A variety of martial arts teach the low spinning heel kick but none better than kuk sool. These instructions will help you execute it in the training hall, and the drilling methods will help you polish it for use in the real world.

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.


(Photo Courtesy of Daniel A. Middleton)

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. Getting Started 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. Training Right 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. Kelly McCann’s 5-Volume Combatives Self-Defense Course, a new remote-learning program from the makers of Black Belt, will help you fine-tune your street-defense skills using your tablet, smartphone or computer! 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. Do this turning/squatting exercise until the motion becomes comfortable and easy to perform, after which you should add the kick. It’s effected by whipping your hips around and swinging your leg in an arc until it’s back at its starting position. Then you should immediately stand up and assume a ready position. Training equipment can bolster the development of your low spinning heel kick. Perhaps the most important is a target that permits you to improve your accuracy. A commercial kicking pad is fine. If one isn’t available, improvise with a plastic jug such as the container engine coolant comes in. Such target training will help you develop a sense of accuracy and distance.

The low spinning heel kick should be executed with the weight centered and the body low to the ground (top). Beginners often fail to bend their support leg, which leaves their butt in the air (bottom). (Photos Courtesy of Daniel A. Middleton)

Two other tools can be used in conjunction with target kicking to fine-tune your body position, boost your leg strength and improve your balance. The drills that go with them are designed to eliminate the most common mistake students make while learning the low spinning heel kick: the dreaded “butt in the air,” which may result in the target being hit but which sacrifices the crouch and spin. Check out the Greg Jackson Mixed Martial Arts Core Curriculum from Black Belt magazine! Stream lessons to your digital device and start learning how to incorporate MMA tactics and techniques into your current martial art. To correct this mistake, you can use two folding mats, or a target and a foam pad. The mat method begins with the stacking of two folded mats on the floor. Each one should be 14 inches to 18 inches high, or slightly higher than your knee. Pull the topmost mat out so it overlaps the bottom one by about two feet. Place a stationary target under the top mat and against the edge of the bottom one. Stand in a ready position about one foot from the edge of the top mat, then practice spinning and kicking the target without touching the mat. Exercise caution when doing this exercise. Repeatedly hitting the lower mat, which indicates that you’re kicking too deep, or hitting the upper mat, which indicates that you need to lower your body, can lead to hyperextension of the knee.

Two drills for mastering the low spinning heel kick: A plastic container is placed under stacked mats before it’s kicked (top). A training partner holds a target in his left hand and a foam pad in his right while the student practices the kick (bottom). (Photos Courtesy of Daniel A. Middleton)

The other exercise requires a training partner. Have him hold a target in one hand and a foam pad in the other. As you kick at the target, have him swing the pad over you at waist level. If you perform the technique correctly, you’ll be able to strike the target without getting hit by the swinging pad. If you fail to drop quickly or deeply enough before you kick, the pad will provide immediate feedback. The speed of the swing can be increased or decreased depending on your ability, and your partner can vary his rhythm to help you work on your speed and timing. Mixing It Up The final piece of the puzzle is incorporating the low spinning heel kick in combinations. One that’s often taught in kuk sool won is the high-middle-low combination in which three spinning kicks are performed nonstop at head, waist and knee level. This is a great drill for improving your balance during spinning. For best results, execute it in reverse (low-middle-high) from time to time.

In Hyuk Suh, founder of kuk sool won. (Photo by Peter Lueders)

Another combination, one that’s perhaps a bit more application-oriented, starts with a lead-hand jab and proceeds to the low spinning heel kick and round kick. It includes a distraction, the spin kick itself and a follow-up technique. These are merely suggestions; you’re encouraged to come up with your own combinations. Tactically, the low spinning heel kick can be used just like any other similar technique, such as a sweep or low-line kick. The difference lies in the power of the impact. The tremendous amount of torque generated by the kick makes it better-suited to taking out the muscle or joint via impact trauma, rather than merely disrupting your opponent’s balance the way a sweep does.
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Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
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Looking to buy some weights to gain some strength?

Looking at Dumbbell, Kettlebells or Weighted bar? How about an all in one that won't just save you some good amount of money but also space? Look no further, we bring you the GRIPBELL!

Let's face it, when we do want to work on some strength building, we don't want to go around shopping for 20 different weight equipment things. That would just not want us to even do any sort of strength training. But what if we only needed a few, a few that can do the things we want without having 20 things lay around? That's where the GRIPBELL comes in. Let me clarify with you first, these are not some heavy duty, muscle exploding weights, they are for building the level of strength we as martial artists want without going crazy and insane in bulk sizing!

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Many different types of "blocks" are taught in most martial arts school. We are taught high blocks, low blocks, middle blocks, knife hand blocks, etc. Some schools will also teach how to use the legs to block an attack, as well.

The purpose of this writing is to possibly open some minds to the possibilities of going outside the box and considering alternatives to the basics.

Blocking is taught as a way of protecting oneself from harm. Truly, we don't "block" anything, as a non-martial artist would think of it. What we call "blocking" is more of a redirection of an opponent's attack, or even a counterstrike against the opponent's attacking limb.

To block something would mean to put something, like your arm, leg or other body part directly in front of the attack. That would certainly hurt and possibly cause some damage. The goal should be to move the attack out of the way in order to prevent injury and provide a way to fight back. For example, many schools teach blocks as a limb moving toward the strike such as a circular high block.

The movement required for a block might have other uses, if you keep an open mind. The blocking techniques can also be used as attack techniques. For example, your "low block" may be used as a striking technique against the outer thigh of the attacker. Your high block might be used as a strike to the jaw. The set up for a block can be used as a deflection, as well as the actual block.

Doing a block or a series of blocks will most likely not end an attack. A block needs to be followed by a counterattack. While the block is usually taught as a separate technique in order to learn it correctly, it should also be used in combination with a counter.

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Intensive books can and have be written about basic techniques. With this writing, I am hoping to create interest in exploring the additional possibilities for what we have been taught and what we teach others.

About Grand Master Stevens

GM Stevens has been training in taekwondo for 47 years under the tutelage of the late legendary Grand Master Richard Chun. He holds an 8th degree black belt and is certified in the USA and in Korea. Grand Master Stevens is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Richard Chun TaeKwonDo World Headquarters organization. He has been very active in his community and has been a volunteer with the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps for over 11 years. He is a certified member of C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team).

Gary Stevens Taekwondo is located at 175 Rock Road in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

For more information: call (201) 670-7263, email: StevensTKD@aol.com or go to www.StevensTaeKwonDo.com

Having partners at or above your skill level is important for improving in your martial arts training. At some point, however, you will probably find yourself with a shortage of skilled partners, especially if you are an instructor.

This can happen for any number of reasons: students can move away, change their work schedules, start a family, etc., and just like that, you find that you're the highest-ranked student, or sole instructor, in your gym or dojo. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you take advantage of it, even working exclusively with lower-ranking classmates or students can improve your skills.

I used to host a twice-a-week training session at my dojo where I invited mostly black belts from other schools (as well as a few of my advanced students) to come and run drills. It was a blast. These were tough two- to three-hour sessions where I got to work with fighters of all different sizes, speeds, and technique preferences. My sparring improved dramatically over the next few months, and I don't think I've ever been in better shape. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. And as the old saying goes, "You gotta work with what ya got." So, make it hard on yourself.

I like to set handicaps when fighting my students. Specifically, I focus on forcing myself to work on improving my weak areas. Is you right leg weaker than the left? Then only kick with the right leg when sparring your students. Not much of an inside fighter? Don't kick at all. Training with partners of lesser skill not only helps you improve your weak points but gives them an opportunity to improve as well by working on strategy. It's also great for building their confidence. It can also be a low-cost opportunity to test new techniques and combinations, which benefits you as well.

In grappling, just like sparring, there is little benefit to wrapping lower ranking classmates into pretzels over and over, for them or you. Instead, let your partner put you in a bad situation. Let them get the mount; help them sink in that choke or armbar. If you start standing, such as in judo, allow your partner to get the superior grip before attempting a throw. This way you will get comfortable working out of a weaker position and your less-experienced partner can perfect their technique (and get experience using multiple techniques, if you get out of their first one).

You might think that giving advantages like these to students who may be far beneath your skill level is much of a challenge. Trust me, you'll reconsider that sentiment when you wind up sparring a 6'5" novice with zero control over his strength after deciding to only use your weak leg, or have a 250-pound green belt lying across your diaphragm trying to get an armlock after you let them get the pin. Remember, this is exactly what you signed up for: a challenge.

If you find yourself at the top of the heap without partners who are sufficiently challenging, there is no need to despair. Use it as a low-stress opportunity to improve your weaknesses and develop avenues to help your less experienced classmates and students to grow. You may even be surprised. One day they might present more of a challenge than you ever imagined!
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