What About High Kicks?

As a taekwondo stylist, I spent my first few years of training trying to develop high kicks.  I could throw crescent kicks head height pretty easily and even an occasional side kick.  For the most part, my kicks tended to land on the body not the head.  However, high kicks are still beautiful to behold and with several spectacular head kicks knockouts by mixed martial artists Urijah Hall and Edson Barbosa, it might be natural to ask if I’ve changed my mind on head kicks.

The short answer is “No” but it is an oversimplification of the questions.  I believe high kicks are fine for competitions, demonstrations and forms.  For self-defense, high kicks are too risky even for the most skilled practitioner.

The two most important principles for self-defense are position over finish and by controlling the distance you control the damage.  High kicks particularly spinning kicks violate both these principles.


Armed Forces Taekwondo Competition from the Public Domain

When you execute a high kick, you are standing on one leg with your other leg at head height.  You can be taken down very easily in this position.  With your leg so high, the throw or slam could cause serious damage.  The high kick is too much of an all or nothing technique.

A high kick initially does not violate the controlling the distance principle.  You can use kicks to keep an attacker back although I would target the knee or legs.  I advise students to knee to the groin area.  Even if the leg is caught, you can often straighten it back out with a strong push (stomp) to the floor.

However, if you are using a spinning kick and the attacker quickly closes the distance, you can find yourself taken down with the attacker on your back, one of the worst positions to try and defend yourself.

I do like high kicks in forms, breaking demonstrations and competitions, where the use of such a technique does not put you in a bad position.  You shouldn’t stop working on high kicks just know their limitations as a self-defense tool.  In my opinion, self-defense is the most important thing but not the only thing.

Keep kicking.

Pin It