Hwa-Rang: Roundhouse Kicks, the Long and Short of
I want to talk about power generation for the taekwondo roundhouse kick. Specifically the difference between long range and short range differences in the kicks used in 'traditional' taekwondo.
The short range, or what I'd refer to as a 'traditional' roundhouse kick (which is part of the basic kicking techniques in our style) is the kick probably sourced directly from Karate. This is the roundhouse kick that hits as close as you could grab the opponent. The roundhouse kick travels horizontal and hits perpendicular to the bearing of the opponent encouraging the stylist to strike with the ball of the foot rather than the instep. The body of the practitioner is tilted sideways and there is triangulation occuring between the body, kicking and support leg to strike at this distance.
The long range version of the roundhouse, which I've 'imported' in from another style, but is really an early version of the roundhouse kick ultimately used by TKD stylists today, requires a full extension of the body, encouraging the user to strike with the instep of the foot rather than the ball. It still hits perpendicular to the bearing of the opponent. (Variations of this roundhouse kick include hitting with the ball of the foot and can hit the opponent with the same angle of entry as a side kick.)
The short and long of power generation ...
The short range roundhouse kick strikes a target at short range. It requires the user to bring the knee up, and kick out whilst contracting the body (not expanding the body). This means that, for all things being equal, the contraction of the abdominal muscles (the obliques in particular), lats to some part and hip flexors are the engine of the kick. Stability for the kick is provided by the body tilt which creates inertia in order that the faster kick is balanced by the larger mass of the body.
The long range kick however is done with the body at full extension. There is no triangulation set up to provide for contraction of core muscles or contraction of the body. This kick is done using a swinging motion and a pivoting around the support leg. The engine driving this kick (assuming that this is from the back leg), are the calf muscles pushing off the ground, the back and core abdominal muscles torquing the body, gluts of the support leg, and then the hip as the leg is swung forward. Muscles of the body are tensed and locked at impact in order to support the kick when it strikes.
The reason why I made sure to distinguish between the two is the position of the trunk of the body affects the power of the kick and (for the long range version) the calibration to land the kick properly. It is not sufficient to power through and hope the kick lands or lands hard on a bag. You need to kick hard but you need to have sufficient control.
Experiment with variations in body position in relation to power generation and you might surprise yourself.
Check out the related posts on roundhouse kicks 'Power Generation in Roundhouse Kick Video' and 'How to do a high roundhouse kick to the head'