How to Defend Against Sidekicks

Sidekicks are an essential part of any martial arts repertoire, and learning how to defend against them will prevent any sideways surprises.
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Sidekicks will be different depending on whether or not you meet them in martial arts classes or as on-the-street self-defense. Whatever the case, you’ll have to first observe where your opponent is coming from before you can then use your body to block. However, true sidekick defense is not defense alone, but will open up space to create counterattacks, so it is imperative to simultaneously shift your body into an optimal position.

    Step 1

    Observe your opponent in the moment. Where is the kick coming from? Are they using their left leg or right? Are they coming high—towards your ribs—or aiming low?

    Step 2

    Block quickly with your arms. Sidekicks usually aim at the ribs right under your front arm, so your front arm should be should be blocking your ribcage, with your fist near your chin. If they are aiming particularly high, raise your front forearm straight up while supporting your front fist with your other hand.

    Step 3

    Shift your feet: quickly slide your back foot straight back while lifting your front foot back. This reduces the distance required for a side kick to be effective.

    Step 4

    Immediately shift your feet again: either backward, forward, or sideways, to surprise your opponent. You will usually catch them off balance if you move quickly.

    Step 5

    Now get ready to counterattack. With some distance, you are in prime position for a hook kick or an elbow move.


    • If a sidekick comes too quickly for you to see where it’s going, you can add a leg block by raising the front knee so the lower leg covers the middle and low areas of your torso while blocking the high parts with your arm. However, don’t use this unless you have no other choice as it is a weak block. Prior to sparring, keep your front and rear feet close, to shift your body quickly.


    • While these blocks are listed in steps, remember that these all happen very quickly in fluid motions.

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