Training Warriors for the 21st Century

Training Warriors for the 21st Century
Joong Do Kwan Traditional Taekwondo cross training with Kidokwan Perth

16 Oct 2017

Revisiting the Sine Wave for Tactical Training

I practice a version of Taekwondo that was exported out of Korea in the mid '50s.

That is, exported out of Korea before the formation of the ITF and WTF. Our patterns are done in long stances, we stress an equal emphasis on feet and hand strikes, and our timing and focus seem straight out of Karate 101 - All that thanks to our Chung Do Kwan lineage.

While attending seminars, another difference that has been pointed out by my ITF brothers is that I have yet to adopt Taekwondo’s new Sine Wave concept. Thus it seems I’m not keyed in on the massive evolution of Taekwondo from the 1960s and onwards.

The Sine Wave concept is one of the core components of a scientific approach modern Taekwondo instructors say defines Taekwondo. It is a power generation tactic which originally relied on a raise of one’s centre of gravity between techniques, ‘cocking’ the striking weapon fully and then dropping it when the strike is delivered. Apparently, a newer version of the Sine Wave exists which requires first a drop, then raise, before the final drop and delivery. It seems between these two, there are further variations that affect the timing and the amplitude of the drop.

A quick search on YouTube will show numerous examples of proponents pumping their legs through their pattern demonstrations; rising and falling whilst emulating sine wave graphs you might find in a tertiary-level physics or maths textbook.

Matching the number of Sine Wave proponents is the criticism of the Sine Wave from both non-Sine Wave Taekwondo practitioners and the wider martial arts community. Looking at a thread from one online forum shows the following general complaints:

  • Dislike for the bounciness and robotic rhythm
  • Affects the stability of the stance
  • Doesn’t really help with the generation of additional power
  • Other ‘hard hitting’ martial arts don’t use such exaggerated motion
  • It slows you down

They are of course right, and wrong.

As a power generation tactic, the Sine Wave can be a legitimate technique that will generate power. How often have we heard the self-defence advice to ‘drop your body’ whilst striking? The body drop stabilises you to the ground and improves the skeletal structure supporting your striking tool.

You can try this - strike a focus mitt with a heel palm whilst dropping your body with the strike. Irrespective of the body dropping perpendicularly to the strike, you strike harder when your body compresses and when a ‘lock down’ your muscles occurs at the point of impact. The effective mass behind your strike consists of your arm connected to your upper body in turn connected through your body core to your legs.

If you had done the same standing upright and relaxed, your strike would have only been driven by arm strength. An arm-only strike would have been disconnected from the rest of the body without muscle ‘lock down,’ and upon impact would have rebounded, sending your upper body backward. Without the drop of your body, your centre of gravity would have been further away from the ground and thus the effective mass behind the strike would have been far less than if you had dropped your body to support your strike.

Beyond this justification for power generation, I think the Sine Wave concept is a brilliant fit for the modern Taekwondo practitioner’s preference for high section and long range kicks. Stretching out for a high kick naturally lifts one side of your hip upwards, elevating your centre of gravity. After delivering such a kick, to drop your centre back down to reengage with upper body strikes requires the very same body drop the Sine Wave concept encourages.

Unfortunately, while the Sine Wave can be a legitimate power generation technique, there are many other power generation techniques that are equally legitimate. I myself drop body weight all the time, though not necessarily for all strikes. The reason is this - my centre of gravity is kept low to the ground anyway, so when lunging forward to gap close, I don’t want the additional rise and drop which slows me down. So while some die hard Sine Wavers might feel badly for my backward ways, I feel I can still pride myself on the speed of linear movement.

From a Traditional Taekwondo perspective, one thing that surprises me is this constant focus on the Sine Wave as a ‘new and improved’ power generation technique. In my curriculum, you don’t need to go very far beyond the basics to feel good hard-style power. To list our main power generation tactics, you have: a linear lunging motion, hip twist or vibration, shoulder rotation, dropping of centre of gravity, raising of centre of gravity (they don’t always go together,) body compression, body expansion, ‘pendulum’ swing, shearing of the arms, and a whipping action.

I think the real challenge for Sine Wave proponents is to stop thinking of the Sine Wave as a be-all-end-all power generation catchphrase. What needs to happen is for proponents to figure out how dropping and raising your centre impacts combat effectiveness vis-à-vis the sophisticated kicks Taekwondo players are renown for. For example, why do boxers bob and weave? They don’t do this to generate power. They bob and weave to make it harder for an opponent to land strikes! They move so they can locate openings! Thinking this way would prompt a person to ask how would a kicker use the Sine Wave to support hand strikes or how will it increase the versatility of close quarter defences?

In the following lists, I overview some advantages of body compression and expansion which are similar mechanics to Taekwondo’s Sine Wave motion. This is a brief description of what our school does in both self-defence and close quarter fighting. For example, when you drop your centre or compress the body, this helps techniques that are improved with gravity, like limb destruction techniques and takedowns. When you rise or expand the body, this may complement techniques like the rising block, an upset punch, or even a head butt.

Body compression and expansion from a Traditional Taekwondo Perspective

(Apex to Trough)
Limb destruction techniques
Trapping of opponent’s hands
Takedowns or joint locks
Reduction of target area

(Trough to Apex)
Rising strikes into face/neck/solar plexus
Use of non-orthodox weapons like headbutt, shoulder strikes

As an example, in a ‘self defence’ scenario, if someone made a grab for my shirt and pulled his arm back to strike, I could respond by striking the opponent’s arm with a downward forearm strike and body drop. As he falters forward I would then rise up and apply an upper block into his neck.

On the other hand, applying the Sine Wave in sparring may prompt proponents to alternate between high and low section attacks using hand and leg combinations. This is as opposed to just relying on kick combinations and then throwing the occasional hand strike.

The body compression and expansion I have mentioned above have been a part of my training ever since I was adopted into this lineage back in the early 90s. But ours isn’t a directive applied to pattern performance. It’s just a skill that complements tactics we use in our training.

My conclusion is that the use of natural body movement and good martial principles has to be at the heart of any solid martial art practice. I know there are always those practitioners overly concerned with the cosmetics of their style. Do you think this has happened with the Sine Wave? Is this why it's been taken to the nth degree?

In conclusion, the Sine Wave is not entirely misplaced, and I see opportunities where it can bring value to a practitioner. Again my own practice includes similar body dynamics; I’ve just chosen not to make too much of a fuss about it.

Note: This article, originally titled "Is the Sine Wave a New Trick for this Old Dog?" was submitted and published in Totally Taekwondo Issue 35 January 2012. This document has been modified July 28 2017 and republished on this blog.

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9 Oct 2017

Talking About One Technique

Sensei Johannes Regell, Kissaki-Kai, Sweden

I don't know Johannes.

I just happened on some of his videos on FaceBook group Passai/Patsai/Bassai Dai-Sho. What I like about this sensei and what he has produced - is the passion he exudes, and the quality of the video content. There are stylistic differences in what we both practice, but there are overlapping training areas as I do practice Bassai, which is a Traditional Taekwondo variant of the Okinawan Passai that Johannes practices.

In this video above, I like to draw your attention to his lesson - and the fact he is working just one technique from the opening sequence of Passai. From experience in video-ing my lessons, I know for a fact that however much you show on a video, there are lengths of video that you cut out or omit from the final article. Meaning that from this one technique, Johannes has produced a quality lesson where he talks about pragmatic concepts and combative tools for 8 minutes - and probably in real time spent at least double if not triple that amount of time with his audience.

Given the opportunity, and if he had more time, I'm sure he could extend this lesson incorporating different scenarios, and I reckon he could easily craft a session of a full 1.5 hour class (at least) devoted to this one technique alone.

This is the point I've been making in some of my articles and videos - that the kata or hyung is not there to limit your worldview of what a technique is. There are fundamental skills you need to know, and the kata or hyung is there to inspire you to develop those skills. If you take that idea a step further, Johannes should be able to escape a simple wrist grab for instance, cork the guy in the thigh, and then do his takedown. Or he should be able to deal with a downward strike and follow through using his sequence. Or he should be able to escape a push onto a wall and then take the guy down. All using fairly standard and reusable skills from this and other kata he has.

The instructor and the training is there to help you develop pragmatic skills - not just to emulate the technique sequence. Certainly not there to just teach you how to step through one kata.

Notice too - the brilliant inclusion of the need to 'deescalate' the situation, the need to ensure safety of the person held in the head lock, and the respectful nature of how he's transacting with his uke. This is not only a skilled practitioner but an experienced instructor who is attempting to teach values, self defence principles, and inject some commonsense to his training environment.

This one technique alone could save your life and be part of an excellent self defence toolkit - yet on the date I wrote this, his YouTube video only received 1000 over views. A simple search for the media circus that is the Connor McGregor v Mayweather Promo shows popularity way excess of 100,000 views. Where's the sense in that? I don't know about you, but there's more to life than seeing two overpaid characters mouth off at each other.

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3 Oct 2017

JDK's Longstanding Christmas Gift Idea Challenge

This Christmas Gift Idea challenge was first issued in 2008.

We have now modified it to extend all year around. The idea is: you drop a relatively small deposit of $600 for two people to train, and if you make it to all our classes without missing two consecutive weeks, we pay this sum back to you IN FULL. This works out to a payment of just less than $30 per month of training.

However - remember, if you make it to the end of the year, you get the entire deposit back.

Take the challenge!

Perth Christmas Gift Idea Challenge - TRAIN FOR FREE FOR ONE YEAR!!!

The Traditional Taekwondo Perth Christmas Challenge is for you to bring yourself and your teenager (aged 13-19) down to JDK somewhere near Nedlands in Perth and train with us for a full year for FREE
You buy the uniform. You attend classes. We take care of the rest! 
How do you train for free? This is how it works - when you start and after you make it through our two-week probation period, you put a deposit of $600 for the both of you for our regular training sessions. This does not include any grading or other event fees (but I promise that won't break the bank). If you both make it to the end of the year, we give it back to you in full - no questions asked. If either of you quit or don't participate for two consecutive weeks of classes without a medical waiver (omitting family holidays), we get to keep the cash. Up for the challenge?
This offer is valid ANY TIME during the year - one pair per family. The day after Christmas for instance, if you feel like you're stuffed or hungover - you know where to come to detox. A month after the new year, and when your new year resolution just didn't cut it ... you know I'll be waiting for you. 

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2 Oct 2017

The Modernity of Yesterday is the Tradition of Today

The modernity of yesterday is the tradition of today, and the modernity of today will be the tradition tomorrow.
We do Traditional Taekwondo. I use that word 'Tradition' so often yet few pull me up on what tradition means to a garage dojang operating in Perth Western Australia.

Go through the About page or my bio on this site and you see our lineage was transported out of Korea in the mid 20th century to the US. With that comes the contextual practice some of which harks back to Japan, and thus Okinawa, and parts of it holds the hopes for a new post-War Korea.

Our practice seeks to celebrate and promote that lineage through the way we practice our hyung. In fact, the very choice of what hyung demarcates our historical context.

However, as that quote goes - the modernity of yesterday is our tradition of today. The key phrase is 'modernity' - and the essence of that is that of being contemporary, of being relevant, and of addressing issues that are clear and present. This is what traditional practice should be - an application of tradition - forming a progressive system for our times.

Look at the above video. We are pulling out an 'application' from Dosan.

The skill to check/trap, and then counter with backfist is an excellent skill for anyone to acquire. But push through, and incorporate an elbow roll inspired by a later sequence in the form, then a variation of the Double Palmok Markgi where you cater for a punch swung wide - and now we're venturing into territory of addressing a situation, and not a specific attack. The response is applied to what the opponent does to you. It's not simply a function of a sequence.

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  • Oct 16 Revisiting the Sine Wave for Tactical Opportunities

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25 Sep 2017

Learning Martial Arts from YouTube amounts to Sweet FA [NSFW]

There is a s*** load of application videos on YouTube.

It's NSFW but I use that expression because most of those applications don't amount to jack s***. Some of applications are okay. And a few of them are actually good.

But even for those 'good' applications ... if you're not incorporating them into training, they are not going to do you any good. At all. Ever. Period.

In fact, if you're not training them right, you might as well stick with that ol' jab cross combination, that front teep, and the roundhouse to the thigh. Seriously - there is greater benefit for you having a ready response than a questionable response. And for one example - I'm thinking of those hard style instructors trying to fumble their way through a wrist lock against one of their students holding a knife.

Good training prepares a practitioner for an end goal. It incorporates fundamental skills, good drills that allow you to adapt, and mental training. It allows the practitioner to access a range of skills that work well together. So just taking some random application video from YouTube (or wherever) creates a small amount of utility. Yes, I'm not saying it's all bad.

On the other side of this argument, if you're training your student and your application training doesn't gel with the rest of the skills you're training - you're screwed. Perhaps you don't understand me, so I'll put it in a different way ...


Yep, I've intentionally left out the apostrophe - because most people who have no idea of how to use a simple apostrophe will have little clue that they're signing a death warrant for their student. Go ahead, try and focus on that handlock without a clue how it adds to their fighting style. So they can perform it with for their grading. Big deal. Their opponent is going to smash their face in, pick up a weapon and then use it against them. How much value do you think that wrist lock is worth whilst your student is getting his head smashed in? Or stabbed.

Get real folks.


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  • Oct 9 Talking about One Technique
  • Oct 16 Rivisiting the Sine Wave for Tactical Opportunities

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18 Sep 2017

Ten Ways to Spot a Fraud in the Martial Arts

I knew this one fraud in the martial arts who happens to be a highly intelligent martial artist. No, he doesn't practice Traditional Taekwondo. And no, he doesn't live in Perth, Western Australia.

Let the word 'intelligent' sink in a little.

Yes, you heard me right - he is an intelligent martial artist. In fact, at some time in his career he must have been an amazing instructor. He speaks well, explains his concepts clearly, has a good working knowledge of technical moves, but as he stands there and waffles on, you have this nagging suspicion he's become jaded with that fundamental knowledge.

So while able to converse in depth on subjects which may convey practical and effective combat methods, everything now issuing from him has to include some esoteric concept drawn from acupuncture, aikido, kyusho, dim mak, no touch knockout, or other vague oriental gobbledegook.

That's a warning bell - as soon as he opens his mouth, you are struggling to understand how to use what the fraud is telling you. How would this new knowledge be used to defend you in a life and death struggle? The information seems so important - the man is an experienced martial artist, is convincing, and is backing his reasoning with a heap of arcane-sounding knowledge.

Compare this to my instructor - when I went up against him in 2006, he was a 9th degree, and had become an old man with bad knees. I was in my mid 30s, knew my stuff, and I wasn't about to go light on him. Yet he beat me thoroughly - with better timing, good technique, and excellent control.

Ten Ways to Spot a Fraud in the Martial Arts

  1. A fraud requires extensive elaborate and esoteric commentary about technique (almost always including the words chi or ki) to make it work. 
  2. Frauds need you to think of themselves as an infallible repository of martial knowledge.
  3. The fraud thinks that the more you train, the more your hard style system needs to look like Steaven Seagal's Aikido in Under Seige.
  4. Frauds love surrounding themselves with legit high-ranking practitioners.
  5. Frauds often point out what they have done for other expert-level martial art instructors and fighters. Helping beginners struggling with basic moves is too pedestrian for them.
  6. Frauds disappear when either a true expert or loud disbeliever appears.
  7. Look at their uniform - it's spotless, almost shiny. Frauds will never test themselves.
  8. Frauds will fail to try, will avoid mistakes, or will talk their way out of a mistake. Martial artists are real - mistakes are real - and we address mistakes. Not ignore them.
  9. Frauds love their certificates and ranks. Either they're yammering on about their achievements or they've returned to a 'menkyo' system where they're just beyond it, and all other ranking is child's play to them.  
  10. To frauds, a well placed kick in the you-know-where is beneath them.
Last, I'll leave you with some entertainment from YouTube - and perhaps you can see the related humour.

Keep well my friends.

And train hard.

Upcoming Articles
  • Sep 25 Learning Martial Arts from YouTube
  • Oct 2 The Modernity of Yesterday is the Tradition of Today
  • Oct 9 Talking about One Technique

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Are you a Master Instructor? Please help us by completing this survey - exploring the myth that martial art experts withhold critical information from their students in order to guarantee self preservation.