I feel that kicks should not take up more than 10% of a Hung Gar fighter’s strikes. Kicks are mainly for surprise attacks to throw off your opponent control of the fight; or they’re used to stop the opponent’s low kicks and stance advances. Personally, I will not kick more than 5% of the time unless I decide to showcase another Kung Fu style. There are several reasons discouraging the frequent use of kicks in Hung Gar:
1) Kicks risks having your balance upset by your opponent, as you only have one leg on the ground.
2) Kicks raises your hips higher than the horse stance and opens up your groin, making you vulnerable to kicks to the groin.
3) High kicks and Hung Gar hammering strikes don’t combo with each other well, one is light and single footed and the other requires low and heavy stance.
Some kicks are no go for a Hung Gar fighter. For example the roundhouse kick, the angle of the hips makes it very awkward to follow up with Hung Gar techniques. Missing the roundhouse kick will spin you around and land in a tiptoeing kickboxing stance and not a firm Hung Gar stance; you won’t be able to use your moves and will be fighting with what you are not trained for.
Getting kicked in the groin is no joke. It’s very common in Singapore for kickboxers to get kicked in the groin while attempting to kick, because many competitors are not flexible enough to open his groin to do a neat horizontal roundhouse kick and could only muster a straight up groin punt; I’ve seen this very frequently. I’ve experienced this before in one of my first fights where I landed a roundhouse kick on my opponent’s helmet, while I attempted a second kick, he retaliated intuitively with a 45 degree kick to my groin and that completely broke my morale for the rest of the fight.
I even got hit by another 2 or 3 kicks to the groin after that. I don’t think his kicks were even 45 degree, he just raised his legs whenever I raised mine. But it’s a good lesson, now I can tell you guys the next time someone tries to act like a gangster and scare you by giving you a banana tree felling roundhouse kick kick, just raise your leg straight up and nail him in his banana and his nuts. It will take him out of his delusion and put him in his place.
Kicks are very useful as a surprise weapon when your opponent does not know how to kick, does not know about kicks and does not intend to kick. But it also encourages your opponent to start a kicking contest with you in which you have a big chance of getting nailed in the nuts and have the fight taken out of you.
In my knowledge, Hung Gar kicks dominantly targets the knee and below, which is illegal in several ring sports. The advantage is that the recovery is much quicker than even a low kick to the thigh or buttocks; the balance is hardly upset as you can immediately launch these kicks from the horse stance or bow and arrow stance, and land straight back into a horse stance in a split second. These are literally sweeps.
A quick check to your opponent’s calf or shin with these low sweeps, always discourages your opponent from kicking as they have to re-assess the battle ground. This is what we call, ‘engaging the opponent’s stance with our stance.’ Similar in concept to marking the man with the ball and preventing him from passing forward, in soccer or basketball. It’s also similar to using your chess pieces to obstruct your opponent’s chess piece’s path, in Chinese chess.
You can simply sweep your opponent off his feet onto the ground if you’re able to catch his balance well, at no risk of being kicked in the groin. Even if he maintains his balance, you will be able to damage his leg greatly if you practice the power of the sweeping kicks on the bag. The stability and pent up isometric strength of the horse stance training directly transfers into the tenacity of our low leg sweeps.
Hung Gar advocates being the first one to kick the groin, as the vertically rising groin punt is the most common standard kick practiced among all lineages. Some lineages even replaced all their forward stomping kicks for the rising kick that slaps the groin with the instep of the foot. In self defense, always be ready to punish roundhouse kicks with a sharp snap to the groin. But personally, I prefer the stomping kick; This is Sparta!!!
Hung Gar manages the fight of the lower body with positioning. We jam our opponent’s room to kick with our footing, the stance bridge from the foot to the knee, creating an obstacle they can’t pass. We use our advantage of stability, wider stance and being rooted on two feet, rather than a higher stance and a tiptoe base. Even if they kick, their power is greatly compromised as they won’t get a full swing and they will be mindful of our leg obstructing them. It’s not even necessary to press our stance into their legs, we just have to park right in front of them, to stall their movement and limit their options.
It’s a good idea to have some cross training with a Northern Kung Fu style to utilize some of their kicks. It’s also fine if you wish to take a purist path and do pure Hung Gar, but it always helps to know what other martial artists will do to you with their fighting styles. I have done some Northern Shaolin Kung Fu, as well as Huo Yuanjia’s style of Kung Fu before.
I like to combine a punch and a kick together to be delivered at the same time. Modern combat sport fighters are unable to defend against that because they’re not taught to move two arms to block at the same time; for them that’s too Kung Fu-ey and doesn’t align with their martial arts cultural preference. This move works a lot in cross style sparring.
Another move I like to use is the spinning wheel kick. It’s the kick you follow up with when you miss a roundhouse kick. It can also be used to hit someone who tries to circle to your back. The spinning wheel kick is very powerful, with high guarantee of a knockout when it connects. Although many conservative or mediocre martial artists discourage its use as it has a big range of motion and it turns the back to the opponent, countless ring sports fighters has used it to knock out their opponents from a stalemate, or even turn the fight around with a surprise KO. However it’s somewhat situational, as a surprise attack, a surprise counterattack, and you have to specifically train the technique regularly for the speed, flexibility and accuracy.
The final question is, what do we do when your opponent grabs your leg when you kick? For our style of Kung Fu, we can drop our front leg into a stance to drag the opponent downward, while we slam our hammer fist down on their head and shoulders. Either that, or you can simply jolt down on his face with crane beak. The person grabbing your leg has no arms or only one arm to defend himself, while you have the availability of two arms. The key about good kicks in Hung Gar is stability, you have to practice the single leg crane stance and the hanging stance, and it will not be easy to take you down with kick catches, while you land the strikes on your opponent and carry on the fight.