thrown at full speed while free-sparring.
  • It requires turning your back to your opponent, which telegraphs your intent and exposes you to attacks.
  • It is a "flashy" kick and thus is dismissed by some as ineffective.


The spin heel kick has two variations: kicking with the body upright and kicking with the body leaning backward.
  • In the body upright version, the kick resembles a crescent kick except the kicking foot is horizontal instead of vertical. In the body leaning version, the kicking leg and spine are in a straight line.
  • In the body upright version, the body is twisted in a tight coil and then the kick is released. This means the mass of the body weight is spinning in the direction of the target. In the body leaning version, the body leans backward and downward in a spin as the foot moves from the floor to the target. The leaning spin relies primarily on surprise to achieve its goal. Both kicks are powerful but there is no advantage gained from leaning backward. As the body leans and spins, about 50 percent of the body mass is leaning away from the target. With the tight spin of the upright version, practically all the mass of the body is spinning toward the target.
  • In the body upright version, the spin is quick. In the body upright version, the spin is slow since the mass of the kicking leg is further from the axis of spin. This is like the way an ice skater's spin increases in speed as the arms and legs are drawn closer to the body.
  • In the body leaning version, the kicking foot achieves its maximum force when it is in a straight line with the spine, which occurs before the target is reached. Since half of the kicker's mass is leaning backward, it is easy to block the kick with a single hand. In the body upright version, the kicking foot accelerates through the target as it follows the spine, which has already rotated past the target. This means most of the body's mass is applied to the target.

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