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davy punch

Often enough in class, you may hear an instructor suggest that you hit the bag harder, but how can you achieve that?  Start doing leg presses?  Go for a run every day?  Protein supplements?

Not necessarily.

Especially for smaller students – including myself – the idea of having strong kicks may seem like a lofty and distant impossibility.  We simply don’t have as much muscle as some of the bigger students, how could we possibly kick as hard?  We may never be able to match raw muscle strength, however there are various ways to increase power while maximising the amount of strength available.

  1. Body positioning
    This is fairly crucial to many kicks, especially for turning kicks and side kicks.  Over and over again, students are told to pivot their non-kicking foot.  For turning kicks, this will allow the hips to line up with the target, allowing the foot to strike without having to be “thrown” as far by the leg, or without the leg having to reach for the target.  This means that more power can be committed to the kick itself rather than covering the gap between the leg and the target.  Similarly for side kicks, lining up the hips means that the leg can be thrust directly forwards to strike the bag, rather than the leg needing to be adjusted first.  Pivoting also allows a transfer of your body’s mass behind the kick, which leads to my second point.
  2. Using the rest of the body
    It would be logical to think that kicks use only the leg muscles, but this is not necessarily true.  For extra power in a turning kick, try generating force from the hips, using a good pivot to transfer it into the kicking leg.  Your ab and oblique muscles may come into play at this point, adding their strength to that of the quads and calves.  As always, a good pivot is vital, otherwise kicking in this manner may strain the non-kicking leg due to the increased twisting from having the hips driven behind the kick.  Using the hips can also increase power in front kicks.  Once the leg has been brought to the “chamber” position, drive the hips forward as the leg is extended.  This commits force from the rest of your body behind the kick.    For axe kicks, push kicks and inside crescent kicks, adding the strength of the upper body can have a noticeable effect on the power of the kick.  Leaning forwards slightly when throwing these kicks compels the weight of your body to “fall” behind the leg, allowing it to be “pushed” into the target with more force.  Bear in mind that this forward movement should not be too large, otherwise balance may be compromised.
  3. “Centre line”
    In the case of push kicks and axe kicks, power can be improved if the kick is thrown from as close to the middle of the body as possible.  A good guide for a push kick is to raise the knee to the sternum before releasing the kick, while for an axe kick to drop the leg just as it crosses in front of your chin/nose.  In both cases, try to keep the shoulders square on rather than having one dropped back behind the other.  Continuing from the previous point of using the rest of the body, once one shoulder drops back, it takes a fraction of the force away from the target.  With both shoulders square and directed at the target, the kicking leg will have extra force driving it.
  4. Staying grounded
    Of course, this doesn’t apply to jumping kicks, but with most basic kicks, a great deal of power can be generated just by pushing off the ground.  Particularly with push kicks, the distance step with the front foot should be focused forwards towards the target, rather than be a jump upwards.  A common analogy is pushing away from a brick wall with your leg while hopping off the ground – you will fly backwards.  Timing and starting distance is the key.  Aim to land the distance step before the kick strikes the bag, while having enough space to get the kicking leg to your chest first.

Next time you’re in class, try keeping some of these hints in mind and give them a try – they may be the secrets you’ve been looking for.

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The Korean art of Hapkido is about learning self defence skills using wrist locks and pressure points.  In order for students to learn how to correctly execute a technique, they must apply some pressure so their partner can let them know if they are doing it correctly.  The safety of every student is our primary focus, and we teach our students to slap (gently) their thighs or the mat when the self defence move hurts and that signals their partner to stop applying pressure. 

In TSDA we practice non-contact sparring and during our self defence part of the class, we work between 50-70% power, thereby decreasing the chance of injuries occurring.  As in any other athletic sport, if you train long enough and put in effort, odds are you will be hurt at some point. 

There can be accidental and inadvertent contact during training, this being the nature of martial arts, although we minimize this as much as possible.

TSDA does offer “Full Contact” sparring for those either wanting more in their training or even to compete in tournaments (not a necessity).  In full contact sparring our students are fully padded up with protective gear including head, mouth, groin and shin guards as well as tournament gloves.  Despite this level of training, there are rules to “full contact” sparring such as no punching to the head.

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Every class we hear our Instructors say, “Kick above your belt”, “You need to stretch to become more flexible so you can kick higher” and “Kick harder, put more power behind it!” 

The reason for encouraging members to kick harder seems self-explanatory, especially for our younger and smaller framed students.  As does the reason behind working on your flexibility to be able to kick higher.  However, there are even deeper reasons why it’s not only important, but essential to work on your flexibility and your strength, together

Usually when working on building strength, your muscles will grow in size, more so in men than women due to higher testosterone levels.  An increase in muscle size can "physically" limit ones range of motion.  Without continuing to work on your flexibility in conjunction with your strength training, over time the movement will be decreased and cause pressure and stress in other muscles to compensate for the “tightness” of the worked muscles. 

strength & flexibility

Hello…injuries!  Over time as muscles continually are put under stress and not “released” or allowed to rest while other muscles do what they are meant to be doing, the likelihood of injuries rises and before you know you it, a niggling pain could be a chronic injury.

So, to give yourself, and your children, the best chance at training in martial arts for a long time, and to ensure full range of motion and the best possible execution of movements, stretch and work on your strength together!

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At TSDA, it is our aim to progress students up through the belts to increase their skill level and also repertoire of techniques.  We do however, understand everyone learns at different rates, and therefore assess students leading up to grading to determine whether they are ready to grade.  Ultimately, in every class, we aim to teach 1-2 new techniques – as long as the student can effectively demonstrate techniques already learnt in the previous weeks.  Which is why practicing at home is essential!

There are 4 Gradings per year (around March, June, September and December).  It is possible, with focus, commitment at home and in class and determination, to grade 4 times a year.  In the event a student grades, at every grading, they can be a Black Belt in 2 years and 3 months!  Remember, the colour of the belt worn is an indication of the commitment and longevity of training, so while it is good to have a goal in mind to wear a Black Belt, it is also essential to ensure you are not rushed!

Take your time, and most importantly practice.  It is only with continual practice that the techniques we teach you can become second nature!

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We are frequently asked, “How many belts are there before I get my Black Belt?” Although the colour of your belt is extremely important, it is the training and skills you develop along the way that are really important.  Achieving a Black Belt is a monumental step in your martial arts training, one that is earned every class!

Here is a break down of the belt order, along with the time usually it takes to achieve it (with regular training), and the self defence techniques you will learn with that belt…

White Belt – Starting BeltWhite Belt

Outside Wrist Single Hand

Outside Wrist Double Hands

Grabbing Behind Belt

Yellow Belt


Yellow 8 – 3 months

Attacking Joints


Yellow 7 Belt


Yellow 7 – 6 months

Inside Wrist


Blue 6 Belt


Blue 6 – 9 months

Against Punch


Blue 5 Belt


Blue 5 -  12 months

Outside Wrist



Blue 4 Belt


Blue 4 – 15 months

Sleeves, Shoulder, Neck Band Joint Twists


Red 3 BeltRed 3 – 18 months

Neckband Single Hand, Double Hands

Grabbing Front Top of Belt & Under

Behind Catching


Red 2 BeltRed 2 – 21 months

Outside Wrist Double Hand Hittings

Throwing Joint Twist

2 Hands on 1


Red 1 BeltRed 1 – 2 years

Against Punch & Joint Twists

Catch Whole Body Front & Behind


Bo Dan


Bo Dan Black Belt – 2 years 3 months


Dan black belt

1st Dan Black Belt – 2 years 6 months

2nd Dan Black Belt  – 4 years

3rd Dan Black Belt  – 6 ½ years

4th Dan Black Belt  – 10 years

5th Dan Black Belt  – 14 ½ years

6th Dan  Black Belt  – 20 years

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