The Taekwondo syllabus is composed of individual movements. Each move must be practised repeatedly and often in order to perfect it. Taekwondo techniques can be separated into the following categories:
- Hand strikes
Below is a partial list of Taekwondo techniques broken into their relevant sections. Please note this is only a fraction of the actual number of techniques – to list them all would be a near impossible task!
Kicking is the most important aspect in Taekwondo. More than any other martial art, Taekwondo has a huge variety of kicks. The Taekwondo stance can be rapidly shifted to alternate which leg is in the lead and, from here, spinning kicks, straight kicks, jumping kicks, jump spinning kicks and double or even triple kicks can be performed in quick succession. Fake kicks are also employed so that an opponent will initiate a response and open himself up to a counter move. Depending on the type of kick executed, various parts of the foot are engaged as the striking surface.
- The Heel is a hard surface used for in penetrating kicks such as side kicks. The relative toughness of the heel also makes it suitable for use against the head of an opponent as in the Taekwondo Axe Kick and the Hook Kick – both notorious for scoring KOs.
- The Ball of the foot is the area directly underneath the toes, exposed when they are pulled back. This is the area engaged in frontal, snapping kicks and aimed at the opponents solar plexus, stomach or chin. The toes must be pulled back in front snapping kicks or they could be broken on impact, meaning the kicker suffers a far greater injury than the kicked!
- The Instep at the top of the foot, as exposed when the toes are pointed forwards, is a useful surface for kicking the side of an opponents body or head. Taekwondo Turning Kicks or roundhouses engage the instep. Greater damage can be achieved in the same kicks by pulling the toes back and striking with the ball, however the angle needs to be correct or the toes can suffer.
- The Edge of the foot is prepared for striking by turning the foot down so the sole lies horizontal to the leg. The outside edge can then be used as a striking surface in side kicks much like the heel. Due to the small surface area of the edge of the foot, a more painful kick can be inflicted with this slightly more advanced technique. The edge of the foot is often used to snap boards in displays of Taekwondo breaking.
- The Sole of the foot provides a big surface area and is mostly used in Taekwondo to force the opponent backwards. In this way, pushing kicks are more of a defensive manoeuvre. Nevertheless, a well timed pushing kick can knock the wind out of an attacker.
- The Knee is banned for use in Taekwondo competitions for good reason. As can be seen in Muay Thai, the knee is a formidable weapon and can knock an opponent out in a single, low-risk strike. Knee techniques may be taught in Taekwondo as part of self-defence.
Standard Taekwondo Kicks
These kicks are performed from a standard fighting stance, two legs on the ground. They can also be skipped forwards to close distance.
- Front Kick – Ap Chagi is one of the most basic yet most powerful Taekwondo kicks. The front knee is raised and the leg is rapidly extended straight up and forwards to make contact. The toes are pulled back for protection so that the pad of the foot strikes the opponent.
- Side Kick‘ – Yeop Chagi is a powerful thrusting kick. The knee is raised up like in the Front Kick, and almost simultaneously the body pivots 90 degrees so the hip on the kicking side is pointed towards the opponent. While doing this the knee is brought away from the opponent, the lower leg held parallel to the ground and the leg is thrust out sideways. The opponent may be struck with the heel or the side of the foot, as it is inverted horizontal to the ground.
- Roundhouse Kick – Dollyeo Chagi, sometimes also called a turning kick. The knee is raised and the hips simultaneously turned 90 degree to face the opponent. As the hips turn, the leg is kicked in the same direction to strike the side of the opponents body or head with the instep. The toes may also be curled back to strike with the ball of the foot.
- Back Kick – Dwi Chagi is initiated in the same way as the side kick but the hips are turned further than 90 degrees so that the opponent is viewed over the shoulder. The kick is then thrust out backwards in a movement not unlike a donkey’s kick. This is a particularly powerful Taekwondo kick and can get a lot of reach.
- Hook Kick – Huryeo Chagi is a sneaky Taekwondo kick that can get behind an opponents defences and do them some real harm. The leg is lifted just like in a roundhouse kick but then the hips are turned over 90 degrees towards the opponent so that, when extended, the kicking leg is on the far side of his body. The outstretched kicking leg is then rapidly bent inwards in a hooking movement, ideally catching the opponent round the back of the head with the heel. This was a favourite of Bill ‘Superfoot’ Wallace who once knocked out his opponent with a hook kick timed at 60mph.
- Axe Kick – Naeryeo Chagi is one of the most devastating kicks in the Taekwondo arsenal. Requiring considerable flexibility, the straightened kicking leg is swung directly up into the body of the practitioner. At its vertical apex the kicking lies flat along the practitioner, nestled into the same side shoulder. The straight leg is then brought crashing down onto the shoulders or head of the opponent. Strong contracting hamstrings are aided by gravity and no one can withstand a perfectly timed axe kick to the head. Time and time again, Taekwondo Axe Kicks are used to achieve a knockout in full contact competitions.
- Crescent Kick – Bandal Chagi comes in two variations – inside crescent kick and outside crescent kick. In the inside crescent kick the knee is lifted high across the body in a tight arc shape. The kick originates outside the body and moves across in an arc, the point of impact should be the opponents head at the arc’s apex. The outside crescent kick works in the opposite way, with the leg swinging in an arc from inside to outside.
Taekwondo Fast Kicks
These are performed on the front leg while the back leg skips forwards or maintains the balance of the practitioner. They do not have the power of normal kicks (sometimes referred to as real kicks to differentiate) but can serve to confuse an opponent, opening him up to a more powerful attack. A good example is a Front leg Roundhouse Kick, like the standard roundhouse but the back leg skips forwards as the kicking leg is first raised, thereby placing the opponent quickly within range. Not as powerful as a normal roundhouse but much quicker.
Taekwondo Spinning Kicks
Spinning kicks require the practitioner to execute a spin before the leg is released. In this way, extra momentum is created which makes the kick far more powerful should it connect. The initial spin may also be used to dodge an incoming attack.
- Reverse Spinning Hook Kick – Contrary to a standard Taekwondo Hook Kick, the back leg is the kicking leg. Pivoting on 180 degrees on the front leg, the practitioner swings his back leg behind himself and toward his opponent. As the kicking leg foot approaches the opponent, the leg is bent inwards sharply to strike the back the opponents head with the hard heel. A very powerful kick.
- Spinning Axe Kick – Like an Axe kick in everything, except the fact the kick is not executed while the body turns. This means the practitioner can raise his leg up and then aim it to where his opponents central axis is before releasing the powerful kick downwards.
- Spinning Side Kick – A spin added to a side kick means that the kick is thrust forwards with the added momentum of a 180 or even 360 degree twist. Used in a combination evasion/attack, a Taekwondo Spinning Side Kick a powerful counter, as an opponents kick can be evaded before the kick is delivered to his exposed body.