It's one of the first kicks beginners learn when they take up the martial arts, but that doesn't mean it's only for beginners. Done right, it's among the most effective sparring and self-defense techniques known.

For taekwondo fighters, it’s a scoring technique used to impart “trembling shock” against an opponent’s chest protector. For muay Thai stylists, it’s a defensive technique effected by shoving against an opponent’s abdomen. For karate stylists, it’s a stunning technique aimed at an opponent’s solar plexus.


It is perhaps the most basic martial arts technique of all, the front kick. In one form or another, it’s a component of almost every system. Often the first kick introduced to novice students, it doesn’t require exceptional balance or flexibility. Yet when executed with sharp, focused power, it quickly realizes its full potential.

Snap Kick

Front kicks can be divided into two main types: the front snap kick and the front thrust kick. The snap kick is faster. It’s performed by lifting the knee and snapping the lower leg into the target. Power is generated primarily from the sharp extension of the leg and the speed with which the lower leg shoots into the target.

The front snap kick doesn’t involve the hips as much as the front thrust kick does. As a result, kickers don’t have to compromise their balance by shifting their center of gravity. This means they can quickly step in with a follow-up technique or retract the leg to its original position.

Thrust Kick

The front thrust kick is the more powerful of the two variations. It uses not only the snap of the lower leg but also the drive and follow-through of the hips. As with the front snap kick, the knee is brought up quickly. But to recruit more power, the knee lift is preceded by a thrust of the hips. This motion brings the largest muscles of the body into play, and instead of producing a snapping impact, it generates penetrating, disabling force.

With either version, the point of contact is usually the ball of the foot, although there are exceptions. Some systems such as uechi-ryu use the toes instead of the ball. Naturally, this demands an extraordinary level of conditioning, but because the contact point is smaller, the kick imparts a sharper, stabbing pain.

The heel and instep also can be employed, with the heel most often used for thrusting kicks and the instep for groin kicks wherein the foot travels upward to strike the genitals. For the most part, however, the ball of the foot is preferred, particularly when bare feet are involved.

Rear Leg

The front kick can be delivered from the front or rear leg. Kicking with the rear leg is more common and more comfortable for most practitioners. The rear-leg front kick is a natural motion; it’s easier for kickers to shift their balance and put their weight behind the kick. The rear-leg kick, especially from a relatively deep stance, often enables kickers to crash right through an opponent’s block.

Some people produce even more power by altering the kick’s angle. Rather than chambering the knee directly to the front, they cock it slightly to the side. As the knee is lifted, the supporting foot pivots and the lower leg shoots into the target at a 20-degree angle. This variation should not be confused with the 45-degree roundhouse kick that many taekwondo competitors use. Although the angle appears similar, the contact area for the angled front kick remains the ball of the foot and not the instep.

Lead Leg

The lead-leg front kick is quicker but considerably less powerful than its rear-leg counterpart. Its main use in self-defense is as a stunning setup technique that off-balances an adversary and paves the way for heavier blows. It’s also used in free sparring primarily as a range-finder and setup technique.

Competitive taekwondo fighters use a variation of the lead-leg kick as a stop-kick to keep an opponent from advancing. Because the opponent is wearing a body protector, penetration is not the objective; freezing a foe in his tracks is the main concern.

Thai stylists also use a similar front-leg kick to probe an opponent’s defenses or push him away. An apt analogy for the lead- and rear-leg front kicks likens their form and function to the jab and rear cross of boxing, with one setting up an opponent and the other finishing him off.

Target Height

Despite the prevalence of high front kicks in forms competition, the best targets are the solar plexus and ribs. The head isn’t a feasible target for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the trajectory of the kick itself. The path for a well-executed kick goes straight ahead, not upward. And an opponent’s body is in front of the kicker — not suspended above him.

Therefore, it’s incumbent on kickers to kick into their target. This is perhaps the most common mistake practitioners make. Instead of trying to nail a small, mobile and well-guarded target such as the head, practitioners should attack the opponent’s body. Inevitably, there are exceptions to this strategy — kicking to the throat or under the armpit after controlling the arm, for example. Nevertheless, the front kick is designed to fold an opponent’s body, not knock his head off.

(Read Part 2 here.) 

Article by Andrew Breen • Photo by Rick Hustead

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Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
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Looking to buy some weights to gain some strength?

Looking at Dumbbell, Kettlebells or Weighted bar? How about an all in one that won't just save you some good amount of money but also space? Look no further, we bring you the GRIPBELL!

Let's face it, when we do want to work on some strength building, we don't want to go around shopping for 20 different weight equipment things. That would just not want us to even do any sort of strength training. But what if we only needed a few, a few that can do the things we want without having 20 things lay around? That's where the GRIPBELL comes in. Let me clarify with you first, these are not some heavy duty, muscle exploding weights, they are for building the level of strength we as martial artists want without going crazy and insane in bulk sizing!

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Many different types of "blocks" are taught in most martial arts school. We are taught high blocks, low blocks, middle blocks, knife hand blocks, etc. Some schools will also teach how to use the legs to block an attack, as well.

The purpose of this writing is to possibly open some minds to the possibilities of going outside the box and considering alternatives to the basics.

Blocking is taught as a way of protecting oneself from harm. Truly, we don't "block" anything, as a non-martial artist would think of it. What we call "blocking" is more of a redirection of an opponent's attack, or even a counterstrike against the opponent's attacking limb.

To block something would mean to put something, like your arm, leg or other body part directly in front of the attack. That would certainly hurt and possibly cause some damage. The goal should be to move the attack out of the way in order to prevent injury and provide a way to fight back. For example, many schools teach blocks as a limb moving toward the strike such as a circular high block.

The movement required for a block might have other uses, if you keep an open mind. The blocking techniques can also be used as attack techniques. For example, your "low block" may be used as a striking technique against the outer thigh of the attacker. Your high block might be used as a strike to the jaw. The set up for a block can be used as a deflection, as well as the actual block.

Doing a block or a series of blocks will most likely not end an attack. A block needs to be followed by a counterattack. While the block is usually taught as a separate technique in order to learn it correctly, it should also be used in combination with a counter.

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Intensive books can and have be written about basic techniques. With this writing, I am hoping to create interest in exploring the additional possibilities for what we have been taught and what we teach others.

About Grand Master Stevens

GM Stevens has been training in taekwondo for 47 years under the tutelage of the late legendary Grand Master Richard Chun. He holds an 8th degree black belt and is certified in the USA and in Korea. Grand Master Stevens is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Richard Chun TaeKwonDo World Headquarters organization. He has been very active in his community and has been a volunteer with the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps for over 11 years. He is a certified member of C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team).

Gary Stevens Taekwondo is located at 175 Rock Road in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

For more information: call (201) 670-7263, email: StevensTKD@aol.com or go to www.StevensTaeKwonDo.com

Having partners at or above your skill level is important for improving in your martial arts training. At some point, however, you will probably find yourself with a shortage of skilled partners, especially if you are an instructor.

This can happen for any number of reasons: students can move away, change their work schedules, start a family, etc., and just like that, you find that you're the highest-ranked student, or sole instructor, in your gym or dojo. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you take advantage of it, even working exclusively with lower-ranking classmates or students can improve your skills.

I used to host a twice-a-week training session at my dojo where I invited mostly black belts from other schools (as well as a few of my advanced students) to come and run drills. It was a blast. These were tough two- to three-hour sessions where I got to work with fighters of all different sizes, speeds, and technique preferences. My sparring improved dramatically over the next few months, and I don't think I've ever been in better shape. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. And as the old saying goes, "You gotta work with what ya got." So, make it hard on yourself.

I like to set handicaps when fighting my students. Specifically, I focus on forcing myself to work on improving my weak areas. Is you right leg weaker than the left? Then only kick with the right leg when sparring your students. Not much of an inside fighter? Don't kick at all. Training with partners of lesser skill not only helps you improve your weak points but gives them an opportunity to improve as well by working on strategy. It's also great for building their confidence. It can also be a low-cost opportunity to test new techniques and combinations, which benefits you as well.

In grappling, just like sparring, there is little benefit to wrapping lower ranking classmates into pretzels over and over, for them or you. Instead, let your partner put you in a bad situation. Let them get the mount; help them sink in that choke or armbar. If you start standing, such as in judo, allow your partner to get the superior grip before attempting a throw. This way you will get comfortable working out of a weaker position and your less-experienced partner can perfect their technique (and get experience using multiple techniques, if you get out of their first one).

You might think that giving advantages like these to students who may be far beneath your skill level is much of a challenge. Trust me, you'll reconsider that sentiment when you wind up sparring a 6'5" novice with zero control over his strength after deciding to only use your weak leg, or have a 250-pound green belt lying across your diaphragm trying to get an armlock after you let them get the pin. Remember, this is exactly what you signed up for: a challenge.

If you find yourself at the top of the heap without partners who are sufficiently challenging, there is no need to despair. Use it as a low-stress opportunity to improve your weaknesses and develop avenues to help your less experienced classmates and students to grow. You may even be surprised. One day they might present more of a challenge than you ever imagined!
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