Kicks may be classified as:
- Defensive. These are kicks used in defense as counterattacks, such as the jump side kick or the jump spin side kick.
- Offensive. These are kicks used in offensive attacks, such as the side-thrust kick or step-thru side-thrust kick.
- Acrobatic. Acrobatic kicks are used to entertain. Acrobatic kicks are to kicking as WWE wrestling is to wrestling. They are entertaining to watch but practically useless. They can only be performed by young people with acrobatic abilities. These kicks include kicks used with flips, horizontal spins, multiple spins, and jumping kicks with three or more separate kicks in one jump. They are impressive and are used in choreographed demonstrations and action movies. These types of kicks are nearly useless against an alert, moving opponent. Risk of injury is high with these kicks.
- Competition. Competition kicks are used in tournaments. In some tournaments, such as Taekwondo tournaments, kicks to the head are awarded more points than punches, so you see a lot of high kicks. In other tournaments, where kicks and punches count equally, you see more punching, since hands are quicker and more effective than kicking. Most knockouts are the result of a punch. Kicks cannot be thrown at as high a rate as punches. High kicks may leave you vulnerable and off-balance. Change the direction of powerful kick is difficult. When permitted, one of the most effective kicks is a low round kick to the thigh. Since it uses little energy and does not require flexibility, it may be thrown more frequently than higher kicks so the chance of doing damage is increased.
- Street. These are self-defense kicks. Most are long range, straight in kicks, targeted below the belt, and directed toward targets that when struck will stop an attacker. The knees are a primary target.
- Pattern. Kicks in patterns are performed technically perfect: full chamber, full extension, full re-chamber, and powerful. The kicks are fast but not so quick that the form of the kicks may not be seen, and there is a slight hesitation at impact so the kick may be fully appreciated.
- Sparring. Kicks in sparring are for one purpose, to score points. They do not have to look pretty; they just must be on target and quicker than the opponent and block.
- Exhibition. Exhibition kicks are extreme, spectacular kicks that are used in demonstrations to impress and entertain spectators. The kicks are usually useless for any other purpose.