This week’s martial arts tutorial is on the back sweep.
A move that everybody knows from movies and video games, the back leg sweep just looks cool, doesn’t it. That’s certainly the impression you get from your electronic entertainments, where the back sweep is portrayed as a nigh-unblockable maneuver that sends everyone into great pratfalls!
…It’s actually not remotely that cool. It’s a full circle attack that hits with the side of the leg, so much so that it can’t really be called a kick at all…and of course it isn’t.
It’s really more of a trip, if it’s anything at all. This speaks of the one real use this move has (in actual fighting, not form/wushu competitions): tripping somebody who puts themselves off balance with an attack. When learning how to do flying side kicks, one of the first things they’ll teach you to do is to tuck the back leg. This is because having it dangling down invites tripping—and it doesn’t take much force to topple someone in the air.
The back sweep can similarly (albeit not quite as effectively) be used to counter any kick that is done above the waist.
To do the back sweep, you must begin spin on the ball of the front foot. Then, simultaneously squat down AND THEN bend over (the order is required), extend the leg, and spin. Bend throughout the attack.
Some styles require you to retain the spinning position and return to your starting position, others have you fall to your knee and then get up. The latter is the method I use.
And as the video illustrates, it’s not really possible to practice on a punching bag.
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