I've just recently begun training again for sport taekwondo - specifically sparring. I've always had a more traditional training, but these days the front-leg heavy style is what's in vogue and I have trouble against them. What are some good ways to break through the defense of the leading leg? I'm told that the regular approach is to beat them in playing the front leg game, and then follow with a good offensive mix-up. The problem is that if you manage to block or get past the first kick, the second one is coming straight for your head. In addition, the front leg has better reach and less committal than a back leg kick, so it's difficult to punish/counter.

  • How are you blocking the kick? What else have you tried to counter the first kick?
    – Mike P
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 14:39
  • clarified a bit, but generally I try to play the front leg game. I try to fake or get some footwork in, but usually when I also lead front leg I get jammed, and whoever is faster/has stronger legs can try to kick over the jam.
    – Lang Tran
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 19:51

2 Answers 2


I would watch people specifically in your division. Heavyweight games are much different than fin or fly weight fights. Even male/female fin weight divisions fight different. Watch what people are doing in your specific division.

Keep an eye out for Phil's section on this. (USA National Team member, Phillip Yun, is going to run a section on this soon. https://www.youtube.com/user/itsenzothephillip)

Currently I run two schools of thought on this. (I am smaller than average for my division). 1) To make a grab/throw against the leg. If you can get your hands on footage from Daehoon Lee in the 2014 Asian games, it's a perfect example, except in my case, I go with a back kick or hook kick instead of the roundhouse counters to the face.
Another example is to watch the Russian Flyweight in the Russia World Championships 2015. He was really good at getting around the front leg of all of his opponents, using his punch and his body. Off the top of my head those are the best two examples I can see.

The next school of thought is to go fencing with them. This is all fairly new, but the cutkicks can either go low, medium or high. If they're low, we're being taught to cut ontop of their legs and bring it to the body or face (flippy kicks). If it's high, we usually swing our leg up, straight into theirs to try and displace their balance and then follow up as they're recovering. Another option is to do a front leg hook or a reverse kick under their leg. (I'm not flexible so this isn't as effective for me). Also I've seen front leg in out axe kick do well. If it's in the middle, you have to gauge the distance and how bent their leg is, you can do any of the options presented above. The game is fairly new. The key right now is to find what works for you and to get really good at it.

The sport and its dynamics have changed greatly and it seems the UZB heavyweight and many of the IRI national team players have figured it out. I'd suggest watching their gameplay and see what you like.

Something Dr. Jason Han told me a long time ago was to try everything and keep what worked for you. I think it's applicable now. Good luck in your next matches!


  • You're from Sparta, right? Will Connick was telling me that I should try to clash and force them back if I'm stronger. The problem is that sparring against someone who has a really nimble front leg (like Doug) they can just flip over your leg when you clash at mid height.
    – Lang Tran
    Commented Nov 15, 2015 at 8:43
  • Yes sir that's me! William has some really good insights also and I agree with his advice if you are stronger. I think it comes down to how you're clashing with him. <br> If both of your legs are bent, it's a bit more dangerous because his leg is still cocked and ready. When i'm saying clash (perhaps William too) I'm talking about clashing when his leg is extended, that might help a bit. In Doug's case I would recommend getting my leg or arm on top of his leg before trying to follow up, specifically to deny his font leg flippy kick. It may be easier to analyze if I had a clip to watch?
    – Kris Uy
    Commented Nov 15, 2015 at 14:22
  • Mmm, I think I see what you mean. When he said clash though I'm pretty sure he meant when both people have their legs up and are shin-to-shin. Trying to get an arm on top is a good one though, I've never heard that one before.
    – Lang Tran
    Commented Nov 15, 2015 at 20:06

You can watch other people sparring to see how they deal with front-leg kicks; either watch 'live' at tournaments, or search for videos on YouTube. However, I watched a video of a gold medal final from the London Olympics and couldn't really see what their approach was!

I train in ITF TKD, which normally has a different approach to sparring (more use of hands, for one thing!). One of the ways we use to get round front-leg attacks is to step closer to the attacker (have a look at this video) or step sideways, rather than backwards

I know from personal experience that it is much, much easier to say/type that than it is to actually do (I certainly spend more time going backwards when I spar!)

Something you may notice from the second video is a spinning kick as a counter to the front-leg attack. In ITF TKD, the back is not a target zone, so strikes to the back do not count (however uncomfortable!); the spin moves your target area away from your opponent and gets your foot closer to their target area. It is also quite an intimidating technique, which can be useful.

Lastly, you can always ask the people you train with how they deal with front-leg attacks!

  • I've been watching some matches with people like Jade Jones, Lee Dae Hun, etc. Getting perspectives. The step in is a good move that my coach advocates using, but I'm wondering how I can stay on the offensive. Unfortunately the back is a target zone in WTF. Jade Jones' match from 2012 isn't a particularly good one, unfortunately. This one is a better example; the female atheletes tend to poke and retreat a lot. High level atheletes usually have a mexican standoff with their front legs and try to score quickly before their opponent can respond.
    – Lang Tran
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 10:15

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