Taekwondo can be roughly translated as "the way of fists and feet." While there are punches thrown in taekwondo matches, the style is almost exclusively devoted to the study and practice of kicking techniques. One of the most prevalent and effective kicks in this Korean martial art is the side kick, which can be devastating to an opponent if it is thrown with proper technique. The key to landing a fight-ending side kick lies in landing the strike with the blade or heel of the foot.
A side kick is only a real side kick if the practitioner emphasizes the blade or heel of the kicking foot. When the kick is fully extended, your leg should be straight out to your side, locked at the knee. Your ankle should be at a 45-degree angle with the blade of your foot pointing out. Your toes should be in line with your heel and pointed upward so the entire blade of your foot strikes at the same time. Pushing your heel out will allow you to get more power on your side kick.
Extending your kicking leg and landing with the correct part of the foot is only a piece of the puzzle when it comes to good side kick technique. To land the kick in a live situation, timing is of the utmost importance. You also need to pay attention to your plant foot and pivot as you extend your kicking leg to pack additional power into the blow. Lifting your knee up to waist level before you extend the kicking leg will ensure your foot, knee, glutes and hip are in line.
Since you want your leg straight and in line with your hips for a side kick, the head of your opponent isn't the best target to aim for. Instead, side kicks should be aimed for the ribs, solar plexus or waist line. Landing a side kick to these target areas will maximize the effect of the blow by moving your opponent back. A 2011 study on kick kinematics conducted by Jan Długosz University in Częstochowa, Poland found that experienced kickers were most effective when they lifted their kicking legs faster. The study also showed that a side kick is fastest and most powerful at 82 percent of its full extension.
Lifting your kicking leg before you extend the kick is known as a chamber. For a solid side kick, your knee must be at or above waist level in the chamber before you extend your kick. Ending your kick with your knee foot above knee level will reduce power. Don't allow your straightened kicking leg to drop to the mat lazily after throwing the strike; instead, re-chamber your kick and place it so you land in a balanced stance. Warm up and stretch liberally before practicing kicks to minimize your risk of injury.