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How to Axe Kick: Olympic Style Taekwondo

Introduction to the Olympic Taekwondo Axe Kick

The axe kick is often the first kick learned in Taekwondo. Don’t let that fool you. The axe kick is also potentially the deadliest kick in Taekwondo. There are also a number of variations of the axe kick and the “Olympic” version has a place right beside the basic versions that are taught first (the outside-inside axe kick, next the the inside-outside axe kick and finally the straight axe kick). Don’t be fooled by the striking (pun totally intended) similarity between the straight axe kick and the front stretch kick–they’re actually different and I’ll explain why.

Believe it or not, the Olympic axe kick starts with the same chambering motion as the front kick. The Olympic axe kick is best described as throwing a front snap kick above the opponent’s head and then bringing the foot down, striking the head or face with the ball of the foot while putting your body weight into the kick. The regular version of the axe kick is sort of like taking a giant goose step onto your opponent.

With your entire bodyweight behind the axe kick and the head the primary target (the collarbone is the other target the axe kick is effective against but this is illegal in Taekwondo), it has great knockout potential.

How to Perform the Olympic Taekwondo Axe Kick

  1. Assume a fighting stance. Hands up around eye level and slightly to the sides so you can see. Keep your weight balanced between both feet and your heels off the floor. Similar to a basic boxing stance but a bit more upright and no forward lean.
  2. Lift your rear knee towards your opponent without placing any tension in the leg. As the target is always the head, you will have to lift your knee nearly as high as possible towards your chest. Keep your hands up.
  3. Use the force of your knee coming up to extend your kicking leg like a whip just above your target (your opponent’s head).
  4. Upon impact, tighten the body and drop your weight onto the target through the ball of your foot. The axe kick is slow when it hits but because you can literally put your entire bodyweight into it, it can be devastating.

Diagnosing Problems with Your Axe Kick

Most problems with the axe kick involve weak hip flexor and abdominal muscles or tight hamstrings. There are also problems with technique–but these are often minor as the kick is the simplest one to learn, though a good front snap kick is a prerequisite for the Olympic axe kick.

Weak muscles

The primary muscles used are the abdominals, hip flexors, quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteals. Strengthen your abs and hip flexors by doing leg lifts, twisting situps, crunches, etc. Your quadriceps and glutes can be strengthened with running, sprints, squats, jumps, etc. Straight leg deadlifts, leg curls on a machine and hyperextensions on a bench are great for the hamstrings.

Tight hamstrings

You have to stretch your hamstrings daily to become a better kicker. Touch your toes when you have free time throughout the day (both the standing and sitting versions) and also work on the hurdler’s stretch and sitting hamstring stretches. The front stretch kick is also invaluable.

Variations of the Axe Kick

There are a number of different front kicks, actually. The one described above is technically the Olympic axe kick. The variations of the axe kick are:

Axe kick (Olympic Style)

This is the kick described throughout this page so scroll up. It is the fastest version of the axe kick and has potentially the longest range as you can hop on the back leg into range once the kicking knee comes up before throwing it.

Regular axe kick (straight leg)

This version of the kick takes excellent timing or an opponent who charges straight forward. It also has the most force potential as you can really wind-up into it. Best used when your opponent is stunned or off balance with their head lower than normal and no hands up to guard. To throw it, just do a front stretch kick and put as much force as possible into the downward portion. The heel is used as the impacting surface in this variation and gives the kick extra power that can be lost in the ankle when using the ball of the foot. (WARNING: Do not hit the floor with this kick or you can break your heel.)

Outside-inside axe kick

This version is the same as the regular straight leg axe kick but the kick goes to the outside of the target before being brought inward and onto the target. Use it to get around the outside of the opponent’s low guard. Also hard for your opponent to see.

Inside-outside axe kick

This version is also the same as the regular straight leg axe kick but goes to the inside of the target before brought outward and onto the target.  This also can be used to get around the opponent’s guard. Not as hard to see as the outside-inside version but can be deceptive because it looks like you missed your intended target at first.

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