Lesson 2 – Kicks

Jik Tek 直踢 – the most important kick, by far

By far, the most important kick in Kung Fu is the straight rising kick to the nuts. In JKD this kick is called Jik Tek 直踢 (straight kick). In Japanese Karate, it’s called Kin Geri 金的蹴 (golden kick).

Bruce Lee doing Jik Tek on a heavy bag
Bruce Lee doing Jik Tek on a heavy bag – notice how the bag is hung from the ideal height for training this kick

Eyes and groin are the primary pressure points.

Fingers to eyes, and kicks between the legs, are the best moves in a decidedly lethal fight.

In pacifist combat, you would usually avoid these moves – treat them as a last resort.

In sporting contests, these moves are typically against the rules.

Bruce Lee doing Pak Sau and Jik Tek
Bruce Lee demonstrating a long-range Side Slap block (although the punch is not in range, so it’s more for covering & connecting than stopping a punch), along with a simultaneous Jik Tek kick between the legs. This picture highlights the value of Jik Tek, in how it can land from a distance outside of punching range while preserving balance enough to use good hand techniques at the same time.

Jik Tek is a key move in Crane style kung fu – the main ancestor and main ingredient of the Wing Chun style. Unfortunately, because Wing Chun practitioners’ hands are so good, they have mostly forgotten how to use their feet so this move is rarely taught in Wing Chun schools these days.

With no footwear, or soft footwear, you kick with your instep, with toes curled down to avoid breaking them. With heavy footwear that prevents you curling your toes down, you may prefer to kick with your toe caps, with toes pointing up, but there is a risk of falling short of the target, or breaking your toes if your footwear isn’t so solid.

For generating best power, and for avoiding injury to your knee, and for staying balanced throughout, when doing a good Jik Tek to the nuts, make impact with the knee still slightly bent, and drive energy diagonally up & forwards, perpendicular to the line of the shinbone.

Bob Wall grabbing Bruce Lee's leg
Bob Wall grabbing Bruce Lee’s leg. It’s never good to get your leg grabbed like this, but it would be a whole lot worse if the leg wasn’t bent! Bruce can achieve a surprising amount of stability by redirecting any pulling force through the knee and into the opponent, much like if someone were pulling your arm and you redirect the energy into them via a bent elbow (this is the beauty of Bong Sau).

Side angled variation

If your opponent is in a bladed stance, making the gap between his legs difficult to kick through with a directly forwards upwards motion… If you’re also wearing strong shoes or boots, you can angle your kick to catch him between the legs with your toes.

Bruce Lee doing a Side Angled Jik Tek straight kick between the legs of Ted Wong
Bruce Lee doing a Side-Angled variety of the Jik Tek straight kick, to catch his student Ted Wong between the legs even though Ted has a bladed stance for extra cover there.

What about high kicks?

High kicks are great for the movies, and you may have success with them in real life if you’re very flexible and practise them a lot. But the level of flexibility required for high kicks, can be damaging to your hips in the long run. Most people are not naturally that flexible, and it’s a gruelling process to achieve it, with potentially debilitating consequences in later life. This is why there are no high kicks in Wing Chun or Tai Chi, aside from them being easy to counter.

Head kicks are extremely powerful when you land them – they have a high knockout probability – so beware of any opponent who is so flexible and good with his feet. But head kicks are also very risky, as they’re relatively slow, they leave you with only one foot anywhere near the ground (beware of sweeps) and they leave a massive gap between your legs (a prime target).

What about low kicks?

Low stamping kicks can be effective if the opponent is heavy on his feet, but it’s a risky move because you need to get in close and the angle is rarely ideal. It’s also likely to inflict permanent disability, so be very prudent with this kind of move. The kick to the nuts, however, is quicker, more powerful, less telegraphed, more available from just outside of punching range, and more balanced throughout.