Performing high, fast kicks is the goal of most new Taekwondo students, and, for many students, it continues to be a goal even after years of training. However, since the purpose a martial art is for the user to be victorious in combat, these high, fast kicks are counterproductive. Your adversary does not care how high or how fast you can kick; he or she only respects one thing—whether or not you can cause him or her incapacitating pain or injury. Therefore, the goal of any martial artist should be to perform accurate, devastating kicks that are capable of stopping an attack, or injuring or killing the attacker
Devastating kicks do not come from just kicking harder. Many times, I have seen students fail their breaking requirement during a rank testing because they cannot break the required number of boards using basic kicks. They perform a few practice kicks, which may appear technically perfect in form. Then, when they attempt the breaks, they try to perform the kicks in the same manner, only harder. Usually this means that they change the way the kick is performed so that its form is diminished. This method of kicking means that the power of the kick depends upon the power of the kicker’s leg muscles; possibly with the added momentum of a body shift, such as in using a sliding side kick. This method may work when breaking one or two boards, but it begins to fail as the number of boards increases. Larger, stronger people may make the method work for one or two more boards, but then the method begins to fail even them.
To break four or more boards, the kicks must have a devastating striking force. Devastating striking forces come from two sources: hip rotation and hip rollover, both of which add a slight thrusting motion to the kick. It is as if, just before impart, an additional two powerful forces are suddenly added to the striking force of the kick. When standing on the floor, hip rotation comes from the rotation of the support foot. As the support foot rotates, the hip rotates into the kicking leg, adding the mass of the entire body to the kick. The rotating foot, and its accompanying hip rotation, should occur in a snapping motion at the end of the kick so all the forces are applied to the kicking foot simultaneously at the moment of impact. In a jump kick, adding hip rotation is more difficult since both feet are off the floor.
Hip rollover occurs when the hips rotate over the horizontal axis of the kick. As the kicking leg extends, the hip snap rolls over the horizontal plane of the leg to use the massive hip muscles to snap the mass of the lower body into the kick.
These two hip movements, the rotation and the rollover, are what separate a devastating kick from a perfectly performed kick, or a high, flashy kick. The two hip movements add tremendous striking force to the kick at the moment of impact. These forces will only be present for a split second and will only occur over a couple of inches, so accuracy and focus are very important. Just before or just after impact, these forces will diminish quickly and the kick will revert to its normal power, still powerful, but not devastating.
When kicking a bag held by a partner, a normal kick will sound powerful upon impact, similar the sound of a baseball hitting a catcher’s glove, but the impact will be uneventful to the bag holder. Trying to kick harder will add power to the kick so that it will jolt the holder, but the impact will not be problem for the holder. Adding hip rotation and rollover will cause the kick to the strike the bag with a bone shuttering, snapping, sharp, jolt that, while it will not cause holder to move much, it will sound similar to the sound a heavy bag would make when hitting the floor after being dropped from a great height, and the impact will momentarily stun the holder, while still not causing the holder to move much.
In the movies, when people are hit with bullets from a powerful firearm, they are thrown backward; however, in real life, the person would only shutter from a momentary jolt and then quickly collapse straight to the floor. The effect of being struck with a devastating kick to kicks’ is similar. Snap kicks hurt, but they are more of an annoyance than a problem. Powerful kicks can hurt or injure, but they are survivable. However, if a devastating kick hits any body part, that part will be devastated, be it a forearm, ribs, or a head, while the person being stuck will not be moved much. A direct strike by a devastating kick to any part of the torso or head will result in serious injury, if not death.
The secret to devastating kicks is coordinated hip rotation and rollover. As with everything else, you will perform that which you practice. If you practice high, flashy kicks, when an actual combat situation arises, that is the type of kicks you will use. Make every kick you thrown, whether in practice or breaking—a devastating kick.