Taekwondo Side Kick of Won-hyo

Taekwondo Side Kick of Won-hyo

The Taekwondo Side Kick is the second kicking technique, and appears in Traditional Taekwondo in pattern Won-hyo. The side kick or yop chagi is called yoko geri in Japanese. If the front kick is a kick known for its ease and speed, the Traditional Taekwondo side kick should be known for its power and penetration. One of my martial arts instructors said that the side kick is the most difficult to perform of all the 'non-gimmicky' kicks.

There is more than one side kick in Taekwondo's Won-hyo

There are two side kicks that appear in Won-hyo Hyung! It's the same technique, but it is seen applied in two different ways in Won-hyo. One kick requires you to take a step back and prompts you to think about it as a defensively applied side kick in response to an opponent's attack. The second one is an offensive penetrative side kick going forward.

The kick from won-hyo we practiced just before this post was a basic side-on side kick. We stood the students facing 135 degrees away from the target (pointing bodies to 8 0'clock or 5 O'clock), raising their knees at about 90 degrees away from the target and then firing the blade of the foot at their targets. We started with the motion in the air, then progressed to working with an opponent (holding hands for stability), and then worked on the kick shield.

You can view the video above for a general distinction between the various basic side kicks.

Maintaining dynamic balance with the side kick

COG for the side kick has to be between the support foot and the target, and should tend towards the striking area. Not to do so is a mistake a lot of beginners or non-kickers make. The mistake is to attempt to hold the foot up in order to replicate such techniques as seen in movies. Such 'posed' side kicks or those that swing the heavy bag over a great distance look great in the air but rarely do much of the damage that side kicks are capable of.

Also as the the foot is pistoned towards the target, it corkscrews - rotating the toes downward to the ground. This rotational move is why your hip needs to be turned away from the target - so that the support leg and push the hip to support the kicking leg. As your kicking leg is extended, there will be vertical rotation in the hip's axis - so that the kicker's hips and gluteus maximus moves toward the target area. (If you have problems with your side kick, you should look at my post Calibrating the Side Kick.)

Maintaining control means not locking out the legs while doing the side kick

Another critical success factor for the taekwondo side kick is to remain a level movement whilst kicking or drop the support leg lower (allowing the knee to maintain some bend). Standing up or tensing the shoulder muscles whilst kicking AND straightening the support leg reduces maneuverability, and doesn't allow for dynamic support. The kicking leg goes forward, and thus the support leg has to push in the opposite direction to equalise vector forces.

Which part of the foot to use for the side kick?

Blade or heel of the foot? I didn't stress much on this last night. Typically I kick with the blade of the foot, focusing the impact area closer to the heel. This allows the striking force to travel up the leg, rather than be absorbed by the ankle.

General Side Kick Acceleration

Many people look to making that heavy bag move as far as possible. Wow, I extend the impact area and push that bag to make it fly. But this kind of kick does nothing for transmitting power into the impact zone. Nowadays I add little more 'snap' in the leg extension - so the lower leg travels faster. The power is 'delivered' over a shorter distance just 2-3 inches beyond the area of impact. This delivers the kinetic chain, saves your joints from stress, and allows you to return to a tactical stance faster.

Targeting the Opponent with the Side Kick

The side kick is 'punched' out from the hip to the opponent in a straight line. If we are not discussing tactical advantage, the best way to launch this kick is when it is fired parallel to the ground. This achieves the longest reach and allows the kicker to generate a good amount of power. This is counter intuitive for Taekwondo practitioners - raising the side kick reduces its power, decreases it's reach, and opens your groin up for counters. Tactically it is most sound to raise the knee to chamber but fire the kick downward to the thigh or knee or even apply it as a foot stomp to the shin or instep.

For a comparison of the basic side kick, check out Taekwondo Side Kick: Yul-guk v Won-hyo. The post compares the side kick as it is introduced in Won-hyo and later how it is practiced in Yul-guk. The following video compares this side kick from Won-hyo to a thrusting side kick - a variant we practice for close quarter encounters.


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