Dojo Rat has an interesting post, Grappling vs. The High Kick, which explores the subject of using and defending high kicks. DR's conclusion is basically something that most experienced instructors preach, and that he's said many times, "Anytime you extend your limbs too far beyond your core area you risk being taken off balence, thrown to the ground and could potentially have your leg damaged."
I have to agree with that, and it'd be my advice to just about everyone, almost without exception. Almost...
The downside of kicking high:
High kicking is controversial inside the martial arts community for all the reasons DR specified, and more, including that they are:
- thus easier to defend or avoid because they are perceived sooner with more time to react
- Weaker (less speed and acceleration mean less power) than kicks to a lower target
- Require more coordination, which may be in short supply when the sh** hits the fan!
- Leave great openings in the groin and support leg
- Less stable more prone to cause a fall, which, in a life or death encounter, may prove fatal
Specifically, high kicks will probably get you taken down by grappling techniques (not just grapplers) where someone has picked up your timing. Those defending high kicks accomplish this by timing the kick, jamming it (moving inside the kick to either prevent it from fully chambering or nullifying the power of the technique), catching the kick, or shooting for a sweep or takedown while the kick is on the way.
What a grappler can do to your fancy high kicks:
What you may pick up from all of the grappling counters is that the defender has to:
- Know the kick is coming
- Anticipate the type and angle of the kick
- Be faster or have better timing than the kicker, usually as a result of the first two points
When and how to use them cool moves:
Notice that in all cases, it's a mistake on the part of the kicker that will lead to his demise. So what do you do if you have superior kicks, including the speed, power, and flexibility to execute high kicks in self defense? I would advise the following:
- Only use high kicks as a surprise attack, and then, only rarely. If you try it and miss, don't try it again or even an unskilled opponent may pick up your timing and dump you!
- Only execute a high kick if you have a perfect opening for one. It shouldn't be used as an opening move, but when your opponent is stunned or biting on something else which leaves said opening. An example is to use hand and upper body techniques to pound the body, driving the opponent back, then unleashing the head kick as he moves backward. In that case, he's not ready or able to counter or defend the kick well.
- Be sure of your footing. If you are on a slick surface, or with unsure footing (sand, gravel, wet, snow, or ice), or even in a dark area, you'd be dumb to try it. If you have some nice pavement or blacktop, with even footing, and you can use it as a surprise, go for it.
- Make sure you rechamber or retract your kick quickly. Otherwise you will be looking up at the stars, or just seeing them.
My free advice on high kicking on the street:
High kicking is risky behavior. Right up there with overextending a punch, leaving your guard down while infighting, or poor timing. No better, no worse. The consequences of all of them can be bad. If you are fast enough, and don't rely on them as your bread and butter, high kicks can be effective on the street. Would I advise it, no. Would I do it? I think so, depending on the situation. You have to decide for yourself. I really only advise kicking to the head when your opponent is on the ground...