Learn How To Do A Spinning Hook Kick!

The spinning hook kick is probably the most spectacular kick but sadly has the least value in karate outside of the tournament arena or Hollywood. Like anyone who has ever watched any martial arts movie, I’m sure you’ve been impressed by the ability of the hero to magically pull out a spinning hook kick to save the day (of course after being brutally beaten for 10 minutes by the villain). Go on, admit it…. you’ve jumped up and punched the air and yelled “Yeah!!!” at the likes of Jean Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris… =) Well I can’t teach you how to take a beating and THEN be able to pull off possibly one of the most difficult karate kicks to end a fight. But I can teach you the basic steps of what’s involved in the kick, give you some exercises to improve your kick, and then show you how to put it all together… and who knows, maybe one day you’ll be able to pull it off on the big screen. Before we get started, here are 3 handy things to remember when learning anything complicated.

Handy tip #1 – Break it down!

As M.C. Hammer said… “Break it down!” Who’d have ever thought we’d turn to 80’s rappers for advice? Well in this case breaking it down is exactly what you have to do if you want to learn something complicated quickly, including the spinning hook kick. Break it down and practice in sections, mastering each as you go. You need to have ALL sections working before piecing the entire kick together, or you’ll just end up looking like (and feeling like) a newborn foal trying to balance for the first time.

Handy tip #2 – Work backwards

Yep you heard right. Work backwards. I can already hear you saying, “But if I can’t do it forwards, how can I possibly do it backwards?” Don’t worry we’re not actually doing the kick in reverse, we’re just going to work backwards as we learn it. This is a concept I learned from possibly the world’s greatest lateral thinker, Edward de Bono. His ideas are great for problem solving, goal setting and clear thinking. And for most people performing a spinning hook kick is a problem, requires goal setting and clear thinking. I explain more in a minute, but for now you’re gonna have to trust me… work backwards.

Handy tip # 3 – Persistence

Once you have each individual part working for you, it’s just a matter of linking them all together in the correct order. And yes, it takes a some practice even after you have each section correct. This is when you iron out the bugs, learn to increase your speed and then put it into action against a real target. Keep persisting in your endeavor. Remember that persistence is the father of success! So without any further adieu let’s learn how to make a spinning hook kick!

Breaking it down…

What are the most obvious parts of the kick? Let’s look at the name – Spinning Hook Kick. From that it should be plainly obvious that there are 2 major parts to the kick.
  • The spin or turn and…
  • The hook kick
Yes, you need to be able to do the hook kick before you can do the spinning version of it. But don’t be disheartened – after reading this, watching and practicing the drills I’m about to show you, you’ll pick it up in no time. Our technique can further be broken down into…
  • The spin or turn
    • Finding the target
    • Performing the spin/turn
  • The kick
    • The motion of the body to the knee high position
    • The motion of the leg from the knee high position
Now we have the basic components… let’s work backwards starting with…

Step #1 – The motion of the leg from the knee high position – the final part of the kick.

Using our concept of working backwards we need to master the final part of the kick first. Most people start at the beginning without knowing how to actually do the kick so they end up losing balance, falling over or at best making a horrible kick. So what’s the final part of the kick? It’s the motion from the knee down. For many people making this part is challenging. Most of us are accustomed to “flicking our kick” with mawashi geri (roundhouse kick). Making the opposite motion starting with a straight leg is somewhat foreign but absolutely necessary in order to have a successful kick. An easy way to learn this motion without worrying about losing your balance is to practice the kick lying down. Simply lie on one side with your head propped up with your hand (see image below). Now take your top leg and pull the knee into your chest and practice the motion of the kick from here.
Do this by extending your kick straight out as if making a side kick. Once you reach full extension, push with your toes until pointing straight. At this point you’ll notice that you’ll want to start bending your knee, which is exactly what you want to do. Continue to bend your knee until your leg is bent at 45 degrees at which point it’s time to recoil your kick in the exact opposite motion. Begin by straightening your leg like you were kicking roundhouse kick. When your leg reaches its straight position, pull your knee back towards your body.  
Practice this 20 times and then switch sides. Do this on a daily basis and within a week or so you’ll have the motion down, often much sooner.

Step # 2 – The motion of the body to the knee high position

So now you know how to do the actual “kick”. Let’s look at the position from which you should kick and how to get the knee up to that point. For an effective hook kick it’s good to have your body turned side-on with your kicking hip facing the target. That is, your supporting foot should be pointing 180 degrees in the opposite direction… or at an absolute minimum of 90 degrees to the target. The greater the angle you can achieve, the better your kick will be as it helps stretch out your hips and get your body in position to achieve the greatest possible range. So, from a side-on standing position pick up your right front foot as if making a front kick directly in front of you (that is 90 deg to the real target) but look at the hook kick target to your right. This is the “knee high” position from which to make the kick.
Now we need to practice how to get to this position without losing balance. We don’t actually want to kick yet; just learn how to get the knee up quickly to the chamber position. Do this by standing with your right leg forward with your back to the target. From here look at the target over your right shoulder and push off with your front foot until you reach the knee high position. Practice just this motion 20 times a day until you feel comfortable getting to this point without losing your balance.

Steps #3 and #4 – Performing the spin and finding the target

Now for the spin! Stand with your left leg forward and with your eyes on the target. Quickly twist clockwise on the balls of your feet until your back faces the target. As you make this twisting/turning motion, be sure to whip your head around quickly and sight-up the target, just like the way an ice-skater moves their head before their body when spinning in place. This gives you a point of reference and tells your body where to aim. Practice this 20 times a day or until you feel comfortable with it
Key point: Do the spin this way and bring your knee up (keeping your leg compressed) at the 9 o’clock position. Most people who lose their balance do so because they pick the leg up too early or allow the kicking motion to begin before they reach the chamber position.

Wrapping it up

  ura mawashi geriNow it’s just a matter of pushing off the front foot (now your right foot), bringing your leg up to the knee high position and extending the kick to hit your target. From here recoil the kick but keep your body turning clockwise to complete your circle. Once you have put the sections together and have this basic motion sorted out, concentrate on building speed and working with moving targets. Remember, persistence! Well, there you have it. All the basic components of the spinning hook kick complete with drills to practice and refine your technique. Good luck with it!

6 thoughts on “Learn How To Do A Spinning Hook Kick!

  1. Mr. Stanley,
    I loved this technique and, after explaining it to one of our other instructors this very evening, I used it for three fairly new students to help them break down side kicks, and then hook kicks, eventually introducing them to a spinning hook kick. I was surprised how quickly they absorbed the info and then just did it– a kick they'd never tried before. I told them that "breaking down" any technique to the basic building blocks, then "reverse-engineering" it as you did in this lesson would help them in the long run with their martial arts career. Even at 8, 9 and 10 years old, they got it. Cool stuff and THANK you for helping us become better teachers.
    Lauren Pursley
    E Dan
    Strahan's Karate Center
    Poplarville, MS USA

  2. Thanks a lot Sensei Jason! The "work backwards" approach/technique, although not unique is PERFECT for the desired point you were making. I have not had the chance to teach this spinning hook kick approach to any of my students, but I have practiced it myself. Although I teach Krav Maga & Combat Jui-jitsu, I enjoy learning different techniques/maneuvers from Sensei Jason that will help me personally. Especially in a "street fight" situation, against multiple attackers.

  3. Osu Sensei Jason,

    Excellent Ushiro Ura-Mawashi teaching technique!
    The method of straightening the leg initially then bend is new to us but extremely effective and useful in teaching it to Karateka.

    Osu and thank you once again!

  4. You know, I have use these same concepts to improve my golf swing (possibly the hardest move in all of sports.) and along with "visualization" these tips really helped. The thing about practice is eventually you develop a "muscle memory" so you can integrate all the small steps into one fluid action without even thinking about it. I am not there yet, but I am working on it. One tip that really helped me is to always remain very relaxed — tense muscles will move slow and awkward. You focus your club, or your heel right thru the target.

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