Improving side kick

andyjeffries

Master of Arts
Joined
Sep 25, 2006
Messages
1,968
Reaction score
271
Location
Stevenage, Herts, UK
One of my goals for this year is that I'm looking to improve my side kick. I've never been happy with my side kick, it's always felt unstable and not powerful enough.

So at the age of 40, with far too many pounds keeping my belt down I've decided this year I'm going to fix it.

I've had a friend in Korea send me a video of how he does side kicks and while I was in Korea in 2014 one of the instructors in a dojang was teaching some of her students side kick improvements, so I got some tips from there, but now I'm opening up for global tips...

Up until last year we had always brought the knee forwards first (towards the target) before rotating to the side and then finally rotating the hips over (so the shin becomes parallel to the floor). We've since stopped that and now we go fluidly straight through from sparring stance (or whatever stance) through to the shin being parallel to the floor.

Three things I've noticed that I'm still doing differently to the Korean style is:

1) My knee/upper leg is parallel to the floor, in Korea even when kicking low they lift their knee really high in the chamber position.

2) My arms have tended to go wherever they are needed for balance, in Korea they tend to have the top arm (same side as the kicking leg) with the forearm parallel to the floor and resting on the torso.

3) We all seem to counter rotate our shoulders (so when kicking right legged, the right shoulder drops towards the floor during the kick - not all the way, but in that direction).

Does anyone else (particularly Kukkiwon stylists) have any tips for important things they feel are part of a correct side kick or drills they do/have their students do?
 

Gnarlie

Master of Arts
Joined
Dec 13, 2011
Messages
1,913
Reaction score
442
Location
Germany
I'm sure you'd have a better idea than me, but I think one often overlooked aspect of the kick (and coincidentally the one that facilitates the high knee chamber) is maximising the angle between the pelvis and the standing leg. This means lifting the kicking hip as high as possible, meaning that there's more play in the kicking hip for the kicking leg knee to lift higher, influencing the power of the kick.

I believe that the side kick where the kick side shoulder drops down and the one where it doesn't are two different kicks utilising different dynamics. The shoulder drop forces use of the gluteus muscle in lifting the kick (making it similar to a dwi chagi), whereas the kick with the shoulder kept high and back uses the hip flexors to lift the leg, leaving the gluteus free to power the foot away from the body.

I notice that the Koreans keep any leaning to an absolute minimum, too,in order to keep body weight behind the kick.

I'm interested to see what others have to say - side kick has never been an easy one for me, and new ways of looking at it are always welcome.
 

Buka

Sr. Grandmaster
MT Mentor
Joined
Jun 27, 2011
Messages
11,697
Reaction score
8,316
Location
Maui
Sidekicks are a thing of beauty. Kind of a difficult discussion without actually seeing the sidekick, though.

But, can you land that puppy? (offensively, defensively, whatever-ly)
 

Earl Weiss

Senior Master
Joined
Jan 27, 2009
Messages
3,229
Reaction score
625
Difficult question to answer for so many reasons.
1. "Side kick" has many adaptations. Pattern, Sparring, Breaking etc. . Which are you referring to?
2. This is one of those 3 dimensional actions difficult to describe in this 2 dimwensional medium.
 

TrueJim

Master Black Belt
Joined
Jun 21, 2014
Messages
1,006
Reaction score
370
Location
Virginia
I first studied taekwondo in 1978 at a college club; it wasn't Kukkiwon style. It's interesting that you say you go straight from the fighting stance to the shin-parallel-to-floor position, because that's how we did it back then. Now that I'm studying Kukkiwon style, my Korean instructors have us point the knee first, as you say. Also, back in the 70s I was taught that the shoulder should drop a bit more toward the floor; now my Korean instructors tell me I drop it too much. I like Gnarlie's point...this really is like two very different kicks.

When the instructors at my school grow weary of our bad side kicks :) they have us spend a lot of time holding onto the balance bar along the wall, one hand on the bar while we go through the kick many-many-many times, paying attention to the details (point the knee first, turn the hip, rotate the arm, etc.) Of course after a while it's agonizing on the muscles after a while, but they at least seem to think that it'll help improve our kicks.

Side_Kick.jpg

(Back in the day, I would have been told I was doing it wrong if it looked like this...not enough shoulder drop.)
 

Dirty Dog

MT Senior Moderator
Staff member
Lifetime Supporting Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2009
Messages
18,089
Reaction score
4,933
Location
Pueblo West, CO
I believe that the side kick where the kick side shoulder drops down and the one where it doesn't are two different kicks utilising different dynamics. The shoulder drop forces use of the gluteus muscle in lifting the kick (making it similar to a dwi chagi), whereas the kick with the shoulder kept high and back uses the hip flexors to lift the leg, leaving the gluteus free to power the foot away from the body.

What you're describing is physiologically impossible. The function of the gluteal muscles is to flex and rotate the hip and (to a lesser extent) extend the torso. They can't drive a sidekick except from it's most deeply chambered position. The power of a sidekick is going to derive primarily from the quadriceps muscles - the rectus femoris and the vastus lateralis/medius/intermedius. The gluteals can help a little with the initial movement if you're using a very deep chamber, but that is all.
 

Gnarlie

Master of Arts
Joined
Dec 13, 2011
Messages
1,913
Reaction score
442
Location
Germany
Poor choice of words on my part. My main point was that the glute should not be the primary lifting muscle for side kick, which it is likely to be when the shoulder rotates to allow the chest to face the ground. The current KKW preference seems to be shoulder back with the chest visible to an opponent, which means the primary lifting muscles are those on the front and side of the upper leg, especially during the high knee chamber.
 
Last edited:

oftheherd1

Senior Master
Joined
May 12, 2011
Messages
4,685
Reaction score
817
...
Up until last year we had always brought the knee forwards first (towards the target) before rotating to the side and then finally rotating the hips over (so the shin becomes parallel to the floor). We've since stopped that and now we go fluidly straight through from sparring stance (or whatever stance) through to the shin being parallel to the floor.

When I studied TKD, we tended to do it more like you say you do it now, whether using the front or back leg.

Three things I've noticed that I'm still doing differently to the Korean style is:

1) My knee/upper leg is parallel to the floor, in Korea even when kicking low they lift their knee really high in the chamber position.

I think the idea is that your opponent will have less time to determine where the kick is going so it can be defended against. The opponent only has from the movement from the knee at its high point to decide to block or move back or both. That was what I was told in the mid-80s when studying the Hapkido I learned.

2) My arms have tended to go wherever they are needed for balance, in Korea they tend to have the top arm (same side as the kicking leg) with the forearm parallel to the floor and resting on the torso.

I have done both. I think the same side arm going over the kicking leg is both style and to catch the opponent if the opponent moves into the kick for defense, or as a reflex action from the kick.

3) We all seem to counter rotate our shoulders (so when kicking right legged, the right shoulder drops towards the floor during the kick - not all the way, but in that direction).

...

I'm not sure I quite get what you mean, but I think you mean your whole torso rotating backwards. That I think, especially for higher kicks, is a result of a lack of flexibility. If you don't lean back, either you can't kick too high, or you will damage something, but you sacrifice balance, which generally means sacrificing power. It was certainly a problem I had.
 

oftheherd1

Senior Master
Joined
May 12, 2011
Messages
4,685
Reaction score
817
...

When the instructors at my school grow weary of our bad side kicks :) they have us spend a lot of time holding onto the balance bar along the wall, one hand on the bar while we go through the kick many-many-many times, paying attention to the details (point the knee first, turn the hip, rotate the arm, etc.) Of course after a while it's agonizing on the muscles after a while, but they at least seem to think that it'll help improve our kicks.

Side_Kick.jpg

(Back in the day, I would have been told I was doing it wrong if it looked like this...not enough shoulder drop.)

We used to balance on the wall when I studied TKD, but it was expected that the more we did it, the less we would have to hold the wall, as it was just helping us keep our balance while we built up stretch and muscle memory, mostly muscle memory.
 

Dirty Dog

MT Senior Moderator
Staff member
Lifetime Supporting Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2009
Messages
18,089
Reaction score
4,933
Location
Pueblo West, CO
One of my goals for this year is that I'm looking to improve my side kick. I've never been happy with my side kick, it's always felt unstable and not powerful enough.

So at the age of 40, with far too many pounds keeping my belt down I've decided this year I'm going to fix it.

Youngsters... ;)

Up until last year we had always brought the knee forwards first (towards the target) before rotating to the side and then finally rotating the hips over (so the shin becomes parallel to the floor). We've since stopped that and now we go fluidly straight through from sparring stance (or whatever stance) through to the shin being parallel to the floor.

We teach all kicks by breaking them down into segments. For the sidekick, the first method you describe is how we teach it. It can result in a somewhat slower and sometimes sort of jerky kick, but it's easier to learn. As they progress, they transition into the second method.

Three things I've noticed that I'm still doing differently to the Korean style is:

1) My knee/upper leg is parallel to the floor, in Korea even when kicking low they lift their knee really high in the chamber position.

I've noted this too, and while the exaggerated chamber might allow for a stronger kick, it's also going to be slower. Kicking this way in drills also means a larger range of motion for the joints, which is good for flexibility. Drills and forms are always somewhat stylized. I wouldn't bring the knee that high for a low kick in a sparring or self defense situation. I'd bring it as high as the target.

2) My arms have tended to go wherever they are needed for balance, in Korea they tend to have the top arm (same side as the kicking leg) with the forearm parallel to the floor and resting on the torso.

I see this as a carryover from forms. The taegeuk and yudanja forms love sidekicks followed by an elbow strike. So it makes sense to have the arm on the kicking side extended; when you step down from the sidekick, your hand will be in a position to easily grab the head for the elbow strike.
If you look at Pyongwon, for example, you'll see that when the sidekick is followed by an elbow strike, the arm is extended. When it's not, the forearm tends to be across the body at the waist, for balance and to protect the midsection from a counterstrike.

3) We all seem to counter rotate our shoulders (so when kicking right legged, the right shoulder drops towards the floor during the kick - not all the way, but in that direction).

If I'm understanding you correctly, you're turning the shoulder on the side of the kicking leg forward and towards the floor? Doing this changes the flexion of the hip. Since most people have more flexibility front-to-rear than sideways, this will allow most people to kick higher. It can also recruit more of the larger, stronger muscles in the rear of the thigh and allow a stronger kick. Turn too far, of course, and the line between side kick and back kick begins to blur.

I think throwing the kick with the shoulder aligned perpendicular to the floor is stylistically better; it's just a prettier kick. It also requires more flexibility. From a poomsae standpoint, this is the goal. From a self defense or sparring standpoint, whichever method hits the target is fine.
 

Balrog

Master of Arts
Joined
Feb 11, 2007
Messages
1,717
Reaction score
402
Location
Houston, TX
This video has some good drills for strengthening and improving the side kick. But the best source for improving your side kick is always your instructor.
 
OP
andyjeffries

andyjeffries

Master of Arts
Joined
Sep 25, 2006
Messages
1,968
Reaction score
271
Location
Stevenage, Herts, UK
This video has some good drills for strengthening and improving the side kick. But the best source for improving your side kick is always your instructor.

Thanks for the video. I absolutely agree about the instructor being the best source of information. However, in my case I run a dojang and generally see my instructor once or twice per year as he doesn't live in this country (in this case because I'm dan testing this year I'll see him more). Planning on working with him on improving my side kicks when I next see him, but I thought any tips I could get before then would be useful.
 
OP
andyjeffries

andyjeffries

Master of Arts
Joined
Sep 25, 2006
Messages
1,968
Reaction score
271
Location
Stevenage, Herts, UK
I would consider, not caring about getting more power. I'm sure you have enough, for now. Now, go practice the other 99.9999999% of the art. :)

I'd consider that trying to improve a technique you know you don't feel as comfortable with is a good thing. It's not just about power, my whole post was about the positioning of the body throughout the motion and stability.

I am practicing the rest of the art too, but I obviously want to improve my weak spots when it's almost grading time rather than work on my strengths...
 
OP
andyjeffries

andyjeffries

Master of Arts
Joined
Sep 25, 2006
Messages
1,968
Reaction score
271
Location
Stevenage, Herts, UK
Difficult question to answer for so many reasons.
1. "Side kick" has many adaptations. Pattern, Sparring, Breaking etc. . Which are you referring to?

In particular for patterns. In Kukkiwon Taekwondo we rarely use side kicks in sparring (we prefer a cut or check kick) and for destruction at my level I'd probably go with something more advanced (if it was for a demonstration or grading).

2. This is one of those 3 dimensional actions difficult to describe in this 2 dimwensional medium.

I absolutely agree, it felt very difficult making my initial descriptions - too wordy or too concise, difficult to get the balance right...
 
OP
andyjeffries

andyjeffries

Master of Arts
Joined
Sep 25, 2006
Messages
1,968
Reaction score
271
Location
Stevenage, Herts, UK
Sidekicks are a thing of beauty. Kind of a difficult discussion without actually seeing the sidekick, though.

But, can you land that puppy? (offensively, defensively, whatever-ly)

As I explained in my answer to Earl, we rarely use side kicks in Kukkiwon Taekwondo sparring, preferring other more sport-focused kicks. So this is really for poomsae.
 

Gnarlie

Master of Arts
Joined
Dec 13, 2011
Messages
1,913
Reaction score
442
Location
Germany
Another thought - In order to get anywhere near that high knee chamber, it seems I have to rotate my pelvis forward. It might just be the way I'm built, but that means that it is difficult to kick with the shoulder, hip and foot on a single line. Is it just me?

Also, if it's for forms, I have another question. Do you briefly hold the kick at full extension, or not?
 
OP
andyjeffries

andyjeffries

Master of Arts
Joined
Sep 25, 2006
Messages
1,968
Reaction score
271
Location
Stevenage, Herts, UK
I absolutely agree about the instructor being the best source of information. However, in my case I run a dojang and generally see my instructor once or twice per year as he doesn't live in this country (in this case because I'm dan testing this year I'll see him more). Planning on working with him on improving my side kicks when I next see him, but I thought any tips I could get before then would be useful.

And no sooner do I say that than my instructor messages me to say he's in the country for a couple of days so I'll be seeing him this weekend!
 
Top