Every single tae kwon do instructor and practitioner has their own style of kicking. Their own style of learning and teaching how to kick. The method I will describe below is how I learned and worked through to learn how to kick. There are many ways to kick and learn to kick. This method has worked for me. Take that for what it's worth.
This writeup is not about how to kick right. There are many kicks and there are many ways to "do it right". That is not the focus of this. The focus is a method to learn to kick. Specifically, this is a method of learning kicking in a free fighting environment.
This is not a thread about how learn to do the roundhouse kick. It has become apparent to me that the moment someone mentions "kicking" the first thing that comes to most people's minds is the roundhouse kick. This writeup is NOT about how to learn one specific kick. The things here apply to all kicks; whether it be a roundhouse, a side kick, or a crescent kick.There are many different kicks, they all have a purpose. Whether you know what that purpose is is a separate subject.
This is a culmination of things I put together that I learned from various tae kwon do instructors that I have had, with additions made by me during a six year period of self evaluation and personal training.
Onto the meat.
I follow a multistep process when I teach someone to kick. The steps are:
1) On the wall air kicking
Basically I have the student stand next to a wall with one hand on the wall supporting them. A more detailed step by step is as follows. I have the student stand in a fighting stance with the back foot against the wall. Then I have the student extend their front hand, pivon on their front leg and raise up the rear leg into whichever chamber the kick they are practicing calls for. Then I will have them kick slowly several times so that their body gets used to the new motion. Typically we run a 3:00 minute timer. 2:30 are spent doing slow and methodical extensions of the kicking foot, with the last :30 are done "machingun kicking". That is, the student kicks as fast as possible. The slow kicking gets the body used to the motions, with great attention paid to the proper alignment of the body and specific points on the body. The fast kicking works on muscular endurance of the hip flexors and other related muscles.
2) Off the wall air kicking
This is essentially the same as phase 1, minus the wall. So once the student is able to perform the slow and fast air kicking with good technique, or at least halfway decent technique, he moves onto the balance training. Again, the kicking is done both slow and methodical and fast "machinegun" style. And again, great attention is paid to the detail of the technique. Proper technique is essential to good kicking.
3) "Porkchop" pad kicking
This phase has the student kick at a target that offers no resistance. Assuming the student is able to perform the kick without support from a wall for balance, and with good technique. The "porkchop" phase has the student train accuracy. Most of these pads are about head size. They also make a great slapping sounds when kicking right, which is great feedback to the student on whether they are doing it right or not. The student can train both snapping kicks they practiced on and off the wall in the previous phases, or they can practice follow through The problem with going for full power follow through is that most times technique suffers, balance is thrown out the window and all sorts of things degrade. This is why I'm a fan of the slow and methodical approach. This phase can train the student in all the heights of kicking, low medium and high, BUT it really only works for the circular techniques. This does not work well for linear kicks such as the side kick or front kick. For that, there is the big shield pad. Same exact principles apply. Most shields have a nice logo right in the center and are great for target practice. So there is absolutely no excuse to neglect linear kicks.
4) Heavy bag training
This is the power phase. This is where the student learns follow through and penetration. Proper technique, and yes that means proper chambering, is still very important. Most guys go buck wild, as the cool kids say, and all technique tends to fly out the window with beginners. But this is really where everything is put together. The technique, the balance, the accuracy. It's also important to pay attention to the recovery. If the student is able to perform the kick with power, speed, and accuracy but falls over after every kick then it's no good. I know I put more words and possibly emphasis on the previous phases than on this one. This is because they form the fundamentals that will have to be put together so that this phase can be most beneficial. Don't get the wrong idea. This phase is VITAL. This is the phase where almost all tae kwon do practitioners get it wrong. Most of them skip this phase and stick with phase 1 and 2 forever. That's where you get the terrible snappy kicks. This is the phase where balance, speed, power, and proper technique are all put together to form a good kick.
These steps should be followed in order, but they should all be done during any one class. That means you don't need to have the student do phase 1 for weeks before moving to phase 2. All four phases should be incorporated into a class in kicking. Obviously everyone is free to change this as they see fit and to customize it to their needs.
Again, this is how I learned to kick and this is what works for me. Take that for what you think it's worth.
- Pay attention to the base foot. It should point 180 degrees away from whatever the student is kicking, this is vital for proper hip coordination. It helps in circular kicks for hip rotation, and thus penetration, and it helps with linear kicks for that "coiled spring" effect that they should have.
- Do not neglect the chamber. The chamber gets a bad name because most people practicing tae kwon do don't know what it's for or how to use it. All good kicks are chambered, yes even in the holy Muay Thai. The chamber must be one continuous motion into the kick, rather than a separate step.
- Do leg raises. They're great for hip flexor endurance.
- On the wall partner stretching is great. Some good ones are the axe kick vertical stretch. The side kick vertical stretch. And the seated split stretch. Flexibility in general is both beneficial and developed with continuous kicking training.
- A good drill for head kicks is to put a 6 to 8 pound medicine ball on a free standing heavy bag and try to kick it off. It's harder than one might think.
If I think of anything else, I'll add it.