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Spinning is quickly rotating the body around its centerline. It is a much faster rotation than that used in pivoting.


Spinning is used in many sports to add speed and power to a technique, such as discus and hammer throwing, figure skating, and disc golfing. When a mass is spinning, centrifugal force builds in the mass and it is added to any other forces used to propel the mass.

Centrifugal force (outward from the center) is a term that describes the force of rotation around a central/pivotal point. Here are a few points to consider relating to this force:
  • During a spin, the closer the mass is to body’s centerline, the faster the rotation will be. Think about an ice skater as she brings her arms inward to speed up and extends them outward to slow down during a spin.
  • The closer the mass is to the body’s centerline, the more easily the mass may be controlled. It is easier for a thin person to maintain balance that for a fat person of the same height. 

Spinning in the martial arts

Spinning may be added to both hand and foot techniques. Spinning techniques are used in many martial arts patterns and are used extensively in sparring. They add power, speed, and misdirection to techniques, and are used to reach unguarded targets. Spins also permit the user to close or increase the range quickly and deceptively. Spinning adds more power to a technique due to the addition of the angular momentum generated by the rotation. Spinning techniques are difficult to defend against because of their power, momentum, and unpredictable angles of delivery. Spinning may be used with practically any technique, from practically any stance.

Spinning is dangerous to opponents in that it is difficult for attackers to control or stop the spin at the point of focus, or stop the spin when the opponent moves into the spin. Spinning is also dangerous to the user. For example, if you attack with a spinning back fist strike and the opponent suddenly closes the range, your elbow may contact the target first and become hyperextended and seriously injured. For these reasons, it is imperative that the head starts the spin so the target is acquired in enough time to control the technique, or abort it if necessary.

How to spin


Watch skaters and ballet dancers during their spins. In ballet, students are taught to keep the eyes fixed on a certain point while spinning, rotating the head very quickly around to look at the same point on each revolution. In skating, during very fast, long spins, skaters turn their heads with the rest of the body and blur their vision, as not to focus on any one point.

In the martial arts, we rarely spin more than 360 degrees and focus is usually only on one opponent at a time, so the ballet method of turning the head sharply and focusing on one point is best used in spinning kicks. Also, martial arts students learn that the eyes must see the target before it is struck to make sure it hasn’t moved. Seeing the target first also helps prevent injuries while sparring. Spinning means that the back is turned to the opponent for a moment. During that moment, the opponent may counter-attack so the eyes must get around first so they may detect any counter-attack.


When spinning, spin or twist the upper body first, then spin the lower body. This chambers the body by storing energy in the twist so it may then be released into the kick. The head spins first, then the shoulders and arms, then the torso, then the hips, and lastly, the legs. The head moves first since when the head turns the body will follow the movement. Also, since you must see the target before releasing the attack, this allows the eyes to acquire the target a moment before the technique is fired at the target. As the peripheral vision acquires and accesses the target, then the technique is released.


Proper spinning techniques depend on proper footwork. There are several methods used to spin, each with its inherent advantages and disadvantages.
  • Step method. The most common spinning method is to pivot on one foot (either on the heel or ball or the foot). The spin begins on either an advancing or retreating step. Weight is transferred to the supporting foot and the other foot begins the spin. This method is useful since it is quick and the spin may be performed in either clockwise or counterclockwise direction with either foot. However, range adjustments cannot be made with this method.
  • Cross-step method. The cross-step may also be used with a spin. 
  • In the inside cross-step, step the rear foot toward the opponent in front of the lead leg and immediately spin clockwise on this foot.
  • In the outside cross-step, step the rear foot toward the opponent in behind the lead leg and immediately spin counterclockwise on this foot. 
Major adjustments in range may be made by adjusting the depth of the step.
  • Jump method. The third type of spin includes a jump. A jump may be added to all the above spinning methods to add power and to either maintain, increase, or decrease the range. Minor adjustments in range may be made by adjusting the jumping angle.
In all spins, stay vertical and take care not to let the center of mass extend past the base. If this occurs, you will spin off center, lose stability and power, and expose yourself to a counterattack.

Offensive spinning

All hand and foot spinning techniques are delivered the same way as when the spin is not used. The user is defensively covered during most of the spin as long as the guard is maintained until the last moment. The hand or foot should not strike out until the last moment. This adds power since the spin will be quicker and the opponent will not be aware of which technique is coming until it is too late to react. The focused attack must come exactly as the spin completes. Spins may also be performed by stepping toward the sides, so you are out of the line of the opponent’s attack while still being able to complete your counterattack.

Defensive spinning

A spinning block adds power to the defense and brings the blocking motion in at a tangent to the incoming attack so that the attack is deflected at an angle rather than being met head on. This also allows the defender to evade further attacks while setting up a counterattack.
In competition, spinning may be used to draw warnings from the opponent. If you use a spinning attack at the first motion of the opponent's attack, the opponent's attack will probably strike an illegal target and the opponent will be awarded a warning by the referee. This technique must be used judiciously since you may also draw a warning for purposely turning your back to the opponent.

Performance tips

  • Start from your fighting stance with your knees bent. All fighting stances should have bent knees for quick movements.
  • First, snap the head around in the direction of the spin. The head must move first because:
  • The head is a heavy object and it only has the neck muscles to move it, so it needs to start moving first so it will be ahead of the rest of the body.
  • You tend to move in the direction the head turns. If you are a bicycle or motorcycle rider, you know that when you turn your head to look to the side, you tend to steer the bike in that direction.
  • When your head is facing away from the opponent, you are vulnerable since you cannot see the opponent; therefore, the head needs to snap around quickly.
  • You need to reacquire your target before your kick or hand attack is fired to ensure the target has not moved. If it has moved, you may shift your aim to the new location. Also, when sparring, if your opponent has moved closer, he or she will appreciate your noticing it and your adjusting your focus, so you do not strike him or her unintentionally.
  • Since you will not see your opponent for a moment while the head is turned, you need to get the head around quickly to see if the opponent is counterattacking.
If the spin is done properly, your head will snap around quickly. When the head suddenly stops after the spin, it takes a moment for the brain to settle down and the vision to clear, so the head needs to get around before the technique is fired.
  • As the head begins to reach the limit of its rotation, the shoulders, arms, torso, and hips begin to turn sequentially. If performing a kick, the feet have not moved yet, or they may have twisted slightly into the turn.
  • If performing a hand attack, the arms are still in their tight guard position; you happen to spin into a counterattack, you want to have your guard up. Sparring is like an old West gunfight where the fastest draw wins. If the opponent detects the spin coming and quickly fires a same side round kick toward your head and you do not have your guard up, you will get kicked on the head before you can fire your technique.
  • At this point, the entire body, from head to feet, has twisted into the spin and your arms are still in a tight guard. It is like the forces stored in the twisted ropes of a torsion-based trebuchet that are ready to be released.
  • As the twisting approaches its limit, you chamber and fire the technique just as you would if you had not spun. If the technique fired too early, the extended limb will pull the body off balance and make it wobble. Even if you able to complete the technique, your stability will be off enough that you will not be able to properly re-chamber and possibly re-fire the technique, and you will have to step the foot back down. When you are forced to step down, you may step into a counterattack or into a position that precludes your adding a follow-up technique. If you fire too late or miss the target, you will continue spinning; if you still have enough momentum, the kicking foot can spin back to its original starting position.
  • Re-chamber the technique quickly so you may retain your stability and either step into a chosen fighting position, re-fire the same technique, or add follow-up techniques.
  • When a spin is done properly, you won’t expose yourself to an attack during your attack and you will be able to step the kicking foot down anywhere you choose.
  • For some techniques, such as a spinning back fist, you may not need to move your feet at all. You may spin the torso, fire the technique, and then twist back into your original position without moving the feet, except for a slight twisting motion.
  • Do not make any other motions with your arms or body, just spin. Don’t swing the arms in the direction of the spin or chamber them in the opposite direction to prepare for the spin. Just move around, as usual, to lull the opponent into complacency and then sudden spin. An exception to this is when using a feign or fake movement to distract the opponent from the spin.
  • If you are adding a jump to the spin, jump first, then spin, and then fire the technique.
  • Power is affected by how far from the center of rotation (the centerline of the body) the target is located; power is reduced when the target is close to the center of rotation. 
  • While spin kicking, the spinning should be done with the mass as close to the pivot point as possible for maximizing speed and control. This means you must chamber the kicking leg as close to the body as possible, keep the arms in close. This will increase the speed of the spin and help prevent an off-balance spin. 
  • Keep the body vertical, any lean will cause you to become unbalanced. 
  • Another point to keep in mind while spinning is that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. While spinning the leg around in the spin side kick, the path the foot travels from the floor to the target should be essentially a straight line. To see this, perform a slow spin side kick and pay attention to the path of the kicking foot.
  • The secret to spinning is to stay upright, snap head around first, and keep arms and legs in tight until the last moment when they extend for the attack.

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