Taekwondo uses many spinning kicks. There are certain physical forces at work while body parts rotate around a central point.
Watch skaters and ballet dancers during their spins. In ballet, students are taught to keep the eyes fixed on a certain point while spinning, rotating the head very quickly around to look at the same point on each revolution. In skating, during very fast, long spins, skaters turn their heads with the rest of the body and blur their vision, as not to focus on any one point. In Taekwondo, we rarely spin more than 360 degrees and focus is usually only on one opponent at a time. So the ballet method of turning the head sharply and focusing on one point is best used in spinning kicks. Also, Taekwondo students learn that the eyes must see the target before it is struck so as to prevent injuries while sparring. Also spinning means that the back is turned to the opponent for a moment. During that moment, the opponent may counter-attack so the eyes must get around first so they may detect any counter-attack.
Skaters and ballet dancers control their centrifugal forces while spinning. Centrifugal force (tending from the center) is a term that describes the force of rotation around a central/pivotal point. Here are a few points to consider relating to this force:
- During a spin, the closer the mass is to the center/pivot point, the faster the rotation will be. Think about an ice skater as she brings her arms in and out during a spin.
- The closer the mass is to the pivot point, the more easily that mass may be controlled. Notice that it is easier for a thin person to balance that for a fat person of the same height.
While spin kicking, the spinning should be done with the mass as close to the pivot point as possible for maximizing speed and control. This means you must chamber the kicking leg as close to the body as possible. Keep the arms in close. This will increase the speed of the spin and help prevent an off balance spin. Another point to keep in mind while spinning is that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. While spinning the leg around in the spin side kick, the path the foot travels from the floor to the target should be essentially a straight line. To see this, perform a slow spin side kick and pay attention to the path of the kicking foot.
Spinning may be added to both hand and foot techniques. Spinning techniques are used in most Taekwondo patterns and are used extensively in sparring. They add power, speed, and misdirection to techniques, and are used to reach unguarded targets. Spins also permit the user to close or increase the range quickly and deceptively. Spinning adds more power to a technique due to addition of the angular momentum generated by the rotation. Power is affected by how far from the center of rotation (called the axis) the target is located, power is reduced when the target is close to the axis. Spinning techniques are difficult to defend against because of their power, momentum, and unpredictable angles of delivery. Spinning may be used with practically any technique, from practically any stance.
Spinning is dangerous to opponents in that it is difficult to control or stop the spin at the point of focus, or stop the spin when the opponent moves into the spin. Spinning is also dangerous to the user. For example, if you attack with a spinning back fist strike and the opponent suddenly closes the range, your elbow may contact the target first and be hyper extended. For these reasons, it is imperative that the head starts the spin so the target is acquired in enough time to control the technique, or abort the technique if necessary.
Proper spinning techniques depend on proper footwork. There are several ways to spin, each with its inherent advantages and disadvantages.
The most common spinning method is to pivot on one foot (either on the heel or ball or the foot). The spin begins on either an advancing or retreating step. Weight is transferred to the foot and the other foot begins the spin. This step is useful since it is quick and the spin may be performed in either clockwise or counterclockwise direction with either foot. Range adjustments cannot be made with this method.
The cross-step may also be used for a spin. In the inside cross-step, the attacker's rear foot steps toward the opponent inside the lead leg in a deep X-stance. The attacker then spins clockwise on the foot so that the rear (which was the lead leg) leg is now becomes the lead leg again. In the outside cross-step, the attacker's rear foot steps toward the opponent outside the lead leg in a deep X-stance. The attacker then spins counterclockwise on the foot so that the rear (which was the lead leg) leg is now becomes the lead leg again. Major adjustments in range may be made by the depth of the step.
A third type of spin includes a jump. A jump may be added to all the above spinning methods to add power and either maintain, increase, or decrease the range. Minor adjust in range may be made by the jumping angle.
In all spins, stay vertical and take care not to let the center of mass extend past the base. If this occurs, you will spin off center, loose stability and power, and expose yourself to counter attack.
All spinning techniques, both hand and foot, are delivered the same way as when the spin is not used. The user is defensively covered during most of the spin as long as the guard is maintained until the last moment. The hand or foot should not strike out until the last moment. This adds power since the spin will be quicker and the opponent will not be aware of which technique is coming until it is too late to react. The focused attack must come exactly as the spin completes. Spins may also be performed outward toward the sides, so you are out of the line of attack while still being able to complete your counter attack.
A spinning block adds power to the defense and brings the blocking motion in at a tangent to the incoming attack so that the attack is deflected at an angle rather than being met head on. This also allows the defender to evade further attacks while setting up a counterattack. In competition, spinning may be used to draw warnings from the opponent. If you use a spinning attack at the first motion of the opponent's attack, the opponent's attack will probably strike an illegal target and the opponent will be awarded a warning by the referee. This technique must be used judiciously since you may also draw a warning for purposely turning your back to the opponent.