BASICS [Building blocks of success]

The importance of being a beginner is often overlooked by a newcomer to Martial Arts. Some students cannot wait to race through the basic stances, blocks, punches and kicks etc to learn the more fancy techniques and combinations that exist in all arts. This is a great shame as one of the most rewarding times in a students training career is that of being a beginner.

Strong basics are the building blocks to success in Martial Arts and strong basics make a strong Black Belt.
Martial Arts training can become very repetitive and new students can quickly tire of the constant drilling in line with the basic techniques but unless these basics are understood then a student will struggle to progress correctly. Then the mistakes have to be undone and the whole process of learning has to start again. This is a waste of time {and energy} so extra time and patience in learning basics will reap dividends quicker. In this article I will cover what I believe to be the basics in Martial Arts, I teach I.T.F. based Taekwondo so the following is based on that style.


For a technique to be strong it needs a stable base.

The basic stances provide this base and they must be practised as a beginner.

Stances for patterns {Forms, Katas} are based on the dimension and weight ratios.

E.g. Walking Stance {forward stance}dimension, feet – one shoulder-width wide, one and a half shoulder widths long, front leg bent back, leg straight, front foot pointing forward, back foot pointing outwards, weight ratio 50/50, body weight in the center, back straight, good posture, make sure the knee of the front leg does not protrude over the toes as this will place unnecessary weight on the knee joint.

L stance or Back stance – same dimension as walking stance, front foot pointing forward, back foot pointing to the side, weight ratio 70/30 or 60/40 weight on the back leg (making sure the knee of the back leg does not protrude over the toes).

Step forward, without rising up, making sure that the front foot is anchored to the floor as if this foot moves forward it will only shorten the stance at the end.

Start by stepping forward once and then by stepping back keeping the back leg moving in a straight line and dropping into the stance between the steps. Once this seems easy and feels correct progress into two steps forward and two steps back. Do this with different stances making sure your postural alignment is correct at all times.

Good stances and stepping aid in making smooth transitions from one technique to the next so time spent in practice is essential if a student is to get on the right track.


There are many blocking and striking techniques in Taekwondo and most of the basic techniques that are covered at lower grade level all work on a pulling and pushing motion – one arm blocks or strikes, the other arm pulls back to the opposite hip. As a general rule whichever leg is at the front is the one that the block or strike will be over.

e.g. low block, right leg forward in walking stance right arm down over the right leg left hand on the left hip. Before stepping forward into the next move raise the right arm level with the shoulder, place the left hand onto the right shoulder. halfway through the step {left leg level with right leg }, the block is prepared as you step forward into the stance execute the block.

Use the procedure of straightening the lead arm level with the shoulder on all the basic blocks {low block middle block, outer block, and rising block} before moving into the next technique.


Breathing is another important factor overlooked by a beginner. Correct breathing control is a must if a student is to constantly repeat the required blocks punches and kicks that are part of any Taekwondo class or grading. We develop bad breathing patterns by taking short shallow breaths through the top of our chest instead of deep breaths up through the abdomen, before executing the technique breath in deep as the technique is delivered breathe out sharply, repeating the process on each repetition.

The key to power is proper technique and speed, and the key to speed is relaxation. New students tend to tense muscle groups at the wrong time causing one muscle to fight against another which will slow down and weaken the intended block or strike. as well as causing unnecessary fatigue. Shoulders and arms are to be relaxed as techniques are delivered only tightening at the end of the move, then relaxing again in preparation for the next one, taking care not to lockout at the elbow and hyperextend the joint causing injury.


Taekwondo is renowned for its kicking techniques, which range from the basic front, side and roundhouse {turning} kicks to the more spectacular jumping kicks.

As a beginner kicking high is not important as developing proper technique, some students go for height too soon which leads to loss of balance and weakens the kick. All kicks are at their most effective when thrown from waist height downwards. Kicking involves balance, leg chamber, arm and foot positioning. A newcomer to the Martial Arts would benefit from the practice of these before actually delivering a kick. Balance is essential if the kick is to be powerful, we lose 90% of our balance when we stand on one leg so to be able to kick effectively, practising chambering the leg into position is paramount before any kicks are thrown.

The front kick is used in practically all styles of Martial Art. It can be thrown off the front or back leg – practise the chamber position by first tucking up your lower leg and pointing the knee towards the target, toes pulled back as the striking part is the ball of the foot. When delivering the kick, thrust the hips forward as you push your lower leg out, keeping your arms close to your body, taking care not to lock out and place unnecessary stress on the knee joint.

Roundhouse kick {turning kick} works on basically the same principles as a front kick except the hips are turned sideways instead of facing forwards. Start by tucking your lower leg up, pointing your knee-high, keeping arms close to the body – then turn the foot of the supporting leg outwards (this will turn the hips onto the side). The striking part of the foot can be the top of the ball depending on the target. When turning the support leg rise onto the ball of the foot as this will minimise traction on the floor helping you to turn, but when applying the kick drop the heel down onto the floor to provide more stability.

Sidekick chamber lower leg pivot on support leg until knee of the kicking leg is facing side of the room, with the foot in sidekick position, arms close to the body.

  • Front Kick Chamber
  • Hips Facing Front
  • Roundhouse kick chamber
  • Hips turned side on knee-high
  • Sidekick chamber
  • Hips& knee side on

Time spent in practise of the leg chamber positions will improve balance – a must if a student is to develop powerful kicking techniques.

When kicking take care not to snap out at the knee joint as this will hyperextend the joint causing injury – kicking against pads can minimize the risk of injury.

Spending time on the fundamentals in Martial Arts will enable a student to train harder. Once basics are understood then progression will be made easier. Remember to train slowly at first as the body learns through movement and the correct movement patterns are what we are after – speed and height can be added later.

I hope this article has been of some use – I have tried to keep it as simple as possible. Different instructors have their own ways in the application of techniques, thatΒ’s fine, the advice above is just the way I train and teach my students.

Written by Jason Ainley North of England Schools of Taekwondo

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