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I saw a very well executed spinning reverse kick in this video of the Athens Olympics. I can do a reverse kick and a jumping turning kick. How can move on to acquire the necessary skills to perform this spinning kick? Does it help practising the motion in a swimming pool?

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Former black belt in Taekwondo here.

This turned out to be a pretty long explanation. Sorry about that. But in this case, I wanted to educate rather than just inform. Judging by the question, this sounds like a young student and someone just beginning Taekwondo or karate. Back when I was 13 years old just beginning Taekwondo, I would have loved for someone to just lay it all out for me. So that's what I'm doing here.

Okay, first of all, the video you linked to shows a "jump, spinning hook kick". And it's actually a poor example, since the one who threw it lost his balance and fell over. That's bad form that is to be avoided, although it did work for him in this case.

On a side-note: Many Taekwondo schools only train for sport competition rules. If the rules allow for points to be awarded even though the fighter lost his balance and fell over in the process, then students of these schools might develop this bad habit during training. I'm not saying this particular fighter in the example is guilty of this, but it's possible.

Now, there are many Taekwondo schools that still teach the traditional way and don't let the sport aspects corrupt the basic principles of their style. In these schools, it is judged as an "unclean technique" if someone loses his balance and falls, even if the kick lands on target. No point will be awarded in that case. In my opinion, this is the right way to train. But I guess that depends on your own personal goals.

I'll return to this particular technique later on in my explanation. But first, I want to give you an overview of how Taekwondo treats kicking in general, to put things into perspective.

In Taekwondo, the basic kicks are: front, round, side, inside-to-outside crescent, outside-to-inside crescent, hook, heel, and axe.

Those are executed typically in a front, back, or horse stance. And the kick can be done with the front leg or the back leg. And it can be done to the mid-section or the face (and sometimes low to the legs, but this is not allowed during sparring).

So from those, you have a lot of different combinations. For example: From a back stance, execute a front leg round kick to the face. Another example: From a front stance, execute a back leg front kick to the mid-section. And so on.

After the basic kicks are learned, you are then taught the "reverse" and "spinning" kicks. There's not a lot of distinction between what a reverse kick is and what a spinning kick is. And at some schools, they are interchangeable. So a spinning side kick is often the same as a reverse side kick.

But there is a subtle distinction that I like to make: Spinning kicks use the power of the circular momentum in the kick itself (like the spinning crescent kick), while reverse kicks stop the circular motion before or as the kick happens (and often translate the circular motion into linear motion at the end, like the reverse side kick).

The spinning and reverse kicks are just another dimension to add onto the previous combinations. For example: From a left leg forward back stance, execute a right leg reverse side kick. In this case, you pivot your weight on your left foot while turning your torso clock-wise. Your right leg lifts up and kicks out with the side kick as you spin.

You can pretty much do any of the kicks this way, spinning. Even front kicks, round kicks, hook kicks, axe kicks, crescent kicks, etc. Some of these make more practical sense than others, but it's up to you as a student of Taekwondo to figure that out. Some people become great at using the odd-ball kicks like the reverse round kick.

That's a lot of different kicks! And we haven't stopped yet...

Additionally, you can add hopping to the kicks. Your goal during the hop is not to get air, but to cover distance and bridge the gap between you and your opponent quickly. And the key is that when you kick, one foot is always on the ground during a hop kick. This hopping motion will also let you gain momentum which is then used to add power to the kicks. One of the most powerful kicks in Taekwondo's arsenal is the hop, reverse side kick.

And you can add jumping to the kicks. Your goal is the opposite of hopping here. You're jumping upwards, not hopping outwards. And a key distinction is that jumping kicks have both feet off the ground when the kick happens, unlike hopping kicks which have one foot on the ground during the kick. For example, a jump front kick. Or how about a jump, reverse inside-to-outside crescent kick?

Keep in mind jumping kicks can be done using either the front leg or the back leg. So you can have a jump front-leg front kick or a jump back-leg front kick. Same with round kicks, crescent kicks, etc.

Simultaneously hopping and jumping is usually called a "flying" kick. The flying side kick is a pretty famous example. Running can be done instead of just hopping. But in sparring and in real life self-defense, there aren't many occasions that allow you to run first before doing the kick. There just isn't that much room usually. So you should practice hopping and jumping most of the time, and practice running and jumping less often.

Finally, you can combine hopping with jumping and spinning. For example: A hopping, jumping reverse side kick. Or a hopping, jumping, spinning inside-to-outside crescent kick.

And there are some exotic kicks which typically come in advanced levels. Such as the butterfly kick and the butterfly-360-twist kick. The somersault kicks. The aerial and aerial-360-twist kicks. The Axis kick, though the Axis kick isn't necessarily advanced. A lot of these kicks aren't taught in Taekwondo, but you'll see them on occasion. You can often find them in "tricking" videos on Youtube. And you can see a bunch more kicks if you look into Capoeira or Wushu Kung-fu.

There are also multi-kick kicks. These are where you're typically doing two or more kicks in the air at the same time before your feet come back to the ground. One of the most famous ones is the whirlwind kick. It's a combination of a back-leg spinning inside-to-outside crescent kick followed by a jumping, spinning outside-to-inside crescent kick done before the first kick hits the ground - so both feet are off the floor.

Another common multi-kick kick is when you do a flying side kick to a target, and before your forward momentum is stopped, you turn around (in mid air) to do a reverse side kick with the other leg. Both kicks hit the target before you return to the ground. This is often done when performing board breaking, where you break boards at different positions before hitting the ground.

Okay, so based on all of the above, you can see we're up to hundreds if not thousands of different kick combinations. I explained this to you, because I wanted to put it into proper perspective.

There's a hierarchy of kicking from simple form to advanced. Each new level in the hierarchy adds an extra dimension and multiplies the number of different kicks that are possible. By the time you reach black belt, you will have learned most of them. And more importantly, you can start to see how all the kicks fit in to a bigger picture.

Boiling it down to a simple set of rules:

  1. Pick a kick: front, round, side, inside-to-outside crescent, outside-to-inside crescent, hook, heel, or axe.
  2. Pick a stance: front, back, or horse.
  3. Pick which side to use: Left leg forward or right leg forward.
  4. Pick which leg to use for the kick: Left leg or right leg.
  5. Optionally add hopping or running.
  6. Optionally add reverse or spinning.
  7. Optionally add jumping.

Based on the rules above, I calculate there are theoretically as many as 1344 possible different kicks you can do. Of course, some of those won't make much practical sense. So the actual number might be a little lower. On the other hand, this doesn't even include the lesser known kicks and the multi-kick combinations I previously mentioned, which could easily multiply the number of kicks many times.

In Taekwondo, more or less each of these kicks are drilled. Some are given more time than others, because some of the kick combinations are more practical than others.

The jump, spinning hook kick that you linked to on the video is an example of one such kick that is drilled quite a lot in Taekwondo. It's because this kick is very hard to defend against and can be changed into an axe, side, or crescent kick very easily if the opponent moves out of the range of the hook kick.

This ability to instantly switch kicks is one of Taekwondo's defenses against the fact that spinning kicks are more telegraphed than non-spinning kicks.

Okay, you asked how to train for the jump, spinning hook kick. First, you have to learn the basics before you can move on to such an advanced technique.

The hook kick is learned after the side kick. You first need to understand the basic side kick before you can move on to the hook kick.

The hook kick begins just like a side kick, but targets slightly to the side of the target and hooks the foot around to hit the target. And when you do a hook kick, you're not striking with the side kick part of the motion. You just place your leg out there, not strike. And then you hook after that.

Because this actually looks like a side kick to begin with, it is deceptive. Your opponent doesn't expect you to hook at the end. That's why this is such a nice kick to have in your arsenal.

First learn the stationary side kick.

Then learn the stationary hook kick. In other words, just standing in place, no spinning. The goal of the hook kick is to hook around your opponent's arms and strike the head with either your heel or the bottom of your feet (either one will work).

So to practice this, you'll have a partner hold up a focus mitt facing to your left side at head or shoulder height. Hit the mitt with the hook, not the side-kick part of it.

Since this is a high kick, if you don't have the flexibility to kick this high, you'll need to develop it at this point. If you lack flexibility, your form will be off, and you'll be off-balance. It won't work at all.

Hook kicks don't have to be done to the head. They can be done to the mid-section. It's just that they're particularly good for hitting to the head and not so good for hitting the mid-section. So you'll need to be able to reach head height with this kick.

If you don't have a partner, try it against a punching bag or some other soft object.

You can do it to the air if you want, also. You just have to pick an imaginary target out in the distance and target it.

Now, switch legs. Do it on the other side.

This is another hallmark of Taekwondo. You will train both sides more or less equally so you can switch back and forth between legs.

For all kicks, the goals are: accuracy (targeting), speed, power, and timing. All four are needed with each kick before moving on to more advanced versions of the kick. If you don't have those yet with your basic, stationary hook kick, then you should not move on to the spinning hook kick and the jump, spinning hook kick after that. They must be done in that progression. Crawl before you can walk, walk before you can run.

It really is just repetition. Keep practicing. And of course, you must have an instructor who can offer corrections to you so that you're not drilling a bad form.

Especially make sure you are not off-balance. Make sure that if your hook kick lands hard, you don't lose your balance and fall away. Kicking a solid brick wall or a punching bag can help with this.

You also have to be prepared for your kick not landing at all. So you need to make sure you don't over-extend yourself. Doing that when you miss your target will cause you to lose your balance.

One drill to train this is to just get a partner with a focus mitt and have him move around, circling you, changing directions at random. You adjust your stance and do the hook kick right after he stops moving. Have your partner vary the height and the distance from you. This will cause you to move towards or away from your partner before performing the kick. You're working on targeting and focus here. Always adjust your position before kicking, so that you are right on target with the proper form.

For speed, you'll have your partner grab a blocking shield (a big foam shield). Your goal is to kick as many kicks per minute as you can with the same leg. He'll hold the shield in place while you do this. Do it for one minute. Then switch legs and do it on the other side as fast as possible without breaking proper form.

Later on, when this becomes easy, you'll have your partner move around with the foam blocking shield, and you have to follow him kicking all the way. Then after that, switch from the blocking shield to a focus mitt. The focus mitt is much smaller, so it will train your speed and targeting at the same time.

For power, you'll have your partner use the foam blocking shield again, but this time you're going to hit as hard as you can. Go as fast and as hard as you can. Your goal is not to hit as many as you can in a minute, like you did training for speed. The goal here is to hit hard. So kick as hard as you can three to ten times in fast succession. Then switch legs and do the same thing on the other side. Then rest for a minute or two (usually you take turns with your partner, where you hold the shield for him, and you trade back again and again).

It's better to put power drills at the end of the workout, not at the beginning. Put speed and targeting drills first. Power drills will cause muscle fatigue, and that will mess up your form. Drilling when you are fatigued will actually drill bad form. That's a no-no.

Now that your targeting, speed, and power are good, it's time to work on timing. For this, you'll take what you've learned into sparring practice. Your goal during sparring is to try this new kick on a moving opponent. It's different from trying it on a stationary focus mitt. Sparring will be key for figuring out how to time the kick correctly, simultaneously with good accuracy, speed, and power.

Also, at this point you can add the stationary front-leg hook kick to your arsenal. It's the same as the stationary back-leg hook kick, except done with the front leg. Now go through all of the training again with this new kick. And finally, combine the two (both the front-leg hook kick and the back-leg hook kick). You'll do whichever kick is closest to the target while your partner or opponent is moving around, switching between front leg and back leg and from left side to right side at will.

After you've gained a good amount of success with all four attributes (targeting, speed, power, and timing), it's time to move on to a more advanced version of the hook kick: The spinning hook kick and the reverse hook kick.

Remember with the stationary hook kick, we first had to know the side kick. That's because the side kick is part of the hook kick. And so it is with the spinning hook kick: you first need to be able to do the reverse side kick. If you don't have the reverse side kick well understood, do not attempt to learn the spinning hook kick.

There are actually two kicks to learn here: the spinning hook kick and the reverse hook kick. The spinning hook kick uses the circular momentum of the spinning motion, using that force in the kick itself. But the reverse hook kick just spins to face the opponent, stops the circular momentum, and then does the hook kick (more or less like a stationary kick).

Obviously, the spinning hook kick is more forceful than the reverse hook kick, because it uses that circular momentum. So why do a reverse hook kick at all? Well, the answer is that the reverse hook kick actually looks like a reverse side kick to your opponent. He might take the bait, and then you surprise hook to his head. Whereas, he might see your spinning hook kick coming and be able to dodge it more effectively.

Okay, so how do you drill the spinning and reverse hook kicks? The same way as you did with the stationary hook kick. Go through all the steps again until you can nail it.

Now, once you've attained a good amount of skill at performing the spinning and reverse hook kicks, you can go on to practice the jump spinning hook kick and jump reverse hook kick. Those first require that you learn the jump reverse side kick. And you go through the drills and sparring practice just like before for these new kicks.

With all kicks, you can practice them on your own to the air or so some target. Work on targeting and speed when you're working out in solo at home or something. You're going to have to perform each kick at least 1000 times using perfect form before you can safely say you've learned the kick. A typical Taekwondo student does at least 10,000 reps of each kick before attaining black belt.

Every single time you practice, you are trying for perfection. Don't get sloppy. If you find yourself getting too tired, stop practicing for the day. Come back to it the next day or two days from then. If you drill these kicks with bad form, then your kicks will not get better.

CONCLUSION:

That should give you an idea of what you're up against. This kick - the jump spinning hook kick - is just one of many kicks in Taekwondo. It's an advanced kick. And to perform it, you first need to start with the basic kicks I mentioned and move up to it. Otherwise, if you skip over all of the prerequisite techniques, you may be able to learn it, but it will be sloppy, unfocused, slow, off-balance, and/or weak.

Oh, and as for practicing in a swimming pool? No, swimming pools are not going to help you learn the jump, spinning hook kick. They might make some of your stationary kicks stronger, but not the jump, spinning kicks. Still, if you want to really get stronger at kicking, you should just use the methods I mentioned above.

Good luck!

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Agreed, Sean. That's exactly why it happened. I know a lot of Taekwondo schools that only teach for sport competition. Half of those places don't even teach forms any more. There's a big difference when you look at Taekwondo students who come from more traditional schools that don't train for sport competition as their primary goal. I trained at a traditional ITF school. We wouldn't even let the point count in sparring if it meant being off-balance and falling. It would be judged as an "unclean technique" and ignored. –  Steve Weigand Apr 15 at 17:56
    
Hopping and jumping is easy for me because these are direct motions. Spinning is difficult. I can't really spin well. Can you elaborate on that part please? Thanks. –  Question Overflow Apr 16 at 6:18
    
In order to spin, try breaking the movement down into parts. First, get into a left leg forward back stance. Next, shift all of your weight forward, right above the ball of your left foot. Raise up slightly on the ball of your left foot (lift up your left heel off the ground about a centimeter). Next, turn your head clockwise. Right after you start to turn your head, begin to turn your shoulders clockwise. Right after you start to turn your shoulders, turn your waist clockwise. So head first, then shoulders, then waist. (continued...) –  Steve Weigand Apr 16 at 22:39
    
As you are turning your head, shoulders, and waist, you will pivot on the ball of your left foot while picking up your right foot off the ground. When your head turns all the way around, you will stop your turning your head so that you can focus right on the target. That's why you turn your head first, so that you can quickly refocus on the target. This must be fast so that you don't temporarily turn your back on your opponent and blind yourself to whatever he is doing... Now, your left foot will pivot only 180 degrees. You will drop the heel of your left foot down when it is (continued...) –  Steve Weigand Apr 16 at 22:44
    
... facing your opponent. At this point, you lift your right leg up and kick out with a side kick. This is actually a reverse side kick you just did. The toes of your left foot point behind you (away from your opponent). For the hook kick, instead of putting any power into the side kick, you just place it out there, and then you do the hook at the end. After the kick is done, you pivot once again on the ball of the left foot (picking the heel up again), and bring the right leg back to its original position in the left leg forward back stance. The key to the hook kick is being (continued...) –  Steve Weigand Apr 16 at 22:47

I am a TKD instructor. That, and I used to do Latin. Ballroom, HipHop and Freestyle dancing. The combination of these things helped me pick up the techniques fairly intuitively, but the point is that you need to practice advanced kicks in stages: first learn to spot when you do a turn, in other words: don't swing your head, Keep your head on the target like you have a built-in gyroscope. When you've got the balance/spot thing sorted, practice a regular spinning back kick on the ground, first just by raising your knee, then with your leg fully extended. When you've got THAT down, practice jumping, spinning your knee and landing in a controlled manner. Finally, practice the actual jumping spinning back kick, taking care to land in a controlled manner. When THAT's taken care off, try hitting a small-ish target like a tennis ball on a piece of string.

The thing that puts you off-balance is your head being out of alignment. You need to keep your eyes focused on the target. Otherwise you lose your balance and either the kick doesn't count, or you get disoriented and get a mouth full of your opponent's foot.

Practicing in a swimming pool will probably help a bit, but it's more important to learn the various parts and piece them together properly. After that, getting to perform the technique in extreme slow-motion is not a bad idea.

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The spinning part is really hard for me as I don't have any background in dancing. There is always the fear of falling or tripping over. Can't get past that stage. –  Question Overflow Apr 16 at 6:15
    
Which is why I said to begin with "spotting", i.e. turning the head first and fixing your eyes on the target from start to finish. Go ask a pretty girl who dances to teach you. It's a great ice breaker too ;) –  Juann Strauss Apr 16 at 7:25

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