There have been all sorts of “professional reacts” type videos over the years and today it’s my time to shine! 

Let’s take a deep dive into NCT 127’s “Kick It” and see just how well they kicked it! 

Basics:

Every style is different but in general martial arts techniques have very specific and standardized ways of executing them. Because of that there might be times where this analysis seems a little repetitive. But that’s also something that’s truly wonderful about martial arts; once you get the basics down you can do so much more than basic techniques. 

The clips of their techniques within the music video are mostly one second flashes. I’ve done my best to slow them down and take a good look but since there’s not much to go on I’m only going to give brief commentary.

Overall, every hand technique is done pretty well! The form is there, the fists are formed properly. 

My biggest critique is about where they are generating their power from. For example, when Taeyong throws his roundhouse kick at the 1:20 mark. To me, he’s limiting the impact of his kick by throwing it from his side. It’s hard to say for sure because I can’t see his weight bearing leg, but I can tell that this kick lacks the amount of torque, or twisting force, to make it powerful. Similarly, the punch at 1:08 won’t be as strong because energy is being generated from the shoulder and there is no twist in the elbow at the moment of impact. 

NCT 127's Taeyong doing a roundhouse kick in "Kick It" MV
NCT 127’s Taeyong doing a roundhouse kick
NCT 127's Mark doing a front side hook kick in "Kick It" MV
NCT 127’s Mark doing a front side hook kick

There’s also an overall lack of control in some of their bodies. Mark’s front hook kick at 1:32 is a good example of this. His arms shoot out around him to increase balance and his chest adjusts to allow his leg to raise as high as it goes. This kick isn’t an easy one, though! I give him props for doing it.

There’s not too much to say about their nunchaku usage. It’s pretty easy to get good, and visibly flashy basics down with this weapon. And that’s what a lot of they do with the weapon– basic swings and strikes in a few second clips.

Oh, and Johnny’s front snap kick at 1:57 is pretty good!

NCT 127's Johnny does a front kick in "Kick It" MV
NCT 127’s Johnny does a front kick

Side kick:

 Example of proper side kick technique
Example of proper side kick technique

I really want to highlight this part since it’s the most “Kick It” moment in the MV.

Sidekicks are truly one of the hardest basic kicks to perfect. There are three key areas that I look at when it comes sidekicks: 

  1. the positioning of the bottom leg– is the heel pointed in the same direction as the kick? Is the knee straight?
  2. the placement of the torso– is it bending backwards in order to accommodate the kick or attempt to give it added height? Where are their arms?
  3. the kicking leg itself– is it fully extended? Is the person striking with the right part of their foot?
NCT 127 does a group sidekick in "Kick It"
NCT 127 does a group sidekick

My rankings are:

Best: Johnny, Doyoung, Jaehyun
Needs a bit more work: Taeyong, Mark, Jungwoo, Haechan
Maybe stop by one of my classes: Yuta, Taeil

Doyoung and Johnny have the best body posture in the whole group. Their chests are upright, though Doyoung’s seems to be facing to the side a little too much. Their supporting heels are completely turned towards the direction of their kick.  Also, bonus points for Johnny with that extended front arm! It’s not always necessary for performance kicking but it is great form for someone fighting an opponent as it defends from any oncoming attack. Nice block!

Jaehyun’s kick lacks some of the proper upper body placement, probably because of the extra height he’s trying to get on his kick. It’s easy to overcompensate by bending your body in order to get your leg up higher. It also looks like his bottom heel could be turned a little more. But he has his kicking foot positioned in a way where the blade of his foot deals the impact. This is great! He’s the only member who seems to be approaching it this way.

Mark, Haechan, and Jungwoo’s should straighten their standing legs. Jungwoo’s body is a little too long, similar to Jaehyun’s. I’d also recommend he either turn his extended arm into a punching fist or tuck it in towards his chest like the other members. 

Taeyong has good form in his lower body. I’d also encourage him to adjust his right arm, either by tucking it to his chest, straightening it in a deliberate punch, or blocking his side like Johnny has. If Taeyong’s torso was more upright, or he was kicking higher, his kick would be in the best category.

What’s missing from Yuta and Taeil is the correct twisting motion. Yuta’s body continues to face forward, though a sidekick is meant to be turned, well, all the way to the side. Adjusting his bottom heel and turning the direction of his torso more to the side will help his kicking leg also turn over. I can’t tell from the image, but I think it’s likely his kicking foot is faced upright, or at a 45 degree angle, here, too. If he turns that to 90 degrees it’ll help fix the rest of him too.

Taeil is almost there. I can see from where his leg is that this height seems to be a bit difficult for him. Once again, fixing that bottom foot can help with this a lot. Yuta and Taeil, I’d be happy to have you come by a class sometime!

None of them seem to approach this kick correctly. The knee of the kicking leg should not be lifted in front of the body before execution. Instead, it should come from being tucked into the body and then extended from underneath. To be honest, though, I think this is less because of incorrect teaching and more for the visual of their legs rising in the air at once. In that case, why not throw a roundhouse kick? It might have been easier in those pants!

Example of the correct and incorrect ways to approach a sidekick
Example of the correct and incorrect ways to approach a sidekick
NCT 127 collectively does a sidekick in "Kick It" MV
NCT 127 collective sidekicks

All that said, I have to give it up to them for their uniformity. Sidekicks aren’t easy to coordinate! 

For the most part, you can also pinpoint the moment where they torque their hips in order to perform the kick. If you look closely at their standing legs at the time of the kick, the movement of their bottom heels more or less lines up in time with extension of their kick. This adds to the synchronicity nicely. It may not be entirely right, but they made it look good!

Choreography

NCT 127’s intro and “Kick It” choreography has more martial arts highs than the MV. I think where they really succeed here is in the way they mix martial arts techniques in their dancing. This gives them a lot more freedom with the way they approach and execute technique. I think they’re also more comfortable here since they are likely much more familiar with dancing than martial arts. 

Mark’s moment in the dance break is a good showcase of various techniques. Focusing on hand defenses and strikes is a smart move because they’re easy to do well without much practice and they can be done in quick succession which looks impressive. They also integrate into dance much more seamlessly so the overall performance looks much smoother. 

NCT 127's Mark using hand techniques and a pushing kick during the "Kick It" dance break
NCT 127’s Mark using hand techniques and a pushing kick during the dance break

I can say from experience that it is very difficult to use someone else’s body to propel yourself into the air and kick. I give Mark extra credit for doing this technique. That said, it’s easy to see that he doesn’t get a lot of air for his kick and he doesn’t kick too high. The secret to any kick is that where you bring your knee will directly relate to how high your kick is. If Mark had driven that knee a little bit higher I think the kick would have looked a lot cooler. That said, I recognize that this moment tends to be filmed with his push kick directed towards the camera at a low angle. So why have him jump off Taeyong in the first place? It doesn’t really make sense to me.

Yuta also takes on a difficult kick in their choreography. The jump turning roundhouse kick (also called a tornado kick) is absolutely more advanced than some of the other kicks highlighted in the MV. The mistakes I noticed are pretty common and even some black belts that I know execute this kick similarly. 

NCT 127's Yuta includes a jump turning roundhouse kick in the "Kick It" choreography
NCT 127’s Yuta includes a jump turning roundhouse kick in the choreography

A quick fix: just like with his sidekick, it would be helpful for him to turn his whole body, leg included, all the way in the direction of his kick. This would mean striking with either the top or the ball of the foot rather than the side. Adding some snap from his knee would make it even stronger, too. But it’s not easy snapping out a kick and landing as gracefully or as precisely as Yuta needs to for the choreo so I give him a lot of credit for that.

Martial arts aren’t easy. I’ve been practicing for 22 years and I taught students of all levels for half that time. It takes a lot of self discipline and dedication to master something like this and I recognize that NCT 127 probably haven’t had that time to commit to it. For what they’ve done, I give them a lot of credit. The techniques they’re performing and highlighting aren’t easy ones and combining martial arts into dance is a skill of its own. 

So good try, NCT 127! I’d love to see where you could take this with extra practice time. And next time, if we could do a Taekwondo specific comeback I would be thrilled!

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