The eleventh lesson in my client’s second course on Muay Thai for Martial Arts Cross Training led us to the reverse round kick and the spinning hook kick. Contrary to popular belief these are not the same technique, despite looking remarkably similar. I pretty much thought the same thing until I read Hee Il Cho’s “The Complete Master’s Kick”. This is a book dealing with the sport of Tae Kwon Do, but it was way ahead of its time in terms of detail and is a valuable addition to any dedicated martial arts cross-trainer’s library. Years after General Choi Hong Hi began adding kicks to Shotokan Karate and making certain distinctions about these kicks as he forged his style of tae kwon do, Cho had refined many of these kicks through active competition and teaching. His deconstruction of them offers some great insights for training, conditioning and application.
The reverse round kick, also known as the back-spinning kick (I avoid this one for confusion with the back kick), spinning heel kick or wheel kick, is a different animal altogether. Despite being low percentage in application, just as any technical or flamboyant move, the technique has tremendous power and speed. It has been a part of Muay Thai and most forms of kickboxing for a long time now. In Muay Thai it is traditionally called jarake fad hang, “crocodile whips its tail”. Having looked at several online videos I note that some krus actually teach this move in way that is similar to the spinning hook kick, so I can understand the previously mentioned confusion. Tae Kwon Do certainly places more emphasis on the differences between the two kicks and, despite my stand-up striking being mainly based on Muay Thai, I would argue it is a technical point worth taking on board. The distinctive difference between the two is that the reverse round kick uses a straight leg throughout the execution and the spinning hook kick actively hooks the kicking leg upon impact. The latter has more control and less chance of being telegraphed, but the former has more power and range.
Certain modern styles of kickboxing, such as Filipino Yaw-Yan and Dutch Kickboxing, teach impacting using a downward angular motion with all their circular kicks. Yaw-Yan derives this concept from the angular fashion strikes are thrown using sticks and blades, which is most obviously seen in its bolo punches. This isn’t unknown outside of kickboxing subculture either, and I can think of several individual martial arts instructors who preach the values of throwing all strikes in this fashion. An downward angled strike to the jaw is great for creating brain-shake and possibly more damage to large muscle groups. I have seen the principle used in the heavy hitting of some schools of Japanese ju jutsu, notably Daito-ryu, as well as Russian systema. I teach both – seeing their individual values – and whatever best suits the student or context, although I personally tend to favour angled strikes whenever possible.
After performing a series of mobility exercises that included the four-point squat, Indian press-up and dynamic leg stretches, we began with the reverse round kick. I tend to teach this technique before the easier spinning hook kick because it is my experience that a client is likely to find it much harder to learn once the less risky technique is confirmed. The technique was trained with an emphasis on getting the spinning action right, and then against a light target before being thrown against the Thai focus mitts.
The spinning hook kick is easily broken down into a standard hook kick with a spin (no surprises there!) I would argue that the hook kick really doesn’t have a very strong place in full-contact competition. However, it freely made its way over from freestyle semi-contact and point sparring and was still popular in the early ‘90s when I first became connected to kickboxing arts. The hook kick works best as distracting moves or as part of a combination. Having said this, a well-aimed and well-timed shot to the jaw can mean curtains for any opponent. The spinning hook kick is often seen in full-contact WTF tae kwon do competitions, where opponents are regularly knocked out by it. As I previously mentioned, some Muay Thai krus teach a spinning hook kick of sorts and so regard it with some degree of respect.
Flexibility was clearly becoming more evident in this lesson than in the previous one and we finished the training with a series of relevant warming down static stretches.