It’s no secret that the Taekwondo kicks are what really makes it unique. In Korean, kicks are called “chagi,” and can be executed in a number of different ways. These include kicks at different heights, jump kicks, spin kicks, and combinations of these. In this article, we will go over some of the different kicks you will come across in Taekwondo and what they are called. Please note that some of these kicks are meant for different situations. Some will be more practical in self-defence situations, and others are more for competitions.
Taekwondo Kicks with Korean Names
1. The Front Kick (앞 차기, “Ap Chagi”)
The front kick is sometimes referred to as the “snap kick,” because of the tremendous speed exerted in this move. It is one of the first kicks taught in Taekwondo, but is often considered as one of the most powerful even at higher levels. It is performed by raising the knee of your kicking leg to the waist, then exerting force by exerting your foot forward, straight towards the target. This move is designed to push the target back, as well as injure them.
2. The Side Kick (옆 차기, “Yeop Chagi”)
Another move that is learned relatively early, the side kick is very powerful and has different implications depending on the Taekwondo standard being practiced. It is performed by raising the knee while also rotating your body by 90 degrees, then exerting force by extending your leg. By using the momentum of your waist and torso, you are able to connect harder with the target. Which part of the leg and foot connects with the target will vary between the different standards taught, but it will usually be with either the outside edge of your foot or with the heel of the foot.
3. The Roundhouse Kick (돌려 차기, “Dollyeo Chagi”)
The infamous Roundhouse kick is a very powerful move once mastered, and has gained a lot of popularity throughout movies and shows alike. This kick is done by performing a pivot on the leg that is not kicking by turning your hips. While the pivot is conducted, contact is made with the target by extending your leg and impacting the target with either the ball of your foot or with the instep of the foot.
4. The Back Kick (뒷 차기, “Dwit Chagi”)
The back kick is more advanced, because as the name suggests, you would perform the kick by setting up for it away from the target. If it isn’t done properly, you can easily lose the crucial balance to make contact with your opponent, or even fall over.
5. The Reverse Side Kick (반대 옆 차기, “Bandae Yeop Chagi”)
The reverse side kick is essentially an exaggerated version of the back kick. The difference is that this kick carries more power from the extra momentum, because the practitioner turns further than they would with the back kick. Obviously, this kick also requires tremendous practice in order to remain fully-balanced during the maneuver.
6 & 7. The Inner/Outer Crescent Kick (“An Chagi / Bakkat Chagi”)
The Crescent kick comes in two variations: the inner and the outer, or sometimes referred to as the inside and the outside crescent kicks. Both start off by raising your kicking leg as high against your body as possible and extending it, as well as placing it slightly across the centerline of your body. From there, if it is an outer kick, you will then sweep outwards from the centerline and connect with the target. If it is an inside kick, you would sweep towards the inside of the centerline, and connect with the target there.
8. The Hook Kick (후려 차기, “Huryeo Chagi”)
The Hook kick is a relatively modern trend in Taekwondo competitions, but is not common traditionally. It is similar to a Roundhouse kick, but with a backwards sweep once the foot is extended. The intended impact on the opponent with this kick is meant to be the heel of the kicking foot.
9. Reverse Turning Kick (반대 돌려 차기, “Bandae Dollyeo Chagi”)
Like the Hook kick, this kick has a sweep performed to create an impact on the opponent. The difference here is that the sweep extends further, and the kick is performed with a perfectly-straight leg. As with the Hook kick, the heel connects with the target.
10. The Axe Kick (내려 차기, “Naeryeo Chagi”)
The Axe kick is also a relatively modern trend in competitive Taekwondo and other martial arts competitions. To explain this move, think of how you would swing an axe to cut a log. You first have to lift the axe up above the height of your body, then the axe swings down onto the log, impacting it on a slight angle. The Axe kick works by raising your leg up high towards the target, starting from outside the centerline. Once you have performed the upwards kick as high as possible, you exert downward force with this leg, and keeping the heel of the foot pointed downwards. The intended impact is basically everything above the torso of the opponent, including the head, shoulders, and collar bone.
11. The Knee Strike (“Mureup Chigi”)
Although not technically a kick, the knees are an essential part of any good kick, but they can also hold a lot of power on their own. The knee strike has many variations, but they all revolve around raising the knee and impacting the target by either bringing the target into the knee, or pushing the knee towards the target. These types of strikes are particularly common in mixed martial arts (MMA), and other martial arts, like Muay Thai.
12. The Scissor Kick (“Kawi Chagi”)
This kick is significantly more advanced, but is often reserved for Taekwondo demonstrations as opposed to competitions or self-defence. It involves hitting two opponents at once by performing a jump-kick, and using each leg to target a separate opponent. It’s a wonderfully impressive move, and one that you would surely be proud to master over time.
13 & 14. The Flying Side Kick & Flying Back Kick (“Twi Myo Yeop Chagi / Twi Myo Dwi Chagi”)
Perhaps two of the most iconic kicks in Taekwondo, the Flying Side Kick and the Flying Back Kick are exactly what they sound like. This is an advanced version of both the side kick and the back kick, and is done by getting a running start before performing the kick in mid-air. Although these kicks are more demonstrative in nature, they are also used in sparring relatively often.