Created by In Hyuk Suh in 1958, kuk sool won is a comprehensive system of strikes, kicks, animal-inspired techniques, throws, grappling moves and weapons. One of the trademark strategies used with many of its moves is the spin. It introduces the element of surprise and generates incredible power.
When it comes to self-defense, perhaps the most useful spinning technique is the low spinning heel kick. Although kuk sool won teaches several variations of the kick, this article will focus on the basic one.
For the low spinning heel kick to be effective, you need speed, flexibility and commitment. If you execute the technique too slowly, your opponent can counter by stepping out of range. If you lack the requisite flexibility, your body won’t be able to move quickly enough or get low enough for the element of surprise to work. If you attempt the kick but change your mind halfway through, you’ll find yourself inside your opponent’s defenses, off-balance and low to the ground with virtually no way out. However, once you’ve acquired the necessary attributes, you’ll find that the kick is a devastating addition to your arsenal.
The best way to use the low spinning heel kick is by beginning with a setup that places your opponent in the prime position for the technique to be effective. The setup can be intentional (you employ techniques, body shifting, positioning and so on to lure him in) or spontaneous (you trigger the technique the moment the conditions are right). Although both are acceptable, it’s better to train for spontaneous deployment because you can’t depend on having control over anyone’s actions in a fight and because too many negative consequences can result from trying to maneuver your enemy into the proper position.
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That being said, the most advantageous position for the application of the kick is one in which you and your opponent are in “mirrored” stances. For instance, if you’re in a left forward stance, your opponent is facing you in a right forward stance.
It’s best to start by distracting your opponent with a high-line technique such as a jab or finger strike to the eyes. The objective is to get him to raise his hands and, more important, to focus his attention up high. That should be followed by your spinning to the rear and sinking your weight on your forward leg as you squat. It’s OK to place your hands lightly on the ground for support and balance.
Continue the spin as you extend your rear leg and sweep it parallel to the ground. Strike your opponent’s forward leg above the calf and slightly behind the knee. The technique will break his balance and can damage the muscles of his lower leg. The momentum of the kick will enable you to spin a full 360 degrees and stand up, re-establishing a ready position.
An alternate method, although not quite as fast or effective, involves placing your knee on the ground while you spin and executing the technique almost like a low, turning hook kick. This variation is easier for beginners but lacks speed and mobility, so it should be used only as a transitional method for developing the proper mechanics.
An effective low spinning heel kick requires leg strength, and the best way to develop that is through squats. Lots of squats. Start slowly and pay attention to what your body tells you. The key is to build powerful quads, calves and hamstrings without damaging the connective tissue surrounding and supporting your knees. Technique development is important, but it should never be done to the detriment of your health.
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Begin with your feet together and pump out squats in sets of 25 to 50 repetitions. Don’t try to do too many or get too low to the ground. Build from there until you can comfortably do 200 to 300 reps in sets of 50.
Next, add the spin. Start in a left-leg-forward position and turn gently to the rear as you bend your knees. Begin in a relatively high stance to develop a feel for the motion and build leg coordination. As you get more comfortable, spin from a standing position and drop into a crouch with your weight centered over the ball of your forward foot.