top of page

Self-Defense, Superfoot Style: Bill Wallace Sounds Off on the Side Kick and How It Fits Into His Favorite Fighting Strategies! 

superfoot bill wallace
Black Belt Plus

When a subject is near and dear to him, Bill “Superfoot” Wallace has never been shy about speaking his mind. Case in point: the relationship between martial arts and self-defense.

“There are a lot of combinations you learn in point tournaments, regular sparring and full contact that will work in a real fight, and there’s a whole bunch of techniques [you learn] in self-defense [class] that won’t work in a real fight,” Wallace says. “Why? Things are just too choreographed. There are too many of them to remember, and you end up using what comes natural to you anyway.”

Feeling compelled to elaborate, Wallace continues: “In a real fight, you have no idea when, where or what the bad guy’s going to do. He’s definitely not going to take a shot at you and leave his hand out there for you to grab.”

Furthermore, action is faster than reaction, Superfoot says. “I could tell you exactly what I’m going to throw, and you still wouldn’t be able to block it. Do this as a test: Have a partner stand in front of you and slap you on the forehead. See if you can grab his hand and put him into some joint technique. [Then try it] while he’s slapping you on the other side of your face with his other hand. I don’t think so!”

At this point, Wallace waxes optimistic: “The thing you have going for you in a fight is the bad guy usually takes for granted that you don’t know what you’re doing.”

He recommends exploiting the underestimation by using a technique you’ve practiced over and over, one that’s unlikely to fail. “Make that technique work for fighting a troublemaker rather than messing around with all these prearranged self-defense combinations that you have to try to make work.”

One such proven move, according to Wallace, is the sidekick. Most martial artists know it, it’s easy to execute and it’s versatile, which means it can function on its own and in a variety of combinations, he says.


Before we delve into scenarios and the side-kick strategies Wallace recommends, it’s worth reviewing the Superfoot saga — for the sake of those who are too young to have lived through his heyday. In Okinawa, where Wallace began his karate career while serving in the Air Force, he concentrated on perfecting his side kick, along with his roundhouse kick, hook kick, lead-hand punch, lead-hand ridgehand and lead-hand backfist.

He focused on striking and kicking because he’d suffered a serious injury to his right knee while practicing judo. To compensate for his inability to kick with his right leg, Wallace developed a sideways-facing stance similar to the traditional horse stance. From there, he could throw most of his moves from his left side, thus avoiding the bum knee. His solution proved so successful that he used that stance and strategy to build what would become a stellar career.

More history: During his point-fighting phase, Wallace used all those aforementioned techniques. He augmented his arsenal by focusing additional attention on flexibility and developing ways to enhance his strength and endurance in his good leg. He went on to fine-tune the way he delivered those three kicks so they could be launched from the exact same chambered position.

When full-contact karate became the rage, Wallace added the jab, left hook and left uppercut to his repertoire. While he now had multiple techniques in his toolbox, he remained a “jab and side kick” man because those moves come in straight, and he found that use- ful because he liked to lure his opponents into running toward him. Of course, Superfoot maintained his proficiency with a few other strikes that flew in from the side — just in case.

For proof of the efficacy of this fighting method, consider the Wallace record. Among his numerous karate championships were 23 consecutive full-contact vic- tories. Furthermore, he was voted Black Belt’s Karate Player of the Year in 1973 and 1977, along with Man of the Year in 1978.

It was nearly four decades ago when Bill Wallace retired — undefeated, no less — but he still practices and teaches those same techniques, simply because he’s found nothing that works better. The best part is that Superfoot is adamant that any martial artist can see success by adopting his moves and methods.


Against an Aggressor Who Unleashes a Punch Out of Nowhere: “I always stand sideways when someone I don’t know walks up to me,” Wallace explains. “Why? Because if something happens, I’m ready to kick or punch — or run, for that matter. I’m not standing there with my solar plexus or my groin wide open.”

After the intro, he dives into the recommended response. “Say some guy comes up and starts provok- ing you,” Wallace says. “He’s not ready for anything because he doesn’t know that you know anything and because you’re standing there sideways. When he reaches out and tries to punch you in the nose, you just lean back a little and make a timid sound like ahh. Have you done anything that’s aggressive? No! You’re look- ing like the good guy.

“Now he’s thinking, ‘I got you!’ Then bam, you nail him with a side kick to the ribs. He goes ooof — a wonderful sound as he gets the wind knocked out of him. You can do a follow-up punch or kick, but it’s best to just get the hell out of there. Do too much, and you’ll be the one going to jail — except if you live in Florida like me, where the stand-your-ground law gives the defender more rights than in most other states. But I’m a nice guy anyway, and I never want to hurt people — unless I have to.”

Against an Aggressor Who Rushes in to Grab: “The bad guy attempts to put his hands on you, except this time there’s no opening for a body shot because he’s leaning forward,” Wallace says. “Well, if it were me, there would be an opening because I can kick him in the head, but it’s you and you can’t, so boohoo. (smiles) It’s a good thing you got your jab because his head is right in front of you — like a big cantaloupe. You blast him square in the jaw and knock him back. Then you nail him with a side kick and be on your way.”

If you’ve done much point karate, you’ve no doubt found yourself in practically the same situation, Wallace notes. “What are the most common techniques in point fight- ing? The backfist and the lead-leg roundhouse kick. A competitor gets too close, and you blast him with a back- fist. He moves back, and you follow up with the kick.” There’s no reason those much-maligned moves —especially his fave, the side kick — won’t transfer to self- defense situations, he adds.

Against an Aggressor Who Seizes a Lapel: “I’m a firm believer that if somebody is messing with you and your body language somehow makes the guy run away, you haven’t lost anything,” Wallace says. “But if you aren’t paying attention and the guy grabs your clothes and pulls you in, there’s still a lot you can do.”

Remember that you have both hands free, he says. “If you don’t want to lean back and execute a side kick immediately, you can swing your left arm over the top of your grabbed-side arm, and now you have him. You can nail him in the head with a ridge hand or left hook. You might want to turn his face into a canoe with your elbow since it’s right there, pointing toward his face. However, in this case, just drill him with the side kick.”

• Against an Aggressor Who Uncorks a Sunday Haymaker: “A lot of fights happen at night,” Wallace says. “It’s dark, and people can’t see the shot coming. You’ve got to react to movement and be quick. If you ain’t quick, I can help — but we’ll have to work at that in another lesson. (smiles) 

“Things seem much faster for you at night, and it’s the same for the guy who’s picking a fight with you. He thinks he’s tough. He’s one of these ‘Sunday haymaker’ guys who throw that big right hook.”

When the assailant does so, Wallace recommends angling your upper body back to avoid the blow. That also positions your shoulder to protect your head as a fail-safe. “As he misses, you’re on the outside of that haymaker,” he says. “You’ve got options: You can smack the guy right in the face with a left hook punch, or you can just slide back a bit and nail him with a side kick. Or you can do both.” 

If you possess sufficient timing and speed, you have another alternative, he says. “You can move inside and throw a left hook before the guy’s haymaker gets to you. Even if he throws it, your punching arm should protect you from the attack. A note to point fighters: The hook- punch action is nearly the same as the ridgehand strike; just close your fist and you’ve got the hook.”

Floyd Burk is a San Diego–based 10th-degree black belt with more than 50 years of experience in the arts. To contact him, visit Independent Karate Schools of Amer- ica at

This article originally appeared in a 2020 edition of Black Belt Magazine.

Related Posts

See All
bottom of page