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Category Archives: Research

Flying Side Kick

Flying Side Kick is a fancy looking kick, which in most peoples’ minds is reserved for the movies, demonstration and breaking. However from a power point of view, it combines two monsters:
• One is a the strongest muscles in the body, the compound leg extensors. Same muscles that helps one squat and dead lift heavy weights.
• That not being enough Flying Side Kick also pack the full weight of the body, being accelerated into the target.

From a practicality point of view it’s not as easy to land as a Jab or Back Fist. And yet the kick had been landed in the ring and on the street. If the two steps are removed the Flying Side Kick becomes a rear leg side kick with a hop. Done properly still a very powerful kick.
So now let’s take a look at the Kinesiological Analysis of the kick.

Phase One: Take Off
There are various schools of thoughts on how the chamber should be raised.
• Some styles and individual practitioners come up with vertical shin.
• Others add rotation at the take off.
We will analyze a vertical lower leg:
The chamber comes up similar to the front kick and the rest of the body resembles a basketball layup.
On the kicking leg: the hip flexors assisted by the adductors flex the hip. Hamstrings flex the knee. Tibialis Anterior dorsi flexes the foot to expose the heel as the point of impact.
In the supporting leg: the Quadriceps extends the knee, Gluteus Maximus assisted by the Hamstrings extend the hip. Gluteus Medius and Minimus stabilize the hip. Calf completes the push off.

Spinal Extensors and Quadratus Lumborum are primary core stabilizers, especially if the torso is not completely vertical prior to take off.
Even at this stage, where flexibility does not seem to be a large factor. Allowing the muscles to lengthen properly will boost the take off.
In the right leg Quadriceps Vastii (Three Short Heads of the Quadriceps) lengthen to all the knee to flex. Gluteus Maximus, Adductor Magnus Ischial Fibers and Adductor Longus stretch allows the knee to gain its maximum height. Calf, especially Soleus flexibility, permits the heel to be exposed as the point of impact.
In the left leg Hip Flexors and Adductors Lengthen to allow for full hip extension. Tibialis Anterior allow the foot to point.
Phase Two: Impact
“You watch too many movies” maybe the right phrase used here.
Not always, but rather frequently the kick extended prior to impact. This looks great as the audience get to see how a fully extended kick looks like.

However in practicality it’s like extending a punch straight at the elbow and trying to push someone with it. The leg must not be straight at the point of impact.
• More biomechanics at the upcoming articles. Right now let’s take a look at the muscles involved in delivering the force of the kick to the target.
Muscles Involved
At the full extension the kicking leg is medially rotated and abducted. Three muscles carry out these two actions:
1. Gluteus Medius
2. Gluteus Minimus
3. Tensor Fascia Latae.
The impact however falls on the shoulders of two giants:

1. Quadriceps
2. Gluteus Maximus.
The Former extends the knee and later extends the hip. Tibialis Anterior makes sure the proper point of impact slams into the target.
The supporting leg is characteristically flexed at the knee, abducted and externally rotated at the hip. There many variations to this position.
• Some kickers have their legs just slightly bent during Flying Side Kick
• Others lift the heel as high as the abdomen.
The main point of folding the other leg, is prevent the foot from touching the floor, before the kick does it job. After all the force must be transferred, while the fighter is airborne. The left leg position resembling a “half-butterfly” is Sartorius favorite. Other muscles assist at the hip and knee.

A complete lateral flexion calls for contraction of all the core muscles on the right side. Right Obliques, Right Side of the Rectus Abdominis, Right Quadratus Lumborum and Spinal Extensors hip to pull the Iliac Crest and Floating Ribs together. Psoas Major and Minor also assist.
While the non-kicking leg flexibility can make a kicker look good, it’s the core and kicking leg flexibility that really counts.
• In the left leg the adductors and pectineus are the primary muscles that get stretched, providing that the heel comes up to the groin or abdomen.
• The right adductors and pectineous also lengthen to allow abduction. They are not at full stretch however, due to medial rotation of the side kick.
• A lesser mentioned muscle called Quadratus Femoris, is both and adductor and an external rotator. It is completely elongated during the kick.
• Of course Calf is stretched to allow dorsi flexion.
• In the core all the muscles on the left side of the body are expanded, to allow flexion to the right.

Part Three: Recovery and Landing
If a martial artist wants to keep doing this kick, he must learn how to land. Two actions are combined here.
1. Pulling the leg back from the kick
2. Absorbing the force of landing.
Not everyone lands the same way.
• Some kickers land with a front kick chamber
• Others with abducted and medially rotated side kick chamber.
• Due to a frequent attempt to utilize Glutes in the kick, many kickers land sideways and even turned away from the target.
We will analyze a landing with the kicking leg medially rotated and landing leg laterally rotated.

• Tensor Fascial Latae is at great mechanical advantage, when the hip if flexed and medially rotated.
• Gluteus Medius and Minimus favor the medial rotation.
• Pectineus and adductors want to help, but be completely or partially negated by abduction, if the is on the side as opposed to being in front.
• Other hip flexors favor the lateral rotation, so they will be negated with increased internal rotation of the femur.
On the landing leg, the Quadriceps and Calf will absorb the brunt of impact.
• Medial and Lateral Rotators will work to stabilize the hip.
• If the torso falls slightly forward, Gluteus Maximus and Hamstrings will fire to keep it in check. This usually happen with very internally rotated kicking leg.
On the other hand if the kicking leg recovers into front kick position, the torso may fall back slightly(shoulder behind the hips) and hip flexors combined with adductors will keep it in check.
Muscles of the core will mimic the position of the torso and fire in chain with the lower body.
For example:
• Spinal extensors and quadratus lumborum will contract with glutes and hamstrings if shoulder move in front of the hips.
• If the shoulder moves too much back, abdominals and obliques will activate.
• Right sided core muscles will contract, if the right hip is raised and an attempt is made to keep the torso vertical.

Paul Zaichok IDAUTHOR: Paul Zaichik is the founder of the Elastic Steel method of Athletic conditioning. With an interest in Martial Arts from early childhood Paul during his Martial Art training realized that many advanced students could barely kick to the head level. He had begun to experiment in this area. As a result Paul transformed many Eastern European Stretching and Gymnastic techniques to meet the needs of the modern martial artists. More and more students were practicing Paul’s techniques, acquiring great strength and flexibility in return. As a certified Exercise and Nutrition instructor Paul has been able to develop over the years many effective techniques that became to be known as ElasticSteel.

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Anatomy of the Twisting Kick

Twist Kick, is called Bituro Chagi in Korean Martial Arts. Has lately been used by many non-Korean martial arts styles including various Kungfu, Karate and Mixed Styles.

The twist kick lands it’s effectiveness to surprise. It’s attack comes from an unexpected direction from the opposite side of the round house. If performed as a stationary kick, it derives it’s power mainly from the extension of the knee and thus strength of the quadriceps. Biomechanics of the kick, make the hip action a rather difficult accelerator. In other words the pelvic momentum is rather difficult to generate, in order to transfer it into the knee. It’s possibly, but more challenging than the roundhouse kick or front kick for example. Using full mass of the body, as opposed to just the pelvic whip, is a much more effective method of generating force. However that is a biomechanic model of the kick and we will leave it to the next article. Today’s article focuses on the kinesiological model of the kick. In this article we will discuss the muscles that contact and lengthen to make the correct Twist Kick possible. There are 3 phases to the kick. Phase one and phase three are similar.

Phase One – Chambering the Kick or Folding of the Kick
The kicking hip and knee flexes. There are some stylistic as well as individual variations in this face. Some styles and/or practitioners will lift the knee with a vertical shin. Others will already begin the turnout at the hip. Some will face the opponent squared, other will turn partially. The kicking foot may already expose the ball of the foot or instep, or the sticking point may form as the foot moves toward the target.

In general all the hip flexors will participate in lifting the knee straight up. Rectus Femoris will be negated by contraction of the hamstrings to flex the knee.

If the hip will already turnout at the folding of the kick, muscle behavior will change. Sartorius who favors the lateral rotation will take on greater role. Muscles that favor the medial rotation, will take on a lesser role. Those are all adductors, and Tensor Fascial Latae. They will still participate, but to a lesser degree. Two deep and powerful hip flexors: Psoas and Illiacus, favor the flexion of the hip and medial rotation, will contract full force.

Quadriceps Vastii (3 Short Heads of Quadriceps) will stretch in preparation for a kick, as they are the deliverer of the force. Gluteus Maximus, Ischial Fibers of Adductor Magnus and Piriformis will lengthen as well.
In the standing leg quadriceps will contract to keep the partially flexed knee from collapsing. Calf will contract as the knee moves over the toes. The center of gravity will shift left, over the left foot. This will activate the gluteal group to check the adduction of the supporting leg. Gluteus Maximus will also work to stop further hip flexion. If the torso leans back, the hip flexor and anterior core muscles will fire. Unless the right hip flexors are very strong, chances are the posterior pelvic till will be initiated to lift the kicking leg higher.

Phase Two
Phase Two can be looked at as a demonstration of form or power and reach. From the form point of view, the knee extends. From the power and reach point of view the pelvis is shifted and torso leans away. This allows the kick to travel the furthest, both toward the target and into the target, as not to be pulled back too early.
The extension of the knee is carried out by the quadriceps as mentioned earlier. While this is a strong muscle, it’s contracting force alone is not enough to generate significant damage. To do that, the quads must be a last link in a well executed force generating chain. If the kick is slowed down various hip flexors and adductor will work to hold the hip in the right position.

Sartorius will be negated partially by the extension of the knee, as it is a flexor of the knee. All adductors will assist by “won’t be happy” by lateral rotation. In addition Gracilis will be partially negated by knee extension. Distal attachment or Sartorius and even Gracilis is particularly vulnerable to injury, if the kick is not properly prepared. Due to the tendency to rotate out at knee and not at the hip, most kickers will rely heavily on insertions of these muscles and medial hamstrings to decelerate the kick. This happens because the just named muscles will not only prevent the knee hyper extension, but also hyper lateral rotation. Having flexible medial rotators of the hip and strong flexors/lateral rotators will protect from this type of injury. Later being the Psoas and Illiacus.

The muscles working on the supporting leg are virtually the same as for phase one. Of course core and flexors and adductors may engage more, with an attempt to either reach further with the kick or if the hamstrings are not flexible enough and pelvis must tilt to compensate.

Finally the muscles lengthening on the kicking leg will still be the same with an addition of the hamstrings. Later will be stretched due to extended knee. Tibialis anterior will be stretched to plantar flex the ankle, if the point of impact is the instep. Flexor of the toes will lengthen if the ball of the foot is the point of impact.

Want to master a twist kick? There is a special program for it. Get it here:

Paul Zaichok IDAUTHOR: Paul Zaichik is the founder of the Elastic Steel method of Athletic conditioning. With an interest in Martial Arts from early childhood Paul during his Martial Art training realized that many advanced students could barely kick to the head level. He had begun to experiment in this area. As a result Paul transformed many Eastern European Stretching and Gymnastic techniques to meet the needs of the modern martial artists. More and more students were practicing Paul’s techniques, acquiring great strength and flexibility in return. As a certified Exercise and Nutrition instructor Paul has been able to develop over the years many effective techniques that became to be known as ElasticSteel.

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Anatomy of the Axe kick

Today we are going to learn the kinesiology of an Axe kick. This kick can be thrown with a rear leg or the front leg. The Axe kick comes down on the target in it’s basic form. While looks like a simple kick, it has many variations. It can come from inside out or outside. Thrown at angles, with open or square hips. Some styles prefer a specific variation of the kick, as do individual practitioners. Flexibility of the kicker, height, preferred fighting distance, other techniques in the arsenal are some of the factors which will decide, how your Axe is thrown.
In this article a rear, right leg Axe kick is analyzed, front a Orthodox Stance.

Phase One – Preparation for the Kick.
The legs are bent and the center of gravity drops. The Quadriceps are primary muscles that take the pressure. Rear leg Calf is activated. The torso rotate to the left. Right external and left internal Obliques perform this rotation. Right Gluteus Maximus, assisted by the Quads, Hamstrings and Calf push the body forward.

As the mass of the body is thrust forward, rear Hip Flexors and Adductors lengthen. Right internal and left external Obliques stretch due to rotation. This rotation will be used to lunch the right hip forward.

Phase Two – Approaching the Target
Right leg is raised over the target. Left hip is turned out. The torso can either be sideways or squared to the target. Right Hip Flexors and Adductors flex the hip, while the Auadriceps keep the knee extended. Slightly flexed supporting leg calls for the tension in Quadriceps and Calf. Gluteal Group may also fire, especially if the pelvis is tilted laterally to allow the right side of the pelvis to rise.

Right Hamstrings will bear the brunt of the stretch. While Gluteus Maximus and Extensors Part of the Adductor Magnus will also lengthen. Depending on the torso position, other muscles may also lengthen. For example Piriformis stretches if the torso is squared to the kicking leg or other Adductors, besides Magnus if the kicking leg is on the side of the body. Adductors of the standing leg will be stretched, and even more so if the femur is turned out.

Phase Three – Striking The Target
Hamstrings will be the primary muscle to execute the kick. It works both as the extensor of the hip and as the flexor of the knee or at least as the stabilizer of the knee against hyper extension. Adductor Magnus and Even Adductor Longus are also well positioned to drive the leg down. Gluteus Maximus however is not in the best position. While it’s a very powerful extensor of the hip, at such high degree of flexion, it’s not a major player. There is a way to improve power in the kick and perhaps recruit more muscles in their primary ranges. To do this, one must lean back during the last phase of the kick. This puts muscles into more advantageous positions to pull and at the same time drives the center of gravity forward. This also increases the reach of the kick.

Leaning back engages the flexors of the core. Obliques, Rectus Abdominis and Psoas Minor. At the same time the Hip flexors and upper Adductors of the supporting leg get engaged. The amount of participation in relation to each other (Hip Flexors vs Adductors) will depend on the degree of the supporting leg turn out. More turn out will involve the Adductors more. Less turnout will involve the Hip Flexors more.

Paul Zaichok IDAUTHOR: Paul Zaichik is the founder of the Elastic Steel method of Athletic conditioning. With an interest in Martial Arts from early childhood Paul during his Martial Art training realized that many advanced students could barely kick to the head level. He had begun to experiment in this area. As a result Paul transformed many Eastern European Stretching and Gymnastic techniques to meet the needs of the modern martial artists. More and more students were practicing Paul’s techniques, acquiring great strength and flexibility in return. As a certified Exercise and Nutrition instructor Paul has been able to develop over the years many effective techniques that became to be known as ElasticSteel.

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Anatomy of the Spinning Hook Kick

I have been asked for a long time to do anatomy of various kicks. Most precise it’s the kinesiology of the kicks.
Today is Spinning Hook Kick or Reverse Hook Kick. This kick relies on the rotation force of the body. There are many variations to this kick and while kinesiology would be almost the same, the biomechanics would be different. For those who don’t know the difference between the two disciplines; In short Kinesiology is which muscles are used during various phases of the kick, and biomechanics is the “physics” of human movement. With focus on the calculations of variable such as distance, acceleration, torque, center of mass, base of support, etc.
To understand how biomechanics would be different, we can take a look at two people both throwing the same kick. If one is leaning away more than the other, in terms of the torso the same muscles would be holding up the body (Oblques, Abdominals, Quadratus Lumborum, Paraspinals). So a person who’s torso is more upright is using the same muscles to the person who’s torso more leaned over. However there is a difference in center of mass to base of support relation, torque, etc. So biomechanics are different. And this is same technique, but different level of strength and/or flexibility.
Even if two people have the same strength/flexibility level, they may choose to throw the kick differently. Perhaps due to distance to the their opponent, the set up for follow up technique, amount of power needed, etc. So not every kick will look exactly the same.
In this lesson a “standard” Spinning Hook Kick Is Broken Down.
Phase One
The torso rotates and kicking leg is lifted into the chamber. Right Leg Kick is analyzed. Hip flexors of the right leg lift the femur up. Adductors also flex the hip. Hamstrings with the assistance of Sartorius, Gracilis, Popliteus and Gastrocnemius flex the knee. Gluteus Maximus, and hamstrings keep the left hip in extension, giving just a little bit to drop the center of mass. Quadriceps Vastii (3 Short Heads of Quadriceps) contract to keep the knee in extended position, with a slight give. Calve contracts on the left leg. Left abductors are activated because the center of mass shifts to the left to compensate to left leg support. The torso rotate to the right. Left external obliques rotate to the opposite side. Right internal obliques rotate to the same side. Right Quadratus Lumborum assist in right pelvic hike. There are also many things happening in the upper spine and upper body, but we’ll focus on the lower body and core.
Phase Two
In this phase the leg extends and prepares to flex quickly catching the target in the path of the foot. Some kickers will let the torso spin just a split second ahead of the kick and some will allow the right shoulder and right food to pass at the same time.
The right leg now extends with quadriceps doing the extension. Abductors hold the weight of the leg. They are Gluteus Medius, Minimus, Upper Fibers of Maximus, and Tensor Fascia Latae. All the core muscles on the right side of the body now contract to keep the torso vertical. They are abdominals, obliques, quadratus lumborum and perispinals. Iliopsoas also engage. Left hamstrings contract while lengthening to allow the right side of the pelvis to come up and make job of the abductors easier. The abductors and adductors of the left leg balance out each other depending on where the pelvis is in relation to the supporting leg at any given moment. Left vastii contract, if the supporting leg is flexed. Right adductors and pectineus lengthen to allow the leg to come up. Right hamstrings lengthen, more so if the is not in line with the kick, but precedes it.
Phase Three
This is the phase where the impact happens. Flexors of the knee contact hard. The flexion of the knee may happen to various degree, but the muscles that decrease the joint angle participate. This is primarily hamstrings. Depending on the position of the ankle, gastrocnemius may assist. The gluteus maximus keeps the right hip in extension. The left hamstrings may lengthen even more under tension to shift the pelvis in the direction of the kick. Left glutes and deep 6 external rotators may contract to help the external rotation of the supporting hip, if the supporting foot is planted. The abductors still keep the leg up and adductors still are relaxed not to inhibit the abductors. The muscles of the core may have exactly the same participation as in Phase Two. The exception is if the kicker forcefully counter rotates the torso to the left. In this case the right external obliques will engage and left internal obliques will engage. Of course the quadriceps will lengthen to allow the hamstrings to fire full force. If the toes are pointed, the calve will also engage.

Paul Zaichok IDAUTHOR: Paul Zaichik is the founder of the Elastic Steel method of Athletic conditioning. With an interest in Martial Arts from early childhood Paul during his Martial Art training realized that many advanced students could barely kick to the head level. He had begun to experiment in this area. As a result Paul transformed many Eastern European Stretching and Gymnastic techniques to meet the needs of the modern martial artists. More and more students were practicing Paul’s techniques, acquiring great strength and flexibility in return. As a certified Exercise and Nutrition instructor Paul has been able to develop over the years many effective techniques that became to be known as ElasticSteel.

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Causes of Outer Hip Pain During Kicks?

Outside of the hip pain is rather common in kickers. While any kick can contribute to this pain, the mechanism of injury form front line kicks are most common. (Front Line Kicks are Front Kick, Axe Kick, Crescent Kicks, etc)

This is most applicable to kickers who throw the front line kicks “one the side of the body” or with a turn out of the supporting leg. Regular treatment, such as massage, pressure release, heat/cold and rest, provide only temporary relive.

The reason for this is because the cause of the pain in the opposite muscles and in the opposite leg. When a Front Line Kick is thrown and the muscles are not flexible enough, the hip will rise and pelvic will tilt to shorten the muscles from their origin and allow the insertion of the muscles to travel further. This pelvic hike or tilt causes two things to happen.

1. Contraction of the abductors. 2. Jamming of the greater Trochanter into the pelvic. Just one of those can cause pain and injury.

The way to solve this issue is to develop greater range of motion in the muscles that pull the kicking leg down. In case of the front line kicks, it’s the Lower Adductors, Hamstrings, and Lower Glutes. It also helps to strengthen the hip flexors to allow the kick to rise higher without laterally tilting the pelvic also helps.

Side Note: Throwing front kicks in front of the body without the supporting leg turnout, can eliminate the pain. However, part of the reach will be lost. At the same time, a lot more flexibility from the lateral hamstrings (biceps femoris) will be required. This outside part of the hamstrings is usually tighter than it’s inner part in most people.

Paul Zaichok IDAUTHOR: Paul Zaichik is the founder of the Elastic Steel method of Athletic conditioning. With an interest in Martial Arts from early childhood Paul during his Martial Art training realized that many advanced students could barely kick to the head level. He had begun to experiment in this area. As a result Paul transformed many Eastern European Stretching and Gymnastic techniques to meet the needs of the modern martial artists. More and more students were practicing Paul’s techniques, acquiring great strength and flexibility in return. As a certified Exercise and Nutrition instructor Paul has been able to develop over the years many effective techniques that became to be known as ElasticSteel.

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The Best Sport for Autism and Other Mental Disabilities

Diagnosed with shingles days after I had won first place at the 2013 USA National Taekwondo Competition (1), I, at the peak of my athleticism, was forced to let go of everything I had trained for since the age of five. For three months, I could not train at the dojo or at home because I was bed-ridden and contagious. After a long summer of recovery, I was able to train again, but I quickly realized that I would never be able to fully regain cardiovascular and respiratory capabilities with time.
This illness helped me appreciate taekwondo beyond the glamorous gold medals. Shingles led me to a route that has fulfilled me in a way I had not anticipated – sharing my skills to help the mentally disabled in my community.

A few days after being informed that students at an institution for the mentally disabled suffered with obesity and other health issues, my sister and I started a taekwondo program. Our class was the first organized athletic program at the institution, American Wheat Mission, but I initially did not care much for it. I was focused on training to return to competing at the highest level as soon as I could, and I agreed to teach the students at the institution once a week only because I wanted to be a good citizen. I thought leading a class couldn’t be too hard, given the experience under my belt, my taekwondo belt, that is. However, I quickly realized that teaching 20 students with mental disabilities and their assigned aides would be no small feat. The students ranged from age 7 to 30, some even over twice my age at the time, and when I first stepped into the room to greet my new class, even introducing myself was a challenge. One student was jumping, another was yelling, another running, the list goes on.

After my sister left for college, I singlehandedly directed the class that had grown to 30 students. In the beginning, I was convinced that the students would not be able to master basic motions. Most of the students were inattentive to basic instructions because of their extreme placement on the autism spectrum, and the rest of the students refused to engage as a result of their Down syndrome. The few individuals who did try could not manage even lifting one leg without falling. Their strongest attempt to break a board was knocking it as if it were a door. However, I refused to give up. I started an additional intensive class, and I spent time outside of class planning long-term goals tailored to each student, choreographing creative taekwondances, and preparing class curricula. And the students did, in fact, improve. Now, in my intensive class, every student completes each stretch, drill, and activity. They maintain silence during meditation and can perform 50 consecutive kicks at waist height. They have perfected both the hammerpunch and the elbow strike to the extent that they can break boards without my assistance. I was not the only one pleasantly surprised by the students’ progress; the students themselves and their parents were astounded by the improvement.

While I was overjoyed to see my students reap benefits from practicing taekwondo, I did not realize until this year that taekwondo specifically is one of the best sports for those with mental disabilities. Contrary to popular belief, only 58 of every 1000 taekwondo students suffer a serious injury, and there is no statistical correlation between martial arts and violence. Surprisingly enough, I found that taekwondo is not only one of the best sports, but one of the best activities for comprehensive improvement in individuals with cognitive impairments.

Neurologists, psychologists and other medical professionals highly recommend taekwondo for autistic children’s healthy lifestyle choices that lead to psychological and physical development. Sports such as taekwondo, as Dr. Fred Volkmar, head of the Yale Child Study Center, puts it, “are very ritualized and predictable, so those sports are good for kids with autism.” Autistic children exhibit behaviors where the same word, phrase or movement is repeated in an almost obsessive pattern, so one might initially think that a child on the autism spectrum should avoid doing repetitive physical skill training, such as taekwondo, and yet scientific studies increasingly prove otherwise, as repetitive practice is the foundation of skilled learning, especially for taekwondo.

The focus demanded from taekwondo can be especially helpful as a supplemental activity for children with autism. According to Erin Carson, a writer for the Livestrong Foundation, martial arts “can turn on a child’s attention system – consisting of the cerebellum, frontal cortex and limbic system – which can affect the parts of the brain responsible for sequencing, prioritizing, working memory and sustaining attention.” Furthermore, exercise increases the brain’s dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. “These chemicals in the brain positively affect the attention system’s ability to stay regular and consistent, which can increase alertness.”

Through taekwondo, the mind develops fundamental habits such as self-discipline. By controlling the autonomic nervous system (fight or rest) while staying in tune with emotions, one also develops willpower. This discipline enables the athlete to not only persist through strenuous training, but also train him/herself in character and performance on and off the training mat. Not to mention, it builds a habit in setting and meeting goals; taekwondo requires memorization of specific forms, and belt promotion is earned by correctly executing the form. In addition, the intense dedication one must exhibit for proficient results in taekwondo builds concentration. In practicing taekwondo, students train their brain to focus, a skill that benefits in learning in other disciplines. Other mental benefits include improved memory capacity, enhanced cognitive functions such as determining right from left, and a heightened self-esteem. Since the structure of taekwondo is based on measurable goals such as breaking boards, winning matches, and being promoted in belt, students have specific figures to point to when taking pride in their feats.JO_16_0129-149-2587

The brain is not the only muscle exercised, as taekwondo also offers various physical benefits. Young people with autism have been statistically prone to obesity. As of 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that autistic children are two times more likely to be obese than children without autism, and approximately 32% of autistic children are “severely overweight.” Taekwondo is one of the most efficient sports to tackle weight problems, labeled the “best martial arts for weight loss.” The Federal Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion listed the sport as a rigorous activity, and it is one of the top calorie burning cardiovascular workouts. A person of 160 pounds typically burns 752 calories in 60 minutes of training in taekwondo. For a comparative analysis, a person of 160 pounds typically burns 292 calories in 60 minutes of playing volleyball. Taekwondo is especially fitting for autistic children; the CDC reported differences in weight in those with autism than in those without as early as in ages two to five years, and taekwondo is a sport than can and usually is practiced from a young age. Before taught and pressured about health and exercise, children become familiar with an enjoyable schedule that includes beneficial.

A second physical benefit of taekwondo is its ability to alleviate sleep problems, which are reportedly as high as 80% in autistic children. Recent research demonstrates that poor autistic sleepers exhibit more problematic behavior than good sleepers, as sleep problems and insufficient sleep can result in daytime sleepiness, learning problems and behavioral issues such as hyperactivity, inattentiveness and aggression. The most common sleep problems in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are difficulty falling asleep and repeated awakenings during the night. Professionals such as Dr. Paul Loprinzi and Dr. Bradley J. Cardinal in addition to other sources of mounting scientific evidence conclude that the more people exercise, the more people sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day. Not to mention, according to Dr. Michael J. Breus, a Clinical Psychologist and a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine, exercise also helps keep body clocks in line with sleep and wake times.

A third physical benefit of taekwondo is the development of important physical habits. Taekwondo nurtures good posture. Today, 3 in every 100 people have scoliosis, including those already diagnosed with mental disabilities. Taekwondo nurtures good posture since every stance and motion requires a straight back. Taekwondo also fosters full and healthy use of the lungs. During a period of meditation, students teach themselves to breathe deeply, allowing oxygen to fill the lower and middle parts of the lungs. During fast-paced drills, students learn to breathe quickly, allowing oxygen to fill the upper portion of the lungs. In taekwondo, breathing engages all parts of the lungs. Though unnoticed, “the way one breathes,” reports Jamie Licauco, writer for Inquirer Lifestyle, “can have either a salutary or deleterious effect on one’s health and well-being.”

A fourth benefit of taekwondo is the development of numerous skills. There are three main events in taekwondo: sparring, form, and breaking. Since most dojangs, institutions where taekwondo is practiced, have inclusive curriculums including all three events, taekwondo enhances a variety of physical skills in trainees, stretching the body’s capabilities in speed, accuracy, strength, flexibility and coordination. Sparring students develop agility and sharp reflexes, quickly evading and countering a kick. Form students develop accuracy and balance, refining their technique by performing choreographed routines. Breaking students develop strength and timing, breaking wooden boards of varying thickness and in different ways. All taekwondo students develop flexibility and coordination.

Autism is becoming increasingly prevalent. According to estimates from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network of Centers of Disease Control (CDC) 2014 report, the number of children identified with ASD varied widely by community, from 1 in 175 children in areas of Alabama to 1 in 45 children in areas of New Jersey. Nevertheless, in the same report, 1 in 68 children in America was identified with ASD. This new estimate is roughly 30% higher than the estimate for 2008 (1 in 88), 60% higher than the estimate for 2006 (1 in 110), and 120% higher than the estimates for 2000 and 2002 (1 in 150). Taekwondo dojangs have also become more ubiquitous and hence more accessible to this increasing population. For those interested in competing, taekwondo is also emerging like no other sport, as one of the two martial arts hosted in the Olympics and in the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. Whether students train for fun or train to compete, taekwondo’s nature of mutual teamwork and individuality is perfect for autistic students, for students train together and build each other yet perform independently.
My four students who have recently passed their first promotion test to white-yellow belt are working everyday to tie the belt, which represents taekwondo’s central motive. The inner layer of the belt around the waist is representative of the human inner mind, the outer layer is representative of the human physical body, and the tying the two forms a diamond-shaped knot; the balanced collaboration of the mind and body creates a strong and indestructible human like the diamond, an unbreakable crystal. By unifying the mind and body, taekwondo offers both psychological and physical benefits.

(1) Taekwondo is professionally spelt as one word, but the term is also informally spelt as tae kwon do.
(2) Pieter, W. “Injury Rates in Children Participating in Taekwondo Competition.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. July 1, 1997.
(3) Goehner, Amy Lennard. “What to Ask About Autism.” New York Times. April 13, 2011.
(4) Carson, Erin. “How Does Karate Help Kids With ADHD?” LIVESTRONG.COM. August 16, 2013.
(5) Harle, Wade. “Taekwondo Speed Training.” LIVESTRONG.COM. October 21, 2013.
(6) Lakes, Kimberley D., and William T. Hoyt. “Promoting Self-regulation Through School-based Martial Arts Training.” Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 25, no. 3, 283-302.
(7) “Key Findings: Prevalence and Impact of Unhealthy Weight in a National Sample of US Adolescents with Autism and Other Learning and Behavioral Disorders.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. October 18, 2014.
(8) Wayne, Jake. “The Best Martial Arts for Weight Loss.” LIVESTRONG.COM. January 30, 2014.
(9) Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “Be Active Your Way: A Fact Sheet for Adults.” Be Active Your Way: A Fact Sheet for Adults. November 6, 2014.
(10) Dunham, Deborah. “What Cardio Workout Burns the Most Calories?” LIVESTRONG.COM. October 21, 2013.
(11) Mayo Clinic Staff. “Weight Loss.” Exercise for Weight Loss: Calories Burned in 1 Hour. December 1, 2011.
(12) Lamm, Carin. “Sleep and the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).” Autism Speaks. N.d.
(13) Loprinzi, Paul D., and Bradley J. Cardinal. “Association between Objectively-measured Physical Activity and Sleep, NHANES 2005-2006.” Mental Health and Physical Activity. 2011.
(14) Breus, Michael J. “Does Your Teen Sleep Like a Zombie? There’s a Reason for That.” Huffington Post. December 1, 2012.
(15) Shah, Suken. “Scoliosis.” KidsHealth – the Web’s Most Visited Site about Children’s Health. January 1, 2013.
(16) Licauco, Jamie. “Is There a Healthy Way of Breathing?” Inquirer Lifestyle. October 14, 2014.
(17) Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. 2014.

Christina Cho Profile1 pic Christina H. Cho is a certified fourth degree black belt master by Kukkiwon with twelve years of experience. Since 2006, she has been top-ranked at the USA Taekwondo New York State Championship and the USA Taekwondo New Jersey State Championship in events including individual poomsae, partner poomsae, team poomsae, breaking, and sparring. At the 2013 USA National Taekwondo Championship, she won first place in female partner poomsae and fourth place in individual breaking. She has been an authorized referee for the Pan American Taekwondo Association since 2010, the youngest member of the Tri-State Officials Certified Taekwondo Referees Corp since 2013, and the master of the taekwondo program for students with mental disabilities at The American Wheat Mission since 2013.

Christina thanks her family for their unconditional love and support in her taekwondo journey as well as her adviser Ms. Stanford for her help in writing this article.

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Life Patterns and Flexibility

Life Patterns and FlexibilityEvery day we are faced with challenges of routine, whether it is creating a routine, maintaining a routine, or changing a routine. More often than not, these happen without intervention, and the results present themselves whether you designed them or not.

The Morning Routine

The day breaks either at whatever time your body clock is set, or the time of your alarm clock. The latter is not ideal because it is an unnatural rising and you’re off into a forced routine. The trouble with this is that you will undoubtedly feel stiff, and your day starts with a ‘forced’ movement, and muscles can stiffen accordingly.

I was on this path for a long, long time, and never considered myself a ‘morning person’ – and always battled with normal, every-day flexibility when starting my day.

The solution: I decided to buy a “Lumie” alarm clock. This was designed to wake you up without noise, without sudden rising, and mimics ‘real light’ to gradually wake you up. The result? By naturally waking up, your body automatically adjusts over 20-30 minutes without you having to do anything at all; the result being you reduce and even remove the standard stiffness you can feel in the morning. Check the light out here:
Lumie Bodyclock ACTIVE 250 Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock with Extra Audio Options

Once you’re up, you must, must, have a quick morning stretching routine, to get the muscles moving, blood flowing, and generally loosen up. If you don’t do this on a daily basis, or even miss a few days, you perpetuate a stiffness that will lock up your joints, muscles, and hamper any of your sporting and martial arts. My morning routine consists of me pressing myself against the skirting board (!) to push my legs wider and gain myself that bit of leverage. It doesn’t take long before I’m pressed fully against the wall and have full flexibility once more.

All Sit Down?

We’ve all seen the evolutionary picture of ending up crouched over a computer desk, typing away with a hunched back. This is, unfortunately, extremely common and very true. The truth of the matter is, we are more certainly not designed to sit in a chair. Chairs are destructive to our mobility, flexibility, and our overall posture. If you are sitting in a chair, set yourself a simple timer for 15 minutes every day to ensure you get up out of your chair, move about, loosen up, and stop those joints from stiffening up. If you ca, get a standing desk – they will increase your productivity, improve your muscle tone, even burn more calories, but most important they will stop your spine from becoming compressed and causing disc and sciatic injuries.

If you are already in the unfortunate position of having back pain, please check out these videos for relieving sciatic nerve pain.

Beware the Slow Tense

Regardless whether you are in a chair, standing, leaning, kneeling etc. Be very conscious of your body and its positions. Again perhaps use a timer such as a “ring timer” (see below) to force you to check every 5-10 minutes until you make it a habit. What you’re checking for is any constant tension in the shoulders, arms, elbows, buttocks and particularly lower back. Modern day work demands hours and hours of constant work and tension, which too often results in over-tightness of particular areas, which in turn leads to over-compromised positions, disrupting your natural posture. These are very difficult to break unless you pay particular attention to it.

Check out a round-timer to force yourself to check every few minutes for it:
Boxing training round interval timer. Perfect for Boxing MMA Interval Tabata Training Kettlebells by Athlete Technologies

Stretching Before Sleep

Just as you should stretch when you wake up, it is equally important that you stretch yourself out before going to sleep. This will ensure that any tensions you have picked up throughout the day will not stiffen further overnight, and cause the typical and all-too-familiar trapped nerve sensations and full-body stiffness syndrome of the morning.


These routines are not exercise, they are not training, they should be part of every day of your life, and are indeed mandatory in many Japanese companies, where they have the best employee health and fitness ratios in the world.

You need to concentrate on them and do them mindfully, otherwise naturally bad patterns will creep into your life and compromise your body, flexibility and fitness.

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Front Split Variations in the (Turned out or Open) Front Split

Open Front Split may not be as pretty as a Squared Front Split or a Side Split, but it sure gets work done.
Called by another name a Turned Out Front Split, is an important foundation for many disciplines such as Dance, Martial Arts, and Figure Skating. Various techniques in these and other sports and disciplines can benefit greatly from this Split.
However, an Open Front Split is really two splits. One resembling more of a Side Split and the other more of a True (Squared) Front Split.

Can you Spot the difference?
1. For example a dancer performing a penche actually finds herself in a something resembling a True Front Split, with a rear leg turned out.
2. While a martial artist is in a Side Split with one leg turned in.
1 vs 2
So what difference does this make? Well, in the two cases stated above different muscles are lengthened. Think about it. Having to turn a hip out vs having to turn the hip in. Further more, not only different muscles are lengthened, different muscles are contracted to move into and keep the position.
A dancer is lengthening the medial rotators (Adductors, Pectineus, TFL) and contracting the lateral rotators (Gluteus Maximus, Deep Six) . While a martial artist is lengthening lateral rotator of the hip (In the given position, Quadratus Femoris is under most stretch) and tensing medial rotators (Gluteus Medius and Minimus and Tensor Fascia Latae).
So while the two Open Front Splits look the same, they are not. This is evident by the fact that a Dancer’s side kick looking like Penche and Martial Artist Penche Looking Like a Side Kick on first attempt.
So while a True Front Split and Side Split look cool. It’s often the Open Front Split that get’s the work done. Depending on what you are doing of course…

Paul IDAUTHOR: Paul Zaichik is the founder of the Elastic Steel method of Athletic conditioning. With an interest in Martial Arts from early childhood Paul during his Martial Art training realized that many advanced students could barely kick to the head level. He had begun to experiment in this area. As a result Paul transformed many Eastern European Stretching and Gymnastic techniques to meet the needs of the modern martial artists. More and more students were practicing Paul’s techniques, acquiring great strength and flexibility in return. As a certified Exercise and Nutrition instructor Paul has been able to develop over the years many effective techniques that became to be known as ElasticSteel.

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Could this new electrical brain-zap method help you to obtain your Black Belt faster?

Martial Art training is an ongoing process that takes years to master your skills and finally earn your first black belt.  It is a constant repetition of movements, memorizing sequences and applying them at training with partners or alone. During such training your muscles, through constant repetition, “remember” correct trajectories of the movements/techniques and after X thousands of repetitions you can perform them almost subconsciously and finally attempt your black belt test.

However, what would happen if there was a way that your muscles could memorize movements faster? Or if one could learn and perfect techniques quicker? Could the length of the time required to learn and reach the black belt status be reduced?

The latest research

The answer to some of these questions might be found in the research headed by Dr Shapour Jaberzadeh and his group at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.  The research was described in a paper published on the 15th of July 2015 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

In the article the researchers discuss a new noninvasive technique that could rev up your brain to improve your physical performance — for athletes and musicians, for instance — and might also improve treatments for brain-related conditions such as stroke, depression, and chronic pain.

Introducing transcranial pulsed current stimulation (brain-zap method)

The newest method, called transcranial pulsed current stimulation (tPCS), increases more corticospinal (muscle-movement-related) excitability, according to the researchers who discovered that this new treatment produced larger excitability changes in the brain. When a task is being learned during movement training (for example learning a new Martial Art technique, pattern or even playing the piano) gradually the performance gets better. This improvement coincides with enhancement of the brain excitability. This novel technique can play an important role in enhancement of the brain excitability, which may help recipients learn new tasks faster. At this stage it is difficult to tell how much acceleration can be achieved and more research is needed but increasing the length of the impulse and decreasing the time interval between pulses heightened excitability even further.

tPCS is a new, non-invasive neuromodulatory technique. It is safe and easily applicable. Participants seat upright and comfortable with their head and neck supported by a headrest. A pair of saline-soaked surface sponge electrodes are attached and the treatment proceeds for 10, 20 or 30 minutes. The next step in the research is to investigate the underlying mechanisms for the efficacy of this new technique. This will enable to develop more effective protocols for application of tPCS in individuals that desire to improve the locomotion ability or patients with different pathological conditions.


Obviously there are some gifted individuals that require less time to master a movement and, they undergo the same rank testing time criteria as applied to everybody. On the other hand, the physical performance for a successful Black Belt testing is one of the aspects and the time designated to achieve appropriate maturity while training is also very important and should be properly estimated. Otherwise, we will end up with very young, imprudent and skillful technically grandmasters for whom the 1-9/10 Dan scale will not be high enough. More research is needed in this area to properly assess the maturity of Martial artists that make them eligible to become responsible and humble grandmaster with charisma.

The author would like to thank Master Steve Weston from Australia for the revision of the article

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