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The Low Kicks of Traditional Taekwondo
This article originally appeared in the July 1997 issue of Black Belt Magazine.

By Scott Shaw

Modern Taekwondo has entered into a period where the rules of Olympic Sport Taekwondo have come to largely dominate the way in which this martial art system is taught. Though Taekwondo’s presence in the Olympics has done much to promote this martial art system on the whole, the rules inherent with Olympic sporting events are limiting by their very design. From Taekwondo’s association with the Olympics, many of the offensive and defensive techniques used in what might best be titled, “Traditional Taekwondo,” have been left behind if not lost altogether.

In Olympic Taekwondo, the offensive strike zone on the opponent is limited to locations above the waistline. There are, however, numerous kicking techniques that were once commonly taught by traditional Taekwondo stylists that access many other locations on an opponent. For example, there were highly focused low kicks that were targeted at locations just at or well below the waistline. With the advent of Taekwondo’s acceptance as an Olympic sport many of these techniques have been, if not altogether forgotten, at least no longer commonly taught.

To fill out a young Taekwondo student’s understanding of the earlier aspects of Taekwondo, which were commonly used before Olympic Taekwondo, we can view some of the low kicking techniques with the hope of expanding the kicking arsenal of all Taekwondo practitioners. From this the Taekwondo practitioner can become a more well-rounded self-defense technician.

Understanding the Front Kick
The Front Kick is the most commonly used kicking technique in both offensive and defensive applications. As is commonly understood, a Front Kick to the groin area of any individual is universally debilitating. There are, however, other, less used offensive and defensive applications for the Front Kick that were once taught in Taekwondo. The first of these is a Front Kick strike targeted at an opponent’s shin.

A shin strike, though obviously not as devastating as a groin strike is, none-the-less, very effective in deterring an opponent from initially launching an aggressive attack towards you. To implement this form of rapid self-defense you simply need to witness your attacker as he moves towards you. As he does, you immediately deliver a powerful Front Kick targeted at his shin. From this impact, his attack will be halted and you will have the ability to either follow up with additional counter measures or leave the situation before the altercation continues on any farther.

The low Front Kick is also an effective way to defensively intercept the onslaught of an opponent’s kick before it has had the opportunity to move too far from its position of inception. For example, you have faced off with an adversary; he begins a kicking technique targeted at you. Immediately, you Front Kick to the shin region of his kicking leg. With this style of self-defense, you have immediately halted his kicking technique in progress. Not only does this stop his assault but this may throw him off balance. Additionally, due to your opponent’s offensive technique being intercept, he will be ill prepared to launch a secondary technique at you. From your superior combat positioning, you are ready to strike at him with a well-prepared secondary counter strike.

Understanding the Defensive Methodology
By intercepting your opponent’s kick with a low Front Kick interception, you will not be forced to block his kick with your hands or your arms. This allows them to remain free. Thus, you possess the superior opportunity to use them as necessary in achieving first strike advantage.

The low Front Kick is an exceeding easy kick to deliver to your opponent; as your Front Kicking leg need only rise slightly up from the ground. Therefore, this kick is exceedingly fast and extremely energy efficient. The low level Front Kick must, however, be precisely targeted to be effective. This type of precision comes from target kicking drills focused at this low level position; low level drills which have, in fact, become absent from most modern Taekwondo classes.

The low level Roundhouse Kick or
Dollo Chagi is another common kick who's effectiveness becomes substantially enhanced by targeting it at a low level opponent location. At the outset of any confrontation, a Roundhouse Kick can be most effectively delivered to the outside of your opponent’s knee or to his thigh.

When striking to an opponent’s knee, with a low level Roundhouse kick, he will be sent off balance; perhaps to such a degree that he will be knocked down to the ground. If your impact is not that substantial, he will at least be set off balance where additional offensive techniques such as a Straight Punch to his face will leave him physically impaired.

If your low level Roundhouse Kick is directed towards an adversary’s outer thigh, this impact should be used as a prelude to a secondary offensive technique. As the outer thigh strike location will not immediately impair an opponent, you can, non-the-less, use this substantial target to distract him while you deliver another powerful attack.

The Side Kick or
Yup Chagi is also a common technique used in Taekwondo. There is, however, a variation of this technique that is rarely taught to modern students of the art. This Side Kicking technique is call Ap Yup Chagi in Korean or may be translated into Forward Side Kick.

To perform this Forward Side Kick, you can launch your kicking leg from either a rear, forward, or even a standing position. The actual kicking leg, in this technique, is brought straight up, as if a Front Kick were being launched. Once this leg has reached approximately waist level the kick in then pivoted at hip level and the actual kick is snapped out in Side Kick fashion.

This kick may take a little time for the beginning Taekwondo student to master, as the kicking foot is turned almost parallel to the ground. The best way to initially develop the ability to kick in this fashion is to sit down, with legs straight in front of you, and slowly bend your feet in towards each other. This movement should not take place at ankle level, but instead, should be performed by the pivoting of your hips. In time, the muscles along your outer legs will loosen up and this Side Kicking technique will be easily performed.

The reason it is important to develop the ability to perform a Side Kick in this fashion, is that it is extremely fast and can be launched from virtually any standing positioning. As a defensive technique, this kick can be targeted at your opponent’s shin or knee. As discussed with the low Front Kick, this is a very good weapon to intercept an opponent’s kick before it has the ability to develop velocity and strike you. The added advantage of using this Forward Side Kick as a blocking technique over that of the Front Kick is that, you have the entire side of your foot to use a blocking weapon. Thus, your precision does not have to be as precise as with that of the low Front Kick block.

As an offensive tool, the Forward Side Kick can be effectively low targeted at an adversary’s shin or his knee. At mid level, is ideally targeted at an opponent’s mid section. This kick can be used at the outset of a confrontation to impede the progress of an adversarial attack on you or can be used at any point during the fight when you are in close proximity to your opponent and need an effective weapon which is very difficult to block.

The Forward Side Kick does not need to be launched from the rear leg, as is common with many traditional kicking techniques. This kick, as discussed, can be launched from virtually any standing position. With this as a basis, it is much harder for an opponent to see the Forward Side Kick’s onslaught. Thereby, it is an exceedingly effective offensive weapon. As this kick can be launched from any standing position, it can be utilized in all types of physical altercations.

As the Forward Side Kick by its design is very linear in nature. It is a very rapid technique to use in all types of fights. Therefore, the practice and development of this kick should be added to all martial artist’s kicking arsenals.

Another Traditional Taekwondo low kick which has been all but abandoned since the beginning of Sport Taekwondo is that of the Instep Kick or
Pal Sok Chagi. This kick is delivered by arching your kicking foot outwards and exposing the instep of your foot. The strike points of this kick are your heel and to a lesser degree the outer knife-edge of your foot.

You have faced off with an opponent. He begins to direct a kick at you. You immediately intercept this kick with an Instep Kick across your opponent’s shin. His kick is thereby halted. By keeping your kicking leg in place and applying additional muscle strength to it you push your opponent’s leg back to the ground. Once his foot has made impact, you slid your own foot down his leg and step powerfully onto his foot. His leg is, thereby, locked into place. You cannot effortlessly deliver a powerful punching technique to his face.

As is the case with the low Side Kick, the Instep Kick needs little precision to intercept the oncoming kick of an opponent. Additionally, by intercepting an offensive kick with your own powerful defensive kick, there is the potential of initially injuring your opponent’s shin, which leaves you in further superior positioning in the altercation.

The Instep Kick can additionally be used as an offensive weapon. This kick can be target at low level locations on your opponent’s body, such as his shin or his knee. It can also be brought up to a slightly higher level where it can strike to his thigh, groin, or midsection. In all case the only defining factor for the use of this kick is that you must be in close proximity to your opponent. This kick is not the type of technique that should be overtly extended, as this will have the potential of making you become off balance. And, this is not an appropriate state to be in any physical confrontation.

In all cases with the low level kick, unless they are targeted at your opponent’s groin or his knee, they are not designed to leave you instantly victorious in a confrontation. They are designed, however, to give you that ability to emerge victorious by following any of the initial low-level techniques up with appropriate additional defenses.

As we have learned Taekwondo possess several kick which are targeted a low level strike point and are rarely taught to modern students. All of these kicks are easy to perform and are very effective to utilize when every you find yourself in a physical confrontation. Add them to your practice schedule and you will become a more proficient martial artist.

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