Taekwondo Kicks & Advanced Martial Arts Kicking

Taekwondo High Flying Jump Kicks
One of the more misunderstood aspects of martial arts are advanced aerial kicks. Although most advanced kicking is associated with Taekwondo, you can find them in most of the Korean martial arts as well as Wushu (Kung Fu) and modern artistic expressions such as competitive freestyle XMA or Extreme Martial Arts.

Those Who Can – Do
Those Who Can Kick – KICK! Those Who Can’t Kick – Criticise
The degree in which advanced kicking is emphasized in any given school is usually a function of the instructors ability, talent or propensity for this advanced skill set.

Tang Soo Do Kickboxing American Freestyle
My initial foundation in kicking was heavily influenced by the American expression of practical power kicking, much like moderate to full contact kickboxing. I learned a hybrid system of Tang Soo Do (Moo Duk Kwan) and a Korean temple art that resembles Chinese Gung Fu. One of the Masters who often conducted our belt tests was “Bad Brad” Hefton’s (blood and guts era of kickboxing) teacher so the influence was apparent. Although we did lots of multiple kicks, spins and double kicks, we didn’t have much aerial kicking other than flying side kicks.

Olympic Taekwondo Kicking
As Olympic Taekwondo grew and my first teacher supported its inclusion into the Olympic games and internationally recognized sport, our kicking began to modernize and morph. The “half crescent kick” became an AXE KICK. Our traditional horizontal round kick, which was more akin to a Muay Thai Kick or Shotokan roundhouse kick, was expanded into using angles and a deceptively clever and efficient single point of reference for the knee while turning the hip at the top. For those with a Bill “Superfoot” Wallace seminar under your belt, you would recognize the reference point deception strategy. The footwork, blocking, evasion, foot position (top of the foot for round kick) and dynamic movement training was an expansion of our previous training.

Illinois and Wisconsin State Taekwondo Training for Nationals
When training for Nationals, qualifying individuals were invited to go to State Team TKD training. This was my first exposure to actual “coaching” for performance, rather than the traditional style hard-core training classes in the Dojang (Korean Martial Arts School).

Olympic Taekwondo Kicking Training
I had the opportunity to compete in an international competition at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs Colorado. While there, I got to train with the USA National Taekwondo Team (and be cannon fodder for their explosive fast kicking.) The speed drills, pad drills, footwork, scoring strategy and workout intensity was a major departure from what I had known.

Learn From Advanced Taekwondo Kicking from a Video?
At that time I also started performing more demonstrations and wanted to integrate more advanced jumping kicks into my arsenal. I was able to pick up a video by NASKA Freestyle National Champion Stuart Quan. I followed his step by step tips for developing a jump split front kick and have been doing it ever since. Videos can be a great supplement to a hard working martial artists training. I still believe you need to be in a good school, have a qualified coach and someone who can do the skill you want. I would later use it in a film (which is so low budget and cheesy it shall remain nameless) for a slow motion action fight scene.

John Nottingham Pulgueksa Temple Korea

Scissor Kicks, Split Kicks, Triple Kicks, Flying Spinning Kicking
Later I would have the privilege of studying Hapkido and then when I moved to Arizona the complex art of Hwarang Do. In Hwarang Do I was fortunate to have a teacher with a rare depth of technical skill. He had the developmental exercises to help me build the strength and control to throw more advanced kicks, then make them functional. It really enhanced what I knew from my Taekwondo kicking arsenal.

WTF TaeKwonDo ITF Tae Kwon Do ATA Taekwondo Jhoon Rhee American Freestyle TKD
I was fortunate to have studied and practiced several traditional as well as modern expressions of Taekwondo as well as other arts. Teaching the World Taekwondo Federation, International Taekwondo Federation/Jhoon Rhee system gave me new insights on how each taught kicking. While core principles remain the same, it was beneficial to see the different development tools and methodologies. More than the system, the instructor was the defining factor in my experience.

Here is an interesting story about my advanced kicking Hwarangdo teacher…
One day My Hwarang Do teacher Master Corona and I were in Karate Mart, a local martial arts supply shop in Arizona. The guy behind the counter was a typical beginner student passing himself off as a knowledgeable guru with his rhetoric. Master Corona, a friendly but reserved Master, was cordial without saying much. The Karate Mart guy took it upon himself to educate us on how high kicks dont work.

“Those fancy high kicks don’t work. That stuff will just get you killed.”

On and on he babbled, revealing how little he really knew. Typical talk for those who have never put on the sparring gear and went toe to toe with a truly skilled kicker. My mind flashed to the Police officers I knew who cited examples of using high kicks on duty.

I was trying to hold back a snicker and just looked down at the ground. I knew that if I caught Master Corona’s eye, I might chuckle out loud. After a while I couldn’t take it anymore and I asked what style he studied, with whom he trained and for how long.

Practical Is As Practical Does
Just because it is a popular notion, doesn’t make it right.
It’s hard to argue with results. A fellow Master Instructor I know has a newspaper article posted on the wall of his school from when he disarmed an armed bank robber with a round kick to the head. The fact is that for most people, a high kick is out of the question. However, for a guy who has practiced for years and is a skilled kicker, it was the right tool for the job.

Nice to know it and not need it, than need it and not know it.

Nothing Wrong With Having an Opinion – You Just Have To Consider The Source
Typical of an inexperienced boastful beginner, the Karate store clerk danced around his martial arts qualifications explaining he bounced from style to style and teacher to teacher. (I predict he probably went on to invent his own style after gaining such mastery of all martial arts.) Unwittingly, he was revealing his martial arts immaturity and lack of real-life quality experience.

Ah but for the grace of God, there go I. (It’s always uncomfortable to see a bit of your younger self in someone else.) While I was never to that degree of ignorant and arrogant, I certainly had my moments of stupidity when I was a young teen in the martial arts.

As the Karate store clerk babbled on he went back to the kicks again. Master Corona and I were meandering around the store just taking in what he was saying, reserving any comment. Finally, Master Corona piped up and said,

“So what your saying is that you don’t know how to kick or know anyone who really does.”

I stared at the Karate store clerk curious as to his response. Stunned, he paused for a moment then sputtered, “Well, I duno…uh I guess not.” After a moment he asked, “Who are you?”
I spoke up and said, that’s Master Ken Corona from the Hwarang Do school over by ASU. The clerks cheeks turned a bit red and said, “Ohhhhh, I’ve heard of you. People say you’re really good.” Master Corona just smiled and then graciously invited him in to train sometime. Of course, we never saw the young man. Too bad, he could have experienced advanced kicking first hand.

The fact is, advanced kicks are just like any other skill. One’s ability to effectively use them is a matter of how much they have functionalised those skills to be used at the right time with the right opportunity. As I learned in the Army, surprise is still the greatest war and fighting tactic of all time.

Now, many years later, it is only once in a great while that we get to see the grace, beauty and power of an advanced kicker. While lesser known to most US MMA fight fans, PRIDE and K1 featured amazing kickers (as well as a sense of honor and some modesty from time to time.) High kicking knock out artists like Mirko Crocop slammed people in the head and neck with his sledge hammer-like legs. In recent events the larger MMA viewing public has seen the advanced sweeps of Karate Master Lyoto “The Dragon” Machita.

UFC MMA fans also witnessed the amazing Anderson “The Spider” Silva crush people with his devastating kicking and striking. (Remember when the experts touted that grapplers ruled the earth just a few short years ago?)
Check out Anthony Pettis KO kick. He’s using a classic Korean style rebound kick off the cage at WEC in Arizona.
Old School Kickers
For those of us fortunate enough to know the era of Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Pete “Sugar Foot” Cunningham, Ramon “Diamond” Dekkers and others, it is refreshing to finally see more variety in kicking gain recognition. I’m optimistic that the viewing public will expand its thinking about martial arts, the various styles and recognize the amazing beauty, strengths and benefits that each style offers.

Freestyle Martial Arts, Extreme Martial Arts Tricking, Parkour, Freerunning
One of the top innovators and better known stars of tricking is Mr. Steve Terada. Check out the amazing level of skill and creativity he demonstrates.

Master Mike Chat XMA – The Stuff You See In Movies!

For those interested in Hollywood Chop Socky style action, or bringing younger students an appealing way to train, this is the system that launched Talor Lautners award winning performance skills. I can tell you from personal experience that Master Chat is an outstanding martial artist, talented coach, and taught me a great deal. It’s visionaries like these that will shape the future of performance martial arts.

It’s one thing to see someone with functional kicks used effectively to knock people out. It’s another thing altogether to see them do it with style.

Kicking is Fun!
Perhaps more and more people will develop an appreciation and respect for advanced skills and the artistic expressions as well. They are no less amazing and bring a richness and depth to martial arts practice. After all, it really is much more than just kicks and punches.

USA Martial Arts Phoenix
Phoenix Martial Arts

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3 Responses to “Taekwondo Kicks & Advanced Martial Arts Kicking”

  1. Mary Says:

    Regarding your statement: “One of the Masters who often conducted our belt tests was “Bad Brad” Hefton’s (blood and guts era of kickboxing) teacher so the influence was apparent.”
    Who was this “teacher” and when and where did you test with him?

  2. The Secret to Taekwondo Kicking « John Nottingham's USA Martial Arts Self Defense & Security Blog Says:

    […] More on Taekwondo and Advanced Kicking at this article. […]

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