Classifications of Kicks

Kicks may be classified either as defensive, such as the jump side kick or the jump spin side kick, or as offensive, such as the side thrust kick or step-thru side thrust kick. Other classifications are:

Acrobatic Kicks: Acrobatic kicks are used to entertain. Acrobatic kicks are to kicking as WWE wrestling is to wrestling. They are entertaining to watch but practically useless. They can only be performed by young people with acrobatic abilities. These kicks include kicks used with flips, horizontal spins, multiple spins, and jumping kicks with three of more separate kicks in one jump. They are impressive and are used in choreographed demonstrations and action movies. These types of kicks are nearly useless against an alert, moving opponent. Risk of injury is high with these kicks.

Competition kicks: Competition kicks are used in tournaments. In some tournaments, such as Taekwon-do tournaments, kicks to the head are awarded more points than punches, so you see a lot of high kicks. In other tournaments, where kicks and punches count equally, you see more punching, since hand are quicker and more effective than kicking. Most knockouts are the result of a punch. Kicks cannot be thrown at as high a rate as punches. High kicks may leave you vulnerable and off-balance. Change the direction of powerful kick is difficult. When permitted, one of the most effective kicks is a low round kick to the thigh. Since it uses little energy and does not require flexibility, it may be thrown more frequently than higher kicks so the chance of doing damage is increased.  

Pattern Kicks: Kicks in patterns are performed technically perfect: full chamber, full extension, full re-chamber, powerful but not so quickly so the form of the kicks may be seen, and slight hesitation at impact.

Sparring Kicks: Kicks in sparring are for one purpose, to score points. They do not have to look pretty; they just must be on target and quick.

Exhibition Kicks: Exhibition kicks spectacular kicks that are used in demonstrations to impress and entertain spectators. The kicks are usually useless for any other purpose.

Street Kicks: Street kicks are simple, low, and directed toward targets that when struck will stop an attacker. These are self-defense kicks. Most are long range, straight-in kicks, targeted below the belt. The knees are a primary target.

Kick Striking Points

Types of Kicks

Snap Kicks: A snap kick uses a striking action that recoils as soon as contact is made. This minimizes contact time so the shock of the blow cannot be reabsorbed into the body. When delivering any kick, the kicker is vulnerable because kicks are delivered while standing on one leg. This is especially true when kicking toward high targets, which are within the opponent's reach. Snap kicks overcome this to some degree because the recoil retracts the kicking foot before an opponent has a chance to grab the leg. The recoil also allows the kicker to draw the body together quickly and then use the drive from the supporting leg to deliver a powerful follow-through technique after the kick.

In a snap kick the knee serves as a hinge. The foot travels toward the target in an arc and returns as quickly as possible to a position of having the knee fully bent The knee serves a guide for the foot as it must be lifted and turned so that the foot strikes the target surface at a 90 degree angle. For power and stability, the foot must snap out and back as quickly as possible. The hips should move toward the target and back slightly in harmony with the movement of the kicking foot, to use the backup mass of the body. Snap kicks are seldom used in traditional Taekwon-do.

Thrust Kicks: In a thrust kick the lower leg is thrust toward the target with the foot leading the way, much the same way that the fore fists and forearm are used in a punch. Thrust kicks use the large, heavy muscles of the hips as well as the muscles in the thighs so they are potentially the most powerful techniques in Taekwon-do. Just as with a punch, the path to the target should be as short and as straight as possible. It is important to start with a light, quick movement and then concentrate all the body's power at the point of impact. The most important factor in thrust kicking is proper distance. If contact is made sooner than anticipated, or if the target is just out of range the kick will not be effective and the balance of the kicker can be easily disrupted.

A thrust kick utilizes the same principles of focusing as an arm technique such as a punch. A thrust kick brings the leg to an immediate stop on impact with the target, locking the kicking knee into position, so there is no give on impact. Like the snap kicks, thrust kicks create momentum by putting the body weight into motion. However, unlike snap kicks, which use a very short contact time upon impact, thrust kicks lock the body and kicking leg into position to redirect the counter-shock of the blow to the floor. Because of the longer contact time with the kicking foot and the vulnerable position of the person delivering a thrust kick, the most practical targets for thrust kicks are low. However to develop muscle strength and flexibility, as well as coordination and balance thrust kicks are typically practiced while kicking for higher targets.

A side thrust kick it the signature kick of Taekwon-do. A Taekwon-do practitioner's worth is judged by the power and technique of his/her side thrust kick.

Linear Kicks: Kicks that move in a relatively straight line to the target.

Round Kicks: Kicks that move in circular movement to the target.

Leading Leg Kicks: Leading leg lifts and executes the kick without the trailing leg moving.

Trailing Leg Kicks: Trailing leg lifts and executes the kick without the leading leg moving.

Sliding Kicks: Trailing leg slides up to or behind the leading leg and then the leading leg executes the kick.

Rising Kicks: Straight leg kick performed without bending the kicking knee. Not very powerful. Used to jam or check and attack. Snap may be added to kick. Rising kicks are also known as bubble kicks, bob kicks, half-moon kicks, and crescent kicks.

Hopping Kicks: Kicks where the body hops (a slight jump so that the feet leave the floor enough to allow the body to move). The hop allows a quick way to cover a relatively small distance.

Skip/Step Kicks: A step/skip kick may be used from a greater distance than a standard kick. Either step or skip the rear foot forward while performing a lead leg kick. Adjust length of your movement to suit the distance to be covered. Use a hand attack feint to disguise the initial foot motion. In skipping, the most difficult part is to synchronize the skip with the foot impacting the target. If you kick too early, you will pitch forward off balance. If you kick too late, then all momentum will be lost. For even faster kicks, first raise lead leg for a standard kick, and then skip rear leg forward as you kick with lead leg (do not step or skip first).

Spin Kicks: Kicks where the body rotates about its vertical axis in a reverse direction before the kick is executed. The spin adds power to the kick but since the back is presented to the opponent, it may be dangerous. If you attempt a spinning kick from neutral distance (where neither you nor your opponent can reach each other) you will not only fall short of the target, you will leave yourself open to an easy counterattack. To attack successfully, you must take at least a half step closer to your opponent, filling any space that your opponent might use to counterattack. To counterattack with a spinning kick, you must have extremely good reflexes not to allow your opponent to cut off your kick before you complete it.

Always spin upper body, head first, then shoulders and arms, then torso, before the kicking foot leaves the floor. Remember: for spin kicks, spin then kick.

Spin on the ball of the foot, not the heel! Lift the heel off the floor and then lift all the toes off the floor as much as possible, so that only the ball of the foot is in contact with the floor. The you spin on the ball of the foot. As you start the spin, lift your body weight upwards, similar to a little jump. It is a very small movement; the ball of the foot does not leave the floor. The toes act as 5 little brakes on the floor that control the speed of the spin and help stop it. Dropping the heel will stop the spin.

Jump Kicks: All kicks may have a jump added to their execution. The jump adds height to the kick. however, jump kicks:
  • May be dangerous to perform to both you and your opponent
  • Are difficult to perform
  • Their cost/benefit may not always make their use beneficial
  • Extreme caution and perfect timing are required
  • Jump-Spin Kicks: In jump-spin kicks, the kicker both jumps and spins to add power and height to a kick. In a jump spin kick, you jump, spin, and kick while tucking the non-kicking leg. Jump spin kicks are usually defensive kicks. Use as an offense only when the opponent is weakened and you are strong.

    Flying Kicks: Flying kicks are jump kicks or jump-spin kicks performed while leaping forward, usually from a running start.

    Pushing Kicks: Pushing kicks used to push the opponent backward rather than to injure the opponent.

    Ground Kicks: Floor kicks are executed while the body is lying on the ground.

    Air Kicks: Air kicks are performed while in the air. They are not jump kicks; they are merely performed while the non-kicking foot is off the floor.

    Drop Kicks: Dropping kicks are executed while in the process of dropping the body to the floor. Usually done with one or two hands on the floor. Most kicks may be adapted to use while dropping.

    Rising Kicks: Kicks where the leg is merely swung upward.

    Flick Kicks: Kicks where the foot is flicked upward to the groin.

    Turnover Kicks: Kicks used when one of your feet is grabbed and held by your opponent. You leap into the air, rotate over and around the held foot, and execute a kick with the free foot.

    Stomp Kicks: Downward kicks to the knees, shins, foot, or a prone opponent.

    Check or Stop Kicks. Kicks used to check or intercept an attacking kick before it is executed. May be used to stop the forward motion of an attacker.

    Aerial Kicks: Flashy kicks (flips, somersaults, etc.) performed mainly for entertainment purposes.

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