How high do I have to kick?

April 25, 2024
Yat-Yee Chong

“Oh no, I can’t kick high.” I have heard this a few times from women I invite to class. It surprised me each time. Surely they sign their kids up for Kindergarten even when they can't read. After all, kids go to school to learn.

I don't have what it takes

And yet, 15 years ago, I thought something similar. When I signed my kids up for Tae Kwon Do, it never occurred to me that I could do so as well. Why?

I wasn’t flexible.

I was much too old. My sedentary body was much more accustomed to sitting down at the piano or read than to kick and fly

Tae Kwon Do students of all ages learning to kick more effectively

Fixed mindset much?

I have definitely bought into the thought that specific traits are essential to learning something new. If you don’t have them right now, you shouldn’t bother even starting.

According to that belief, if you

  • don’t have a sense of rhythm, don’t learn dance
  • can’t kick high, don’t learn martial arts
  • can’t run, don’t learn soccer. 

While there may be some merit in the idea of pursuing something in accordance to your strengths, I think this idea prevents too many of us from trying interesting pursuits because we think we don't "have what it takes."

Just because you don’t think you’re good at something, it doesn’t mean you shouldn't even start. Who knows, you may even discover hidden talents you didn't know you had.

So, about kicking high

The first time I heard "I can't join your classes because I can't kick high", I replied "Kick low, then!"

You see, this statement contains not one but two fallacies. The first is what we discussed above. The second is the false idea that kicking high is the goal for learning martial arts.

Perhaps this has to do with what we have seen in films and TV shows. When we see such amazing feats as kicking to someone's head, or doing the splits between two moving trucks and two airplanes* we are wowed. Indeed, it takes effort and determination to be able to kick like that. And sure, some people devote their training to do so.

When we consider the purpose of kicking, apart from the performance and self-challenge aspect, kicking high ranks much lower than kicking well.

If not being to kick high–or weak knees or a lack of stamina or stiff bones–is preventing you from trying Tae Kwon Do, let me assure you that it is not a problem at all. You will learn how to kick well: how to align your body, how to shift weight, how to balance. Over time, you’ll learn to kick effectively and isn’t that is a much better goal than kicking high?

Similarly, to address other concerns

  • if your knees hurt, we will work with you according to your health care provider’s guidelines. Being sedentary in general won’t make your knees better.
  • if you have no stamina, take breaks as you need and notice how you can last longer last as time goes by. Building stamina is not a fun process and it is much easier to stick to the habit when you have a group who is in similar situations and who will cheer you on. 
  • If you don’t have the flexibility, moving and stretching regularly will improve it.
  • If you don’t want to spar, there is still a lot you can do in Tae Kwon Do that is good for the body and the mind. 

Give it a try. Come to Axon to experience the shame- and comparison-free learning environment we cultivate. Whatever you age and the capabilities you bring, you will discover how much less stressful and how much more joyful learning on your own pace can be.

Who knows, we may even help you kick higher than you ever thought possible!

Adult martial arts students learning to kick better

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