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Hand placement during kicks


Aug 31, 2005
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I've seen a lot of guys fighting in MMA (UFC, Pride,...etc), Muay Thai, and many other matrial arts that seem to drop their hands excessively. I was always taught to keep your hands up, pretty much like straight boxers would. Is that incorrect?
Some hand movement is inevitable when throwing kicks. Scissoring your upperbody gives you more power.
I'm convinced there is no "right" way other than what you're trained.

I had it drilled into me relentlessly when training TKD to keep my hands up; it's good general practice, even better in competition. Though when I watch competitive TKD these days, they not only drop their hands but sometimes barely raise them.

Likewise, my dad trained TKD in Korea (as have other guys I've known) and they were taught to swing the arm on the side of the kick leg down for power. I've tried it, and I just don't see the supposed quantum improvement. I throw my shoulders as well as hips into any turning kicks (roundhouse, spinning back kick, etc) and generate plenty of power without leaving an opening or putting my hands in a position where they're not at the ready for blocking or punching.
Ideally your hands would be up to protect you, but you have to take risks with any attack.
Any time you throw a punch, that's an opening for you to get hit, but you can't win without attacking.

Generally I'll drop my hands a bit because I'm used to the leverage to gain the power I want. It's probably better to train yourself to figure out where/when to kick, if you're throwing a big head kick with your rear/right leg, when you're leg is up there, there isn't much of an option for your opponent to punch through your leg. They'll be attacking you more forward, or on your left side.

I'd say the loss of balance and control form ANY attack you take while kicking, is the real problem. Won't matter too much if your hand is up, you're not going to just block it like it ain't no thang.

They shouldn't be in range to counter punch if you are doing a low kick, and if you're going for the headkick, you need all the power you can get.
from what i notice about myself is that I usually move one hand when ever I throw a kick, i don't really drop it but i just do it so counter balance a little weight. Gregster, I know what you mean, i'm always told to keep my hands up but when you watch Olympic level TKD they always have their hands by their side because they don't have to worry about punching to the head so they can guard there body more. I think it's bad form if your thinking about MMA
Michael Wanaka said:
For power, you need to drop the hand.
But it is still worth getting into the "good" habit of keeping your guard up when you kick. For a visual lesson on this see Mighty Mo's KO of Brecht Wallis from last year.
Leviathan333 said:
Ideally your hands would be up to protect you, but you have to take risks with any attack.

That's a good point. I suppose, as was mentioned above, that even the loss of balance caused by coming up on only one leg while throwing the kick is a risk in a of itself. I know that while watching a lot of MMA events I see the dropping of hands all of the time. Of course, when coming at full strength and spend, the opportunity for a counter-attack from the opponent isn't as likely as in, say, a lighter contact match where said opponent isn't worried about getting his/her head knocked off.
Dropping your hands down when throwing a roundhouse is fine. It gives you balance and added power. Unless your opponent is willing to run into your kick they won't be able to counter until your back is turned to them in which time you have enough time to put your guard back up. Plus when you're throwing the kick you lean your body away for added power and extension so it's unlikely you're going to get tagged.
For me i sometime drop my hand when i do a fast kick. When i drop my hand i can get more speed into my kick with the rotating from my hip. Once i finish my kick i immediatly put my hand up incase of a counter attack. But dropping your hand when doing a kick kinda leave yourself wide open for a counter attack if your oppent can see that.
At the school I used to go to I used to lean some when I kicked, and was never really told not to. Well, they just said don't rely on the leaning to get the height. At the school I currently go to, I'm constantly told not to lean and to always keep the hands up at every point during/throughout the kick. It gets a little frustrating, especially on spinning kicks for me.
Hands up, chin tucked at all times.
You can extend arms in front with some roundhouses, but protect face.
You DONT want want to get hit with a counter cross/jab.
i always drop my han when i throw a kick because i always seem to get a lot more power and balance when i do it that way. however, if you can manage to keep your hands up then by all means do that, it will protect you a lot more than my way of doing it will. it just depends on the person really, neither way is the right or wrong way
GCSD Fighter said:
Hands up, chin tucked at all times.
You can extend arms in front with some roundhouses, but protect face.
You DONT want want to get hit with a counter cross/jab.

Now that sounds like my instructor.
Couple of things I like to do:

-Jam the arm that's on the kicking side into your opponent's face on a low kick or mid kick. Rob McCullough and Duke Roufus teach this. Keeps the distance so he can't punch you, and it distracts him.

-Swing the kick-side arm down, but the opposite hand, swing in front of your face. You still get the coverage against the incoming punch (if it even comes), and you can swing your arm back.

-Tuck your chin into the shoulder of your swinging arm.
I do what Iceman mentioned. I stick out my kicking-side arm and swing it down as I kick while putting my other hand up to my face so I won't get clocked.
I was always taught to keep both hands up with the chin tucked...
aaron_mag said:
I was always taught to keep both hands up with the chin tucked...

That only works for some people. I am a heavyweight, and if I didn't swing the arm on the side that I am kicking with to the rear, I would lose balance. I do exactly like Shiroryuu and Iceman said. You can go one step further and raise your shoulder on the kick side(while your arm is swinging back) to protect your chin.
4th option: get better at setting up your kicks so that you don't need to worry about the oncoming punch. Granted, some guys are really good counterfighters, but you should be setting up your kicks with distractions and broken rhythm. Counterpunches come from figuring out a system and a pattern. Confuse your opponent, use your hands, and wait for him to be vulnerable to a kick. Then you don't even need to worry about a punch or takedown.

My favorite times to kick:

-Teep to the body or leg to stop an attack from coming in
-Throw a flurry with the hands, get his hands up, throw a kick to the ribs or legs.
-Drive him backwards, and while he's walking backwards, kick to the legs (you cannot fight when you're moving backwards)
-When he's hurt; i.e., when you hit him with a good shot and he's distracted
-When you've maneuvered yourself so that he's facing away from you. My favorite way to do this is by evading a leg kick, and when his leg travels past me, his hamstring is exposed. I catch a lot of people with this. This really aggravates people and without shinguards/full contact a few of these will really lay the hurt on him. It's also good when you add a pivot step to a slip, and you've maneuvered yourself so that you're facing his side. Good shot to the solar plexus should teach him to watch his footwork next time.
aaron_mag said:
I was always taught to keep both hands up with the chin tucked...

Yeah, that's how we're taught, too. It's kind of goofy sounding, but we were started off by touching our index fingers to our cheeks and leaving them there throughout the kicks. That way, you get in the habit of keeping your hands up.