At training last night (Japanese JiuJitsu), we had two people with TKD backgrounds training with us. I couldn't help noticing how bouncy they both were. They both came from different TKD school, yet they both have trouble keeping their feet on the ground.

When it came to doing leg sweeps and throws (basic Judo stuff: osoto gari and ogoshi, for example), they struggled becuase their centre of gravity was being held so high. They just couldn't seem to settle on the ground and drop their centre. They punch well, but when it came to throws, they struggled.

I'm wondering if this is a typical TKD thing? I've never studied it before, so I don't know how they train. Is it normal to hop around on your feet so much?

And regardless of why they do this, what advice do people have for helping them ground themselves for throws?

  • 1
    How is their squatting ability? If they lack the strength to squat to thighs parallel while holding someone their own weight in a fireman's carry (think kata guruma) that'll be a significant barrier to them lowering their hips enough for a throw.
    – Robin Ashe
    Commented Jul 6, 2012 at 1:28
  • I don't see that this necessarily has anything to do with being "bouncy" or your style of footwork. Do you mean that they struggle to throw other people, or are more susceptible to being thrown? In the former, lowering your center of gravity is essential, no matter how bouncy or non-bouncy you are during sparring. This is most likely just due to the fact these particular individuals don't have much experience throwing.
    – jhsowter
    Commented Jul 20, 2012 at 1:48
  • BTW, we just had a third TKD person join our class and he isn't bouncy. It's probably got more to do with the person than the style.
    – nedlud
    Commented Nov 15, 2012 at 22:35
  • This round-table of muay Thai fighters discussing their views of TKD is somewhat relevant. Commented Oct 19, 2013 at 19:24

6 Answers 6


Rulesets determine skillsets. Tactics are determined by the "battleground" (read: competition setup).

If a style focuses on competition that doesn't allow foot-sweeps or clinching, and kicks are scored higher and more frequently than face punching, your fighters will end up looking like Olympic TKD: hands at the sides to deflect body kicks, facing sideways to minimize target area on the torso, bouncing up and down to set distance. It works in that venue.

Fix it with sparring

The best remedy for a bad habit is to remove the contrivances that created it. Have them spar, but change the rules:

  • Allow foot-sweeps
  • Encourage clinching, takedowns, and throws
  • Add leg kicks and face punching

These don't have to be done all at once, or all together. MMA sparring is not necessarily required to break the bouncing habit. It is absolutely possible to add these changes piece by piece into their sparring practice. One day you could do all-inclusive striking, but no throws or sweeps. Another day you could do just face punching, clinching, and throwing (without kicks or foot-sweeps). Another day you could do anything-goes san-shou or MMA sparring.

My experience

When I did karate, we did compliant drilling of throws, kicking below the belt, and standing joint locks. We talked about the importance of these techniques and their superiority over head kicks all the time. But our sparring rules--light contact "tag" with no leg kicks, no grabbing, no sweeps, no throwing--logically produced high kicks, bouncing, strikes as powerful as feathers, and stances vulnerable to getting knocked or taken down.

Talking about the issue is fine. Correcting their stance or habits in forms or technique practice is good. But these approaches pale in comparison to allowing, in sparring, the techniques that make bouncing such a bad idea.

Once I started sparring with throws, leg kicks, and face punches, the vast majority of my bad habits naturally melted away. I didn't need to be coached not to throw three spinning high kicks in a row, because my partner would knock me down. Nobody had to be reminded to keep their stance grounded, because if they didn't, they got clinched or swept. Good sparring rules are a breeding ground for good technique.

I predict with a few weeks of practice in a broader ruleset, their bouncing will be replaced by the habits common to more inclusive fighting disciplines and to fighting in general.


What style of TKD? ITF, WTF, ATA, STF, etc? I would suspect that they are probably WTF, and their bounce has to do with the style of sparring that they train for.

TKD sparrers in general use their feet a lot, and there is a lot of switch stance, spins, aerial kicks, things of that nature, so the requirement is to be light on your feet. Watch any WTF or Olympics (WTF is the governing structure for Olympic TKD), and you will see what I mean. Lots and lots of kicks, in series, with very little hands or anything like that.

As far as grounding, it's going to be difficult because it's directly opposite of how they often train. I'd work on widening stances a bit, working with them on dropping their heels rather than being up on the balls of the feet, and how to "sit" their hips slightly. Start with that, and see how it goes from there.

  • Putting your weight fully on your heels is a bad habit - makes it a lot easier to get thrown, particularly with morote gari. While it might correct for being bouncy, it'll be something they'll have to once again correct later.
    – Robin Ashe
    Commented Jul 6, 2012 at 1:06
  • Please note - I did not say to put weight fully on their heels. TKD practitioners generally spar from the balls of their feet, I merely said get them to drop their heels down from being on the ball of the foot all the time.
    – JohnP
    Commented Jul 6, 2012 at 1:11
  • @JohnP I'm not sure what style they are. I'll ask next time I see them. I didn't realise there were different types of TKD, but I guess it makes sense. There's different styles of every other martial art ;) Thanks.
    – nedlud
    Commented Jul 6, 2012 at 1:14
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    ITF-based styles also tend to bounce quite a bit for the same reasons (though most incorporate more hand work). One other note, with a style that is so kick-heavy, the bouncing helps to conceal attacks until they're already under way.
    – rjstreet
    Commented Jul 6, 2012 at 2:04

TKD people usually aim for competitions and tend to train techniques which would score them the most points. Most of this high-score techniques are high kicks. In competitive TDK (WTF) there is very little (if any) room for grappling and things alike.

Most of the time it's an exchange of kicks.

  • mmm....somewhat true, and very heavily dependent on the style and how points are called in that style. WTF only rewards techniques that produce what they call "trembling shock", or basically a physical reaction from the opponent. Very rarely done with hands, and grabbing is not allowed. Other point sparring competitions, contact is not necessarily required for point scoring. All depends on the style.
    – JohnP
    Commented Jul 19, 2012 at 14:49

All the bouncing around is actually just how they were trained, I trained (still training) in TKD and did quite a bit of throwing, sweeping, and punching in my day, but I am one of the few. We also have five belts instead of 100 different assorted colors to choose from. We didn't really have a lot of padding back then, and today we have a ton of it, we keep our hands up even to this day. I don't understand why people find it necessary to water the art down to the point where it is just a sport, after all little Tommy and Peggy may never make black belt and chances of going to the Olympics may be slim to nil!! A quick anecdote for that is to teach them how to blend their martial arts with others, hence Taekwondo/Hapkido schools, I know bet that will actually work, in other words show them why the bouncing may and may not work in your system because there is a necessity for this either way.


I wish I could tell you, but as a TKD instructor, I had this same problem. You are supposed to match your rhythm with that of your opponent. Kind of like a dance (I got that from Bruce Lee). but because it looks like general "bouncing" to the untrained eye, many new students develop this habit and never quite shake it off. I tried to get them to watch how boxers like Muhammed Ali moved, but only a handful grasped what I was getting at.

The times I went to international events, the guy who ended up winning in our division would almost always move like mister Ali, and not Super Mario. When you bounce, you run the risk of being caught off-guard mid-bounce by your opponent and sometimes a match is won or lost because you were in the air and your opponent took the opportunity to kick your face off.

The easiest way of getting them to stop bouncing like bunnies is to perform a few low kicks. Also, because it seems that the farther away the opponent is, the more bouncing is involved, I would say close the gap and slow the fight down. Experience will take care of the rest.


My daughter is currently in her orange belt. Learning through her, I have recently come to understand that in order to achieve a point in a TKD match one must make a loud slapping kind of sound. This is usually attained through hard kicking (it is harder to get the sound with a punch). This is why they need to use kicking so much and why they are trained to "bounce" or be light on their feet. Punches are mostly used as a way to move the opponent back and gain more room to achieve a better kick. Admittedly, I don't have a lot of experience, but that is how I have understood it.

I would think that switching to a style that requires less bouncing, will just take a change in methodology in the mind of the trainee and lots of practice to help their bodies apply the change. In TKD forms (at least in the beginning belts) are much more "in the feet" and with bent knees at points. Perhaps work stemming and bridging the two styles through forms would be helpful.

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