05 December 2010

Confusing Terminology: Crescent Kick, Vertical Kick, Hooking Kick, Hook Kick

Technique names in ITF Taekwon-Do, especially of some of the kicks, can be very confusing. It also doesn't help that the official terms used in ITF Taekwon-Do are often quite different from certain well known terms that are commonly used in wider martial art circles. For instance, what is known in the greater martial art community as an axe kick, is a downward kick in ITF Taekwon-Do; the commonly used term roundhouse kick, is a turning kick in ITF Taekwon-Do, and so on. Instead of comparing terminology from outside of ITF Taekwon-Do, in this post I will focus chiefly on some confusing terminology within ITF Taekwon-Do. Some common kicks that are confused include the crescent kick and inward vertical kick, and the hooking kick, outward vertical kick and the hook kick, and add to that the reverse turning kick and reverse hook[ing] kick.

The crescent kick [ bandal chagi / 반달 차기 ] and hooking kick [ geolchyeo chagi / 걸쳐 차기 ] are both defensive techniques in ITF Taekwon-Do; in other words, these kicks are used to block an opponent's attack. One would use these blocks for attacks at low or middle section, but usually not for high section. It is better to block a high section attack with your hands / arms, than trying to get your foot up there in time. The motion path for both these kicks is an arc. The crescent kick arcs inward with the foot bend into a “cup” and the foot sole functioning as the blocking tool. The hooking kick arcs outward [Compare: Hooking Block] with the foot sword side instep acting as the blocking tool. Although the foot sole for the crescent kick and the foot sword side instep for the hooking kick are the primary blocking tools, it is possible to also use other parts of the leg, for instance the foot sword in the case of the hooking kick or the knee for either kicks to “wave” an attack out of harms way.

The following points may help to clear up some confusion with regard to these kicks. A crescent kick is always done with an inward arc. There is no such thing as an outward crescent kick. An “outward crescent kick” is basically a hooking kick. Similarly, a hooking kick is always done with an outward arc. The crescent kick and hooking kick are only used as blocking techniques. They are not offensive techniques. The mix-up comes in because these kicks are often confused with vertical kicks.

Vertical kicks are similar to the crescent kick and hooking kick as they also move in a somewhat arc motion. The chief difference is that vertical kicks are offensive techniques; in other words, they are used for attacking and not blocking. The vertical kick [ sewo chagi / 세워 차기 ] gets its name because the foot is held upward, i.e. vertically; although it actually strikes the target in a horizontal fashion. Imagine keeping your hand vertically and then slapping someone horizontally through the face; now translate that image to a kick. The vertical kick can be done in an inward motion, known as an inward vertical kick, or outward motion, known as an outward vertical kick. For the outward vertical kick the foot sword is used as the attacking tool, while the reverse foot sword—that is the area on the inverted side of the foot sword—is used as the attacking tool for the inward vertical kick. Unlike the crescent kick and hooking kick which are usually done low and middle section, the vertical kicks can be done at any height, but usually at middle and high sections. Practitioners often use the vertical kick at high section to attack the opponent's head, slapping them through the face with the foot.

Because “hooking kick” and “hook kick” sound so much the same, it is easy to see why these two kicks are confused. We've already looked at the hooking kick, which is a defensive kick, using the foot sword as the primary blocking tool. Unlike the hooking kick, the hook kick is an offensive kick. The attacking tool of the hook kick is primarily the back heel, but occasionally the ball of the foot can be used for more reach or the flat foot (foot sole) if you wish to lesson the impact of the technique. The heel is more likely the attacking tool of choice in a real fight situation or in heavy contact competitions, while the flat foot is used for semi-contact sparring.

The hook kick was made famous by World Kickboxing Champion Bill “Superfoot” Wallace. You can see him and another kickboxing legend, Joe Lewis, fighting in the YouTube video below.

The really confusing thing is that the actual term “hook kick,” although often used by Taekwon-Do practitioners, is not found in the ITF Encyclopaedia. The correct term is reverse turning kick [ bandae dollyeo chagi / 반대 돌려 차기 ] or reverse hooking kick [ bandae dollyeo goro chagi / 반대 돌려 걸어 차기 ] (depending on the variation of the kick).

Now this might seem quite confusing as you may think that “reverse” here means “spinning,” which is not the case. Again we are faced with a Korean-to-English translation problem. When we look at the Korean terms, it is much clearer. Bandae / 반대 is better translated into English as “opposite” than “reverse.” When we talk about a reverse turning kick, “reverse” refers to the “opposite side” of the foot. As we saw earlier with the inward vertical kick that uses the “reverse foot sword” as the attacking tool, so “reverse” in “reverse turning kick” is referring to the opposite side of the attacking tool and opposite direction of this kick relative to the normal turning kick. The attacking tool for the normal turning kick is the ball of the foot. The attacking tool for the reverse turning kick is the heel (the “reverse” or “opposite” side of the foot). The reverse turning kick can be done either with the front leg or with the back leg. To do it with the back leg, one option is to spin the body around. This spinning motion is what many people incorrectly assume is referred to by “reverse.” (Do not feel bad if this was your assumption, since there are instances where bandae / 반대 can be interpreted as a spinning technique. I will write about this in the future.)

Now, just to make it even more confusing, the ITF Encyclopaedia also refers to a “reverse hooking kick.” It continues to clarify that the reverse hooking kick “is a variation of a reverse turning kick” (ITF Encyclopaedia, Volume 4, p. 72) where the leg is not kept extended during the kicking motion, but the lower leg is bend at the end of the kick to “hook” the opponent. The translation into English may make you think that we are talking about the defensive hooking kick we spoke about earlier; however, the Korean is not using the same terminology when we see “reverse hooking kick” in English. The Korean is bandae dollyeo goro chagi / 반대 돌려 걸어 차기. Goro (better romanized as georo) is based on the verb geolda 걸다, which means to gather something up, to bring something in, to roll something up, or to fold something. In other words, it is a reverse turning kick where the lower leg is folded in. Because the “hooking” in “reverse hooking kick” may make one think of the “hooking kick” used for blocking, myself and many other instructors have opted to refer to this kick by its more public name, “hook kick” instead. I have also distinguished the two by emphasising their combat function: “defensive hooking kick” and “offensive hooking kick.”

To clarify: A reverse turning kick is done with the kicking leg kept straight. A reverse hook[ing] kick is a variation of the reverse turning kick and is done by folding the lower leg in at the end of the kick. Both kicks can be done with “either the front or rear foot” (ITF Encyclopaedia, Volume 4, p. 70). A hooking kick is a block.

In summary, different things cause confusion over technique terminology in ITF Taekwon-Do. One thing is that terms used by the wider martial art community is frequently not the same as the terminology used in ITF Taekwon-Do. Secondly, some techniques look somewhat similar, but have completely different functions, for instance the crescent kick and inward vertical kick. Because of their visual similarity, practitioners may get confused and use different terms erroneously interchangeably. Finally, there is sometimes confusion because of the clumsy original translation of the terminology from Korean to English. In my opinion, one of the best ways to overcome such confusion is to learn the Korean names for these techniques.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks. This clarified a lot of things. :)