In a thrust kick, the lower leg is thrust toward the target with the foot leading the way, much the same way that the fore fist and forearm are used in a punch. Thrust kicks use the large, heavy muscles of the hips as well as the muscles in the thighs so they are potentially the most powerful techniques in Taekwondo. Just as with a punch, the path to the target should be as short and as straight as possible. It is important to start with a light, quick movement and then concentrate all the body's power at the point of impact. The most important factor in thrust kicking is proper distance. If contact is made sooner than anticipated, or if the target is just out of range, the kick will not be effective and the balance of the kicker can be easily disrupted.
A thrust kick utilizes the same principles of focusing as an arm technique such as a punch. A thrust kick brings the leg to an immediate stop on impact with the target, locking the kicking knee into position, so there is no give on impact. Like the snap kicks, thrust kicks create momentum by putting the body weight into motion. However, unlike snap kicks which use a very short contact time upon impact, thrust kicks lock the body and kicking leg into position to redirect the counter-shock of the blow to the floor. Because of the longer contact time with the kicking foot and the vulnerable position of the person delivering a thrust kick, the most practical targets for thrust kicks are low. However to develop muscle strength and flexibility, as well as coordination and balance thrust kicks are typically practiced while kicking for higher targets.
Thrust kicks may also be used to:
- Neutralize an attack by stopping the forward motion of an opponent.
- Push and opponent away to open the range for you to make a more powerful attack.
- Push an opponent down, into some object, or open some object.
- Intimidate rather than injure. If the thrust is controlled so as to make it just a push with little impact damage, it may convince an unruly person to leave you alone.
A side thrust kick it the signature kick of Taekwondo. A Taekwondo practitioner's worth is judged by the power and technique of his/her side thrust kick.