I find that I am able to cause a punching bag to swing much higher with my front kick than my turning kick. This could be due to me being able to transfer more of my body weight to a front kick. Another reason could be due to the snapping action required for a turning kick.

  1. Is there anything I can do to increase the power of my turning kick?
  2. Does the snapping action results in a loss of power? I think it creates a greater momentum, but not sure whether it adds more damage.
  • 3
    It might be that you are "pushing" rather than "snapping" with your front kick. When pushing, you get lots of displacement on your opponent, obviously, but you absorb a large part of the blow yourself. A snapping front kick could lead to more damage on your opponent, but will push him back a lot less. Depending on your intent (displacement vs damage), it might actually be that your turning kick technique is better than your front kick.
    – Dungarth
    Jul 26, 2013 at 13:33
  • @Dungarth, I was taught to use the instep as the contact point for front kick initially. But for some reason, this was changed to the ball of the foot. Hence, the pushing instead of snapping. This could be the reason for the larger displacement caused by my front kick. I thought a larger displacement equals to greater damage. Thanks for enlightening me :) Jul 26, 2013 at 16:41
  • 1
    @QuestionOverflow - It depends on the application. Ball of foot (done properly) puts all of the impact into a smaller area, which increases the amount of pressure you're getting out of the kick. However, most shoes don't allow this, plus many people have trouble getting their toes out of the way, so the instep is taught as a preferred method. It also increases the margin of error, so if your kick is off by an inch or two with an instep it really doesn't matter too much, whereas with a ball of foot target being an inch off can result in a complete miss.
    – JohnP
    Jul 26, 2013 at 16:54
  • @QuestionOverflow - I know using high school physics is not the best way to explain martial arts, but maybe this will help you out... Each kick can only perform a set amount of work. Displacement requires work, usually calculated by multiplying force and distance traveled. But causing damage also requires work, as in breaking bones, bruising muscles or rupturing internal organs. All the work that goes into displacing your opponent does not go into causing damage. But it does make the bag swing more... (this is only a gross simplification, but the general idea should be sound enough)
    – Dungarth
    Jul 26, 2013 at 20:44

3 Answers 3


Is there anything I can do to increase the power of my turning kick?

Make sure you have the full rotation. For a roundhouse, your standing foot should be close to 90 degrees at the end of the kick. You can check this by going up against a wall and extending your leg out to kick (using wall to balance as needed). When it reaches the full extension, check to see if your standing foot has rotated, along with your hips. As JohnP mentioned, you should be rotating on the ball of your foot.

If you have the technique down, then it's just a matter of building the strength. A simple exercise for this - using the wall again for balance (as needed), hold your leg out at full extension for a certain length - 30 seconds, 1 minute, you decide what works for you. This will help strengthen your leg for kicks of varying heights. As you've probably heard many times - practice, practice, practice.

Does the snapping action results in a loss of power? I think it creates a greater momentum, but not sure whether it adds more damage.

In comparison to a what kind of kick? What is the baseline? A front kick? I feel that would be an unfair comparison, as the usage of a front kick is different from a turning kick. Though, I've mostly seen front kicks used as a "push" to move an opponent away, and less as a power kick/scoring kick in taekwondo. Someone else can provide insight on this?

In taekwondo, the snapping action, I think, is more for recovery in preparation for the next kick(s). With the established rules in the sport of taekwondo, I am under the impression the snapping action is a result of this. Sparring is continuous, and it's usually only as a result of KO headshot that a single kick is enough to end a match. Those are not easy to land. You can still generate a lot of power from the snapping action though, and the key to that would be in rotation and continued practice.

Here's a Fight Science Video that examines the kick style and uses numbers to create some baselines...but I still feel it ultimately comes down to the individual. With continuous practice, and you'll be able use whatever method you learn very well.

Fight Science Video

  • Yes, I agree, the comparison is a bit unfair in that the former is used more for pushing. If displacement of the target is not a measure of power, how does one compare the power generated by the two different kicks? Jul 26, 2013 at 16:55
  • 1
    Scoring is dependent on the system. In WTF (Olympic) tkd, then the front kick is not really used because it's hard to meet the power standards for scoring with it. In contact type sparring where first contact to a legal area scores, it's much more in use, as it is a fast kick. For power sparring, it's used to stop or gain distance (push style) for other techniques, or an instep to stop opponents and/or set up for a follow up technique. (Such as push front to stop an incoming opponent followed by a plant/reverse side kick for the power scoring technique).
    – JohnP
    Jul 26, 2013 at 16:58
  • Thanks JohnP. I should mention, my experience is primarily with WTF Taekwondo, and I'm most familiar with rules regarding that style of tkd.
    – rcheuk
    Jul 26, 2013 at 17:17
  • Question Overflow - is there a particular reason you wish to measure the power generated by the two different kicks? The Fight Science video compares the front kick of a Karate practitioner vs. a Taekwondo Round, Muay Thai Round, and Capoeira round kick. If you wanted an objective measurement of your own kicks, you would want to use similar equipment. Accessing the movement of a punching bag will only go so far...
    – rcheuk
    Jul 26, 2013 at 17:22
  • @harmlessdragon, in the Fight Science episode, they measure both speed and force separately. But they never show how these measurements are correlated to the damage one can cause. Using physics, which parameter should we look at? Velocity? Momentum? Impulse? Force? Pressure? Energy? Or Power? Jul 27, 2013 at 13:51

There are too many variables to consider to be able to pick one out and say "This is why", and you don't specify what kind of a "turning" kick you are doing. This could be a reverse, a spin, or simply a round kick.

To address Dungarth's point, when you do your front kick, do you draw your entire leg and knee up to your chest and then push out straight ahead, or is your upper leg horizontal with the ground when you do your kick?

I will address one point that I see as very common among beginning martial artists, and that is not getting your hip and larger leg muscles into the kick. Many times on a rotation type kick such as a round kick this is due to bad foot placement on the planted foot.

If your foot points straight ahead, this prevents any kind of hip rotation from adding momentum to the kick, with a few exceptions (such as axe kicks). For straight ahead kicks, I generally teach to rotate the foot out to 90 degrees. So for your front kick, if your left leg is planted, then it should be pointing out at the wall that is on your left hand side. For turning kicks, you want the foot to rotate so that it is pointing back behind you.

It's hard to describe without showing, but as you start for a round kick, you should be pivoting on the ball of your plant foot, and about halfway through the kick your plant foot should be fully rotated and flat on the ground. This allows your hips to turn over which adds rotational momentum to the kick.

You can try this yourself, simply do your round kick (I'm assuming that is what you are calling a turning kick) with your lead foot in different positions. It's very difficult to do a round kick with the foot pointing straight ahead, and you lose a lot of power if you can do it that way.

  • I thought the terms used are quite universal, didn't know a turning kick can also be called a round kick. Yes, for turning kick or round kick, my foot rotates all the way back exactly like what you mentioned. Have you tried kicking a punching bag to compare the swing produce by the two kicks? Jul 26, 2013 at 16:48
  • @QuestionOverflow - Yes, in many different forms. My educational background is in kinesiology (Study of human movement), and I have 20+ years in martial arts. I've done a lot of comparisons of all the basic kicks in various manners/forms. If you are turning your plant foot and still not getting a lot of power, then there is something in either technique or timing that is off, but almost impossible to diagnose without video or being there.
    – JohnP
    Jul 26, 2013 at 16:51
  • It could be due to my wrong perception about power. Because I have this misconception that the amount of swing I can produce on a punching bag is equivalent to the power I can generate. Jul 26, 2013 at 17:01

Kick through the bag, instead of into it. The snap is merely to minimise the chance of you getting your leg grabbed and your crown jewels turned to scrambled eggs. Apart from that, you need to ensure your hips are loose and that you are limber. The greater your range of motion and the larger the arc of your kick, the more velocity will be behind it. Look at Muai Thai's low kick and emulate it.

  • One note - The more you increase the arc, the slower your kick will be. It's a trade off.
    – JohnP
    Aug 8, 2013 at 22:14
  • Indeed. But you'll always generate more kinetic energy. Which is what the OP is after. Aug 9, 2013 at 11:49

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