Joong Do Kwan's Taekwondo Applications

Joong Do Kwan's Taekwondo Applications
JDK Instructors share the passion with ITF friends in Perth

14 Aug 2017

Self-Control, Aggression, and De-escalation of Violence

The Tenets, Nijukun, and various other martial precepts call for self control of all who walk the path. Self-control seems to be a core theme for those trained to inflict violence on others.

What is the relevance of such self-control in this day and age? For the most part, the general population needs lessons in how to live life fully, rather than to avoid violence and the instigation to preserve civil peace.

Sparring - but with the switch off.

Few who undergo martial training dedicate themselves enough nor have the right guidance to really become effective as practitioners. So instructors who urge self-control are taking the moral high ground and going through the motions. For what is a head high roundhouse kick? Or the backfist you use in sparring? Most practitioners have never known true violence. They would not have advantage over criminals who are more familiar with tactics that work a damn sight better the sparring moves you might have been trained in.

I'm not saying self-control is irrelevant to the dojang. A training environment needs individuals practicing potentially dangerous techniques safely. Instructors need a student body familiar with the same preamble. Registered companies need to have the right policies and waivers in place.

When does self-control become self-defeating? The answer is when it so utterly defangs the practitioner without having prepared him or her against the unknowing face of a real threat.

Preparation isn't simply turning a kill switch on, making the student an unerring assassin. An instructor who lives in a monochromatic environment, and who spouts such classic one liners like 'better to be judged by 12 than be carried by six' or 'better him than me' or 'strike first and strike hard' is poorly equipped to guide you through the use of force for your physical self defence.

I am not a lawyer and can't pretend to know any or all the nuances of the legalities of self defence. I am however very clear that the practitioner is ethically required to use tactics that only meet the level of threat. If the attacker is stealing your wallet, you can't close off his airway. If the attacker is holding a weapon but doesn't look like they intend on using it, you can't close of his airway. If the attacker is attempting to escape, you can't pull him back into your house and close off his airway.

In summary, you really can't go 'full throttle' on an attacker unless you fear for your life. Meaning, you can't use attacks to the head or neck, and if he slips and looks like he's going to hurt himself badly - you are obligated to prevent that from happening.

Most reasonable people will be intimidated by threatening behaviour, and simply by the presence of a weapon. But when does intimidation stop and when do you feel like your life is really being threatened? More importantly, when do you feel threatened to the point where you can use self defence before the point where that blade is stabbing you repeatedly in your gut? Or when that trigger is being pulled?

The signs, if they are going to be present are not unlike what you see when you have a committed sparring opponent in front of you. It begins with a steely gaze and then maybe a face wipe - that's when you have a 'thousand yard stare' where the attacker looks everywhere but you. This dehumanisation helps to reduce you from a person to a victim. Thens there's the clenching and unclenching of fists. The deep breathing. The pacing. Movements become more cagey, more erratic, and more tense. Then there's the preemptive tightening of the body before the sudden move to strike.

Some or all of these signs will come almost all at once - and that's where you can justify your full use of force until the threat has been eliminated or when you can make your escape. Remember, you can't drag a person back to the house and finish him off at your leisure - once the threat is gone, you cannot use self defence tactics and you again become obligated to help keep the person safe - unless of course the environment continues to be a threat to your person.

What if you only train in tactics that have percussive force, where there's only one dial setting for striking power? Or if you couldn't predict where your strike will land? Or you had no clue how to lock him down and control the situation? These are some of the elements absent from most hard style training. Not only absent but probably is the cause for most hard style instructors being unable and unwilling to discuss the force continuum with students.

There is no denying the difficulty in making the leap from kicking or punching targets to handling issues like de-escalation of violence, force appropriate tactics for self defence, or  the balance between sufficient self-control and then being mature enough to turn on aggressive physical self defence.

Upcoming Articles
  • Aug 21: Wing Chun v Karate Fight in Vietnam is a Disappointing Show Proving Nothing
  • Aug 28: Use of Force to F*** You Up [NSFW]
  • Sep 4 Performance Anxiety

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8 Aug 2017

Toughness, Emotional Connection, and Male Depression

By all accounts, I'm tough.

But this issue of toughness, expected to be part of the male identity seems to be a larger issue which may lead to some men spiralling down the dark stairwell of male depression.

Heidi, Will, and Woody's interview with Wayne Schwass on Male Depression

I was prompted by the interview Heidi, Will and Woody had with Wayne Schwass. It is a worthy topic that they're highlighting and promoting. The central theme this is is one of emotional connection and social support.

Emotional connection apparently means men can value strength of character, what they believe people expect them to be, you know the stereotype of the strong and silent man, but have the wherewithal to connect with their social network, and then have the perspective to seek help at any instance where they slip down the slippery slope of mental depression.

For me, I am not entirely convinced by the male stereotype. I do seek physical strength, tactical combative ability, and mental toughness. I train and test myself constantly. Over the last thirty or so years, I challenge myself during so many opportunities, facing down my innate fears. However, as an individual, I am not ashamed to say there are issues which push me to seek help from physiotherapists and doctors. I mean, if you need to seek legal advice, do you shy away from this? Same thing.

Over the many years of being married, the positive of being married to a very understanding and emotionally healthy spouse is that I myself am also better at understanding what negatively affects me emotionally. And when I do, I am also able to help myself improve. It's not a final destination. It's how to be aware that you need some distance from the stress, some quiet time, a way to recreate, and to manage your total emotional well-being. It could be that it is important to be candid about the last time you, as a man, cried. But really, it is to ensure you continually manage your overall mental and physical health.

Please come visit if there's anything I can do for you.

Upcoming Articles

  • Aug 14 Self Control, Aggression, and Deescalation of Violence
  • Aug 21 News: Style v Style Fight in Vietnam
  • Aug 28 Use of Force to F*** You Up [NSFW]

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7 Aug 2017

Application Training is Not Complete Training

This isn't a Seagal-is-a-hack post.

This post is about applications.

There are hard style martial art instructors (including Taekwondo instructors) right now scrambling to come up with 'applications' for their patterns. Applications are used to justify aiki-type handlocks or takedowns, esoteric knowledge, to demonstrate credibility of their forms, or perhaps to solidify their cult of personality amongst their students.

It's the new trend to train applications, you could even say it's a cult of 'applications training'.

This video in particular has no 'applications'. The sensei does not explicitly show moves from his kata or pattern then try to demonstrate what they can be used for. Notice though, the man talks for over half an hour purely on concepts. He's giving a behind-the-scenes look at how things work in his martial art. You could get hundreds of applications from the concepts he's discussing. Then in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it instant, he also does eventually say that it all comes from patterns.

Key points:
  1. These concepts can be used interchangeably with each other to take down the opponent - or take his head off. 
  2. They underlie the 'applications' people are trying to come up with from their patterns. 
  3. Training in concepts or these pre-requisite skills complement kata-based training or application training. 
If you think for JDK training is about producing applications, this is not what we're about. We we do feature a lot of applications from forms - but our training attempts to be goal-oriented. Some of what we do may look like the form, some require a stretch of the imagination, while some mix a wide variety of other techniques which don't seem to come from that particular form. What I'm saying is that the form is there to set you free - not to lock you into it.

An expert created a form once. Then I learned it. Adapted it. But that form - in its 40 over moves - does not represent the totality of that expert. You can say the form is the well wishes of a friend who has long since passed. I speak like this because when we stopped looking for overzealous mimicking of the form, we were able to see the world like how this sensei does! Shuhari, folks. 

Some industrious instructor may try to deconstruct moves to where that younger black belt was holding onto the ball and moving it around. I can just imagine them saying: "Here are one hundred applications to teach you head manipulation ...". It's like trying to paint a masterpiece using a paint-by-numbers kit.

Upcoming Articles: Please note I'm taking out Tuesday articles and only publishing articles on Monday. Having the audience that I'm reaching out to, the networks that I have, and my producing articles singly for this blog it's unsustainable to do more than one article a week, and then manage the FB page, and YouTube Channel. Thank you for understanding.
  • Aug 8 - Martial Arts and Male Depression
  • Aug 14 - Self-control, Aggression, and Deescalation of Violence
  • Aug 21 - News: Style v Style Fight in Vietnam


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1 Aug 2017

Do You Need to Get Struck in Practice? Do Children?

The following video shows me setting up my assistant instructor Mr Holder to receive impact. It's a demonstration to show how the arms come together in order to stop an oncoming strike. That's me holding the strike mitts and hitting his arms.

The fold of the arms is a prelude to Yop Markgi, often referred to as a Taekwondo middle block, or sometimes an outside block. Often it is trained in a one step sparring exercise where an opponent throws a centreline strike, and you 'block' this strike with the extended Yop Markgi technique.

The fold of the Yop Markgi is rarely trained to cover against attack - though many 'combative' or 'self defence' type instructors would use it liberally in close quarter fighting. In JDK, it deconstructing a technique or sequence to further understand its value is vital to our practice. For beginners, deconstructing it this way is helpful to learn parts of the technique before consolidation later in the lesson.

Obviously the deconstruction of the technique is a good topic to discuss but isn't what we are focusing on for this post. It is looking at the need to receive impact whilst performing the technique. Mr Holder folds his arms, and I am delivering a firm and committed strike towards his arm. Very soon after this video, we will be delivering the same force to both of the children.

The arms will act as shock absorbers. If the students drop their chins and are ready for the strike, the rest of the impact will dissipate into their system and go down into the floor. The strike may sting their arms a little, but by and large they wouldn't feel any pain. Whilst going through the motions, I will also increase the intensity of the strikes, upping the volume of the breath, and progressively applying forward pressure as I push them back through the line.

This is the start of desensitisation in JDK. And it is of vital importance that it accompanies the trainee as they progress through the ranks. We need for the student to keep their cool and their composure whilst facing challenges. They need to think clearly. And they need to move tactically. Can't do this if they're reduced to a tears at their first jolt. Can't do it if they get panicked by a little jarring of the body.

Lastly, can't do Taekwondo if you are just practicing a facsimile of it. These techniques require you to prepare your body for combat - deliberately and safely. If you don't know how the technique really works to protect you or how you work it to apply maximum power, well, you might be in for a rude shock when you need to make it work for you.

Mr Holder said that sometimes I look a little scary. And that's why it's important to slowly nurture those children. They need to be comfortable with the situations we're putting them through. So we have to read their readiness, and to push them just enough so they're excited to continue, and not too much that we shut them down.

Keep training folks!

Upcoming Articles
  • Aug 7 - Application training is not complete training
  • Aug 8 - Martial Arts and Male Depression
  • Aug 14 - Self-Control, Aggression, and Deescalation of Violence
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31 Jul 2017

Rebooting the Founder of Taekwondo [Historical Faction]

Taekwondo began in a roiling mess.

Framed by World War II and the Korean Civil War, Taekwondo’s beginning was marked by famine, civil unrest, and political jostling. It was a World away from ours and it had just seen the back of a 35-year Japanese colonial administration bent on obliterating Korean culture and national identity.

Figure 1 Korea in 1948, famine and civil unrest during pre civil war days taken from

It was a World punctuated by massive and frequent loss of human lives. Losses linked to crackdowns, not by the recently-deposed colonial occupation, but to the strong arm of Korea’s own police and military forces.

Figure 2 Cheju Massacre 1948 taken from

Present day Taekwondo practitioners seem not to reflect much on those early events and might know only a few key dates that might include the end of WWII, the demonstration in front of President Syngman Rhee and perhaps the adoption of the name ‘Taekwondo’ as Korea’s new martial art. Then there are those websites that cite the development of Taekwondo starting from Korea’s 37 B.C. Koguryo Kingdom and 10th century Silla Hwarang warriors. It seems Taekwondo’s history is threatening to go the way of The Forgotten War.

Figure 3 Some have cited Taekwondo’s history is attributed to Hwarang Warriors as depicted above taken from

 This article is part of a series looking past history as a mere listing of dates and immersing readers into it’s day to day reality, specifically in Taekwondo’s development after the end of WWII. The goal was to look at early modern-day Taekwondo through the eyes of one of its key modern architects – the self-proclaimed founder of Taekwondo Gen Choi Hong Hi.

Unfortunately, while we can learn many things from historical research, there were those day-to-day details that had to be ‘filled in.’ But this is not just some alternate timeline based on fantasy. This is a story considering factual events through the intervening years, paying closer attention to elements leading to the traditional Taekwondo schools that exist nowadays. We use the word ‘tradition’ not just describing an instructor who thinks students need to be able to do a certain number of pushups or to endure a certain amount of suffering. For what it’s worth, I call my school ‘traditional’ because we practice a version of Taekwondo exported from Korea in the mid 1950s. What we do looks similar to Karate, but it’s definitely Taekwondo.

You could say Taekwondo’s long lost cousin has just cracked open that family album no one has looked at in years.

The start of this series was scheduled to commemorate Taekwondo’s 57th Anniversary April 11 2012. We would like to thank Stuart Anslow for its inclusion, and for his outstanding work promoting the best of our art worldwide. Lastly, this work is dedicated to GM Keith Yates and the amazing group of practitioners in the American Karate and Taekwondo Organization.

As is typically experienced by all beginners to Taekwondo, we’ve begun our series from the start, with Taekwondo’s Chonji hyung. It’s not another historical film clip but a glimpse into the inspiration for how our art came to be – found scratched on the cell wall where a young Choi is imprisoned for his participation in the Pyongyang Incident and facing his imminent death at the hands of his Japanese captors. Of course we know Choi doesn’t eventually die there, and the subsequent piece continues at a point about a year after, when his fortunes have dramatically changed. Despite being much healthier, Choi continues to exude a pensive and restless energy.

Before you go any further, let me ask you: if you had a few months left to live, what would you be thinking of? What loose ends would you choose to tie up if you had a chance?

Come and suspend disbelief. Enjoy this journey back in time with me.

Choi on February 4 1945

Figure 4 The cover of Yul-gok's Four Seven Debate taken from

Heaven and Earth are inseparable. 
They are neither two things nor one thing. 
It applies to all who are on the path. 
This wondrous fusion is the secret I have yet to share. 

Note: The above was inspired by Yulgok’s renowned Four Seven Debate on Myohap - Wondrous Fusion, a philosophical debate about moral cultivation; lessons of which can be extrapolated and applied to Taekwondo’s tactics, which include both powerful hand strikes and phenomenal leg attacks. Chon-ji was found as graffiti scratched into the cell wall where Choi was imprisoned as a rebel for involvement in the Pyongyang Hahk-byung incident. Like the pattern he eventually named, Chon-ji is all or nothing, resolving two sides of the same coin, and is the cornerstone of a very potent system. We know the end of WWII several months after saved Choi from a probable death sentence and this prison term identified him as leadership material for the new Korean army.

Choi on April 30 1946

I’ve got a hot steaming cup of tea in my hands and I’m looking out from my office onto the main square. The few personnel starting their day are all walking briskly. You know they’re feeling the morning chill through their service uniforms. Their caps seem to be pulled lower on their heads, and their green tunics are clinging closer to their bodies.

Figure 5 Choi in 1946, a far cry from the squalor of the year before taken from

The morning chill doesn’t bother me. It’ll disappear mid morning anyway. What I’m keen for is to wash the taste of breakfast down. What they had in the officer’s mess was awful. The vegetable omelette was grey and smelled off. The rice cooked with red and black beans was hard. The kaktugi kimchi was somewhat edible. I’m trying not to complain about this. At least we have food, there’s still a lot of people going hungry in Korea at this time.

I chose not to tell the guys I was training this morning. I told them I had a full day dealing with paperwork from the closure of the South Joseon Defense Academy. In reality, the transition to the South Joseon National Defense Force was just shuffling papers around. My job hadn’t really changed much beyond training of military interpreters and focusing on the next batch of commissioned officers.

What I really needed was time to myself. Our recent training sessions have had the guys practising the fluid long-range kicks and moving around – just like my early days training in Taekkyon. The relaxedness, the explosiveness and having that range of motion – it’s good fun! It’s everything I thought was missing from those days at Chou University just three years past.

Figure 6 Group practice with Choi and a few of his students in the early years taken from

Sensei had us do kata training over and over again then. Afterward it was pounding on the makiwara. But we always came back to kata. I don’t miss it, really. But what I wanted to feel today was kime. ‘Focus’. Long-range kicks don’t have that sort of physical shock. Relaxedness doesn’t result in that sort of feedback. That ‘shock.’ And it’s even worse when you try to kick with combat boots on. So while I disagree on just using kata over and over again in training, kime remains a part of how I generate significant power in upper body strikes; with whatever footwear I have on.

Figure Choi - destruction practice taken from

I’m walking to my desk and now wondering whether Lee Won Kuk has had the same thoughts as I have. He too trained under Sensei and has just started a new kwan here in Korea last year. But he’s teaching Karate kata to Koreans. While he’s not doing badly, I’m not sure I would do it exactly that way.

Let Sensei’s Japanese students formalise his teachings. Let them enjoy their karate. Lee should know the problems with the training method. It’s too rigid. It’s too slow. Inflexible. It won’t work for our new defense force anyway.

I hear female footsteps on the rough concrete floors before seeing the woman. “Sowi? Annyong haseo?” – Good morning, sir. It’s one of the secretaries with my sealed inter-department mail. She’s quite attractive.

I can smell the KT&G cigarette she’s been smoking as she leans in to deliver the packet. Close enough for a strike to the temple. Followed by a takedown to the floor. I feel my abdominal muscles tense and I tighten my breath a little. But as those thoughts fly through my mind, my fingers hold my cup still. Today, she’s lucky she’s got me there to protect her.

Ohae haji maseyo – don’t get me wrong - my way has to be better. I’m going to improve on this whole mess, one technique at a time. I can create a better system. We can have a brighter future.

Note: The above was written a few months after Choi, together with a group called the 110 founding fathers, joined the newly opened Military Language School in Seoul. Choi was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant there and, at the time of writing the above, the South Joseon Defence Academy closes down and in it’s place continues the South Joseon National Defense Force. Many practitioners obsess over basic skills or significant life’s lessons learned early in their martial arts careers. As a Shotokan trained practitioner, what kind of skills do you think Choi would value? How do you think he would ensure such skills continued to be transmitted; irrespective of his politics? Do you think he successfully achieved the ‘wondrous fusion’ he dreamt about in 1945?

The article, originally titled ‘Choi: The Beginning,’ was part one of a four part series, submitted to Totally Taekwondo March 18 2012, and published in issue 38 April 2012. If you're interested to understand the impetus for me to write this series, see Choi: The Beginning.

Upcoming Articles
  • Aug 1 - Do you need to get struck in practice? Do Children?
  • Aug 7 - Application training is not complete training
  • Aug 8 - Martial Arts and Male Depression

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