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Taekwondo Kicks: Rankings, Names, and Impact Explored

A Taekwondo Front Kick.

Taekwondo is acclaimed for its remarkable prowess in executing powerful and captivating kicks. The distinctive kicks, known as “chagi” in Korean, have catapulted Taekwondo into a league of its own within the world of martial arts. Characterized by speed, precision, and impactful strikes, Taekwondo kicks have the ability to target opponents’ bodies and heads from a variety of positions, making them not only visually impressive but also highly effective in combat scenarios.

Beyond their dazzling appearances in Taekwondo demonstrations, these kicks wield the potential to inflict significant damage, underlining their practicality in both self-defense situations and competitive arenas. As we delve into this article, our goal is to provide you with a comprehensive guide to some of the best kicks in Taekwondo. From the fundamental techniques to the advanced aerial maneuvers, we will explore the mechanics, applications, and nuances of each kick, shedding light on their strengths and purposes.

The Best Kick in Taekwondo:

Our pick:

The side kick stands out in Taekwondo for its impact and simplicity. It engages multiple muscles and channels power through the heel, making it an effective strike for both self-defense and MMA.

The 5 Best Taekwondo Kicks:


1. Side Kick

Effectiveness: 9/10 | Power: 10/10 | Versatility: 8/10

The side kick stands out as one of the most potent and versatile kicks in taekwondo. This thrusting kick moves linearly, making it more precise and difficult for opponents to anticipate. Its unique mechanics, involving the use of large muscles in the quads, glutes, and hamstrings, result in exceptional power. When executed correctly, the side kick can be utterly devastating due to its thrusting force. The ability to use the heel as the striking surface enhances its indomitable nature, offering a solid impact without the vulnerability of nerves or bones found in other techniques. Its main drawback lies in the slightly limited angles of attack compared to other kicks.


2. Round Kick (Turning Kick)

Effectiveness: 8/10 | Power: 9/10 | Versatility: 9/10

The round kick, also known as the turning kick, is a staple in taekwondo’s kicking arsenal. Its 45-degree arcing motion allows for quick delivery and makes it a popular choice in sparring and tournaments. However, the round kick’s true power is unleashed when the hips are fully turned, propelling the entire body into the technique. The kick’s adaptability comes from its swift execution, but this can also result in telegraphing the move to an astute opponent. The round kick excels in generating speed due to its arcing trajectory, making it one of the fastest kicks in taekwondo.


3. Front Kick (Front Snap Kick)

Effectiveness: 7/10 | Power: 8/10 | Versatility: 7/10

The front kick is a fundamental technique, appreciated for its straightforward execution. It involves extending the leg forward, striking with the ball of the foot or instep. The kick’s power is derived from the hip’s linear arcing motion and hip rotation, allowing the full force of the body to contribute to the strike. While effective, the front kick exposes the shin and foot to counterattacks if not well-timed. Variations such as the front thrusting kick enable pushing opponents off balance, making it suitable for disrupting guards and creating distance. Its inherent simplicity makes it a valuable addition to any taekwondo practitioner’s arsenal.


4. Hook Kick (Reverse Turning Kick)

Effectiveness: 7/10 | Power: 8/10 | Versatility: 6/10

Considered one of the sneakiest kicks, the hook kick employs an arcing motion that changes direction mid-course. This unexpected trajectory challenges opponents’ defenses. The technique’s power is harnessed through the engagement of the quads and glutes, culminating in a striking action with the back of the heel. The hook kick’s power may not rival other kicks, but its strategic surprise factor and potential for striking sensitive areas can tip the balance. The kick’s strength lies in its ability to be unconventional and catch opponents off-guard, though its sneakiness also necessitates precision and timing.


5. Back Kick

Effectiveness: 6/10 | Power: 9/10 | Versatility: 6/10

Completing the top five taekwondo kicks is the back kick, distinct for its unique approach. Executed with the heel and knee leading, this technique relies on the power of the quads and calves. Its backward thrusting nature provides an unexpected angle of attack, making it difficult for opponents to anticipate. The main drawback of the back kick is its limited visibility, as the practitioner’s back faces the opponent, making it challenging to observe incoming actions. However, the kick’s angle provides an advantage when seeking resistance, allowing for a controlled withdrawal from the target area.


In conclusion, each of these top five taekwondo kicks possesses its own strengths and weaknesses. The side kick emerges as a favorite due to its thrusting power, versatility, and utilization of strong muscle groups. The round kick’s speed and adaptability make it a popular choice, while the front kick’s simplicity and effectiveness serve as a foundational technique. The hook kick’s sneakiness offers a strategic advantage, and the back kick’s unexpected angle presents both challenges and opportunities. Ultimately, the ranking of these kicks depends on the practitioner’s style, strategy, and preference, making taekwondo an art that accommodates a diverse range of approaches.

List and Names of Taekwondo kicks

  1. Front Kick – Ap Chagi (앞 차기)
  2. Side Kick – Yeop Chagi (옆 차기)
  3. Roundhouse Kick – Dollyo Chagi (돌려 차기)
  4. Back Kick – Dwi Chagi (뒷 차기)
  5. Reverse Side Kick – Bandae Yeop Chagi (반대 옆 차기)
  6. Inner Crescent Kick – An Chagi (내부 반달 차기)
  7. Outer Crescent Kick – Bakkat Chagi (외부 반달 차기)
  8. Hook Kick – Huryeo Chagi (후려 차기)
  9. Reverse Turning Kick – Bandae Dollyo Chagi (반대 돌려 차기)
  10. Axe Kick – Naeryeo Chagi (내려 차기)
  11. Knee Strike – Mureup Chigi (무릎 치기)
  12. Scissor Kick – Kawi Chagi (가위 차기)
  13. Flying Side Kick – Twi Myo Yeop Chagi (뛰며 옆 차기)
  14. Flying Back Kick – Twi Myo Dwi Chagi (뛰며 뒷 차기)

Taekwondo Kicks: Breakdown

The Front Kick (앞 차기, “Ap Chagi”)

The foundation of Taekwondo’s kicking repertoire, the front kick, also referred to as the “snap kick,” exemplifies both speed and power. Often the initial kick taught, it remains a force to be reckoned with even at higher levels. Executed by raising the knee of the kicking leg to waist level, this kick involves propelling the foot forward to strike the target. While its primary purpose is to push opponents backward, it can also cause injury, making it a versatile weapon in both defense and offense.


The Side Kick (옆 차기, “Yeop Chagi”)

A versatile technique with defensive and offensive applications, the side kick targets opponents’ stomachs or heads. Employed as an interceptive maneuver, this kick gains its power from a combination of knee elevation and body rotation. However, caution is advised when using the rear leg for this kick due to the time it requires. It stands as one of the earliest kicks learned in Taekwondo, rendering it a fundamental skill in a practitioner’s arsenal.


The Roundhouse Kick (돌려 차기, “Dollyeo Chagi”)

Recognized for its cinematic presence and impressive impact, the roundhouse kick is a formidable technique in Taekwondo. Executed by pivoting on the non-kicking leg while delivering a sweeping kick, it can target the solar plexus, stomach, or even the head. Its variations range from defensive to aggressive, and its adept use can lead to knockout stoppages. The “Brazilian kick” variation, known for its unorthodox trajectory, exemplifies the kick’s versatility and its ability to bypass guards.


The Back Kick (뒷 차기, “Dwit Chagi”)

A technique of precision and counteraction, the back kick finds its strength in its unexpected nature. Executed away from the target, it requires adept balance and timing. This kick is especially effective against aggressive opponents, targeting the open side of their fighting stance. A well-executed back kick, directed at vital areas like the solar plexus or liver, can result in fight-ending blows.


The Reverse Side Kick (반대 옆 차기, “Bandae Yeop Chagi”)

An extension of the back kick, the reverse side kick amplifies the kick’s power by incorporating extra momentum. This enhanced version demands supreme balance and control as the practitioner turns further than in a regular back kick. Its utility lies in its ability to surprise opponents with increased force, making it an advanced yet impactful maneuver.


The Inner/Outer Crescent Kick (“An Chagi / Bakkat Chagi”)

With variations catering to different situations, the crescent kick offers options for close-range combat. The inner crescent kick, “an chagi,” is effective when opponents share the same stance, while the outer crescent kick, “bakkat chagi,” suits opposite stances. These kicks are characterized by their speed, making them ideal for point-scoring in Taekwondo tournaments. When combined with other techniques, they create deceptive opportunities to trap opponents.


The Hook Kick (후려 차기, “Huryeo Chagi”)

Emerging as a modern trend in Taekwondo competitions, the hook kick sets itself apart with its distinctive path and impact. A signature move in ITF Taekwondo, the hook kick involves a backward sweep after extending the foot. Although not typically associated with knockouts, it holds its value in point-scoring and strategic feinting.


Reverse Turning Kick (반대 돌려 차기, “Bandae Dollyeo Chagi”)

Bridging the gap between spinning and turning kicks, the reverse turning kick boasts a straight leg that travels toward opponents’ bodies or heads. Executed with precision, it delivers substantial damage. Its alternate version, a snappier iteration, further showcases the kick’s versatility.


The Axe Kick (내려 차기, “Naeryeo Chagi”)

A modern addition to competitive Taekwondo, the axe kick derives its name from its resemblance to the motion of an axe swing. Executed with the leg raised high and driven downward, it targets areas above the torso, including the head, shoulders, and collarbone. This kick’s potential to break defenses and bones makes it a potent tool in a practitioner’s arsenal.


The Knee Strike (“Mureup Chigi”)

While not strictly a kick, the knee strike remains a potent technique in Taekwondo. Variations of knee strikes involve impacting the target by bringing the opponent into the knee or driving the knee toward them. These techniques find prominence in mixed martial arts (MMA) and martial arts such as Muay Thai.


The Scissor Kick (“Kawi Chagi”)

A visually striking maneuver, the scissor kick is often reserved for Taekwondo demonstrations rather than combat. It involves a jump-kick, targeting two opponents simultaneously with each leg. Though impressive, its complexity and vulnerability make it less practical in competitive or self-defense settings.


The Flying Side Kick & Flying Back Kick (“Twi Myo Yeop Chagi / Twi Myo Dwi Chagi”)

Elevating the artistry of Taekwondo kicks, the flying side kick and flying back kick demand a running start before launching into mid-air attacks. While challenging to execute accurately, these kicks offer both flair and potential in sparring scenarios. The flying back kick, in particular, stands as a brutal counterattack that can cause significant damage to aggressive opponents.

Why Taekwondo Emphasizes Kicking:

Taekwondo’s distinct emphasis on kicking techniques stems from a combination of factors that contribute to its unique identity within the realm of martial arts.

Taekwondo practitioners are trained to harness the power of their legs as longer and more powerful weapons compared to their arms. This emphasis on leg training is rooted in the biomechanical advantage that legs offer in generating force and impact. By utilizing the legs as primary tools for offense and defense, Taekwondo practitioners can capitalize on their natural strengths.

Furthermore, the prominence of kicks in Taekwondo aligns with the art’s application in self-defense scenarios. The range and reach provided by kicks enable practitioners to engage opponents from a distance, maintaining a level of control and safety.


Are Taekwondo Kicks Strong?

Without a doubt, Taekwondo kicks are renowned for their formidable power. The integration of body mechanics, precise technique, and focused training results in kicks that can deliver substantial impact. Whether in sparring or self-defense, Taekwondo practitioners have the ability to generate significant force through their kicks.

Consider iconic Taekwondo kicks like the roundhouse kick or the side kick – these techniques have the potential to deliver knockout blows or disrupt an opponent’s balance with sheer force. Taekwondo’s rigorous training and attention to proper form contribute to the strength of its kicks, making them a hallmark of the art’s effectiveness.


What is the Easiest Kick in Taekwondo?

While Taekwondo offers a wide range of intricate and advanced kicks, one kick stands out as relatively accessible to newcomers: the front kick, known as “ap chagi.”

The front kick’s simplicity lies in its straightforward mechanics. It involves raising the knee of the kicking leg and extending the foot forward to strike the target. This uncomplicated movement makes it an ideal starting point for beginners to grasp fundamental kicking principles, such as balance, alignment, and coordination. As practitioners progress and build a strong foundation, they can then venture into more complex kicks with confidence.


Which Sport Has the Hardest Kicks?

When comparing kicking techniques across various martial arts, Taekwondo undoubtedly ranks among those with the hardest kicks. The combination of Taekwondo’s dynamic kicks, precise execution, and emphasis on speed and power sets it apart from other disciplines.

Taekwondo’s unique characteristics contribute to its reputation for powerful kicks. The art’s rigorous training and focus on building leg strength, flexibility, and explosive power create a distinct advantage. While other martial arts may excel in different aspects of combat, Taekwondo’s kicks have earned their place as some of the hardest-hitting techniques in the world of martial arts.


Can Taekwondo Kick to the Head?

Taekwondo’s rules and techniques permit practitioners to execute kicks to the head, distinguishing it from many other martial arts. While head kicks are a legitimate and strategic part of Taekwondo, they come with their own set of considerations.

Performing head kicks requires precision, control, and timing. It’s essential to execute the kick accurately to avoid unintended consequences. Successful head kicks can yield high rewards in terms of point-scoring and disorienting opponents. However, practitioners must also be mindful of the risks associated with exposing themselves to counterattacks while executing these kicks.

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