MMA has evolved rapidly over the past 30 years, integrating techniques and concepts from various martial arts. Of these diverse sources, karate stands out for having powerful kicks, elusive footwork, and useful principles for strikers. This article examines three tactics from high-level karate fighters that can improve any mixed martial artist’s standup skills – versatile kicking, fighting at distance, and the front snap kick.
Fluid Kicking Dexterity
Kyokushin karate is known for its crushing kicks, since punches to the head are banned. This limitation produces extremely dexterous kickers who can attack from any angle. MMA fighters can emulate that unpredictability in kick selection and setup. Being comfortable throwing a wide variety of kicks makes it harder for opponents to anticipate.
Developing flexibility through regular stretching allows executing kicks from diverse angles. Squats, leg swings, splits and other mobility drills open up range of motion over time. Precision comes from repeatedly drilling different kick techniques to ingrain neuromuscular patterns. Work on quickly flowing between low kicks, body kicks, and head kicks in combinations.
Disguising kick intentions is also vital so opponents cannot brace or counter based on telegraphed setups. Using lead leg kicks means switching between front snap kicks, round kicks and diagonal kicks which initially look similar. Floating between stances masks whether a kick will come from the front or rear leg.
Throwing lead leg kicks often conditions opponents to lower their guard. Suddenly launching a rear leg head kick can capitalize on that reaction. Follow a high kick with immediate punches before the opponent recovers balance. Changing levels rapidly keeps opponents guessing.
Kicks provide fight-ending power but are slower than hands, so smart setup and disguise prevents them being countered. Unpredictable, fluid kicking significantly expands a striker’s arsenal and danger.
Fighting at Distance
Many MMA bouts quickly degenerate into crowded infighting exchanges which inevitably means absorbing strikes. An alternative strategy is maintaining distance through footwork and reach, allowing clean hits without compromising defense.
Extreme distance provides time to react to attacks by evading before they land. Lunging punches fall short and kicks miss by inches with small lateral movements. Hands should stay high with chin down to block strikes which do breach range.
At long distances, opponents struggle to connect effectively yet can still be manipulated into opening themselves up as they try closing range recklessly. Draw them out with feints like faking a low kick or level change. Time their entries and deliver intercepting counters as they overcommit.
Lengthy weapons like kicks gain force given time and space, making them ideal for distance fighting. The lead leg front thrust kick can act as a barrier, firing it at opponents stepping into range. Its piston-like impact halts momentum and reestablishes long range.
For tall, rangy fighters, distance multiplies physical advantages. Subtle movements maintain space as opponents work inside, creating opportunities for counters. Fighting long amplifies strengths while keeping exchanges safe.
The Front Snap Kick
The front snap kick or ‘maegeri-keage’ is an underutilized technique in MMA. Compared to a thrusting push kick, the snap kick drives the heel straight up forcefully in a quick snapping motion. It strikes with the ball of the foot in a whipping impact.
The front snap kick slams into the solar plexus to wind opponents. Catching it on an exhale magnifies its effectiveness. It also punishes careless body kicks by smacking into the abdomen or ribs as opponents retract their leg. Against shot takedowns, the front kick checks their posture and pushes back at the first step.
Disguised between regular punches and kicks, the front snap kick is difficult to predict and counter. It shines when opponents are hesitant about closing distance, discouraging them from stepping in.
For tall strikers, the front kick extends range control and masks advancing behind it to land knees and uppercuts. Against pressure fighters, it deters them from crowding space and smothers their offense. Work it early in fights to establish distance and earn respect.
The front leg snap kick is useful for all heights however. Using it rhythmically and switching targets – legs, body, or head – keeps opponents off-balance. It is an underused technique among MMA strikers that rewards dedication.
Applying Karate Tactics For MMA
This examination of high-level karate concepts has focused on articulating striking principles usable for all MMA fighters, rather than historical details of individual stylists. The keys are versatility, controlling distance, and integrating the front snap kick.
Here at Apex MMA in Brookvale, our classes work to produce thoughtful, well-rounded strikers open to influences from all styles that have been proven to work in competition. We encourage trying a free 7-day trial of our beginner classes to experience putting these tactics into practice first-hand. Choose between Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and MMA classes to build a strong overall skillset. We hope to see you visit us soon!