Flashy Spinning, Flying, Air, Kicks And Their Ineffectiveness For Real Fighting

*Authored by White Dragon. 

        Taekwondo is known for its kicks, especially its amazing, flying, twirling and spinning kicks. They are very impressive to audiences at demos. These kicks are amazing displays of acrobatic talent and agility. They take a lot of talent to perfect and years of practice to get good at. This is especially true when people use them to kick targets like kicking paddles, or demo boards to break as it displays accuracy of movement. Some Taekwondo experts can kick full on 1 inch pine boards which are the typical board to break for a display of power (mostly used for promotion testing), and are very different from the typical very thin demo boards many Taekwondo people use at shows (demo boards are incredibly thin, almost like balsa wood and a child can break it). But even still, the fact they can target correctly and smash these things is very cool. I have a lot of respect for high flying, crazy kicks because of the fact they are great displays of agility and talented athletic movement. On the other hand I do not respect them in the same sense as them being highly combat effective or necessary, or even important to learn. Being able to pull off wild kicks does not necessarily mean you are going to be a great fighter or even good at self defense. It is possible someone can be good at acrobatic kicks and fighting at the same time though (MMA stars like Anthony Pettis), but it is not as common. Yet, I personally believe more people who have such talent should (even though many are not) still be decent at using Taekwondo in a fight or self defense situation.

        It is not a requirement for a Taekwondo master or instructor to be an expert at flying kicks. Originally, Taekwondo curriculum did not demand this nor are such flying techniques in the poomsae of Taekwondo. Flying, flipping, and multi-spinning aerial kicks were never, and are not established as mandatory techniques for a Taekwondo master. Even so, a Taekwondo black belt should be able to do various and more simple jumping and flying kicks that actually are effective. Some of these kicks are found in the high dan grade of black belt poomsae such as the butterfly kick and flying sidekicks. Jump front kicks, jump round kicks, jump spin kicks, jump back kicks, flying sidekicks, tornado round and axe kicks etc. are all important kicks and work well. These are simpler flying and spinning in the air kicks that have a realistic combat effectiveness and one advanced black belt poomsae called Cheonkwon uses a butterfly-style-tornado kick. For an example of the effectiveness of a tornado round kick, watch this guy get knocked out with a such a kick in an MMA fight:

That was very combat effective Taekwondo kicking. He used a back kick, then set his tornado kick up with a connecting stepping axe kick to the face. That was a flying in the air and spinning technique. The tornado round kick. Usually you learn that around blue belt and begin to perfect it at red belt. So in themselves flying or spinning techniques are important to know and are effective. On the other hand there are a whole different breed of acrobatic and flying kicks that absolutely have no combat value and are completely ineffective. I do not consider many of these even Taekwondo, just adopted gymnastic, break dance, and Capoeria demo movements. These are what people call “tricking” which is a new term in the last decade that came into prominence through YouTube. Many kids join a martial arts class and strictly work on flying and twirling kicks. People compete in XMA tournaments to show off and have created a type of hip-hop-breakdancing attitude for martial arts. In my opinion this is silly and weakens martial arts, yet it is not completely a cardinal sin to do such things. I just personally believe the arrogance and ego that come with this competition is much like hip hop culture, “YEAH BOOYYY WHATCHYA GUNNA DO FOO’! YAAAYUUHHH. WE BAD!!” That type of nonsense is seen constantly in such videos of tricking. All these people do is show off doing gymnastics and the kicks they use could never work in a fight, and most would never even hurt someone even if they did connect with a kick since there is no power because their spins are counterproductive for impact. Many spins go in opposite directions of the kick. One way they market their “martial arts tricking” is by claiming it is “mixed martial arts with gymnastics.” But there is nothing “MMA” about what they do as they simply have a mcdojang attitude about everything. Most of these kids work at mcdojangs and are the mcdojang star at their academy and are used for marketing purposes and demos.

These same kinds of techniques of “tricking” are often displayed in Taekwondo demonstrations and shows by groups without the “tricking” attitude. The Kukkiwon demo team, the Korean Tigers etc. all do various acrobatic kicks and jump extremely high. Sometimes using people as bases to jump off of and are launched by such people with their hands catching their feet to lift them up in the air extremely high to do a back flip board break. In reality this is not going to happen in a fight. Or maybe it would, if for some reason, there was a bad guy standing on something high (like a balcony) and another guy and his Taekwondo friends were fighting him in a gang fight, and they launched the Taekwondo guy into the air to kick the bad guy. But then the impact of the kick is not going to be that hard to cause much damage. But then maybe it could who knows. Obviously, this is mostly fantasy and movie style fight scenes.

The following are some videos of the crazy kicks some Taekwondo people do. These are triple and quadruple spinning kicks:

Kicking 4 pads:

Wasn’t that amazing? That is a high display of foot and eye coordination and acrobatics. It was very cool, but it does not prove one can fight or use Taekwondo to defend themselves. It is much like gymnastics or a special acrobatic dance. This move is unrealistic in combat and those kicks would cause no damage to someone receiving them. The kicks would not impact hard. The first kick would stop the motion since a human being is solid compared to kicking paddles that allow the foot to pass through them. He is able to keep rotating because the paddles do not obstruct his motion. If he did that to a person his first 1 or 2 kicks would not allow him to keep rotating unless his kicks were very soft and he pulled them slightly. Also, what targets on a human being would these kicks be attacking? The angle of his kicks would not allow for a hard leg kick or any vital point. Sure, his last kicks could hit the face but not very hard. A person would just move out of the way of such a wild kick and counter attack with one good solid round kick and he would be hurt. Trying such a kick in a real fight would only put you at risk of being counter attacked with a basic kick that would actually hurt you, and your flashy kick would not have hurt them. Notice how when he landed he was completely off balance and tripping up. This is a big no-no in a true street fight situation. He is open for serious damage.

What is really delusional is that young people or someone not used to watching fights would assume he could actually kick 4 people at the same time with that technique. That he could knock 4 people out with 1 multi-spinning maneuver. There is no way, and it is ignorant to assume so.

Kicking 3 boards:

This guy tries to do a lesser impressive technique, yet which would still be impressive if he could have pulled it off. The only problem is he obviously did not practice enough to perfect it and messes up.  Imagine if he tried to do this in a real fight and messed up and ended up close to his opponent! He would get knocked out with a punch. Doing such a technique would be stupid in a real fight. Again what targets on the body would he be hitting to cause damage? None really. He also messes up. It is impressive he was breaking boards but again these are demo boards and very flimsy. The human body is more solid and sturdy and those kicks do not have power. The video above with the 4 paddle kick contained harder kicks than this video. So when in doubt and if you mess up, simply just do another flying spinning kick such as the 720 spin kick to make up for it so the audience still thinks you are cool, even if you actually suck at what you just did. Again this kick is hard to pull off. But this guy does show talent and skill in acrobatic kicking and it is still cool he can do a 720 spin kick. But it does not mean he is a really good fighter. His make-up flying spin kick he did as a last resort was extremely slow like a ballet dancer and would easily be avoided by an attackers and counter attacked.

So many people waste time only doing fancy kicks instead of working on basic strikes, blocks, and regular sparring for Taekwondo. I have met people who told me that every black belt should be able to do such kicks and Taekwondo is not about fighting. This makes no sense and is a lame excuse for their lack of combat ability. On the other hand some people can pull off great trick kicks like these and also fight good. Not every Taekwondo teacher can do demo kicks nor should they have to. All they need to do is the basics and proper flying, and more basic, spin kicks that can actually work. A Taekwondo instructor or master’s ability lies in his skills in knowledge of the most effective Taekwondo fighting techniques, many which are basics, and his teaching ability. Trick kicks and board breaks like these are simply extra sprinkles on top of an already amazing martial art and are for show. They are extra special things to do to impress an audience, but I believe a true Taekwondo dojang doing a demo should educate the public in simple and effective Taekwondo combat and not simply performance art. Also, not everyone has the ability to do crazy kicks like these nor should they be told they have to be able to do them. Some people have injuries, various body types (many very muscular guys cannot do such techniques but are still scary fighters). You would never see many hardcore, knockdown Karate fighters doing such techniques. Many are built like a tank and are scary fighters to mess with. Doing a quadruple spin kick will not beat them. Think about that.

Trick kicks are cool, but not necessary. If you can do them then enjoy it! If you cannot, do not feel bad about being a black belt as long as you can defend yourself. A good solid right cross might knock such tricksters out if you had to fight them after they do a flying kick and you step out of the way. One simple technique done right can usually beat an overly complicated flashy technique. Some MMA fighters like Anthony Pettis can pull off trick kicks and break boards, and even in an MMA fight he was able to jump off of the cage and do a round kick and knock out Benson Henderson; but if you are a regular Taekwondo practitioner you would know that jumping off of a wall to kick might be an advanced technique yet it is very simple and basic (I was able to do this as a white belt). It is simply a jump round kick which is taught to yellow belts, except using a wall to jump off of. Taekwondo techniques like that can catch people off guard and are flashy yet can be effective, but the extreme acrobatics such as triple spin kicks and backflip kicks after being launched by your demo team members 15 feet into the air are not effective. It is important for Taekwondo teachers to make sure their students understand the difference.


White Dragon is a 3rd dan Taekwondo Black Belt with over 19 years experience in the Martial Arts and head instructor of the White Dragon Dojang Martial Arts Training Program. 


  1. MesYang88 says:

    I think this scene from the movie “Never Back Down” explains it all. 😉

  2. Grey Wolf says:


  3. Cruise Lee says:

    tricking is not a combative form of martial arts it’s intended for entertainment not for combat you call yourself a martial artist and you dont even know that hpw stupid of you

    • White Dragon says:

      Is it a martial art? I think it was very well established in the article above that tricking is no way intended for combat.

    • Grey Wolf says:

      That’s right. He does call himself a martial artists. So that means he knows about martial arts, and wouldn’t know much about tricking, now, would he?

  4. Cruise Lee says:

    I should call you WhiteFaggot

  5. My name is Jeff says:

    Your post makes a lot of sense, but I was just wondering if butterfly kick would be one of the more effective flashy kicks since it spins more, making more power and it only hits twice instead of 3 or 4 times.

  6. Lil Perry says:

    LOL Man… I’m a Martial Artist becareful of the flashy kicks… Do You know why?
    Cause You don’t expect them… Like In Capoeira the mei loui Kick. You never expect it.
    Martial Artists these days don’t think of the impossible. When I myself spar with people.
    I do careful observation, of how many people get fooled all the time by the unexpected.

    • White Dragon says:

      SO kicks mentioned in the above article are effective combat techniques? How would you use them realistically? Think about it.

  7. umer says:

    do yuo trianed baxflips and fronts flip in mix martal arts yes

  8. GripGuy says:

    This was a really good post and really interesting. I learned the tornado round kick when I was a yellow belt I think. So I guess it depends on where you’re learning it.

  9. JOHN says:


  10. If you are saying that tkd kicks are useless and “flashy”, then why is tkd called a “martial art” then? Why was TKD invented in the first place?, because the word “martial” itself has to do with battling or entering into wars, all of which fall under the synonym of fighting. And if TKD is to be called a martial art, then in order to ensure this is by demonstrating that TKD has to be effective for fighting. Since I am currently training in TKD and I’ve almost knocked someone out in sparring with a kick plus with the fact that my instructor declared that tkd is indeed a martial art and everywhere in the internet and other sources mentions the same thing he said, then it looks to me like TKD is absolutely effective for self defense fighting. And by the way, I do know how to do a spinning hook kick and other flying spinning kicks. I’ve used them on sparring, and they were effective against my opponents. So it looks to me like you got all of your information misinterpreted, no offense. I don’t know where you got these nonsense facts that it is flashy and useless when it’s not.

    • White Dragon says:

      Huh? I never said TKD is useless dude….re-read.

      Just some of the extreme flashy fling kicks are useless. And they are. And just bc you did one in sparring with TKD rules does not mean it works in real life.

      • Well pardon me if I mistakenly thought you were thinking that tkd kicks are useless then. I’m in no way trying to be rude, nor am I trying to argue with you. But I do disagree with you on a couple of things you mentioned in this article regarding the “ineffectiveness” of tkd kicks, especially when such a “flashy” kick won’t always be good for self defense. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it looks to me like you are either comparing or confusing tkd kicks with tricking kicks. Tricking as a whole is not intended for street self defense, but rather to impress your audience with all those “flashy” and cool aerials, backflips, jackknives, quadruple or 1800 spinning kicks, etc, some of which I either do know how to perform or are currently practicing them. Most of the kicks used in tricking derive from traditional martial arts, and tkd is an example. TKD on the other hand is useful for self defense since it teaches you how to properly fight off an attacker armed with weapons or unarmed, well in the tkd school that I go to, they do teach me how to defend myself against knives, guns, baseball bats, gang attack, as well as joint locks, a few hip throws, etc. Imagine a trickster trying to use his tricking moves to fight off armed attackers, that wouldn’t do the trickster any good now, would it? Now getting to the point where I disagree with you, I do agree that flashy kicks used in tkd won’t work as good as other basic kicks, but I disagree with you that flashy kicks are ALWAYS unrecommendable for self defense. They are risky the majority of the time, but not always. Flashy kicks may very rarely work, but only when you are completely sure when to use them and when not to. If you were to fight an attacker using a knife or any other weapon, then in this situation a flashy tkd kick won’t save you and it would be best to use basic kicks or simple “weapon-self defense” maneuvers. Now, the reason many people assume that flashy kicks aren’t painful is because tricksters kick with their feet without wearing socks and shoes. Same with sparring, you don’t wear regular shoes when you sparr or use spinning kicks in a sparring match. If I were to successfully land a tkd spinning kick flashy or basic to an attacker while wearing shoes, I would doubt that he or she will not receive any damage at all. This would apply more if I kick my attacker with just my feet without wearing socks or shoes. On that situation, my attacker will not feel any pain. This can be a counter argument to the part where you said that tkd flashy spinning kicks won’t do any damage to an attacker. And so far, I’ve used the 360 spinning hook kick known as a cheat 720 in sparring about 10 times already and only landed 2 of them to my sparring opponent. This proves that some tkd kicks aren’t reccomemdable for street fighting, as they would very rarely work, but only when you’re sure they would work. If I were unsure or feel that this move would put me at risk for a real life self defense situation in the streets, than I would refrain from using it. I think it would be wise that you rather say that flashy kicks will very rarely work rather than saying never, don’t you think? Just saying though, its up to you. And again, I’m not angry and I’m also not trying to sound rude. Its not my intention to insult anyone here.

      • White Dragon says:

        I am tired of peple focusing on tricking and trying to “impress” an audiene. it takes away from the true martial arts. This is why Taekwondo culture is absolutey stupid now days. Focusing on TKD-dance, drama performance, and tricking stuff, musical forms…not actual combat.

        I never said 360 jump kicks would not work. Some do. So I agree.

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