The front kick is undoubtedly one of the most practiced Taekwondo kicks in existence. Countless hours are spent as a white belt practicing the same kick over and over. However, when watching sparring matches, one notices that this kick is practically nonexistent in sparring. What were those hours of practice put in for? Breaking a few flimsy plywood boards? A few flashy jump kicks in forms or demonstrations?
The problem lies not in the front kick, but rather how it is taught and practiced. In most Taekwondo schools, the front kick is taught by kicking the air or by striking a kicking paddle (porkchop) held parallel to the ground. When one asks where this kick should land, the most common answer tends to be the chin. That is good and well, until one considers how many practitioners are taught to kick with the instep of the foot. Let me repeat that: The objective is to kick with the instep of the foot to the chin.
This is a horrible idea.
|The area behind the toes and in front of the joint where the foot connects to the shin is commonly known as the instep (Look to the area marked with a #4 on this picture. Then go towards the center of the foot. That is the instep)|
The instep of your foot is similar in structure to the area of your hand between the knuckles you punch with and your wrist. Feel this part of the back of your hand. Notice the large amounts of thin bone structures (the metacarpus). These bones are susceptible to breaking if you are not careful. While this area can definitely be used for striking, it is best suited for attacking the softer and meatier parts of the human body. Experienced kickers could theoretically hit harder parts of the body due to their bones adapting to kicking impact over time, but a Taekwondo rookie will end up with broken bones at worst or at least massive painful bruising.
Then how should one go about using the front kick? Very simple.
PULL YOUR TOES BACK.
Avoid hitting with the upper part of your foot. Pull your toes back and hit with the "ball" of the foot. Your kick should resemble something similar to a snapping push kick. This kick not only reduces the risk of damage to the top of your foot, but concentrates the force of your kick into a much smaller area. However, as injury is a risk inherent to all sport forms, you may jam a toe if you do not throw the kick properly.
This kick, although hardly ever witnessed in Taekwondo, is gaining popularity in MMA matches and has been a staple in kickboxing and karate tournaments for years. This method of kicking allows for targeted shots to the liver, solar plexus, and gut.