I’m not going to lie. In a real fight, Taekwondo can be really hard to use. Like, seriously hard.

Now, hold on! Put that pitch fork down for a second and hear me out.

Taekwondo has a lot of sexy kicks. But that sexiness involves lots of jumping and spinning. Both of those variables make a move way, way more risky to try…and even harder to land.

These moves put you off balance. And if they don’t land, they will leave you quite vulnerable.

You’re more likely to end up on your rear end using one of those moves than you are knocking out an attacker.

“How the heck am I supposed to use Taekwondo to defend myself, then?”

By now you’re probably nodding your head. You know this dilemma. Flashy kicks are cool but they are rarely reliable when it really counts. You know this because you try them in sparring all the time.

And if you spar, you’ll know that the advice I’m about to give you is true.

So listen up. Taekwondo can be an effective self-defense art. But if your instructor isn’t keeping you grounded, then you have to make it work for you.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Stick to the Basics. It might surprise you that the most basic kicks and punches are the biggest scorers in Taekwondo matches. The basics are also the safest, most effective techniques to use when defending yourself in real life. You don’t need a good 360 hook kick.You need a good back leg round kick. So what are the basics? Great question, click here to learn more about them.

2. Preempt and/or Overwhelm. Your opponent, that is. When you know the guy is going to hurt you in the next couple seconds, strike first and strike hard. That’s called preempting. And as long as you have good reasons for doing it (like legitimately fearing for your well being), you should be justified legally.

But if you don’t have the luxury of a preemptive strike, put the gas on and go 100% with aggression. The idea is to swarm and overwhelm the opponent.

3. Be Explosive. This goes hand in hand with point 2. Train yourself to make quick, powerful, efficient, dedicated strikes. This will go a long way to overwhelming your opponent, and doing so effectively. It also means you have potential one hit knockout power! Combine this ability with the simplest, most realistic moves, and your Taekwondo will become a piece of cake to apply to a real fight.

4. Use Quick & Dirty Takedowns. Judo throws are awesome — and they work. But only after hours and hours and hours of live training on just those throws. Taekwondo guys almost never have that kind of throw practice. Yet, knocking someone down is the best way to get control of them and finish a fight!

The solution is to stick with simple, high-percentage takedowns. I mean the nasty stuff from the Kukkiwon textbook, like the outside leg reap while shoving the throat!

5. Grab! Don’t float around in space relying on precise timing and accuracy when your life and safety are at stake. Grab hold of something! Then strike with the other arm! This is an effective strategy used by everyone from military personnel to old school karate guys. It works. Don’t fight “unattached.” Ever wonder why you pull your chamber hand back to the waist when you perform most blocks and strikes? You guessed it. You’re actually practicing a grab and pull to supplement your move.

6. Don’t Sit There & Slug it Out. Use your angles and footwork to gain a more advantageous position. Train your technique to perfection in live sparring. And don’t jump in and out like a ring match. Get the better angle and finish the fight as quick as possible. Otherwise, you might tire out. And then you’ll be in serious trouble.


So there it is. How to make Taekwondo work for you in a real fight. So if your instructor doesn’t emphasize these points, it’s on you to make sure you implement and practice them. Remember to stick to the basics, train yourself to be explosive, overwhelm the opponent, use quick & dirty takedowns to help control the opponent, grab the opponent when you strike him, and stay mindful of maintaining superior position and a mindset to finish the fight as quick as possible. Do this, do it well, and do it often.

Only then will Taekwondo training work for you!