Articles: Mawashi-Geri - Thinking in 3D

Picture 1
I thought I would use the title of 3D as a thinking tool to visualize the body mechanics (in particular the hip joint)involved in the technique of Mawashi Geri.

The thing is that I believe the typical description of Mawashi Geri as "round house kick" really does not do it justice.

Of course Mawashi means "to go around", but as with so many other Japanese translations that are often vague and sometimes misleading (as there is not always a straight translation from Japanese to English) then I think that Mawashi Geri suffers from this to some degree.

If you think about the body mechanics involved in the complete process of this technique then you start to wonder if we are describing it correctly.

Obviously most instructors teach the technique the way they learnt it so it can be assumed that many of them were taught it as a round kick, but how many have really thought more about it than that ?

What course does it take to make it round, is it the flat level plane that it takes when the knee is picked up to the side and the kick is released? I am not so sure!

It's not that it doesn't follow a round direction but if you can firstly imagine your hip joint in a 3D kind of way, then try and imagine the ball and socket hip joint moving around, just like your fist rolling round in a cupped hand.

I think the "round" of Mawashi Geri starts right at the beginning as the knee is picked up, the round should be thought of more as an arcing motion, the ankle should be flexed with the toes pointing slightly upward and outward, this helps the hip rotation at the top of the arc. (Refer to picture number 1)

Start the knee lift with a tight squeezing of the hip flexor and the lat muscle bringing the knee tightly up to the side, but not letting the foot come up to the same plane as the knee. If you do, then that’s when the kick becomes one dimensional and can only have one trajectory.

By keeping the foot lower than the knee it give a more whipping action as it’s always just a bit behind the knee; imagine it like a towel when you flick/snap it out.

Keep the upward trajectory going until you are at the point you want to release the kick. This can be whenever you want, based on your opponent/target or if practicing solo then flexibility range. When you release the kick don’t think about the foot, instead think about rotating the ball part of your hip round in the socket, imagine standing close to a fence facing it straight on, you have something at your back (like another fence), you have to pick your knee up as previously described and roll your hip over the fence placing your foot on the other side! This style of hip rotation is what you are trying to achieve.

Release the kick and bring the ankle round and down as the hip is doing the same.

So if the initial trajectory is upwards, then as you direct the kick to impact the trajectory should be down, as in an arcing motion.

Ask yourself the question, can you kick Mawashi Geri at the same distance as Kizame Zuki?

If the answer is no then it’s probably because you are executing the kick from the level plane from the side.

Try these exercises to ascertain your style of Mawashi Geri and maybe to help improve it.Lay on the floor resting on your left elbow, pull back your right foot to open your hips out and have your foot flexed back. Place your left leg bent on the floor in a comfortable position.

Start to point the knee upward to the ceiling keeping the ankle flexed back, support your body weight on your left and right hands, lift the hips slightly up off the floor, going in an anti clockwise direction the knee reaches 2 o’clock, now start to rotate the hips over, release the foot into the kick and as you come to the 12 o’clock position flex your ankle round and down with the hip to the floor, touch the floor with the ball of your right foot and then retrace your path back to the beginning. (Refer to pictures 2-3-4-5)

Picture 2
Picture 3
Picture 4
Picture 5
Picture 6
Picture 7

Try this with someone standing with their feet just about touching your feet.

Try not to touch the other person while kicking, this is difficult but it really shows the difference between the two deliveries of the Mawashi Geri.
(Refer to pictures 6-7).

Picture 8

At the point of impact the foot should be turning in and driving down through the target. (Refer to picture8).

You can try to put this into practice standing up while facing your partner in a natural guard. Start at a suitable kicking distance and step by step work your way closer, trying to connect to the target at each step until you are well within punching distance… See how you get on.

I believe that you should be able to punch from kicking distance and also kick from punching distance. This makes it harder for opponents to handle you as no one knows what to expect, you can achieve this with Mawashi Geri as I have described but not with the typical knee up to the side and swipe round style.

At the Shinto gates by the
beautiful Lake Ashinoko in Japan

You should be able to see the arcing and flexing of the ankle coming to a downwards trajectory and the hips rotating through the kick.

Of course there are always exceptions as to how you would do any technique but we are talking about basics here and how to apply them with correct body mechanics.

So the next time you practice Mawashi Geri try and visualize a 3D model of your hip joint and the concept of delivering the kick.

Good luck

Alan Campbell is the Head of JKS England & Wales and he can be contacted at