Thursday, November 22, 2012

Taekwondo as a Para-Sport?

With numerous other contact sports being promoted in the Paralympics (such as Judo), some athletes are promoting Taekwondo as a sport for the handicapped, and the WTF is eying a new potential audience.

Will Taekwondo ever become a sport for the handicapped? Forms and breaking has been considered, but the handicapped engaging in full-contact sparring has raised some concerns as to participant safety.

Currently, all signs point towards Taekwondo not becoming a Paralympic sport, but time will tell.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Karate Practitioners Have Different Brain Structures

According to the Cerebral Cortex Journal, scientists in Britain have determined that karate practitioners do not purely use brute strength or muscular mass to achieve their concrete-breaking power - rather, through years of practice, their brains have rewired themselves to perfect and repeat the most efficient methods of striking a target.

While the notion of "practice makes perfect" is no new idea, these scientists think they may have found proof of the brain actually changing in physical structure, specifically in the "white matter" area of the brain. Researchers measured punches from a group of karate blackbelts and a group of equally fit athletes. At a distance of 5 centimeters, the karate practitioners could consistently generate a punch with more impact and PPSI (pounds per square inch). It is believed that the brain, aside from having a different structure, also sent signals to develop the nerves that initiated these precise movements to a level of near-perfection.

Kendo Footwork

Here is a treatise on footwork in Kendo. Notice any similarities between this and Taekwondo? Sometimes, it's best to outmaneuver your opponent.

  In Kendo, the Japanese martial art of sword-fighting, the most important thing to know is not how to swing your sword, but how to move your feet.  Good footwork offers more to kenshi that just being able to smoothly maneuver across the dojo floor. It can also bring you into your proper attacking distance with a step, carry you out of danger, or shift your position for the most advantageous strike, all while keeping your body balanced. Good footwork also allows you to put pressure, or seme, on your opponent, and proper footwork is a vital part of achieving zanshin, a state in which your mind and body are working together to put pressure on your opponent while retaining enough flexibility to counterattack.

Footwork begins and ends with the most basic stance in kendo, chudan no kamae. In this stance, the feet are both facing forward, about two fists apart. Slide the left foot back, keeping the leg straight,  until the big toe of the left foot is at the edge of the right foot’s heel. Bring up the heel of your left foot until the ball of your foot is supporting your weight, then bend the right leg slightly.

In order to move, kick off with the left foot, sliding the right foot forward, then bring your left foot back into the starting position. This step is called okuri-ashi, and it is the most basic step in kendo. Taking a step back requires you to push back with your right foot. In all cases, you want to slide your feet along the ground. This deceptively simple step is the basis for the rest of kendo, and kenshi will spend the rest of their kendo career learning how to do it right.

Here is a video of a 5th dan kenshi demonstrating proper okuri-ashi

Beginning kenshi will often get blisters on their feet as they are getting used to sliding their feet across the floor. This can be painful, but it is also a good learning tool. If a blister forms, make sure it is on the center of the ball of your foot, between the second and third toes. If the blister is closer to your big toe, you need to adjust your stance.

Kendo footwork is a good example of the linear footwork found in Japanese martial arts, including Karate and Judo. The emphasis is on advancing quickly in order to attack, not to mention being able to retreat quickly if you need to. In fact, kendo’s footwork provides a common link between hand-to-hand martial arts and European fencing. In fact, fencing as a sport offers the clearest example of linear footwork since the two opponents only advance and retreat.

When fighting with a sword, nothing is more important than speed, decisiveness, flexibility and balance. With practice, kendo footwork provides the key to all four of these traits. 

Chris Gottschalk is a freelance writer and kendo practitioner. He runs a website at

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Martial Arts and Dance

    While the two disciplines have remarkably different goals (fun and style vs practicality and combat), they are very intertwined. In fact, some martial arts have combined the two elements into one style, such as Capoeira, and some dance styles have incorporated martial arts techniques into their arsenal. In fact, professional MMA fighters have taken ballet to improve their chances in the ring.

   The upper body movements are often completely different and present the illusion that the two are not connected. The real connection comes when one examines the foot and leg movements.

Let's examine some of the more popular dance styles of today:


Melbourne Shuffle:


    Now let's look at them one by one. The first video was jumpstyle. Jumpystyle is  largely influenced by traditional European folk dances and makes use of repetitive short hops and kicking movements. The "tricks" thrown in between the basic moves are generally aerial and have a high resemblance to Taekwondo-based kicks, such as the 540 roundkick. Chambering of the leg, as seen in Taekwondo and Karate, is also often implemented.

 Next, we saw the Melbourne Shuffle. The Melbourne Shuffle consists almost exclusively of ankle rotations to the left and right, mixed with the "Running Man". This simple movement is the major component of power generation in all kicks, regardless of the martial art (a notable exception may be the basic front kick). By extension, the shuffle to the left or right is the exact same ending movement that Bruce Lee used in his famous stepping sidekick, except that the extending leg does not tend to go above the thigh. The mechanics are the same. This technique is seen at approximately the 1:00 mark in the below video.

  Lastly, we saw Rebolation. Sometimes called the Brazilian version of the Melbourne Shuffle, it incorporates elements of shuffling and jumpstyle, as well as various other movements. The fluidity of transitioning from a "hopping" movement to a "shuffling" movement, as seen in Rebolation, is a major problem for people entering MMA who need to transition from standup to a clinch. Called "pummeling" in Muay Thai, this happens when the transition is made from striking distance into a clinch. Once in the clinch, upper body rotation is used to achieve positional superiority by gaining either double underhooks or upperhooks. However, using pure upperbody strength would be exhausting and MT fighters will use footwork, especially footwork resembling the "pivot walk" seen in Rebolation, to position themselves and give their upperbody extra torque, while remaining rooted firmly to the ground.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Lutalo Wins Bronze

The Guardian

 Lutalo Muhammad, center of the BOA controversy during the Olympics, has emerged with a bronze medal. However, the real controversy now is whether or not Aaron Cook would have performed better. Although there is no arguing that Lutalo Muhammad is an excellent athlete and world-ranked Taekwondo fighter, Aaron Cook was ranked #1 in the whole world in his weight class.

Technique Training Toolbox – Elastic Roundhouse

For the majority of Olympic sparring competitors, the roundhouse kicks, and its many variations, are the bread and butter of their sparring game. So what if I told you I knew some great drills for increase the speed and power of your roundhouse?

I have three simple drills using one simple tool; the elastic.

Any sturdy, long piece of elastic with loops for your ankle that can take rapid and repeated stretching (we use bicycle inner tubes tied together, you can buy resistance bands of different strengths,) attached to a solid unmoving anchor (we put our elastic around a door's floor bolt.)

Ideally you'll use the same elastic for each time you do a drill, making comparing your performance each time simple.

The above video is of me demonstrating the three drills:
It comes with some great free commentary by one of our resident eight year olds.

“Why do you use the rubber?”
“To make it harder”

Well put.

Contrast Kicks

The idea is pretty simple; kick the bag pretty much as hard as you can, making sure you have good technique and speed. Take your time with these kicks, no need to rush, do this for about 5-10 kicks.

Then put the elastic around the ankle of the foot you want to kick with. To begin with you'll want to start with the elastic just tense with your foot back (this will stop it suddenly pulling). Record this distance from your anchoring point (we can improve this later). Again, kick as hard and fast as you can, taking your time to get good technique. Once kicking with this much resistance is easy, take a few steps past taut and kick with increased resistance. Do this for the number of reps you want.

Take off the elastic and finish off with another 5-10 unrestrained kicks, using the same technique you used while using the elastic. The power of this set should be more than the power of your initial warm up set.

So how does this work?

I've had students who were big solid men, who would kick your kidneys out with every roundhouse. The problem? They did this huge wind-up that made them slow and easily predictable; they fell in the stereotype of the slow lumbering big guy. This drill causes the wind up technique to become tiring and inefficient in generating power. So what I was finding with these guys was, with very little coaxing, their technique improved a lot, and most of their drive was coming forward, making their kicks much faster.

Similarly with a lot of kids and even women, I found often the problem was they couldn't put any power into their kicks, whatever their hold-back, whether it be fear of injuring themselves, unaccustomed to the idea of hitting others, or any other reason. This drill helped a lot of them generate that raw power when hitting a target, because they had to just to reach the target; so when the contrast of no resistance came, they finally smacked the target and made a solid hit.

I often like to use this drill in sets of 50 each side, because lets face it, you could end up kicking that many times in a round and you want to be able to keep on generating power with speed the whole way through the round.

Over-Speed Kicking

Much like parachute training used for sprinting, adding extra resistance to an already fast and explosive action, we are going to add resistance to our fast roundhouse in the form of the elastic.

Now there are a few ways to approach this, firstly you can just bang out a set of kicks as quickly as you can, this will promote the time from kicking to recovery back to kicking again, quite well; which is a useful skill to promote. Students doing this seem to make great improvement on their recovery as well, as the elastic pulls you back making it difficult to plant properly, meaning an increased concentration on their form.

Another option is to work on single leg doubles and triples, briefly tapping the foot on the ground between kicks up to the number you are aiming for and then back to recovery. When doing this the importance is on the speed between kicks and the power of kicks, not the speed of the overall set. So take your time after recovery. This works well on improving the power of secondary kicks after the initial kick, as well kicking off the clinch. In the video, I do a quick set of a single, double, triple, a four and a five.

With either of these make sure to do a set without the elastic to contrast the kick.

Resistance Peaking

This time we are going to play around with our resistance a bit. We are going to start with the elastic on the foot, but with no tension at the point of kick contact (i.e keep it really loose). We're going to warm up with a few kicks to the bag or shield (I prefer the body shield for this drill as we're practicing scoring.) making sure to kick at a power that scores. Once you've got a feel for the power you want to kick at we'll start the set.

Again starting with no tension in the elastic, kick once at scoring power, then move forward, adding resistance to the elastic and kick again, maintaining that power. Keep moving forward and kicking once at that resistance until you can no longer deliver a kick that scores.

In the video, I show two variations you can play with, in the first one, I drop step forward after the kick, meaning I can get a lot more kicks in the same distance and the resistance doesn't jump as rapidly. In the second, I take a full step between each kick, resulting a in a slower drill with less kicks and a higher jump in resistance between kicks.

This drill utilises the climbing resistance to help athletes push through a plateau in power, think of it as a bit of a range finder for working sets, with the end of the range being a speed working range, and a bit before the end being a power working range.


Part technique practice, part power resistance training, this drill should be treated like any other conditioning drill, with a focus on planning and progressive overload; record your results, and then improve on them.

Elastics have proven themselves with student's I have trained as a great power, speed and technique exercise, as long as you're smart about programming them. Keep in mind that elastic use should be assistance only, and kicking without resistance should make up the bulk of your work. This is because elastic training isn't a natural movement, because let's face it, when in a round have you had someone holding back your leg from kicking?

Try these out and let me know how they go for you.

Alex is a Kukkiowon certified 4th dan and has been training in martial arts for 12 years and instructing for 7. He is also a certified Personal Trainer and constantly works to blend his passion for physiology and fitness into his martial arts instruction; and his passion for martial arts into his fitness instruction.
For more info, check out his Melbourne, Australia based club and business.
Tigers Taekwondo –
New Form Fitness –

Monday, July 30, 2012

Cardiovascular Conditioning for Taekwondo Athletes

This is a continuation of Cardiovascular Conditioning for Taekwondo Beginners 

For more advanced practitioners with a solid cardiovascular base, your heart and lungs stop being the limiting factor for your performance as much, and your utilised muscles become a limiting factor. Your muscles utilise 3 different energy systems, and without getting too much into the chemistry and biology of it, they can be explained as:
  • ATP-PC: All exercise starts with this system and it lasts for about 3-10 seconds of near max effort. It provides energy very quickly and is important for max strength and powerful movements.
  • Anaerobic system: Kicks in about 3-5 seconds in, and runs for the length of your exercise. High rate of energy generation, but can reach its limits relatively quickly.
  • Aerobic system: Starts running after about 10-30 seconds of effort. It has a slower rate of energy generation but lasts for much longer.
Your aerobic and anaerobic systems work in concert, with each feeding the other, both utilised in different quantities to meet your energy needs, as your intensity increases you utilise your anaerobic system more, and at longer lower intensities, you rely on your aerobic system more.
Importantly your body becomes better at performing using the energy systems at the levels you use them at. That means to improve your cardio while sparring, you should make your cardio workouts as similar to sparring as possible. The current national rules for WTF sparring this is 3 rounds of 1:30 with 30 second breaks in between for Open Division Black Belts, so we should train like this.
So we will structure our workout with the same times in mind, but we are going to add one extra round to add that volume of training to your work. So in the case of 3 rounds of 1:30, we will do 1 and a half minutes of work, then 30 seconds rest, doing nothing. Then we repeat that 3 more times.
If your number of rounds, and/or round and rest times differ, adjust your interval times accordingly.
So what do we do in that 1 and half minutes? Well we can take 2 different approaches (and use them together.) Firstly we could do some general conditioning, this is any form of cardio, such as running or swimming; my favourite being the rowing machine as nice easy full body work. In our work time we want to get as far as possible in the minute and a half we have, this is our benchmark for performance.
A sample session would look like this:
  • Cardio for 1:30 (record your distance)
  • Rest for 0:30
  • Cardio for 1:30 (record your distance)
  • Rest for 0:30
  • Cardio for 1:30 (record your distance)
  • Rest for 0:30
  • Cardio for 1:30 (record your distance)
  • Finish
Now, what do we do with these distances? Well I'm sure you understand the importance of not going all out in the first round and having nothing left for the last, so we're going to take an easy approach to scoring your effort; you just record the shortest distance achieved. So if you got to 200m, 205m, 190m, 315m; your score would be 190m, as it is the shortest, this is the score you want to improve over time, so pacing is very important.

This style of general conditioning is really handy, as you can do it by yourself, and track your results easily and objectively, but the carry over to your sparring performance isn't as good as it could be, that's where sport's specific conditioning comes in.
Sports specific conditioning aims to replicate your actual competition environment as closely as possible. So what I like to do is pick a few of my staple moves (for instance axe kick and roundhouse) and aim for high repetitions. An example would be:
  • Alternating legs roundhouse kick for 1:30 (record number of kicks)
  • Rest for 0:30
  • Repeat 3 more times
Again you would record the lowest number of kicks for the 4 rounds and try and improve this.
I would also do this for my axe kick, making sure to keep my scores separate as they aren't comparable.
Another variation is to add in a some footwork as a separate drill (e.g inch in to roundhouse, inch back out) you will get less repetitions for the same time, but it better simulates the requirements on your body.
Try these out and let me know your scores.

Alex is a Kukkiwon certified 4th dan and has been training in martial arts for 12 years and instructing for 7. He is also a certified Personal Trainer and constantly works to blend his passion for physiology and fitness into his martial arts instruction; and his passion for martial arts into his fitness instruction.
For more info, check out his Melbourne, Australia based club and business.
Tigers Taekwondo -
New Form Fitness –

Who to Look Out for in the 2012 Olympics

The Olympics have just recently started, but the Taekwondo games haven't begun yet!

There are a few competitors every person should be looking out for:

Steven Lopez- Obviously, he is one of the biggest powerhouses in the sport. After coming out with a bronze at the last Olympics, he is determined to earn a gold medal this time.

Lutalo Muhammad- All of England's eyes will be on this athlete. After the recent controversy of him replacing the #1 in his weight division, Aaron Cook, his performance will determine whether this was a wise choice or not.

Yousef Karami- Representing the Islamic Republic of Iran, Karami is one of the best competitors in the sport, leaving a trail of gold medals and landslide victories in his path, wining numerous World Championships and the Asian Championships over the last 9 years.

Lee Dae-Hoon- the recent rookie addition to Korea's national team is expected to do very well. Known for a slightly reckless style of fighting, his appearances in the ring are expected to entertain the crowd.

Cardiovascular Conditioning for Taekwondo Beginners

What is the best form of cardiovascular fitness for a Taekwondo athlete? Is it a long distance run? Short sprints up a hill? Swimming? To find the answer we have to know a little something about how energy systems and how the body adapts to exercise.
The core of your cardiovascular fitness and health is the performance of you heart, lungs and your vascular system (veins, arteries and capillaries). If you are just beginning to exercise, then chances are these will be the weak links in the chain, and thus the limiting factor in your cardiovascular performance.

To increase the performance of these links efficiently we tend to use long steady state cardio. Going for a run, swim, walk, bike ride etc., will all meet this need and exercising anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes is generally enough volume to improve as a beginner.
What you need to pay attention to is your pace. Since you are trying to build up the performance of your heart and lungs, you need to pay attention their limits. The mistake most beginners make when starting out is exercising at a pace that feels good for their legs (in the case of running) but they quickly get “gassed”. A good tip for finding your pace, is exercise so that you are able to talk but not be able to carry on a conversation. Once you find this pace, try to maintain it for the time you set out to exercise for.
For Beginners:
  • Pick an exercise such as walking, running, bike riding or swimming
  • Pick a time to exercise for, from 20-60 minutes
  • Maintain a steady pace for this time, pay attention to your breathing (should be able to talk but not converse/sing)
  • Record your distance covered, laps, etc.
  • Next time try and increase your distance in the same time, or run the same pace for a longer time
Once you're comfortable with your cardiovascular performance and you want to improve your performance in your sparring matches, read the next part: Cardiovascular Conditioning for Taekwondo Athletes

Alex is a Kukkiwon certified 4th dan and has been training in martial arts for 12 years and instructing for 7. He is also a certified Personal Trainer and constantly works to blend his passion for physiology and fitness into his martial arts instruction; and his passion for martial arts into his fitness instruction.
For more info, check out his Melbourne, Australia based club and business.
Tigers Taekwondo -
New Form Fitness –

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Back Kick

What is the Back Kick?

The back kick (뒤 차기 - Dwi Chagi) is much like the side kick taken up to eleven. It is easily the most powerful kick in a Taekwondo user’s arsenal, an excellent move for both offense and defense, and its mastery will make the user a very formidable opponent to anyone they compete against.


The standard back kick (executed from a fighting/sparring stance) on its most shallow surface is a side kick with an extra step before execution, albeit instead of being delivered in line with your body’s profile it is perpendicular to the profile.  From sparring stance twist so that your back is show to your target , bend and lift up your rear leg so that your heel is at least at your knee height, stop your shoulders from twisting and extend your leg so that the bottom your heel comes in contact with your target at about torso height. If you did everything right you should have executed a crude back kick.

However, crude doesn’t win points, and this simple explanation does not really emphasize where the strength of the back kick comes from: the twist. The reason the back kick (and the back spin kick by the same principle) can completely outclass the side kick in terms of strength is the speed and power the torsion of your hips and shoulders can provide. The hips and shoulders generate immense amounts of rotational energy, all of which gets transferred into linear momentum through the halting of the shoulders. The generation of this rotation begins, like with all spins, the head. Spinning your head around to see your target increases your overall speed as well as ensures you remain on target. Additional torsion is generated by swinging your arms in the rotational direction and then swinging them back mid spin. The halting of the shoulders is exactly what it sounds like; when your back is facing your opponent (after about 180 degrees of rotation) simply lock your shoulders in place while allowing your hips to continue to spin and your leg to extend. Your torso should be collinear with your kicking leg, not your balance leg, but your head should be looking over your shoulder at your target.



The ideal situation for the counter back kick is when your opponent jumps, lunges, dashes, or does any straight motion right towards you.  The reach of the back kick ensures that once they commit to the movement there is no escape. Even if they halt just outside of their kicking range the stretch of your kick should allow you to make solid contact.  But let’s say that you are in the midst of an onslaught of blows and in full retreat. Your opponent is too close for you to fit in a side or front kick and they have too much momentum for a roundhouse kick to stop. A small extra step back into a hopping back kick will stop them dead in their tracks (providing that they are not attacking with pushing kicks and you maintained a good stance during your retreat). Back kick is even a counter to another back kick if you are faster or have longer legs (preferably both) than your opponent.  A less tangible benefit to the back kick is the fear a good back kick user can cause. Catching your opponent off-guard may cause them to become too afraid to make a committed assault.


The offensive back kick is a bit trickier. In order to properly execute and offensive back kick you need to force your opponent to move back in a straight line, as opposed to the defensive back kick where your opponent’s motion sets up the kick for you.  This requirement makes the back kick an excellent finisher to a combination. Although it’s a bit more risky, a stepping back kick can be used to close a large distance between you and your opponent. The step in is a fake (or real) roundhouse kick, and if they retreat backwards, chase them with the back kick.  The risk comes in if they decide to dodge to the sides, because if you fail to notice and throw out a back kick you will leave yourself wide open to whatever your opponent wants. On the opposite end of the spectrum, let’s say you are too close to your opponent.  Neither of you are able to kick, yet if one backs the other follows.  From here there are two paths: take a quick back step or use jabs to create the space. Both have the same result, as once the space is created a quick jumping back kick will be hard to avoid.

Final Thoughts

While throwing slow or poor kicks never puts you in a good position, throwing a bad back kick is especially precarious. Besides the large amounts of practice required to mechanically perform the kick, timing is also a key element, the lack of which could turn an otherwise flawless back kick into a perfect opening for your opponent, or worse. Of course this presents a catch-22 of sorts: the only way to get better is to practice but practicing may not make you better because a poorly executed kick may hinder you both physically by getting countered and mentally by not feeling comfortable using the kick. Other kicks do not have this problem as they are easier to use in a probing manner, whereas the back kick requires a full commitment to function properly. Because of this drills are especially important for developing a base confidence level in the back kick.


DISCLAIMER: As for all kicks, but especially one as powerful as the back kick, there needs to be well-communicated boundaries regarding equipment usage and power. Not everyone may be willing to take a full strength kick even with the proper equipment, especially if there is a drastic size difference between partners. None of these drill require you to slug the target at hard as you can. Real power and effectiveness comes from the technique, not how hard you can kick, so please be considerate when practicing.


These drills are designed to help develop the fundamentals of the technique. They work by isolating key components of the technique so that the individual skills required receive focused attention.

Horse Kick

  • Punching Bag
  • Partner
  • Kicking Shield

At the start of this article I framed the back kick in terms of a side-kick variant, and while the sidekick is a very apt comparison for an introduction to the kick, it does not give weight to the differences between the kicks. This drill serves to demonstrate what separates a side kick from a back kick by focusing on the second half of the back kick.

Stand at about arm’s length away from the shield/bag with your back facing the shield/bag and enter a small horse stance. Turn your head over your shoulder to look at the shield/bag while dropping your body down so it is about parallel with the ground and throwing your arms to the opposite side. At the same time your kicking leg (same side as the shoulder you’re looking over) should be brought straight up and then extended straight back in a manner similar to a horse’s kick (hence the name of the drill).

Partner’s Note: Even though your gear is called a shield, you should not try to an immovable wall when kicked, it will hurt. When contact is made don’t tense up, but don’t fall back prematurely either, as an unexpected miss might injure your partner. Simply allow yourself to be pushed as far as your partner pushes, and both of you can continue to practice safely.

Bum Rush

  • Partner
  • Sparring gear or kicking shield

This drill practices the stopping power a back kick can provide by focusing on your weight distribution after the kick, as well as some timing practice. A kicking shield is preferred as it will be more comfortable for the holder but sparring gear will do.

Stand across from the holder about six feet or so, enough that neither of you could touch each other with a fully stretched kick, in fighting/sparring stance or back stance. The holder will attempt to run straight at you and knock you over. When they come close enough, deliver a full back kick to stop them. After contact, your weight should be focused on your kicking foot as you drop it down in front of your target, i.e if you were to try and hold your kicking leg up you would fall forward onto it. If your weight is still focused on your balance leg (or your body is too straight) your kick will be unable to stop your partner and they will knock you back.

Partner’s Note: It is very important that once you start charging you do not stop. A more advanced form of this drill involves you trying to bait out the back kick with fake charges, but once you actually charge you must commit. Be sure to give a brief resting period in between each kick so that your partner can readjust their stance.  


Once the fundamentals of the technique have been learned, these drills enter the realm of application. The situations provided in the drill are much more alike to an actual sparring match than before, but still controlled in scope.

Open Counter

  • Partner
  • Sparring Gear

This drill helps develop speed and body reading as your reaction must vary with what your partner chooses to do.

Stand at about kicking distance from your partner in an open fighting/sparring stance (open meaning your front leg is the opposite of your partner’s, so left leg and right leg and vice versa. It can also be thought of as having both torsos face the same direction). Your partner has the choice of delivering a normal roundhouse kick, or a jumping front-leg roundhouse kick. If they deliver a regular roundhouse kick, immediately deliver a regular back kick or take a small step back to avoid the kick, and then immediately counter when they miss. If they jump, then you too must jump, but a sparring jumping back is closer to simultaneously switching feet and kicking than it is to an actual jump. Jumping too high will result in a slower kick, meaning you are less likely to get a point for your counter if you are even fast enough at all. It should be noted that the retreating steps are optional as they are not the focus of this drill, but it allows this drill to be a little two-in-one for both stepping and back kick.

Partner’s Note: Again, once you and your partner have reached a comfortable level, adding feints will allow your partner’s reading ability to improve even further.

Closed Counter

  • Partner
  • Sparring Gear

This drill is very similar to the open counter drill, except it is a bit more fast-paced due to the difference in allowed kicks.

Just like the open counter, stand across from your partner in a closed stance this time (you should both have the same leg forward i.e left and left or right and right, or your torsos should be in opposite directions). This time your partner’s options are a sliding front leg roundhouse kick or a regular roundhouse kick. When they throw a sliding roundhouse kick, immediately counter with a back kick, this time without steps. However, when they throw a normal roundhouse kick you must step back to avoid it first, and then counter.

Close Jumping Back Kick

  • Kicking bag
  • Partner
  • Sparring gear of kicking shield

This drill practices the close range back kick, but also helps develop the coordination required for more advanced spinning techniques (such as 360, 540, 720 etc kicks).

Stand in a small horse stance with one shoulder on or very close to the target so that your body profile is perpendicular to the target. From there, jump with both legs at the same time while turning your head away from the target and deliver a back kick. You should notice that it is very hard to lower your shoulders as you did before in a normal back kick. That is because in spinning techniques your body must remain straight to allow you to stay balanced while you spin. The rotation must be generated from your arms instead. This also makes it more difficult to add power to the kick, and while a jumping back kick will never be as powerful as a standing one, moderate power can be achieved with practice.

Partner’s Notes: As opposed to earlier techniques, try to hold your position more during this drill. Again, do not tense up but try to offer more resistance.

Back Kick Combination

  • Partner
  • Sparring gear or kicking shield

This drill practices the most simple attacking back kick combination. This drill has more advanced applications that will be discussed in the advanced section. A kicking bag can be used instead of a partner in this exercise but will not provide the full benefit that a partner will. This exercise also has benefits to your partner that, should you choose to use the kicking shield, will be lost.

Stand apart from your partner like in the open/closed stance drill. If your stance is open, attack with a regular roundhouse kick. Your partner should attempt to backstep to avoid the kick, after they step drop you kicking leg to the ground and perform a back kick with your rear leg. If your stance is closed the idea is the same, but instead of a normal roundhouse kick deliver a sliding front leg roundhouse kick. To increase your speed when you deliver                                                            the roundhouse kick instead of driving through like a single roundhouse kick, return to the chamber position before putting down your kicking leg. As a side note kicking like this greatly increases speed thus allowing for more kicks in a combination.


These advanced drills now use multiple separate techniques in tandem to fully explore the usage of the technique in sparring scenarios.
Side-Back Kick Combination

  • Partner
  • Kicking shield

This drill practices the combination of two of the most powerful counter-moves: the side kick and back kick. This drill can also be adapted for practicing back spin kick (add a kicking target above the shield.

Stand in a manner similar to the jumping back kick drill, except this time place your front leg on the shield so that it looks somewhere in between a chambered side kick and a fully extended one, tending towards the chamber. Adjust your weight so that the majority is on your balance foot. When ready, turn your head around and drop your front leg back and deliver a back kick simultaneously. The drill is somewhat reminiscent of the horse kick drill in this way. A more advanced form of this drill is to start farther back and have the holder step in to your side-back kick combination.

Partner’s Note: It is especially important not to move during this drill, as you will be supporting some of your partner’s weight and moving may cause them to injure themselves.

Chasing Back Kick Combination

  • Partner
  • Sparring gear of kicking shield

This drill is a more advanced variant of the Back Kick Combination drill. It incorporates advanced stepping techniques to allow you to more closely follow a retreating opponent. As for the back kick combination drill, using a kicking shield or bag will not provide the full experience of the drill, but is still permissible.

This drill is nearly identical the back kick combination drill. The differences are firstly: the starting kick is not important and can be replaced with a fake kick or a step if you choose, and secondly: when delivering the back kick, after your leg is chambered perform a small hop to chase your partner. The hop and kick are not to be delivered simultaneously, however, as that would equate to a switching back kick (a counter move). This hop allows you to cover a greater distance while still maintaining the power of the back kick. It should be noted that the goal of the hop is to cover horizontal distance, not vertical distance.


  • Incredibly versatile
  • Incredibly powerful
  • Very fast with practice
  • Psychological deterrent to attacks

  • Easy to avoid
  • Misses leave user exposed
  • Inefficient without practice and experience