Axe Kick

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The axe kick is a downward strike used to attack

The Axe Kick at its highest peak, before dropping down and striking its target

horizontal targets in a 12-to-6 (hands on a clock) motion, often passing entirely over top of the opponent’s guard and landing on the head, face, or collar bone. The technique can also be difficult to read since it travels upward at first, and then downward as it finishes. The axe kick requires a higher level of flexibility in the legs, especially in the hamstrings. The are three main variations of the axe kick, each with a slightly different start. The base variation travels straight up and then straight down on the center line. The next variation travels outward and up, before striking downward. The final variation travels inward and up, before striking downward.

Kickboxing legend Andy Hug landing an outside axe kick on Mirko Crocop

Which parts of the leg do you strike with?

When striking a target with an axe kick, point your foot to help brace your ankle joint. This also serves to compress the achilles tendon, keeping it safe from being pulled, torn or severed. This is an important tendon to protect – without it you’ll lose the ability to walk! Not only does pointing the foot help protect you from injury, but it also makes your heel protrude out from your leg like the head of an axe. Strike your opponent with the edge or bottom of your heel. Flexing the foot instead of pointing it will make your achilles tendon stretched and tight (like a rope under tension), and make it much more likely to become injured if you catch it on an opponent’s elbow, knee or cranium. Do not ever strike a target with your achilles tendon if you can avoid it.

How to Axe Kick

Point the toes to protect the achilles tendon, striking with the heel

Axe kicks can be thrown from both squared and side stances, and with either the lead or rear leg. They can be thrown with a slight chamber on the way up in order to speed up the technique at the cost of power.

  • Begin by taking a small step forward with your lead foot. This will create forward momentum to help power the technique.
  • Next, swing your rear leg across your body, and raising it upwards. As you do this, be sure to shift your bodyweight over your supporting leg to prevent losing your balance. Fully extend your leg as your kick travels to the peak of its height.
Here is a demonstration of the leg swinging inside, as it rises upwards
  • Finally, begin to chop your leg downward in an axe-like motion. As you do this, lean your torso slightly away from your target and shift your kicking hip slightly forward. This will give your kick more reach, and allow you to kick higher with less flexibility needed. Be sure to slightly re-chamber your leg (bending it at the knee) a few inches before your heel actually impacts your target. This will prevent you from hyper-extending your knee joint.

Common mistakes with the Axe Kick

Attempting to kick higher than your flexibility will allow will result in your supporting foot slipping off the mat, causing you to fall to the ground. Or, it’ll result in a muscle strain or muscle tear.

The “half split” stretch is great for increasing flexibility in the hamstring

Failing to bend your knee just before impacting the target can result in hyperextension of the knee joint. The motion is minimal, but enough to keep the joint safe. Imagine imitating the motion your leg makes when on a leg curl machine.

Contrary to what is taught in some traditional martial arts, flexing the foot (pulling toes back towards the shin) does not better expose the heel for striking. Instead, it makes it harder to strike with the hardest part of the heel (calcaneus) and needlessly exposes the achilles tendon to an increased risk injury.


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