How to do the perfect Back Kick

I going to assume that you have warmed up, moved all the breakable object out the way, and have sufficient space to try this You will probably need more space than you've got. Alternatively, feel free to kick that hideous vase off the table (someone in your place just has no taste).

Either you have never managed a back kick, or tried it and fallen over. Never fear help from the master is at hand, failing that read this instead.

Okay the trick to this kick and a lot of martial arts techniques is to break the process down into a series of steps.

Assume a fighting stance, right leg back, shout ki-up. Wow good job. Lets try that again and see if we can wake up the neighbors. Right leg back, ki-up.

By now you probably know that the side with your stomach is the open side and the side with your back is the closed side. Points are scored in Taekwondo by kicking the open side, and more importantly, pain is inflicted by someone kicking you in the gut. Well we are not having that - no sirree

A back kick is the perfect counter to someone trying to kick you in the stomach, if you are fast enough, and can do the kick of course.

Okay first think is to get the feet in the right place, and we'll learn this by learning a chopping drill. From the fighting stance with right leg back, bring your right hand up to your left shoulder with palm down ready to do a chop. To get your hand in the right shape, put your hand flat on the table, fingers and thumb out out but together. Rotate by 90 degrees and chop down with the fleshy part of the hand, next to the little finger. Ow that was too hard, and I have just realized that I am still bruised after breaking boards in the grading last week. Step forward so that your right leg is now forward; at the same time execute a chop with your right hand to your opponents throat, imagine it's your boss to get real feeling into that chop. Repeat by bring your left hand up to your right shoulder, step forward and chop. Opposite hand drawn back in a fist thumb up at the wrist. Lovely job, shame about the vase though. Practice this for awhile, it builds what is call muscle memory, but is actually moving a conscious set of events to the unconscious part of the brain (just like typing and learning to drive).

Now we will move onto the more complicated bit.

Start with right leg back, then move forward with the chop you are now the master off. Now look over your left shoulder and spin your right foot (now the forward one) anticlockwise ideally so that your heel is pointing to the front, bringing your left foot around so it is parallel with the right foot. Fallen over yet? Excellent. Bring your left hand up ready for a chop and carry on rotating and stepping until you are in a fighting stance with the left leg forward. Your body should have rotated anticlockwise. The turn should have started with your head and the rest of your body following.

By now you should have also realized that you do not have enough room -told you so. Now try that the opposite way round. Start off with the left leg back - not so easy is it?

Practice the basic idea until you have a nice flow and have worked out how to rotate without getting dizzy. Now ideally you need to do this for a few days, but I don't expect that you have any more patients than I have. Okay onto the kick.

A this point you might find it easier to find something to hold onto (often instructors will teach this as a partner drill with each other supporting while kicking). Put both feet together look over your left shoulder, bring your left knee up about a foot (1/3 of a metre), Now kick out with the left left, just like a horse would kick someone behind them. Your foot should be horizontal and parallel to the ground, a good place to aim is the lower gut. I always find that students are keen to kick high and this is not only difficult but does not lead to a good technique and injury often happens. Aim low, height comes naturally as you improve and get more flexible.

From the stepping drill you have probably found that this is easier rotating one way. So lets start going that way. I find it easier to spin on my right foot and kick with the left, but just transpose the left and right if you prefer spinning on the left. So with right foot forward, we are going to spin anti clockwise. Turn your head first, rotate the right foot to where we are going to kick, bring the left foot round next to the right foot. Looking over your left shoulder, with luck you can see your target. Then execute the kick we practiced above. Now there are two choices next. The first is to drop the left leg down into a left foot forward fighting stance - this is easier. The second is to keep spinning anti clockwise and to retract back into a left foot back fighting stance. While sparring, I have found that going forward is a good move if the opponent is timid, but dropping back is better if the opponent is aggressive and likes coming forward.

The trick to a good back kick is the following. First make sure that your head leads the turn, it mean you can see where you are kicking to. Keep your kicking leg tight to your body and don't let it swing out (it is easier to get rotation with your leg spinning out, but the kick will be slower and easier to avoid. Finally, keep your weight back by bending away from the kick. This will make your kick more forceful, higher, and more balanced.

So, to do this as a counter in sparring, step to the side, spin, kick. Now an advanced technique is to dummy. Now assume a right leg back stance, now dummy your right shoulder forward as if you are about to make a right leg turning kick (roundhouse), but instead execute a back kick by spinning clockwise (quickly).

If done quickly it is a devastating counter, if not that easy to learn. I wouldn't suggest this for a street technique as you have to take your eyes off the attacker, and you also need a lot of room to execute the technique. Quick grab the vase before it ... too late.