Taekwondo is a martial art that originated in Korea. It began as a hybrid of Japanese and Chinese styles many centuries ago, but the different martial techniques were unified under a single system only in 1950s. Today Taekwondo has grown into a popular international sport, with over 70 million practitioners in almost 200 countries worldwide. It is one of only two Asian martial arts (besides judo) that were added to the Olympic programme and became a full medal sport at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.
The name “Taekwondo” is a compilation of three words. “Tae” means foot, or to kick with the foot, “kwon” stands for fist, or to crush with the hand, while “do” means art, discipline, way of doing. So, literally, Taekwondo means “the way of the foot and fist”. However, Taekwondo teaches more than physical fighting skills, it promotes building character through a certain philosophy and way of life. Taekwondo puts a heavier emphasis on kicks than any other martial art and uses hands as a backup. Read on for a list of Taekwondo kicking techniques.
List of Taekwondo kicks
- Front Kick
- Front Push Kick
- Side Kick
- Flying Side Kick
- Back Kick
- Flying Back Kick
- Push Kick
- Crescent Kick
- Inside and Outside Crescent kicks
- Knee Strike
- Axe Kick/Swing Kick
- Hook Kick/Whip Kick
- Spinning Hook Kick
- Scissor Kick
- Roundhouse Kick/Turning Kick
- Spinning Roundhouse Kick/360 Roundhouse Kick
- Tornado Kick/Jumping 360 Roundhouse Kick
Keep in mind that different Taekwondo schools and organisations might have slightly different names for these kicks. However, what is common to all kick names is that they will have a corresponding Korean name that finishes with the word “chagi”, which simply means kick. So, a side kick is also called “yeop chagi”, while “dollyeo chagi” is synonymous with a roundhouse kick. It is useful to learn the Korean names for the basic Taekwondo kicks because your instructor might use these Korean names when asking you to demonstrate a specific kick.
Taekwondo has the biggest variety of kicking techniques compared to other martial arts. This is due to the fact that kicks are the core element of this sport. It features complicated aerial jumping and spinning kicks that are both dramatic and acrobatic in nature. The aim of Taekwondo is to land as many kicks, blows and punches upon the allowed target zones of your opponent as possible. These scoring areas are the torso and the head. Applying kicks and punches must be both precise and powerful because light tapping kicks aren’t scored in Taekwondo.
Taekwondo kick techniques: the main principles
Whether you use basic or advanced kicking techniques, the first stage of practising the art of Taekwondo is to learn the four core principles that all kick techniques are based on. If you try to apply these in practice, your performance will quickly go from just a series of kicks, punches and blocks to elite level. While every kicking technique is different and must be learnt correctly, these basic principles never change. Knowing and applying them will help you stand out and become a true Taekwondo master!
- Core Principle 1: Um-yang (the combination of two opposites)
- Core Principle 2: Acceleration
- Core Principle 3: Timing
- Core Principle 4: Power generation
Similar to the “yin-yang” principle, um-yang is all about two opposites co-existing in harmony. In Taekwondo it means that the preparation phase for any movement should be gentle, while the action stage should be fast and determined. All Taekwondo movements (i.e. kicks and punches) should start off with a relaxed phase progressively building maximum acceleration by making your muscles tense. If you try forcing all your muscle power into the movement without acceleration, that tension may slow down the movement. It can make your kicks both ineffective and predictable by your opponent.
Perfect timing in Taekwondo is about having your hand and foot finish the movement simultaneously. A lot of practitioners make the mistake of not synchronising the movements of their hands and feet and finishing their technique a split second apart. The final Taekwondo principle is knowing where power comes from – which is not only your arm or leg muscles but also the waist and hips. Top practitioners use their hip to generate the power for their kick by rapidly turning their waist, then adding acceleration to complete the movement.
Advanced Taekwondo kick techniques
- 540 Kick (Inside Turning Kick or Tornado Kick)
- 720 Kick
- Triple Aero Kicks
- Multiple Side Kicks
- Jumping 3-directional Kick (Twimyo Sambang Chagi)
- Reflex Kick (Balsa Chagi)
- Spinning Hook Kick
There are a variety of advanced kick techniques that were created by combining multiple simple kicks. Some of the most complex and powerful kicks can only be executed by professional athletes. Despite being extremely spectacular and effective, a number of these kicks are risky and are banned in some Taekwondo tournaments. They are not suitable for real-life self-defence situations and are mostly used for ceremonial purposes. Take note that the most powerful Taekwondo kicks, such as the Spinning Hook Kick, can create more physical damage than a baseball bat to your face!
The Tornado Kick is one of the signature kicks of Taekwondo that generates a lot of power. It has various names including the Inside Turning Kick or Jumping 360 Roundhouse Kick. It involves rotating 540 degrees, although some Taekwondo experts suggest that rotation in the air should only be 360 degrees. Again, it is not really practical or suitable for using in combat. The use of the Tornado Kick is normally limited to Taekwondo demonstrations because of the increased risk of injury. An unlucky landing can really badly damage your knees and ankles.
- Partner-based drills (practising specific kicks with a partner)
- Bag work (performing kicks on kicking bags)
- Mitt training (hitting the focus mitts)
- Shadowboxing (sparring with an imaginary opponent, e.g. in front of a mirror)
Taekwondo academies offer martial arts classes with plenty of ways to practice kicks – see list above. But you can always perfect your skills outside or at home – as long as you have enough space and proper flooring any room, or even the garage, will be a great training place. Whether you wish to learn kicks for self-defence, fitness or self-discipline, Taekwondo is all about improving your spirit. Self-belief, confidence in your abilities, and a firm intention to always perform your best play a key role in mastering the martial art of Taekwondo.