Kicks in Tae Kwon Do

Taekwondo Kicks: Front, Side and Turning Kicks

The Basic TaeKwonDo Kicks

When first starting in TaeKwonDo, as in most arts that you try to learn, you need to have a good foundation to build on in order to get better as you move up in the belt ranks. That is why I think its imperative to learn and master these 3 basic kicks.

These kicks may not be as impressive looking or dramatic as kicks that you will learn as you continue your journey but it will make them much easier to learn and you will be much better at them if you take the time to master them from the beginning

These are the 3 Basic Kicks in Tae Kwon Do:

  • Front Kick – Ap Chagi 
  • Turning Kick – Dollyo Chagi
  • Side Kick – Yeop Chagi

The Fundamental TaeKwonDo Kicks

Front Kick or Ap Chagi 

The most basic and fundamental kick of them all in TaeKwonDo.  When doing a front kick you should ensure that your knee is coming up high (and then dropping slightly as the foot fires forward to make the foot travel straight).

You need to Make sure you are making contact with the ball of the foot and that your Hips stay parallel – if you twist the kicking hip forwards the power will slip off to the side.

Mix fast and slow motion kicking to build the muscle memory and at first, kick the air as it is good for balance and ensuring technique is correct. Once your technique is good then kick the pads.

Kicking off the back leg will be more generally be more powerful because your weight is travelling forward.

How to Practice a Front kick.

  1. Begin in a side on stance, feet two shoulder widths apart, with the kicking leg back. Feet should be parallel, pointing slightly to the side. Keep the guard up throughout.
  2. Drive the rear leg forwards as if to knee an opponent. Keep the body upright, with the weight on the standing foot.
  3. Straighten the kicking leg by extending the knee towards the target. You should aim to strike with the ball of the foot by pulling the toes back.
  4. Recover the kicking leg by snapping it back into the flexed position as you prepare to set it down.
  5. Set the kicking foot down landing forwards as you complete the kick. From here you can either perform additional moves, or return to the starting position.

Note: This is not me! But he gives a much better demonstration on how to do the Front Kick then I could.

Turning Kick or Dollyo Chagi

This is sometimes referred as a ‘roundhouse’ and what it was called the first time I learned Tae Kwon Do but times have changed and in Tae Kwon Do at least I more often than not heard it called a turning kick.

It is the kick that most emphasized in my school as it is one of the most versatile kicks in TaeKwondo. Some of the points that you need to remember in this kick (and the others as well) is to practice and have lots of and patience

How to Practice a Turning Kick.

  1. Begin in a side on stance, feet two shoulder widths apart, with the kicking leg back. Feet should be parallel, pointing slightly to the side. Keep the guard up throughout.
  2. Drive the rear leg forwards. Keep the body upright, with your weight transferred to the standing foot for balance. Keep the knees close together as you bring the kicking leg through.
  3. The Knee comes up and the standing foot pivots 180 degrees to the outside so that the heel is now facing the target. This naturally causes the hips, shoulders and body to flip across.
  4. Straighten the leg by extending the hip and knee. Throw the hips forward for increased reach and power, and to create a whole body movement. The contact point is the instep of the foot.
  5. After you hit the target, immediately snap the leg back in. This is to stop the opponent catching the leg, to speed up the finishing phase neatly, and to prevent over swinging.
  6. Set the kicking foot down landing forwards as you complete the kick. From here you can either perform additional moves, or return to the starting position.

Note:  Although it would be fantastic if I could do a turning kick this well, is not me! But he gives a much better demonstration on this important kick

Side Kick or Yeop Chagi

I am not sure exactly why but is my favorite kick of the three. They are inherently a little slow that a roundhouse, but because they travel in a straight line from you to your opponent, they are more difficult to defend against. Sidekicks are generally lower kicks and meant to hit more of the torso area.

They are “shorter range” than say  the roundhouse kick and they require the student to compress for a brief second, bring your knee across your body before extending the kick.

The sidekick has always been a more powerful kick and I use my heel to hit with which adds more striking force since its solid bone.

How to Practice a Side kick.

  1. Begin the kick by bringing your knee up across your body so you are showing the knife edge of your foot.  Make sure your position at this point is so that the target you are trying to kick is located to the side of where you are.
  2. Turn  the standing foot and thrust the knife edge and heel of the foot into the opponent. If you tilt the hips and lean back you can get higher kicks.  The side kick can be performed as a low, medium or high kick but I use it most as a low or medium mostly for flexibility (or lack thereof) reasons.
  3. At this point you need to bring the leg back quickly to avoid it being caught. Its best to bring it back through the same path as how it was kicked out
  4. Rotate the foot inwards to reveal the outside edge of the foot. I tuck the leg in so that I can turn my body and hips quickly into the kick. The tighter the movement, the quicker the body turns.
  5. At this point I thrust the leg straight out in front, making sure to look down the shoulder to aim the kick.
  6. After full extension of the leg and hips, I quickly withdraw the leg to be able to make my next move. I set the foot down quickly.

Note: Your objective should be to make contact with your target using the outside edge of your foot and your heel. As with a front kick, you should do your best to avoid hitting your target with your toes to minimize the risk of injury. 

Keep upright for balance when bringing the leg up to prepare for the kick. Its important if not vital to look over your shoulder as you need to need to see what your aiming at. Align the kick straight down the middle. If your are off center the kick is not as strong and you may even miss.

Nope…. Still not me.. but this person does a good job for visually teaching how to do a side kick

Parts of the Foot For Kicking

As you may or may not know if you are just starting out but is kicking is the most powerful aspect of all Taekwondo techniques and their are many parts of the foot that are used as a striking tool depending on the type of kick executed. The parts of the foot that are used are:

Ball of the foot

This is the area directly underneath the toes. When this area is engaged the toes must be pulled back.

Foot sword

The outer edge of the foot and is used by turning the foot down so the sole lies horizontal to the leg.

Heel

This is a hard surface and used in penetrating kicks.

Instep

This is at the top of the foot and is used when the toes are pointed forward.

Sole of the foot

This part of the under foot provides a bigger surface area and is used to force an opponent backwards.

Principles of Kicking in TaeKwonDo

In order to uses these striking tools effectively there a four principles that you need to you learn for you to have the correct kicking technique and these are:

Speed

You can improve speed by trying to do a set number of kicks in a certain time frame and then attempting to beat your time.

Power and Balance

Power training does help with speed, timing and balance. This includes squats and lunges but I find that leg pistols are very effective. This can then be augmented with heavy bag kicking to ensure the foundation is still there as kicks loose power when off balanced.

Flexibility 

If you don’t have flexibility then you have resistance and your kicks will be slower. At a minimum make sure you can touch your toes without the knees bending

To be able to kick forcefully and with speed then proper balance is required. Maintain strong balance and never raise the heel of the plant leg during the kick.

Adjust distance correctly to ensure the kick is most effective and powerful at the point of impact. Always rotate the hips into the kicks to maximize the power. Using the hips correctly helps extend the reach and height of the kick as well.

Tips and Advice

Practice your kicks as if you are moving in slow-motion. While doing so, focus on perfecting your form. Proper posture, balance, and skeletal alignment are key to optimizing your technique. Speed and power will follow.

I cannot stress this enough, but practice your kicks and footwork at the same time. If you are looking to be a high level competitor in tournament or other contact competition you need to be able to fluidly attack mid-stride.

This is one of the best ways to increase one’s ‘speed’ in combat. Practice moving and kicking until you no longer have to think about the details.

Along with practicing your footwork, work on kicking at a moving target. Work with a partner who is holding a kicking target and have them move like an opponent (alternating defensive and offensive footwork).

When training alone you can use a ball suspended from a string from the ceiling of your training area (tennis balls are a great for this).

The ball is a small(ish) target for you work on fine motor control, and it can swing like a pendulum or in circles. You can also practice your footwork circling around and reacting to the balls movements.

If you have any physical limitations or unique joint, muscle, tendon, or ligament development that might not allow your full range of movement, learn to adapt and accept that.

Keep working for your best performance and improved physical condition, but the only thing that will bring about change – if you are physically able to do it – is proper instruction, dedicated practice, and time.

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