Friday, October 18, 2013

What Muay Thai Fighters Think of Taekwondo

Muay Thai vs Taekwondo is often a heated debate, as Muay Thai has risen to become the top striking art in MMA. What do Muay Thai fighters think of Taekwondo athletes? Here's a random sample of their point of view, taken from the internet and emails as part of a survey.

Taekwondo sucks and is totally out classed by Muay Thai. I am just kidding.
I have trained for a long time and over the years have ended up training with lots of guys that either had a TKD background as a kid or even a few that were competitive as adults. One thing without a doubt about guys with TKD experience is that their kicks will be fast and powerful. Usually kick exchanges are tricky and they will throw some unorthodox (in terms of Muay Thai) strikes that catch people off guard. I know that I have taken some kicks from the TKD guys I have trained with and incorporated them into my game, spinning back and hook kicks as well as the axe kick in particular.
Guys that I have trained with that are fresh from TKD and don't have MT experience tended to get too hung up on winning the kicking aspect and end up being susceptible to being overrun by punches and clinching. I also found the up high bouncy stance leaves them open to sweeps and throws.
Overall I have had good experiences training with TKD guys. I have a lot of respect for the sport and feel there is much to learn in cross training.

Point sparring. Bleh.

I've had some mixed experiences with Tae Kwon Do fighters. For the most part I've noticed an issue with stance and adaptation. I used to spar with a 3rd or 4th dan (I forgot which) Taekwondo fighter and while his side kicks certainly hurt, close range there wasn't much going on (lacking boxing techniques or even close range kicks for when I cut him off by circling). The side facing stance also made him (and others I've sparred with), very very susceptible to leg kicks. He also got a little too comfortable just tapping me with strikes, he had the power, but didn't put it into action.
Now on the other hand one of the greatest, if not the greatest fighter I've worked, Cyrus Washington, with had an original background in Tae kwon Do. He focused on Muay Thai later on, but his tae kwon do strikes were very unpredictable and really messed me up. That coupled with his base Muay Thai stance, boxing/clinch techniques, and power made for a really difficult combination to deal with.
Overall, I think Tae Kwon Do fighters can be very good, if theres some mixture with other ideas. But most of the Tae Kwon Do fighters I have worked with have been very set in their ways (along with being incredibly cocky) and refused to believe that there was something they could change, even after sparring. This can be a result more so on the part of McDojos rather than Tae Kwon Do itself

Different weapons for a different rule set.Different weapons for a different rule set.

The general perception of tkd in the mt world is that a black belt in tkd is almost as useful in a fight as a PhD in basket weaving.
Wicked kicks yes, but most are impractical, flashy, and inaccurate. 

I did a good eight years of TKD. My instructor was previously a military boxer before he studied TKD for over a decade. This shown in his instruction. We learned the more practical kicks, and hand techniques were just as prevelant as kicking in my dojang. The flashiest that was ever taught was spinning wheel, axe, and leaping kicks (which were more lunging than jumping to cover distance). Boxing stances and techniques were also incorporated as well.
Sparring was a daily occurence in class. The level of contact was based on experience/individuals but usually it was medium to full contact with safety gear (consisting of headgear, gloves, mouthpiece, shinguards, and cup). It was during this time we were taught "The best way to help your partner keep his guard up is to punch him!" It was a cute but true joke as I would learn later: most TKD'ers really don't keep their guard up. We were allowed to utilize whatever we wished during sparring short of elbows, to include the few takedowns found in our style (mostly sweeps and hip throws). It was fun, exhilirating, but most importantly taught us what we would actually be using for self-defense or sport.
When I visited other TKD schools (in USA mind you), the quality of instruction was not so high. I saw black belt children giving orders to those much older. I saw most TKDer's utilize just nothing but kicks with no concept of range. Nothing they did really looked like it had "power" behind it. I saw black belts spar like green belts and the average instructor being horribly out of shape. It was around this time that I realized that this was the standard for TKD in the west. I always wondered growing up why one of my most favorite arts got so much shit, and I was witnessing it with each new school I went to. What seems to be the standard in Muay Thai, boxing, kickboxing, Judo, etc is apparently an exception in TKD. This would pretty much bum me out of martial arts until I found Muay Thai (and even more so, a gym with a similar mindset as my dojang).
Big long-winded story but my point is this: TKD is a valid enough of a striking art to warrant investment in. The problem is finding a decent school/gym. I'm sure with a little research you could find some full-contact TKD gyms that suit the needs of a combative person. As for the professional side, I believe TKD fighter Keiji Ozaki is doing an overall solid job of with proving TKD's worth (Career Record 26W-18L-1D, 9 KOs).

Thursday, October 17, 2013

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

Monday, August 12, 2013

Painkillers in Sports

   We've all heard about the use of steroids in assorted sports- but what about painkillers? Painkillers allow the body to go on for longer spurts while ignoring naturally occurring fatigue. While this isn't very popular among most sports that require coordination, such as basketball or soccer, painkillers play a hidden role in combat sports.

Karo Parisyan, recently banned from the UFC, tested positive for large amounts of painkillers in a time period in which he would be fighting competitively. Anderson Silva admitted to taking painkillers prior to a landslide victory over Yushin Okami in UFC 134. What are the benefits of taking painkillers? Fighters can firstly take far more damage and pain than usual. Secondly, fighters can throw with more reckless abandon, having to worry less about leg checks and elbows.

This phenomena is not restricted to professional MMA. It pops up in boxing, kickboxing, and other forms of combat sports. Shockingly enough, this abuse pops up among youth in Karate and Taekwondo tournaments. At a young age, I was personally offered the standard 3-4 Advils, an unhealthy amount for a child, before fights at local Taekwondo tournaments. While I never took them, I witnessed other children smashing knees and elbows without so much as batting an eye while  hopped up on painkillers. While not widespread, the use of painkillers among child athletes is common enough that it should be a cause for worry. This mixture of adrenaline and drugs can lead to some "mystery" and serious injuries that are only realized after the competition is over.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Taekwondo Punching Technique

The punch (Jireugi) in Taekwondo is different from that of some martial arts. The way the fist is formed is relatively the same and consists of the basic wrapping of the thumb around the curled up fingers. The real difference in comparison to, say, boxing, is the matter in which the punch is thrown.

  Taekwondo as a whole is mostly centered around kicking, so punches are not generally used in an offensive manner. Instead they are thrown from a defensive position if the opponent has gotten too close. A defensive position usually indicates a rooted base without too much movement. Therefore, punches in Taekwondo are thrown with little, if any, rotation, movement, or pivoting of the legs or feet. The power generated comes from the rotation of the upper body and the final twist of the wrist. This theory can be seen in punching drills practiced in the horse riding stance (Annun Sogi), where the upper body and arms are the instruments of movement, while the legs stay firmly rooted to one spot.

                       What are the advantages and disadvantages of this method?

  • Steady base allowing for a quick transition towards attacking the opponent with kicks
  • A solid position that allows better coping with leg kicks and allows for checks without compromising position
  • A tight guard 
  • Discourages overextending/reaching too far to hit your opponent with your punches
  • Noticeable lack of power compared to boxing technique  
  • Noticeable lack of speed compared to boxing technique
  • Diminished reach of punch

Friday, June 7, 2013

Fighters Say the Damndest Things

“I don’t want to lick any butt.” – GSP

“I'm the oldest I’ve ever been, right now” – Tim Sylvia

 “Somebody's telling me that about my wife; I'm sorry sir I'm going to have to break your leg.” – Bas Rutten

“I am impervious to all pain!” – Pat Smith during UFC 1, prior to tapping out to Shamrock

“I didn't use steroids” – Sean Sherk

“90 percent of the game is half mental” – Tim Sylvia

"I don't initiate violence, I retaliate" - Chuck Norris

"It's just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat
people up." - Muhammad Ali 

 "Yesterday I was lying, today I am telling the truth." -Bob Arum

And a whole slew of Mike Tyson quotes:

My power is discombobulatingly devastating."

"When I was in prison, I was wrapped up in all those deep books. That Tolstoy nonesense - people shouldn't read that stuff"

"My biggest weakness is my sensitivity. I am too sensitive a person."

"He called me a 'rapist' and a 'recluse'. I´m not a recluse."


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Vietnam Offers Financial Incentive for Taekwondo Athletes

The Vietnamese government shocked the world by announcing monetary prizes for champions in TKD at the Olympics. The prizes are awarded per medal, ranging from 30,000-100,000 USD. This very capitalist method of rewards is quite out of line with the government's official Communist policies.

Vietnam blamed its below-standard performance on under-motivated athletes and inferior training coaches. Qualified coaches are also expected to see a pay raise on par with the skill-set they bring to the national team.

Original story

Friday, May 24, 2013

Why Not Pay Taekwondo Fighters?

Numerous other sports pay their athletes top dollar. In the combat-sports world, one can point at examples such as boxing and MMA. Floyd Mayweather alone has a salary of 85 million USD.

 While some may argue that love of the sport is what should drive Taekwondo, it is an indisputable fact that money is always a good motivator. Many top quality Taekwondo athletes have to give up fulltime training due to financial issues and pursuing a 9 to 5 job. Paying top level competitors wold ensure they have a better chance of reaching their potential, as well as providing the incentive of wealth and fame to the next generation of hopeful champions.

Bringing Taekwondo into a money-sponsored limelight would also shine more light on the entire sport, helping to spread it to new athletes as well as highlighting the sport's Olympic profile.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Jade Jones Wins Gold!

Jade Jones, the Welsh Taekwondo athlete from Britain, went on to steamroll the competition at this year's 2013 Taekwondo German Open. This is a major boost for Jade, who was eliminated in the first round of the previous Swedish Open. At only age 19, it looks like she will be ready and even better than before for the upcoming 2016 Olympics.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Wrestling Removed from Olympics...Taekwondo Next?

            The Olympics have announced the removal of wrestling as an official sport for the next Games. Outrage quickly followed, as wrestling is one of the original Olympics sports. Speculation is that the Olympics is slowly attempting to remove all "violent" sports from their roster, as seen by years of attempted removal of boxing.             

 Taekwondo is also facing elimination. The president of South Korea has personally plead to the Commission to allow the sport to remain. Taekwondo has been a contender for elimination every single year since the it's debut in 1988.