I am interested in learning the 540 roundhouse kick or the 540 hook kick (aero kicks)? How do I go about it? What must I do to condition myself to be able to perform them?
First a definition of terms:
- Basic kicks. These are kicks where the kicking foot moves directly from the floor to the target. The support foot is always in contact with the floor.
- Intermediate kicks
- Jump kicks. These are kicks where you jump and both feet are off the floor when the kicking foot makes contact with the target.
- Spin kicks. These are kicks where the torso rotates backward before executing the kick.
- Jump-spin kicks. These are kicks where you jump and the torso rotates backward before executing the kick.
- Aero kicks. These are just variations of a jump or jump-spin kicks where the support foot is back on the floor before the kicking foot makes contact with the target. It is used primarily as a faking movement. In the aero kick, you start a fake kick with one leg and then quickly switch to a kick with the other leg, which means that both feet are off the floor for an instant, and then the support foot is back on the floor before the kick makes contact. It is sort of a sloppy version of a standard jump or jump-spin kick. Although there is a jump motion, the intent is not to add a jump to the kick but make the opponent think a kick is coming from one direction while you quickly switch to another kick from another direction.
- Advanced kicks. These kicks use movements that are more complicated and require 360 degree body rotations.
- Acrobatic Kicks. These kicks use spins of more than 360 degrees, flips, drops, rolls, etc. Most acrobatic kicks are useless except for their entertainment value and the physical skills attained while learning to perform the kicks. They are usually not effective for self-defense and are seldom even used in sparring.
The hierarchy of learning to perform kicks is to first perfect the basic kicks, then perfect the jump kicks, then perfect the spin kicks, and then perfect the jump-spin kicks. Each of these types of kicks relies upon the other.
- You perform a proper basic kick
- To perform the jump kick variation, you jump and then basic kick.
- To perform the spin kick variation, you spin and then basic kick.
- To perform a jump-spin kick variation, you jump, then spin, and then basic kick.
You must master the basic and intermediate kicks before worrying about learning advanced variations of the kicks. If you cannot perform, the basic and intermediate kicks properly, effectively, and even perfectly, then do not worry about learning the advanced kicks. Being able to perform a technically perfect side kick to the opponent’s abdomen that always reaches its target with power and precision is more important that being able to merely use an advanced kick or to show off with some acrobatic kick.
Once you are proficient at the basic and intermediate kicks, then you may proceed to the advanced kicks.
When you execute a rear leg kick and step down in front, your torso rotates 180 degrees, you end up with the opposite leg forward, and you are facing the opposite direction.
When you perform a spin or jump-spin kick, your torso rotates 180 degrees, you end up with the opposite leg forward, and you are facing the opposite direction.
When you step forward with the trailing leg, jump off the support leg, and perform a spin kick while the stepping leg is still in the air, such as with the 360 degree jump-spin side kick, your torso rotates 360 degrees, you end up with the same leg forward, and you are facing the same direction.
When you spin on the support foot and then jump and kick with the support foot, such as with the butterfly kick, your torso rotates 360 degrees, you end up with the same leg forward, and you are facing the same direction.
Some kicks use an extra step to increase the degrees of rotation, such as with the tornado kick, where you step forward with the trailing leg and then perform a butterfly kick. In you final position, your torso has rotated 540 degrees, but it only because of the extra step, not because you rotated 540 degrees in the air while performing the kick.
These are the upper limit of effective spin kicks. Spinning more than 360 degree makes the kicks purely acrobatic and only useful for entertainment purposes. Anyone who is capable enough to be a threat to you will also be capable of avoiding or spoiling any attempt at a kick that uses rotations greater than 360 degrees. These kicks require ideal conditions (such as a smooth, dry, clear surface; clear visibility of the take-off and landing area; and clothing and shoes that permit free movement), plenty of free space to prepare for and execute the kick, and an opponent that will stand still and not attempt to upset your balance while you are in the air.
Acrobatic kicks are not a part of Taekwondo. We practice the martial (fighting) art of Taekwondo, not gymnastics, modern dance, or acrobatics. There are styles that use acrobatic kicks as well as a few Taekwondo instructors who teach them. It is a waste of time and effort to try to learn acrobatic kicks until you have mastered all the basic, intermediate, and advanced kicks. Once you have mastered these kicks, you will have all the skills you need to tackle any of the acrobatic kicks, if you so choose.