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Sparring kicks

Intro

Kicks are more powerful and have greater reach than hand techniques. Their weaknesses lie in having to balance on one leg, dealing with the recoil of the blow, and being more vulnerable to charging hand attacks. kicks are also slower than punches and thus are easier for the opponent to anticipate and respond.

Chambering

Chambering is “cocking” the leg for a kick. It’s like putting a bullet in the chamber, cocking the hammer, and preparing to fire. This is at least a split second to decide whether to re-aim to a new target, change the kick, abort the kick, or pull the trigger and fire the kick.

When sparring, you don’t pull the leg back into a chamber position; instead, the motion of the kick requires the leg to pass through the chambered position on its way to the target.

You should chamber kicking leg's knee as high as possible:
  • To gain more power. A kick that travels straight out from the hip will have the most power. Instead of throwing the foot at the target, you can use the powerful upper leg muscles to thrust the foot at the target.
  • Have a greater selection of targets. From the high chamber, it is easy to kick high, middle, or low depending on the opponent's reaction. From a low chamber, all the opponent must do is use a low block to stop the kick from going higher.
  • To slow the opponent's reaction time. Since a kick may be delivered either high, middle, or low, the opponent does not know where to block.
  • To limit your vulnerability and give you more choices. If you drop the foot straight to the floor after a kick or you must take a step with it, you may leave yourself open to attack. By re-chambering you kick, you are back in balance again and can kick again, purposely step with the foot if you choose, or drop the foot back to your fighting stance and guard.
  • To permit multiple kicks. If the kick is re-cambered high, it is ready for another kick, or to be used as a block. If the knee is dropped after a kick, it must be raised again to kick, which slows the next kick.
  • To allow a kick against a close-in opponent. With a high, tight chamber, you can kick an opponent that closes in on you or who is in close. A kick from the floor would be jammed between the two bodies.
  • To allow a midstream change in the type of kick. If the lead knee is lifted into a high chamber in front of the body, it is in position to fire a round kick, a front kick, or a hook kick,
  • High kicks require high chambers which require good hip and leg flexibility and fitness. Know your abilities and limits.

Kicking tips

  • Always maintain your balance. Snap the kick out and back as quickly as possible so you are on one foot as little as possible.
  • After a kick, step down where you want to step, not where you must step because of a loss of balance. If you have your balance, you can quickly follow up a technique with another technique.
  • Kicks are similar punches in that they must be in combination to be effective.
  • Kicks begin with the hips; legs are whipped, snapped, or thrust out from hips.
  • Use full-power only at full-extension.
  • Maintain a straight line through the body, hips, and legs.
  • Do not make any sudden changes in rhythm and movement.
  • Use eye feints.
  • Use peripheral vision to detect movements.
  • Do not raise the heel of support foot to gain height, you will lose power.
  • Legs are longer, so use it to your advantage.
  • Legs are more powerful than arms.
  • Legs are slower than arms.
  • Kicks are not easily seen early because they are at the edge of vision.
  • When using a jump kick, do not bend knees before the jump. Your fighting stance should always have the knees bent, so, to jump, you just jump without any other extraneous movements. You want to give no indication of a jump happening, one second you are standing there, the next second you are in the air.

Side snap kick

The side snap kick is karate based and is not really a taekwondo kick; however, it is still useful in sparring, which is contrary to my first taekwondo instructor’s teachings. Master Ko was a recent immigrant from South Korea and a strict traditionalist. I once used a side snap kick while sparring in class and was so severely chastised for using it that I never used it again in his presence.

The taekwondo side thrust kick is chambered hip-high and is re-chambered high. From its high chamber, it may then be easily thrown either high, middle, or low in a powerful, linear motion that is difficult to block. The only way to avoid it is to move the body backward or sideways. From a high re-chamber, it may then again be easily thrown either high, middle, or low.

The karate side snap kick is chambered to the knee if it’s chambered at all. It then is snapped upward at the 45-degree angle to the target. From this low chamber, it lacks the power of the side thrust kick and it is easily blocked with any type of low block as the kick rises. However, it does have one use. Since the side snap kick travels upward from the floor, it may easily be slipped under an opponent's guard to strike the abdomen or lower ribs. For use in taekwondo, the kick should be re-chambered high so a side thrust, hook, or round kick may be used next. In taekwondo, the side snap kick is used as a one-shot attack for a specific purpose.

Side thrust kick

When using a side thrust kick with the front leg, if the opponent is approaching, lean back to give yourself more space in which to complete the kick. When kicking off the back leg, bring the knee up and around to the opposite side into a high chamber, thrust hip inward pushing all weight into the kick, re-chamber kick, and then return to a stance quickly. In defense, move to the side, block open-handed, and then use a side kick counter.

Front kick

Avoid telegraphing this type of kick. While maintaining your guard, lift your bent knee to front, kick with the ball of the foot, and drive hips into the target, snapping leg back fast to avoid it being grabbed or the support leg being swept. Avoid using a snap kick to the jaw, which is effective but cannot be easily controlled and there is no clear route to the opponent’s jaw. You may then step forward after kick, if desired, using your momentum to gain a strong position.

Alternatively, use the sole or heel of the foot to do a front thrust kick to stop the opponent’s approach and push the opponent away. Timing and distancing will determine whether to use a front snap kick or front thrust kick. Avoid kicking upwards in an arc as the only target is the chin.

Roundhouse kick

Use the ball of the foot for more depth so foot may penetrate behind a block. Use the instep of the foot for more reach. Avoid telegraphing by not leaning sideways. As a defensive kick, withdraw the front leg, block downward, and then attack with a rear leg round kick.

Throw a double round kick as normal, but as the foot returns to the floor after the kicks, leave the bodyweight on the back leg. Then, just as your opponent moves in to attack, you may quickly and easily throw a side kick or round kick as opponent comes in.

180-degree axe kick

If executed correctly, this kick may be devastating. When your opponent moves in for an attack, spin as if you were throwing a spin side kick but bring the leg over the top as if executing a normal axe kick. There is no effective block if you bring the kick over the top of the opponent's guard. Throw this kick just as your opponent begins to move into an attack.

Push kick

The push kick is like a front snap kick executed with a push. It is used in Thai boxing, but it can be used effectively by any style fighter to setting an opponent for a further attack. Bring the knee straight up to the chest and then push the foot straight forward into the opponent. If the kick hits the arms, then follow up with another kick. It’s useful to push the opponent out of bounds when he or she is on the edge of the ring. Put your hips into the kick to push the opponent off balance or out of the ring.

Reaching axe kick

A good technique to use on a taller opponent, if you can kick that high, is an axe kick to the head. From a fighting stance, step the back leg forward past the lead leg and throw an axe kick with the lead leg but lean back and reach forward with the toes and look to score with the toes as opposed to the heel in a conventional axe kick.

Combinations

Do not restrict attacks to single attacks. Develop combination attacks, three or four rapid, diverse, and unexpected consecutive hand and foot techniques. The consecutive attacks must flow fluently and quickly. Combinations are easy to perform against a bag since it just hangs in one place, but they are difficult to execute properly against a moving target. While the opponent remains off balance and unable to counter effectively during a combination attack, you can score.

The initial move is important since it sets the opponent up for your second move and covers the distance between you and the opponent. Combinations may also be used to check the opponent’s reaction time and response to a technique to see where a possible weakness or opening may be. They also aid the techniques that may follow by drawing the opponent into engaging you or making a counterattack, or by causing the opponent to raise or lower his or her guard.

Avoid the feeling of a need to build up the intensity during the attack to score with the final technique of a combination attack. The first of the techniques should not be used as distracting feints; it may leave you vulnerable in the subsequent stages of your attack; every technique in a combination should have maximum commitment.

Two kick combinations

  • One kick may or may not score but using two or more kicks in combination has a better chance of scoring. The first kick draws the opponent's guard to make an opening for the subsequent kicks. The first kick is more of a fake, but it may also score, so make it a proper kick, not just a flick.
  • From a closed stance, execute a rear leg middle, round kick to draw the guard down, and then quickly execute rear leg high round kick, high spin heel kick, high axe kick, or high spin hook kick.
  • From a closed stance, execute a lead leg middle front kick to draw the guard down and then quickly execute rear leg high round kick, middle spin side kick, or high spin hook kick.
  • From a closed stance, execute lead a leg middle side kick to draw the guard down and then quickly execute a middle spin side kick.
  • From a closed stance, execute a lead leg high blind side axe kick to draw the guard to the blind side and quickly execute a high spin hook kick or a middle spin side kick or a lead leg middle round kick.
  • From a closed stance, execute a middle spin side kick to drive the opponent back and then quickly execute another middle spin side kick.
  • From a closed stance, execute a rear leg high blind side axe kick to draw the guard to the e blind side and quickly execute a middle spin hook kick or a rear leg middle round kick.
  • From a closed stance, execute lead leg a middle front kick to push the opponent backward and quickly execute a middle spin side kick or a high spin hook kick.

Three-kick combinations

To increase chances of scoring, you can add another kick to make a three-kick combination:

  • From a closed stance, execute a lead leg high blind side axe kick to draw the guard up, quickly execute a middle spin side kick to draw the guard down, and then execute a high spin hook kick.
  • From a closed stance, execute a rear leg middle round kick to draw the guard down to the  blind side, quickly execute another rear leg middle round kick to draw the guard down to that side, and then execute a rear leg high blind side axe kick.
  • From a closed stance, execute a lead leg low front kick to push the opponent backward, quickly execute a rear leg low front kick to keep the opponent moving backward, and then execute a middle spin side kick.
  • From an open stance, execute a rear leg middle round kick to draw the guard down to the open side, quickly execute a lead leg high round kick to draw the guard up, and then execute a middle spin side kick.
  • From an open stance, execute a rear leg middle front kick to push the opponent backward, quickly execute a middle spin round kick to draw the guard down to the open side, and then execute a high spin hook kick.
  • •From an open stance, execute a lead leg middle front kick to push the opponent backward, quickly execute a rear leg middle round kick to the open side, and then execute a high spin hook kick.
  • From an open stance, execute a rear leg middle front kick to push the opponent backward, quickly execute a middle spin round kick to draw the guard down to the open side, and then execute a high spin hook kick.
  • From an open stance, execute a lead leg high axe kick to the open side, quickly execute a rear leg middle front kick to push the opponent backward, and then execute a middle spin side kick.

Drawing into combinations

You can add drawing techniques to lure the opponent into a combination:
  • From an open stance, execute a lead leg middle side kick, as opponent skips backward to avoid the kick and attempts a rear leg round kick counter, catch him or her with a middle spin side kick.
  • From an open stance, execute a lead leg high axe kick to the open side, as the opponent skips backward to avoid the kick and attempts a rear leg round kick counter, catch him or her with a high spin hook kick.
  • From an open stance, execute a lead leg middle front kick to push the opponent backward, as the opponent skips backward to avoid the kick and attempts a rear leg round kick counter, catch him or her with a middle spin side kick.
  • From an open stance, execute a lead leg high axe kick to the open side, as the opponent skips backward to avoid the kick and attempts spin a hook kick counter, catch him or her with a middle spin side kick.
  • From a closed stance, execute a rear leg middle round kick to the blind side, as the opponent skips backward to avoid the kick and attempts a rear leg round kick counter, catch him or her with a  high spin hook kick.
  • From a closed stance, execute a rear leg middle front kick to push the opponent backward, as the opponent skips backward to avoid the kick and attempts a rear leg round kick counter, catch him or her with a high open side inside-outside axe hook kick.
  • From a closed stance, execute a lead leg middle front kick to push the opponent backward, as opponent skips backward to avoid the kick and attempts a spin side kick counter, catch him or her with a middle rear leg side kick to the hip to jam the movement.
  • From a closed stance, execute a lead leg middle round kick to the open side, as the opponent skips backward, switches sides to avoid the kick, and attempts a rear leg round kick counter, catch him or her with a middle spin side kick.

Foot sweeps

While not a scoring technique in its own right, the foot sweep can be used (if rules permit) to unsettle the opponent or leave the opponent defenseless on the floor as you quickly execute a scoring technique. Sweeps require good timing, use of hips, and a sense of the opponent’s balance and commitment.

When used as an attack, consider the opponent’s weight distribution to decide which leg to sweep. Set up the opponent first by moving slightly to the side so that the opponent’s feet appear on a single line to upset their balance.  When used in defense, use a sweep to the supporting leg with your calf muscle after catching the opponent’s kick before they can land their kicking foot back on the floor. Follow up a sweep immediately with a scoring technique, a slight hesitation may allow the opponent to counterattack or roll away.

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