What is the Back Kick?
The back kick (뒤 차기 - Dwi Chagi) is much like the side kick taken up to eleven. It is easily the most powerful kick in a Taekwondo user’s arsenal, an excellent move for both offense and defense, and its mastery will make the user a very formidable opponent to anyone they compete against.
The standard back kick (executed from a fighting/sparring stance) on its most shallow surface is a side kick with an extra step before execution, albeit instead of being delivered in line with your body’s profile it is perpendicular to the profile. From sparring stance twist so that your back is show to your target , bend and lift up your rear leg so that your heel is at least at your knee height, stop your shoulders from twisting and extend your leg so that the bottom your heel comes in contact with your target at about torso height. If you did everything right you should have executed a crude back kick.
However, crude doesn’t win points, and this simple explanation does not really emphasize where the strength of the back kick comes from: the twist. The reason the back kick (and the back spin kick by the same principle) can completely outclass the side kick in terms of strength is the speed and power the torsion of your hips and shoulders can provide. The hips and shoulders generate immense amounts of rotational energy, all of which gets transferred into linear momentum through the halting of the shoulders. The generation of this rotation begins, like with all spins, the head. Spinning your head around to see your target increases your overall speed as well as ensures you remain on target. Additional torsion is generated by swinging your arms in the rotational direction and then swinging them back mid spin. The halting of the shoulders is exactly what it sounds like; when your back is facing your opponent (after about 180 degrees of rotation) simply lock your shoulders in place while allowing your hips to continue to spin and your leg to extend. Your torso should be collinear with your kicking leg, not your balance leg, but your head should be looking over your shoulder at your target.
The ideal situation for the counter back kick is when your opponent jumps, lunges, dashes, or does any straight motion right towards you. The reach of the back kick ensures that once they commit to the movement there is no escape. Even if they halt just outside of their kicking range the stretch of your kick should allow you to make solid contact. But let’s say that you are in the midst of an onslaught of blows and in full retreat. Your opponent is too close for you to fit in a side or front kick and they have too much momentum for a roundhouse kick to stop. A small extra step back into a hopping back kick will stop them dead in their tracks (providing that they are not attacking with pushing kicks and you maintained a good stance during your retreat). Back kick is even a counter to another back kick if you are faster or have longer legs (preferably both) than your opponent. A less tangible benefit to the back kick is the fear a good back kick user can cause. Catching your opponent off-guard may cause them to become too afraid to make a committed assault.
The offensive back kick is a bit trickier. In order to properly execute and offensive back kick you need to force your opponent to move back in a straight line, as opposed to the defensive back kick where your opponent’s motion sets up the kick for you. This requirement makes the back kick an excellent finisher to a combination. Although it’s a bit more risky, a stepping back kick can be used to close a large distance between you and your opponent. The step in is a fake (or real) roundhouse kick, and if they retreat backwards, chase them with the back kick. The risk comes in if they decide to dodge to the sides, because if you fail to notice and throw out a back kick you will leave yourself wide open to whatever your opponent wants. On the opposite end of the spectrum, let’s say you are too close to your opponent. Neither of you are able to kick, yet if one backs the other follows. From here there are two paths: take a quick back step or use jabs to create the space. Both have the same result, as once the space is created a quick jumping back kick will be hard to avoid.
While throwing slow or poor kicks never puts you in a good position, throwing a bad back kick is especially precarious. Besides the large amounts of practice required to mechanically perform the kick, timing is also a key element, the lack of which could turn an otherwise flawless back kick into a perfect opening for your opponent, or worse. Of course this presents a catch-22 of sorts: the only way to get better is to practice but practicing may not make you better because a poorly executed kick may hinder you both physically by getting countered and mentally by not feeling comfortable using the kick. Other kicks do not have this problem as they are easier to use in a probing manner, whereas the back kick requires a full commitment to function properly. Because of this drills are especially important for developing a base confidence level in the back kick.
DISCLAIMER: As for all kicks, but especially one as powerful as the back kick, there needs to be well-communicated boundaries regarding equipment usage and power. Not everyone may be willing to take a full strength kick even with the proper equipment, especially if there is a drastic size difference between partners. None of these drill require you to slug the target at hard as you can. Real power and effectiveness comes from the technique, not how hard you can kick, so please be considerate when practicing.
These drills are designed to help develop the fundamentals of the technique. They work by isolating key components of the technique so that the individual skills required receive focused attention.
- Punching Bag
- Kicking Shield
At the start of this article I framed the back kick in terms of a side-kick variant, and while the sidekick is a very apt comparison for an introduction to the kick, it does not give weight to the differences between the kicks. This drill serves to demonstrate what separates a side kick from a back kick by focusing on the second half of the back kick.
Stand at about arm’s length away from the shield/bag with your back facing the shield/bag and enter a small horse stance. Turn your head over your shoulder to look at the shield/bag while dropping your body down so it is about parallel with the ground and throwing your arms to the opposite side. At the same time your kicking leg (same side as the shoulder you’re looking over) should be brought straight up and then extended straight back in a manner similar to a horse’s kick (hence the name of the drill).
Partner’s Note: Even though your gear is called a shield, you should not try to an immovable wall when kicked, it will hurt. When contact is made don’t tense up, but don’t fall back prematurely either, as an unexpected miss might injure your partner. Simply allow yourself to be pushed as far as your partner pushes, and both of you can continue to practice safely.
- Sparring gear or kicking shield
This drill practices the stopping power a back kick can provide by focusing on your weight distribution after the kick, as well as some timing practice. A kicking shield is preferred as it will be more comfortable for the holder but sparring gear will do.
Stand across from the holder about six feet or so, enough that neither of you could touch each other with a fully stretched kick, in fighting/sparring stance or back stance. The holder will attempt to run straight at you and knock you over. When they come close enough, deliver a full back kick to stop them. After contact, your weight should be focused on your kicking foot as you drop it down in front of your target, i.e if you were to try and hold your kicking leg up you would fall forward onto it. If your weight is still focused on your balance leg (or your body is too straight) your kick will be unable to stop your partner and they will knock you back.
Partner’s Note: It is very important that once you start charging you do not stop. A more advanced form of this drill involves you trying to bait out the back kick with fake charges, but once you actually charge you must commit. Be sure to give a brief resting period in between each kick so that your partner can readjust their stance.
Once the fundamentals of the technique have been learned, these drills enter the realm of application. The situations provided in the drill are much more alike to an actual sparring match than before, but still controlled in scope.
- Sparring Gear
This drill helps develop speed and body reading as your reaction must vary with what your partner chooses to do.
Stand at about kicking distance from your partner in an open fighting/sparring stance (open meaning your front leg is the opposite of your partner’s, so left leg and right leg and vice versa. It can also be thought of as having both torsos face the same direction). Your partner has the choice of delivering a normal roundhouse kick, or a jumping front-leg roundhouse kick. If they deliver a regular roundhouse kick, immediately deliver a regular back kick or take a small step back to avoid the kick, and then immediately counter when they miss. If they jump, then you too must jump, but a sparring jumping back is closer to simultaneously switching feet and kicking than it is to an actual jump. Jumping too high will result in a slower kick, meaning you are less likely to get a point for your counter if you are even fast enough at all. It should be noted that the retreating steps are optional as they are not the focus of this drill, but it allows this drill to be a little two-in-one for both stepping and back kick.
Partner’s Note: Again, once you and your partner have reached a comfortable level, adding feints will allow your partner’s reading ability to improve even further.
- Sparring Gear
This drill is very similar to the open counter drill, except it is a bit more fast-paced due to the difference in allowed kicks.
Just like the open counter, stand across from your partner in a closed stance this time (you should both have the same leg forward i.e left and left or right and right, or your torsos should be in opposite directions). This time your partner’s options are a sliding front leg roundhouse kick or a regular roundhouse kick. When they throw a sliding roundhouse kick, immediately counter with a back kick, this time without steps. However, when they throw a normal roundhouse kick you must step back to avoid it first, and then counter.
Close Jumping Back Kick
- Kicking bag
- Sparring gear of kicking shield
This drill practices the close range back kick, but also helps develop the coordination required for more advanced spinning techniques (such as 360, 540, 720 etc kicks).
Stand in a small horse stance with one shoulder on or very close to the target so that your body profile is perpendicular to the target. From there, jump with both legs at the same time while turning your head away from the target and deliver a back kick. You should notice that it is very hard to lower your shoulders as you did before in a normal back kick. That is because in spinning techniques your body must remain straight to allow you to stay balanced while you spin. The rotation must be generated from your arms instead. This also makes it more difficult to add power to the kick, and while a jumping back kick will never be as powerful as a standing one, moderate power can be achieved with practice.
Partner’s Notes: As opposed to earlier techniques, try to hold your position more during this drill. Again, do not tense up but try to offer more resistance.
Back Kick Combination
- Sparring gear or kicking shield
This drill practices the most simple attacking back kick combination. This drill has more advanced applications that will be discussed in the advanced section. A kicking bag can be used instead of a partner in this exercise but will not provide the full benefit that a partner will. This exercise also has benefits to your partner that, should you choose to use the kicking shield, will be lost.
Stand apart from your partner like in the open/closed stance drill. If your stance is open, attack with a regular roundhouse kick. Your partner should attempt to backstep to avoid the kick, after they step drop you kicking leg to the ground and perform a back kick with your rear leg. If your stance is closed the idea is the same, but instead of a normal roundhouse kick deliver a sliding front leg roundhouse kick. To increase your speed when you deliver the roundhouse kick instead of driving through like a single roundhouse kick, return to the chamber position before putting down your kicking leg. As a side note kicking like this greatly increases speed thus allowing for more kicks in a combination.
These advanced drills now use multiple separate techniques in tandem to fully explore the usage of the technique in sparring scenarios.
Side-Back Kick Combination
- Kicking shield
This drill practices the combination of two of the most powerful counter-moves: the side kick and back kick. This drill can also be adapted for practicing back spin kick (add a kicking target above the shield.
Stand in a manner similar to the jumping back kick drill, except this time place your front leg on the shield so that it looks somewhere in between a chambered side kick and a fully extended one, tending towards the chamber. Adjust your weight so that the majority is on your balance foot. When ready, turn your head around and drop your front leg back and deliver a back kick simultaneously. The drill is somewhat reminiscent of the horse kick drill in this way. A more advanced form of this drill is to start farther back and have the holder step in to your side-back kick combination.
Partner’s Note: It is especially important not to move during this drill, as you will be supporting some of your partner’s weight and moving may cause them to injure themselves.
Chasing Back Kick Combination
- Sparring gear of kicking shield
This drill is a more advanced variant of the Back Kick Combination drill. It incorporates advanced stepping techniques to allow you to more closely follow a retreating opponent. As for the back kick combination drill, using a kicking shield or bag will not provide the full experience of the drill, but is still permissible.
This drill is nearly identical the back kick combination drill. The differences are firstly: the starting kick is not important and can be replaced with a fake kick or a step if you choose, and secondly: when delivering the back kick, after your leg is chambered perform a small hop to chase your partner. The hop and kick are not to be delivered simultaneously, however, as that would equate to a switching back kick (a counter move). This hop allows you to cover a greater distance while still maintaining the power of the back kick. It should be noted that the goal of the hop is to cover horizontal distance, not vertical distance.
- Incredibly versatile
- Incredibly powerful
- Very fast with practice
- Psychological deterrent to attacks
- Easy to avoid
- Misses leave user exposed
- Inefficient without practice and experience