The average reaction time of combat athletes is >500ms, which is much slower than the speed of a punch (200s) or kick (260s). Because of this, athletes must rely on detection of initiation signals in order to defend or counter attack. These early cues are also known as “telegraphs” (TGs). It is also known that more experienced athletes focus on more proximal body segments of their opponents.

As a result of this, athletes need to decrease the extent to which they perform these TGs, whilst maintaining biomechanical efficacy and effectiveness of their technique. The aim of this study was to identify these TGs, specific to the lead leg double kick.

Technique analysis was performed on 44 international-level combat sports (not specified but likely TKD) athletes using 39 markers and 8 infrared cameras. Phases were described as:

  • Double-foot stance/bouncing (BNC)
  • Preparation (PRE): Starting at the final bounce
  • Initiation (INI): Front leg is elevated
  • Execution of the first kick (MT1)
  • Re-chambering of the kicking leg (KE1)
  • Execution of the second kick (MT2)
  • Restoration (KE2)


All competitors displayed some type of TG, with 98% changing weight distribution (an average of 0.25 seconds prior to the onset of the kick) and 93% elevating their center of mass (.19s) . 

In terms of different areas of the body:

  • Arms 88.6% (average 0.21 seconds prior to the onset of kick)
  • Torso 59.1% (0.26s)
  • Center of Mass (COM) 27.3% (0.27s)
  • Hips 93.2% (0.26s)
  • Knees 68.2% (0.18s)

According to these findings, athletes who focus on detection of weight change distribution (WRT) and elevation of center of mass (CET) afford more reaction time, likely leading to a better tactical outcome. Of these, as WRT occurs earlier, it may be a superior focal point, but possibly more difficult to recognise for less experienced athletes. The 9% (3) athletes who did not perform a hip joint TG were all among the top 10 most successful athletes.

Although these findings were in reference to a specific technique, they may be applied to a variety of movements to help in optimising both offensive and defensive strategies.

#tkd #taekwondo #karate #tokyo2020 #striking #combatsports #kicking 

Hoelbling, Dominik, Martin Mattaeus Smiech, Dea Cizmic, Arnold Baca, and Peter Dabnichki. “Exploration of martial arts kick initiation actions and telegraphs.” International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport (2021): 1-12.

About the author

Sam Gilbert

Sam Gilbert is a registered physiotherapist with the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) and certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). He holds a bachelor’s degree in Physiotherapy from Latrobe university (Melbourne, Australia) and a master’s degree in Exercise Science (Strength and Conditioning) from Edith Cowan University (Perth, Australia).

A 3rd Dan black belt in Shinkyokushinkai Karate under the World Karate Organisation (WKO), Sam participated for over 20 years in full contact competition, winning multiple state and national titles, and culminating in a 4th place in the heavyweight division of the Shinkyokushinkai World Cup in 2009.

As the co-founder and clinical director of Club 360, the premier multi-disciplinary health and fitness center in Tokyo, Japan, Sam has combined his practical experience with an in-depth study of sports performance in relation to combat sports, and strives to help other combat athletes reach their full competitive potential, whilst at the same time decreasing injury risk and increasing competition and training potential.

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By Sam Gilbert