Q&A: Spinning

Is there ever a good reason to turn your back on someone in a close-up fight (like spinning around or whatever) that isn’t running away?

Okay, the Hollywood spin that you see in a lot of fight scenes is bunk. These random spins are just there because spinning is dynamic and looks better on screen.

The answer to your question is that we don’t really spin to dodge attacks, we utilize spins to gain momentum. If you take into consideration that power comes from the momentum of
your body in motion, then spinning and jumping lend themselves to more
powerful techniques.

 

Spinning techniques open up a can of worms when talking about real fights, not really whether or not they work. That’s not up for debate. The question is, should you risk it? It’s a combat philosophy question.

This is about risk versus reward.

Spin kicks and jump kicks are the more advanced versions of the basic and the intermediary kicks. Any spinning or jump technique will have a version on the ground that must be learned first. The more complexity is added to a technique, the more your fundamentals and basics become important. A sloppy hook kick will translate into a sloppy spinning hook kick. The more force there is at play then the greater the risk of injury to yourself if you mess up. Broken ankles, fractured toes, broken legs, busted or blown knees, torn tendons are all risks beyond just the standard pulled leg muscles.

Remember, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The more force you generate to put into someone else, the greater the chance that same force has of rebounding on you. Poor technique increases the chance of injury, but there is no way to ever do any of these techniques in complete safety. You have to trust yourself and your ability to perform.

Jump kicks, spin kicks, spinning hand strikes, and flying punches exist as techniques across multiple martial arts disciplines. The body in motion creates momentum which is the source of power. When you spin, or run, or jump, you create a lot more momentum then you will from a standing position. These techniques are the more powerful upgrades of their non-jumping, non-spinning, ground based counterparts.

Someone flying at you can break your bones, and its potentially lethal. There are dozens of videos from kickboxing matches and taekwondo tournaments showcasing knockouts from wheel kicks and 360 degree jump roundhouses. The wheel kick or spinning hook kick can and does knock people out in sparring matches, tournaments, and professional fights.

A landed kick will drive the force of the blow through the headgear or head protection meant to soften the impact. If they manage to land the wheel kick while jumping then it is even stronger than it was on the ground. Spinning and jumping combine into the ultimate power up. The art of the flying death kick is not a joke. Well, not completely. Lots of martial arts styles have their own variants on spin techniques, from spinning kicks to spinning backfists and even elbows. We can go back and forth debating in what context they work, but they do exist. They do work, and they populate many different martial styles.

Spin kicks, jump kicks, jump spin kicks, any spinning technique is risky business. They’re powerful finishers. They can be used as openers, but if you fail then you leave yourself wide open. Most of the time you’re going to need to set your spins up via combinations to create the necessary openings in your opponent’s defense.

That said, turning your back on your opponent is a bad idea. Running
away in close quarters when you haven’t created an opening is a terrible
one. The same is true for spin techniques. You need great timing and
the ability to create openings in order to pull them off. The crux of
the issue is: they’re high risk, high reward.

When we perform a spin kick is we’re turning our back on our opponent and trusting they’ll still be there by the time we’ve finished our turn. Your opponent is never just going to stand there and let you hit them. You’ve got to make sure they’re not going anywhere first.

The combat philosophy on spin techniques varies from individual to individual. Some will say never do it as what you get isn’t worth the risk, and others will do it and make it work. You’ve got to decide for yourself if the benefits outweigh the risks.

For writers, especially ones without experience, it’s important to understand that spinning jump kicks are among the most difficult kicking techniques. Spinning is advanced martial arts. If your character doesn’t come out of a strong kicking discipline, it’s unlikely they’ll ever consider you using them. Even if they do, they may decide they’re too risky.

If you, the writer haven’t figured out how the basic kicks like the front kick, the roundhouse, and the sidekick work then wrapping your head around the mechanics of a spin kick is going to be difficult. This is before we get to the combat applications of when or how we use kicks like the wheel kick, the spinning jump roundhouse, or the popup back kick.

And that’s okay if you look at these kicks, think they’re awesome, and when you sit down to try to write what you saw get confused by how they work. The advanced kicks are mysteries to the white belts too. That’s normal.

Mechanically, these kicks are fairly complex. Sometimes, there’s switching between the legs that happens. Multiple body parts are all moving at the same time. With the wheel kick, you turn and look over your shoulder, lift your leg, extend your leg, and spin in one almost simultaneous spin. You need to spin while balanced entirely on one leg, not overextend, not be thrown out of whack by your own momentum, and not be destabilized by sudden contact with another object that’s not moving.

It is not uncommon when learning these kicks to lose your balance and fall over, to experience vertigo, lose track of your target and get really dizzy. You stumble, you fall, you get scared. It can very be intimidating.

Writers, if you find yourself looking at these techniques and getting confused don’t worry about it. You’re seeing kicks that are studied between blue (in TKD basic popup kicks, axe kick, crescent kick), brown to red (wheel kick, jump axe kick, jump crescent kick, jump wheel kick, and advanced popups), and black belt (kicks like tornado kick, the 540, and the 720). These are kicks learned two to four years into a student’s training, when they have a strong foundation. Don’t get down on yourself for not being a black belt if you’ve never done martial arts.

Ironically, the best way to train your pen is start with writing the basic kicks and work up. If you can figure out the application for the back kick and the hook kick in a written scene, you’ll begin understanding the wheel kick.

If you want to watch the knockouts in action, here are some videos. (Warning: do not watch any of the following videos if you are uncomfortable with watching real human beings, some of whom are minors get knocked out.)

If you want to watch a lot of these in action then look up videos like The Best Taekowndo Knockouts KO. Or this Tornado Kick KO (360 degree jump roundhouse) from MMA. Lawrence Kenshin did a decent breakdown of these kicks. (Learning the Tornado Kick was how I fractured my tibia when I was twelve.)

-Michi

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