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Wondering Do Kicks Hurt In Kickboxing The Honest Truth

Two kickboxers with one missing with a high kick.

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Standup combat sports that include kicks can often lead to those who watch wondering if kicks hurt in kickboxing. Well, as someone who has been kicked everywhere from the head to the body and doesn’t forget the legs. I feel like I am in a pretty good position to tell you if kicks do in fact hurt.

There are a few possible scenarios where you will experience being kicked. These are in training or sparring and also in competition. In training, you tend to feel kicks more due to the adrenaline dump of an actual fight.

If you have ever trained in a combat sport you will be aware that there is a certain amount of adrenaline involved. Meaning that when you square off against someone in the gym, your heart rate accelerates as you mentally prepare to fight, be it at a low intensity.

The Gym vs The Ring

In the gym, you would never go all out one hundred percent to try and hurt your sparring partner. The idea is that you are there to learn and this cannot be done if you are trying to take one another’s heads off.

So in this type of scenario, your body won’t be in a heightened state of preparedness. You know the environment, you know the person you are sparring with. And you know how hard you will be going, roughly speaking.

A class for American style kickboxing with students.
Students train their leg kicks in the gym.

So, for this reason, your body is not as prepared for any and all outcomes. The adrenaline produced in fight or flight mode is not pumping through your veins. And the result of this is that you tend to be more prone to feeling the impact of kicks and punches.

But as you are training and not fighting, you won’t be kicking as hard as you would in a fight. So while the adrenaline is not there, neither is the full force of a kick. Or at least that is how it should be.

As in every situation, it really depends on who you are training with. As one person’s 70%, could be another person’s 100%! You may be sparring with someone who kicks like a mule 365 days a year. And as your body is not as fully ready as it would be in a real fight situation, you do tend to feel it more.

Protecting Your Legs In Training

Have you noticed how people almost always wear shin pads on their legs when training? Not just any pads, usually very high quality, that cover everything from the top of the foot, all the way up to just below the knee.

They wear pads to protect their lower legs from the impact of kicks. One because they don’t want to get injured and two, because low kicks hurt! Now kicks will no doubt affect some people more than others and there are a few reasons for this.

Some people have quite simply been kicking things, bags, legs, and pads for much longer than others. And with this comes a degree of conditioning of the leg, where it builds additional deposits on the shin bone, in effect making it stronger.

But you also have the deadening of the nerves in this area which have become accustomed to the constant impacts. And so become less receptive to pain. So you will hear from the majority of coaches that kicking the heavy bag is the best conditioning for leg kicks.

Conditioning Your Shins For Kickboxing

However, there are some people who take this to another level. And do things that they believe aid in the conditioning of their shins. Some will run round pieces of wood or rolling pins along their shin bone, in order to kill all the nerves.

A student kicks a heavy bag inside the gymnasium.
A student kicking a heavy bag in the gym.

Their intention is to make it so that the leg no longer feels anything when being low-kicked. That it essentially becomes like a baseball bat that you can repeatedly wing at your opponent. Not having to worry about where or how hard it lands.

And there are two schools of thought as to whether this is the right approach or not. From my experience, most coaches I have worked with do not agree with this method. It is by far and away, an extreme that is done by many kickboxing fighters. But it is not by any means the norm and the majority of coaches will tell you to stick with kicking the heavy bag.

Kicking In A Fight

But what about when the kicks don’t really hurt? Well, I hate to tell you but there is not a time when the kick will never hurt. But there is a time when your body will better deal better with the pain and absorb kicks and that is during a fight.

A fight is quite different from any other time as now the body is running at maximum preparedness. Now is the time that all of your training has gotten you ready for this situation. You have built up your conditioning and endurance and now all that time spent in the gym will be put to the test, will you pass?

And in the fight itself, your body will be better equipped to deal with kicks. As it has a wonderful way of preparing both physically and mentally for a given situation. And in the fight, it tends to dull most of the pain, as it cuts off much of the signalling to the body’s extremities.

Mind Over Matter

It is really a question of mind over matter as the brain takes control and tells the body, hey we got this. So outside of a fight-ending kick or punch, the body will handle a lot more punishment than if it was simply a sparring session.

Two MMA fighter competing inside the cage.
MMA fighters are training kicks.

A more extreme example of this would be in a war situation. Where soldiers have been shot or even lost a limb. The mind to a degree overcomes the severity of the situation as the soldier deals with their injuries.

But once the battle dies down and the realisation hits home. That is when they truly feel the pain, as the adrenaline stops pumping and the injury overcomes the mental and physical pain barriers the body had created. Just an extreme example of how the human body can deal with trauma and pain.

But conditioning the body, both mentally and physically through repetition is how it will deal with being kicked. The action won’t be as much of a shock to the system as it would for someone who has never before experienced the sensation.

In Conclusion

So, in conclusion, the answer is that kicks will always hurt. But to what degree will depend on a number of factors. Including who is kicking you or where you are being kicked. Is it in the gym or is it in the arena of battle inside the ring?

Some areas of the body are more sensitive than others and prone to taking damage easier. Fighters can target these areas which it is almost impossible to truly condition, like just above the knee.

So after taking several kicks to this area. You will often see fighters no longer being able to compete. Merely because the nerves get so badly damaged that the leg will no longer react.

So the moral of the story is to condition the parts of your body that will allow you to kick better, as well as absorb kicks, like the lower shins. All of this will take time and repetition, as there really is no easy route.

Apply yourself, get better and be more confident in your ability to give and take punishment and you will go places. Don’t prepare as you should and it may be a very short night indeed. So I wish you the best of luck on your journey!