Training Warriors for the 21st Century

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

28 Dec 2007

Reverse Snap Punch on a Makiwara

Guess what this sound is, my brothers.

BNK!-rrr. BNK!-rrr. BNK!-rrr.

The first 'BNK!' is only the sound that my reverse snap punch makes when hitting the makiwara (actually it's not a real makiwara, but a cheapo wall-mounted striking target) in my garage.

The second sound 'rrr'? Why, that's only the sound of the garage as my punch vibrates its single brick walls.

I've posted on this before, but working with this particular punch is one of the best things to happen to me in my black belt years. It's how I'd like everything I am practicing to proceed - more power through technique and through less effort. The reverse snap punch indeed starts with the knees, legs and the hips. The hip twist movement is then transmitted through solid core muscle tension and tight lats. The lats hold the upper extremities close to the upper body in order to benefit from the increased body mass. Letting the punching arm leave the body and have freedom of motion only reduces striking power as it is driven by shoulder, pectoralis muscles, and arm muscles.

I have not yet installed a real makiwara. Even the martial arts supply shop guy thought I was half-mad throwing any sort of power onto the wall-mounted striking post he sold me. So I really try to restrain myself to keep those arthritic knuckles at bay! But this punch rocks, baby!


Related Links

26 Dec 2007

Roundhouse Kick: Muay Thai and Taekwondo

Muay Thai Roundhouse Kick versus Traditional Taekwondo Roundhouse Kick

I actually embedded a clip talking about the Muay Thai roundhouse kick but it seems to have been taken down. So I've searched for a new clip from youtube and came up with this one. First off, I really dislike it that he calls it a 'damn foot'. Second ... I think that floppity foot shows an amateur technician. But saying that, the following text refers to the previous clip - which isn't there anymore, and I apologise for not yet updating this information. But it is still pertinent.

***old discussion on Muay Thai Roundhouse vs Traditional Taekwondo Roundhouse***

This is some random martial arts video I picked up from youtube searching for 'Roundhouse kicks'. The guy is not an unskilled kicker - though he seems to like the sound of his voice. He may benefit from some instructional skills. But not a bad attempt at all.

I'd just like to go through what he says about the roundhouse kick.

First up, he says "round kicks in general ..." and I like that because the basic roundhouse kick I was taught and continue to teach in Traditional Taekwondo hits with the ball of the foot rather than the instep as he says. I have learned that long range instep roundhouse kick variety and also use it to great effect in sparring, but that's beside the point.

Ours is a very conservative roundhouse kick done on a horizontal plane, and does not require the practitioner to lean back to extend the kick out far. In fact the roundhouse kick is more like a front kick done on a horizontal plane. The abs and obliques are tensed (or utilised) in order to generate power without a lot of extraneous movement. If the opponent were standing side on to the practitioner, the kick would hit the opponent straight from the front or the back. It is not angled upward nor would it have a tangential angle of entry. Check out my response to Mireille's post on topic of roundhouse kicks.

The roundhouse kick that he represents as being a Taekwondo roundhouse is a modified variation off the basic traditional roundhouse kick that we learn. When I started it was called a 'turning kick,' but irrespective of the name, this is the roundhouse kick that we learn in our 2nd kyu pattern Hwa-rang (that's one away from black belt). It is still kicking with the ball of the foot but leveled on a target directly in front of the practitioner. Meaning if the opponent is side on to me, I'd be kicking him in his ribs.

If you were going for an instep roundhouse kick, I'd assume you'd want to snap the kick like he says. In fact, in general, all kicks should be snapped. Funakoshi Sensei, the Father of Karate, says that all kicks should come back as fast as they go out; this covers all of the basic kicks from my style. However, whether you'd choose for the kick to be a light jab or gap closing type of kick, or if you want it to be a more powerful penetrative one depends on the situation at hand.

He says that Taekwondo roundhouse kicks are now done for speed and are more like "half roundhouse" kicks. I teach that the front kick describes a vertical angle of entry and the roundhouse the horizontal angle of entry - and that all slices between the two are legitimate kicks that are applicable dependent on the target available. So the weapon is chosen for the target, rather than for the pure objective of speed.

I also think that it is strategically more sound to be able to modulate the kind of power (see Power Generation and Common Sense) used in the kick throughout the cycle of the kick. What I mean is in direct regard to the Muay Thai roundhouse he is demonstrating. He says something like "unlike the snap or whip of the Taekwondo roundhouse, the Muay Thai kick is more like a baseball bat". My opinion is that the person using kicks in actual combat or self defence needs to be real smart about the kick; kicks are risky, they open you up, and you have a high chance of missing. So any kick that requires you to wind up and then power through is only great for one thing - competitions.

I would also add that most of the kicks he is performing, both representing his idea of Taekwondo or Muay Thai styles would benefit from him bending his support knee just a little more. It's fine to do what he's doing on the mat - straight support leg. But if you're in combat mode, I'd be choosing control over how I extend my leg and retract it. The bent support leg makes for better overall control of body dynamics - though it looks much less glamorous.

>> If you liked this post, check out Hwa-rang: Roundhouse Kicks, The Long and Short of it


More links to Traditional Taekwondo at sitemap.

23 Dec 2007

Beginner Sparring Part Two: Sparring Objectives

Beginning Sparring Part One: Problems Encountered

Objectives: I've seen most schools throw their students in the deep end. Sparring skills should be built up in a progressive manner, similar to other skills acquisition they are doing. Pressure testing should come much later. First off is to define what the students are doing and what they should be looking out for. I tell my students they should be focusing on a) recognising strikes and techniques used by their opponents, b) gauge distances, and c) test simple techniques - reaching out to opponents lightly.

Pyung Ahn Cho Dan is a post I did on TMAC forum and is a dialog I have with Mireille Clark, my Shotokan BB friend from Canada. While it is not directly related to sparring objectives, I've included it here because it is a good benchmark relating to how many instructors view the exercise of sparring. Instructors don't place a lot of emphasis on sparring because it really is just part of the entire training program that a practitioner has to undergo - sparring is not the be all and end all of training.

Is the objective of sparring total annihilation? No. Even when I grill my students during sparring training, they get to walk out on their own two feet at the end of class!

The point of sparring is not to injure your opponent, but no one said anything about not hurting the person in front of you.

Sparring allows you to string your techniques together. Beginners should work on movement, cover, and awareness. Don't worry about landing the technique. Just look at what the other person is doing. Cover, block and get out of there. It's intimidating enough facing someone intent on striking you. If you do more than a few things, you'll be totally confused. Not to mention out of breath! Once you figure out how to move and how not to get totally winded, then use only one or two of the most basic techniques to start gauging distances and timing. I would suggest hand strikes first - once you nail the strike you'll find it much easier to calibrate all other techniques. If you use your kicks exclusively to maintain distance you'll find you'll not gain effectiveness in other techniques.

Back to sparring objectives, stringing the techniques together, and learning how to apply them to a person that is intent on striking you is really quite difficult, and is a journey in itself. Once you gain some effectiveness however, sparring can be a real buzz. You'll find yourself gaining better combinations, and learning what you like to use against an opponent. This is when you should start to reflect on your overall training. Check out the following post. It helps you analyze your own ability and how you should modify your approach to sparring. TDA Blog: Handicap Sparring.

At this point, my opinion is that you should balance out your growing sparring skills with continuing studies of traditional martial arts training. Why? There are lots and lots of really good training methods or training objectives with TMA that can benefit the practitioner growing in the arts. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying traditional taekwondo or karate training is the be all and end all. There are modern training aspects all serious students should look into as well. But by and large, no one should get blinkers from a predominantly sparring-oriented training hall.

Keep an open mind folks! And go light. Lightness doesn't mean sloppy technique. It just means pull back on the commitment.



21 Dec 2007

The Knee is the Key ( Part 2)

In my last contribution to this blog, I looked at body mechanics during movement stressing how the knee needs to be bent to allow for the best, and most economical movement during training. Today, I'd like to address a common problem when attempting to keep one's knee bent, which I'd like to call "the moving wall syndrome".

A big issue that beginning students have with the knee is that, as they start, they bend it to achieve a good looking stance, but in transition as they move forwards, they straighten their legs, and then bend the knee once they've finished moving. Suddenly, their energy is directed in an up and down manner instead of forwards towards their opponent. You can tell that you are doing this as you move forwards because you will actually witness the wall across from you moving up and down. I can still remember my first Sensei walking calmly up to one of the dojo walls, placing his hands on it, and calling back at us "It's o.k. now.. I'm holding it steady for you." This was his humourous way of telling us that we are standing up, and going back down as we were moving in stance.

Not only does this up and down movement waste energy, direct power in the wrong way, cause more joint stress than necessary, but it also makes your body movement become more noticable to the eyes of your opponent. Why? Because your body is not staying in the same place coming forwards, instead it's visibly moving up, and down which activates the targeting system in the eyes. You only need to think about how difficult it is to track a ball that is coming straight at you, and to gauge it's distance in order to catch it, and compared that to catching a ball that is coming at you in a downwards arc.

"When an object of interest appears in the peripheral vision the eyes are rapidly turned towards it. The same ocular motor response may be provoked by a sudden noise or painful stimulus applied to the body’s surface. This sudden fast eye movement is called a saccade from the French word meaning the flick of a sail in the wind or the jerking of a horse’s head by a tug on the reins....... When a target is moving, the saccadic system can initially capture it but soon loses it as the image tends to slide off the fovea (termed retinal slip), necessitating another saccade. The smooth pursuit (SP) system overcomes this deficiency by enabling a target to be tracked smoothly rather than with a series of jerks, thereby keeping its image steadily centred on the fovea. To prevent blurring, movement of the retinal image has to be kept less than 5º/s. For the SP system to be effective, the target’s velocity has to be relatively slow, i.e. less than about 50º/s. If the target moves too fast for SP, the saccadic system is activated to recapture it. The latency period for a pursuit movement is usually 100–130 ms. ........Normally SP is triggered by movement of the target’s image off the fovea (retinal slip). During the latency period and from the retinal input, the brain first plots the direction of the target’s movement. The eyes then begin to turn in that direction and rotation accelerates to match the speed of the target. The accuracy of SP is reduced and its latency period prolonged when attention is distracted by a simultaneous second target.24 " To learn more about how your eyes target, and see movement click here.

Keeping the knees bent as one moves forwards: Whether in fighting stance, or in formal Traditional stance creates the least amount of body movement and contributes towards an illusion that you haven't moved as far as you have, nor as quickly as you have since the eyes have more difficulty registering horizontal movement. One minute the opponent is over there, and then almost like magic he/she is closed in. That's one kind of optical illusion that I would like to take advantage of when sparring!

17 Dec 2007

Martial Arts Blogs

This post is to promote all martial arts blogs. If you'd like to promote your blog, please let me know by writing a response to this post below.

Bunkai Jutsu
Fist in the Frost
Soo Shim Kwan 水心館수심관
Traditional Taekwondo ramblings
Old Man Karate
Ikigai | Blogging the Martial Way
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13 Dec 2007

Multiple Person Drill

Great to see a similar multiple person exercise from another martial art school.

Our multiple person drill has some 'gaming' rules. Lately, we have not been using this as a sparring session due to the number of beginners. The drill has been however incorporated into our warmup sessions - and really maxes everyone out.

The game rules are simple. The person who is 'IT', needs to align the two or three others that are rushing him - 'IT' is allowed to grab. The people doing the rushing are trying to come at him from either side - and are not allowed to grab.

Having Fun in Multiple Person Drills
Where it gets fun is when 'IT' attempts to use one of the opponents as a shield. As I have done so before, this can be in a form of a hair/uniform grab, arm lock, fish hook into the neck, or choke.
1. Also fun is when 'IT' breaks free and runs away from both opponents as they try to approach him.
2. It is cool to abuse the shield, then immediately discard the shield and lunge towards the other baffled opponent who was trying his best to get to you.
3. It is even more cool to drive the shield into the other opponent.

The speed at which we do this helps people cope with the rush when dealing with a dynamic situation. As you can see from the video, it's not pretty. Self defense is not pretty at all. What is driving both sides are simple objectives. Keeping those in mind, you will then have to look at the environmnet and make it work for you.

To read the original post, and see a few good discussion points, go to Video: Check and Move from TDA Training.


Multiple Opponents video

10 Dec 2007

Relying on What You've Got in a Taekwondo Grading

The big lesson I felt I had to reiterate this grading is related to the way our syllabus is organised.

Beginners have no clue of martial arts - they've got to learn fewer techniques; intermediate and advanced students can learn more techniques and are able to learn them faster. Beginners have no clue of how to apply techniques - they've got to have commitment and faith to make the few techniques work; intermediate and advanced students are starting to gain some experience, timing, and mental tools - and are able to work on game plan to win.

So the issue for grading at the basic level is to not only see the technique, but to judge whether or not the technique is going to pull its weight when need to. So strikes have got to have clarity and blocks have got to provide good coverage. The point to note is that the beginner doesn't know any of this - it's hard enough to coach yourself when you're expert level, the beginner shouldn't know what to look out for. Neither do we have mirrors for them to see themselves anyway.

So the lesson for those who just took their grading (and who did really well, I might add), is that each technique needs you to have full commitment and total faith that the technique will work.

Really in a combative or self defence situation, if the beginning student has no faith in the technique nor commitment to striking or blocking - ALL IS LOST. The grading is just a way in which to ascertain that you've got what it takes to pull it out of your hat for real.


Fist in the Frost: New Brown
Fist in the Frost: Brown Day 1

1 Dec 2007

Side Kick Variations - Conservative v Risk-Taking

This is a bomabastic, risk-taking version of the side kick designed to cover lots of ground and apply lots of momentum if you successfully land it on the opponent. It is done by none other than Bruce Lee. This is a good example of a kick that you shouldn't do if you've screwed up your knees and hip.

The following is a video I just found off youtube. Aside from the irritating music (mute your volume), the side kick (in the later half of the video), is a good example of a conservative kick that preserves COG in order to allow practitioner to return fire with hand strikes. Notice the stylistic nuances - they are not entirely necessary to perform the side kick, but don't overly detract from it if you know how to land strikes on the opponent. This is a kick that will help reduce joint and hip injuries.


Won-hyo Side Kick
Martial Arts Sources: Bruce Lee

30 Nov 2007

Warmup Drill to Increase Coverage for Sparring

In our warmups, we use a simple 'pushing' kick as a way to limber and warm up the leg and hip muscles. It looks like a heel kick but is done pretty much in slow-mo, and pushes outward at groin height with the flat of the foot.

Right foot pushes, right hand goes forward. Left foot pushes, left foot goes forward. Not very difficult.

My comment last night was to make sure that the elbow goes across the body and covers the center line. Meaning when you're pushing with the right, you're not just covering your chest or neck area with your fist. You are attempting to bring your whole forearm across from the side so that it is vertical and lines up between your solar plexus and your opponent. In this position it is far greater that you will be able to counter the fastest kicks sent to you in retaliation.

17 Nov 2007

Kihon Kata Koma Part 2

I was doing a drill for the beginners on Thursday. Basically they're supposed to surge towards the strike mitt and send a loose lunging punch at it. My green belt was doing a good job, but it looked like a Karate move. You know what I mean, when you get the muscles tightening, some snapping of the limbs, and a general deceleration/stabilization of the body.

What I wanted was a quick relaxed surge. What I got was a 'karate' punch.

This is the effect of having the constant drills where each technique is snapped into place. My position is that this kime or focus is about an end strike -- landed as an ikken hisatsu. Meaning you have launched a strike at an opponent and are attempting to sink in some serious power into the target. You've either controlled him with a grab or he can't go back very fast (because you've hit him before). So the strike, which is in essence how we drill all coloured belts needs to have the full power of the body behind it. Upon the strike, the muscles lock up so that there is power transmission from the feet sent through the entire body into the opponent.

However, what I wanted was to allow the beginners to relax into the strike. They've got to be able to keep mobile and to retain fluidity in order to deal with a dynamic situation - gauging what the opponent is doing, covering when a strike comes through, and most importantly adapting to an opponent who is out to bypass your defences and strikes!!! Without relaxedness and fluidity YOU WILL GET HIT.

To put it in perspective, the strike to end it all is what we practice throughout the beginning and intermediate stages in order that you have a clear weapon for you to use with full commitment when you don't know anything else. For beginners, this is a powerful tactic - one hammer fits all situations. But when you have some experience and you can start to gauge the opponent better, then there are other objectives to measure - certainly self protection and risk avoidance is high on that list.

So during an encounter, some less-than-full power strikes and blocks may be pertinent in order to remain maneuverable and adaptable. No tunnel vision is allowed until you are fully confident to sink that strike in.

Good luck, kids. To all of us.

Kihon Kata Koma

Charles Goodin has a related post which discusses this subject very well. It's located at Karate Thoughts Blog: No Fixed Positions. The post talks about striking from any position and the 'kodak' moment you see in kata books. Excellent.

Dan Djurdjevic from the Way of Least Resistance discusses the traditional karate punch and kime, relating it to other types of strikes in Kime: The Soul of the Karate Punch

9 Nov 2007

Martial Arts Websites

I thought I'd let all readers have a free chance to advertise their martial arts websites and blogs. Or if you have a favorite blog or online resource you'd like to share, please feel free.

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Hwa-Rang Step 10 & 11

I was again sparring with Jacob our green belt last night. I engage and engage and he covers fairly nicely and then pulls away. One of our encounters I come in with some front lunging attack with left hand, front kick with my right, and whilst leg coming-down-but-still-in-the-air follow up by swinging my right arm in a horizontal arc from outside in towards his neck and back of skull. It basically becomes a nutcracker on his neck.

The move is an adaptation from Step 10 & 11 from Hwa-Rang. Step 9 is a lower block left hand with left front stance. Step 10 is a lunge punch with right hand in right front stance. Step 11 rotates on the front right foot, both legs come together and right fist is clasped into a 'salute' with left palm open.

One of the more interesting interpretations is to use the returning punch into the clasping salute as a way to strike at the back or side of the neck with thumb joint. So the open left palm stabilizes the head and the right hand swings around to strike the pressure points behind the opponent's neck. It is a very interesting move as it allows you to still be effective at a range where most punches are fairly ineffective. It also allows you to target some sensitive pressure points, if you're into that sort of thing.

The session we had last night was done very lightly, but I felt I could easily ramp up the power if I needed to. The nice thing with the move is that it allows you to instantly control the opponent, perform eye strikes if required, and throw him to the ground. Most other strikes would have to add the control as a second process; as in hit then grab.

I don't even think Jacob saw it coming (or going). All he did was feel something striking him on the side.


8 Nov 2007

Warmups: Knee Strike Drills

The exercise is to do a knee strike, left on one and right on two. The counting is hard and fast, alternating and keeping the student guessing. Today I stopped the drill halfway. After a little while most of the students would do the knee strike, and then put the knee down to prepare for the next knee strike. However, this meant that their baseline or 'ready' combat stance was different from when they were at the start line. The combat stance there was a truncated front stance with COG in the middle or slightly forward and therefore more of the weight was on the front leg. However with the kicking drill, preparing to kick again, the lazy way is to make sure the weight is shifted to the back leg so that the front leg can be swung up easier. But what does this tell the opponent? This tells the opponent you're not striking with the hands - you're striking with the legs. Specifically you're striking with the front leg. This is not what you want. You don't want to telegraph what you're doing, so you need to return to the 'prescribed' baseline combat stance before you have to do anymore shifting of your COG to cater towards the various techniques. This means you keep the opponent guessing as to whether you're punching with the hands or kicking with the feet. :-) Too easy.

Bruce Lee's Speed Training - Interesting last section on non-telegraphing of the punch (not that I totally agree with the brevity of how he has treated this subject)
Leg Sweeps

6 Nov 2007

Vertical and Horizontal Fist

We introduce the fully extended centreline solar plexus high lunge punch at white belt, which is possibly the most useless punch we could let them learn at that stage. We then teach the fully extended nose high lunge punch at yellow, and use that opportunity to show the roundhouse punch that's driven by shoulder rotation.

The vertical fist is related very closely to the lifecycle of the front lunge punch. Look at each of the 'snapshots' of the lunge punch, and about past halfway mark, you see the fist rotating into the 'vertical fist'.

White belts keep their punches tight to the side of their ribs, drive with their bodies, and send the strike linearly into their centreline. Yellow belts get to unhinge the arm, and rotate the roundhouse punch with their shoulders.

There is no one right way to drive the fist into the opponent. Having the ability to 'unhinge' the arm from the side of the body means you can track the opponent and choose a flight path perpendicularly to the target, and therefore reduce the risk of breaking your fist and allowing you to sink more of your power into the target.

The vertical fist has the advantage of 'cycling' in the centreline like pistons. It allows you strike on the centreline - which is tactically advantageous, and in this way allows you to use the arm in a tighter cycle than the fully extended fist. This makes the arm more functional as a short range cover, block and counter tool.

There is an opportunity for Taekwondo practitioners to develop functionality in the short range centreline in order to cover the body and head. Especially up close, this allows the practitioner to protect himself from attacks, and to counter more efficiently. Raising the arm from the side of the body and over the shoulder means the practitioner may lose the coverage from the forearm and elbow.


Colin Wee
Principal, Joong Do Kwan (Perth)
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5 Nov 2007

Karate and Elvis

There's so little activity on this blog that I thought to include a video of the King practicing martial arts. Did you all know he did Ed Parker Kempo Karate? That's Chuan Fa 'Karate-sized'. Enjoy.


3 Nov 2007

I'm Happy Elbow-ing Jacob in the Chest

Last Thursday we were doing a self defence drill against a bear hug from the back. The mian points were to steady oneself, perform a footstomp, extricate the hands, and elbow the opponent. Of everything the footstomp would probably be the real deal closer.

However, I spent some time talking about the elbow. Most of the elbow strikes I saw were striking the opponent with the length of the entire tricep. So I decide to get our resident green belt Jacob, and I proceeded to strike him fairly hard in the chest with the technique. The flat of the tricep meant that the strike bounced off him and he was shifted back. No real power penetrated into the body and no real pain was inflicted.

The elbow is best served front on. So in a backward facing strike, I would prefer to strike with the elbow in a downwards fashion. However, allowing myself to wind up by extending my hand forward, this position to 'ram' the elbow 'happily' into the opponent requires you to quickly bend your arm mid way, and then change the angle of your body (and position of the shoulder) in order that the force is sent from the point of the elbow (and not the triceps) into the opponent. Even lightly, this inflicts discomfort into the opponent.


Cause and Effect
Entry Tactics Part 1
Getting Your Kicks from Taekwondo
Hubad Lubad
The Perkiti Tersia System
Chinto Bunkai Gankaku Angles

27 Oct 2007

Chon-ji: Back Stance

By all accounts my new white belt Jacqui is well-coordinated, fit, and a good student. But she had some problems the last session and mixed up left and right on a number of exercises. No problem there.

Another picture I ripped off from Google images.

What was interesting was a more subtle problem discovered when I was teaching her the back stance or Hugul Ja Sae (though I never ever learned the Korean terminology until now), required for Chon-ji. Taekwondo's back stance, even in our 'traditional' style, is shorter than that of karate's Kokutsu-dachi.

What happened in our lesson was that Jacqui would be in back stance but have a posture that resembled a cat stance or neko ashi dachi. Her hips were tilted backwards and CoG was closer to the back foot, rather than 70% - as is required. I think that the shortening of the TKD back stance creates a larger opportunity to mess up the back stance. The analogy I used to try to resolve this problem was to show her that the back stance was like lowering your backside onto a stool or chair placed close to your back leg, but between your legs. The neko ashi dachi or cat stance would be having a stool behind your back leg, outside the base of both of your feet.

The link I had above on how to assume a back stance in tae kwon do states that from a back stance, you can easily throw a front kick without telegraphing your movements. I think that is utter crap. You should be able to throw most kicks from most basic stances without telegraphing your movements. The back stance is not a better 'defensive' stance. In fact, the forebalance or truncated forebalance (which we call a 'combat' stance) is a better self defence stance. The back balance is just that - a stance where you have had to shift your COG backwards or had to snake your foot forwards. It is a not to be dismissed - the reverse snap punch, one of the most powerful weapons in the karate-ka's arsenal is launched typically in the back stance. It is a weapon of subversion - it'll hit you without you knowing it was launched and you'd underestimate it because of it's subtlety.

22 Oct 2007

Dan-gun: Shuto into Roundhouse Punch

This image (again one I ripped off the net) isn't exactly like what occurred during the sequence described below. But I thought there were some similarities - beyond the stylistic differences.

We were doing a drill yesterday from Taekwondo pattern Dan-gun which required our yellow belts to block on oncoming punch with a shuto to the outside of the striking arm. Lead hand then crests over the punching arm and does a roundhouse punch to the opponent's face. I was walking around looking at the other students when Adina calls out that she's having some problems. It seems as though she's 'stuck'. Exactly as she was supposed to, the blocking hand is applying pressure onto the punch, but then she can't 'crest' over the punch to strike the face - because the punching arm is still there. What I demonstrated to her is basically relaxing the shuto arm in a split second and popping the elbow over the punching arm - like a bong sao. This is not where hard style meets soft style. This is just redirecting the flow of force in order to seek those loopholes or avenues back into your opponent. Our wing chun brothers can teach us a lot about this.

Bong Sao

19 Oct 2007

Dan-gun: Defence against Front Kick - Punch Combo

Step 13-14: Lower block follow by Upper Block -- or 'The Elvis'

Dan-gun Drill: We do a drill for yellow belts taking the lower and upper block from step 13 and 14 to defend against a front kick and head high punch. The lower block folds, using the right folding hand to deflect the front kick whilst the lower block itself is a strike to the inner thigh or groin. The upper block fold deflects a head high punch and the upper block strikes either the tricep of the attacking hand or the jaw of the attacker dependent on which hand is striking.

At our Martial Arts Practice Last Night: Enter one of my students who is 'trying' not to hurt me. After the strike to the leg, he throws a punch with his right hand that is not aimed at my head, but crosses and goes off about 6 inches to the right of my head. This means that when I deflect the punch with my right hand, it is not really deflected, but is pushed right into my face! ... striking me in the eye!

I was not impressed.

Martial arts need you to have intent: Now folks, for opponents to be good opponents, all of us need to intend to strike us. If you do the strike half heartedly, there is no point in practicing! You need to have intent. Even the most basic of punches will not succeed if you don't have 'intent'.

Our posts on Intent
Dan-gun Step 17-18: Vertical Knife Hand to Neck

15 Oct 2007

Dan-gun: Speed & Power of the Lead Jab

Once again, this image is not me. I've got longer hair!

Drills from Dan-gun I suppose if I talk about a front jab or round house punch with the lead hand, I'm referring to drills that I do linked with our second form Dan-gun. This is the instance after the first shuto where you extend your left hand and then do a head high punch with the right.

Lead Punch Jab Drill The last session ended off with a drill hitting the target (an open hand) with a lead punch jab. The back hand was held high to cover the face and the elbow of the jabbing hand was rotated so that the elbow was equal height with the punching hand. It's easy enough to send the hand out and strike the target, but to get any speed you need to relax the arm, send it out, and retract it fast. Once you get speed, then you can focus on the power of the punch. To get power, we focus on the rotation of the shoulders.

Common Mistakes - the Kihon Kata Koma Syndrome Look at most of the students doing this front jab, their power is curtailed by the first drill they do in my school - the lunge punch or oizuke. The lunging motion is important, but the oizuke is driven from the linear acceleration of the legs. The entire body is a battering ram.

Troubleshooting the Punch For the lead jab however, the rotational force of the shoulders drives the power. Just thinking of the lead hand shooting out and back is not sufficient. One quick trick is to punch but look backwards away from the target. This forces the reverse shoulder to swing back and sends circumfrential force right into the lead hand. Once you get the shoulders to work for you then you of course look forward when you strike the target. Make sure the hips are supporting the movement. Draw a straight line from the right head of femur (the corner of the hip) to your target. So long as the hip is traveling one or two inches toward the target, you're set!

Blog Posts on Dan-gun

13 Oct 2007

Getting Punched in the Nose

How to Protect Yourself from being Punched in the Nose Whilst doing Martial Arts or How Not to Get Punched in the Nose during Sparring

This isn't me. Again - a picture I just ripped from the net.

Punched in the Nose

The last session began with a few laughs at the expense of the green belt in training. Our resident green belt last week during sparring came in with a left lunge punch but didn't cover his face nor use his left shoulder to shield himself. So it was that I deflected the punch with my right forearm, elbow up and open hand pointing downwards, swung the arm around like a bong sau, and connected my forearm to his nose. Basically what we teach as the intro to Tekki - a deflection followed by strike to the upper gate. The lesson is extremely pertinent, and whilst I was drilling a white belt and our veterans, I made sure to show them how force is received to the face with different head positions. If the head is forward, the force is sent deep into the skeletal framework and dissipated. If the head is held upwards or back, the force gets sent into the first point of leverage - the neck. This results in a knockout or TKO.

How NOT to Get Punched in the Nose

What you need to do even in a forward stance is to drop the chin slightly - the nose gets 'tucked' back under the forehead. Go check it out in the mirror. It also decreases the perceived facial real estate to an opponent standing in front of you. The closer they get, the more your face has got to drop. This is one of the best tips to improve coverage when sparring (or in fact for any other sports where something hard and fast is coming towards your face). Enjoy!

List of Tekki Posts

6 Oct 2007

The Jon Alster Lunge Punch

This is one of the most basic of techniques that I use when I need to demonstrate how effective beginner techniques are. In fact, it's one of the top things I've got in my black belt bag of tricks - the lunge punch. Done properly, and a few of my friends can attest, it can hardly be seen, let alone stopped. Yet it is simple and not difficult to do at all.

I attribute most of the wow factor to just one man - Jon Alster. I harp about the oizuke or the front lunge punch all the time. Yet I should be calling it the 'Jon Alster' punch.

Jon, or Mr Alster, or now Master Alster was one of my sparring partners back in the States. He was very kind to provide me lifts to a 'by-invitation-only' senior belt training session. In fact, I treasure his time mentoring me informally so much that I have done internet searches a few times a year using his name. Finally I was happy to have discovered last week that he's developed a website for his school.

When we were training together, Jon was a very strong athletic black belt. Aside from his obvious talent, he had this awesome front lunge punch that I absolutely dreaded. You just can't stop it, you can't run away from it, and he drills 3 to 4 punches into you whilst you're being pummeled backward.

This is not a light flippy punch. This is a devastating powerful knock out weapon - and I can't say enough for it's effectiveness. Kickers have to be aware that it can be pulled out faster than most kicks too - and performed at any range.

The best thing is that it can hardly be seen. I've done this technique so often that there came a point where I had to decide not to use it so often.

Now I wonder if I can interest Master Alster to come on this post to extol some of the secret components that make this punch work.

Related Links
Jon Alster on A-KaTO's Dan Family Tree

5 Oct 2007

Tekki: Low Side Kick to the Knee

Tekki Low Side Kick

The second step in Tekki after the leg cross is a knee lift, stomped into a horse stance. We have been taking this, aside from the takedown aspect, using it as an opportunity to practice a low side kick towards the knee. Variations introduced means my veteran students are required to dish out 'regular' side kicks with knee brought up and heel extended into the target.

Low Side Kick Problem

Last night however, instead of a 'snapping,' 'thrusting,' or 'penetrative' side kick, I saw a 'wobbling' side kick. From the angle I was looking at, it seemed very much like a side kick. But rather than strike the kick shield as a punctuated piston-like battering ram, it 'flipped out,' it was non-solid, was held out a little longer than needed, and then dropped rather straight legged to the ground.

Troubleshooting the Low Side Kick

I finally figured out that while the large motions were more or less correct, that wobbling low side kick was done primarily with the quads - and the leg was 'extended' into the target. Thus sometimes the foot seemed to leave the kick shield looking rather ballerina-like. Also the kick shield would rotate more often towards the front of the kicker's body, rather than rotate towards the back.

I suggested the following: 1. rotating the body away from the target in order to focus on the large gluteus maximus muscle. 2. Calibrating the heel as the point to contact the striking surface. 3. To keep the kicking knee closer to the support leg and lifting the heel towards the target (rather than raising the knee up and 'shooting' it out). I would further suggest to have only a slight lean away from the target rather than perpendicularly from the target, but that wasn't much of an issue last night.

The anecdote used was the stomping motion you use when you're flattening a can. You need to crush the empty can straight into the floor, and you thrust out with your heel as you drop your butt down towards the can. Now you think of tilting the can away from you ... in the air. Maybe 45 degrees. You also tilt that 45 degrees so you recreate the sane stomping motion but now in the air at 45 degrees. Now just put the can on the knee and away you go!

Another problem was that the kicker's body would rise when kicking, and then fall away from the target as he made contact. The side kick is a very powerful weapon. You should feel a connection with the ground - sink your weight and surge toward the target. If any falling (off your previous COG) is to occur, it should be towards the target after you kick it.

More links to troubleshoot your side kick:

Side Kick Variations

Our back kick comes from a low angle off the ground, with kicking knee held close to the support knee while the heel is brought up from below to point at the target. We keep the kicking knee very close to the support knee - and the kicking foot is almost vertical to the ground, with a similar body position as shown above. Contrast this with our side 'penetrating' kick which comes out at the side, aligned to the body, but bearing 135 degrees from the kicker's face - almost like what is shown above but without so much of that body turn. The side 'snap' kick comes out at a 45 degree bearing towards the front of the body - and this yoko geri uses different muscles to the other side kicks described.

Counter Back Kick from Blue Wave Taekwondo Blog
Check this excellent footage out from Gordon White. Now, from a basics perspective, some of these are what I described as back kicks (0.04 sec, 0.07), and some some of them are back turning side kicks (0.11 sec, 0.16 sec, 0.19, 0.28sec). The back turning side kicks (as well as the Happy Birthday variation) are still extremely powerful and excellent weapons - as you can see from the footage. The variation comes from the speed of the turn - the knee is picked up in order that circumfrential force is sent into the kick, and the hip turns in order to get greater distance.

Relevant Links on Tekki

Colin Wee
Principal, Joong Do Kwan (Perth)
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30 Sep 2007

Getting Kicked in the Gut!

Green belt woes - sparring training is in session. There's an amount of hand holding that's going on. Meaning I get to attack my student and he doesn't get to retaliate! Of course I pick easily identifiable techniques, but I am aiming to apply a nominal amount of force. My green belt is doing fairly well so far - in the last couple of weeks his breathing has been getting more regular, he's moving much more fluidly, and he's starting to block and cover quite well. Yet he still gets suckered 'kicked' when I blitz him with upper body techniques and slip in the kick to the gut or solar plexus - turn your body to deflect, cover, move away, and breath out! Unfortunately, a couple of these solar plexus strikes later, he's then dropping both hands to cover his mid-section when I so much as lift my knee up. That's a psychological toll - keep aware you are not being setup by an opponent like that. So I aim a light 'sport' taekwondo kick into the gut and then swing it in the air to his head. Block with one hand mate! The other should cover your head, face, and neck! Oh, he missed that one, so my foot lightly connects with the side of his head. Ouch - poor guy. He starts figuring out the arms and subsequently does better. I'm thinking he's even ready to return fire in the next one or two weeks - lunge punch and reverse snap punch! Nothing to sneeze at, especially given how he can move me back about a foot when I'm holding a power bag up to his lunge punch! Colin

Related links
The Jon Alster Lunge Punch

28 Sep 2007

Getting Punched in the Gut

I suppose this could be part of the discussion relating to the lifecycle of a punch. But truth is I wanted my students to feel how it is like to hit a person and how it feels like to get hit. The punch is a simple hook punch to the gut, the setup for the longer range lunge punch. I wanted it done with the reverse hand so that I could get some hip twist included, sending the COG from the back foot to the front foot (sink that COG into the ball of the front foot!). I wanted to see the arm 'connect' to the body with the elbow and the forearm held closely to the ribs. Meaning, the arm is not the 'thing' that generates the power - it's the body that generates the power!!! However I noticed a lot of the students were letting their arm swing - disconnected from their core. Get those lats and pecs working, my goodness. Link that arm with the body using some isometric muscle contraction - it's dead simple. Drive the movement with your hip and you can feel some real solid transmission of power just from leg movement. Breathe out when you do so and keep your forward hand up between yourself and your opponent. Good fun to be had by all!

Related Links
Knockout Punch
The Jon Alster Lunge Punch
What is Okinawan Karate

20 Sep 2007

Rolls - You need Confidence! by Bill Mioch

Forward and backward rolls are an essential skill to learn if throwing techniques are going to be taught during classes. But to someone who has never done a roll in their life, they can look quite daunting.

When teaching rolls to beginners, I find there are three categories that students fall into.
  1. The student is a natural. They can either already do rolls, or they pick it up so naturally it's as easy as walking.
  2. The student is a worker. They learn at a steady pace and improve through practice until they become competent and confident at their rolls.
  3. The student is a worrier. They see the rolls, and immediately think "I can't do that." This is often linked with a perceived (or actual) physical impediment. As a result, they are afraid to practice and often lack motivation.
Just to clarify, the "physical impediment" may be as simple as being overweight or just feeling unco-ordinated. Actual physical impediment will have the same effect, reducing confident and motivation.

So how do we get this student to the point where they are making progress? Increasing their motivation is a big factor. Some things that we can do as instructors:
  • Learning as a group: Seeing other people learning and enjoying themselves make people want to do the same.*
  • Positive feedback: Make sure they know when they have successfully achieved a goal.
  • Training environment: People will feel physically safer with extra or thicker mats.
  • Physical support: They will feel safer if they know that there is a physical "net" to reduce injury potential.
Eventually the student will reach a point where they realize they can do it, and their performance and confidence will improve instantly.

Some of these points come down to general instruction principles, but I feel they are worth re-enforcing with rolls. The perceived daunting nature of rolls, the physical risks if a roll is not confidently learned and their fundamental importance as ukemi-waza (receiving techniques) makes them a "hump" for some students.


*NB: But be careful not to single them out! Three ways you might single them out unknowingly:
  1. Putting them in a group of people who already know how to roll.
  2. Making them perform their roll while everyone else waits or watches.
  3. Coaching them to the point that they feel "special."

Related Links
Forward and Backward Rolls off Mokuren Dojo

16 Sep 2007

Tekki: Side Kick

Palms over each other, cross step, arms raised/crossed & knee raise, open palm strike into horse stance.

Today we used the opening sequence of Tekki to train a low side kick to the knee for our veteran students. The arms raised/crossed was used as a cover, the step as a gap close, and then the hip was allowed to rotate horizontally in order that the foot stomp be used as a low side kick to the knee.

We applied this side kick towards an opponent in an open stance. After this, we applied the kick and dropped the kick behind the front lead foot to sweep the opponent's front leg. We then applied the side kick against an opponent in a closed stance, bypassed the knee and went for a takedown using calf of the side kick against opponent's knee.

We then applied this low side kick against a roundhouse kick done in a closed stance. The arm raise/cross was used as a cover, the raise of the knee was used to strike the inside of the opponent's round kick, the side kick struck the support leg, and then was dropped inside and behind the support leg to effect a takedown.

Lastly we used the low sidekick against an oncoming sidekick. The raise was used to deflect the oncoming strike, and the sidekick applied to the supporting knee. Sweet!


14 Sep 2007

The Knee is the key, and the Toes make it go ( Part 1) by Mireille Clark

Many times I have heard how the movement of the hip is the center of all karate movements, and I have personally felt how the hip directs, and strengthens the power of all arm, and leg techniques by uniting the whole body into the effort. However, by watching various students attempting to do a proper kick, or a strong strike, I've noticed that they had to work within the framework of the human skeleton. Our bones, and joints dictate how effective, and how much energy we can apply in any direction. You've heard the song:

Your toe bone connected to your foot bone
Your foot bone connected to your ankle bone
Your ankle bone connected to your leg bone
Your leg bone connected to your knee bone
Your knee bone connected to your thigh bone
Your thigh bone connected to your hip bone
Your hip bone connected to your back bone
Your back bone connected to your shoulder bone
Your shoulder bone connected to your neck bone
Your neck bone connected to your head bone
I hear the word of the Lord.

If you aren't familiar with the song, click here.

The lowly toes, almost forgotten as we train in our art when we concentrate on achieving power, are the guide for the knees. Our knees can only shift over a little from being over the toes before we put far too much stress on the limited small side stability tissue. So, in other words, our toes point the way towards where we want our inertia to be directed.

Our knees are the key to the movement of the hips. Keeping a straight leg locks our leg into a very difficult position for ease of changing direction. Many new students to Martial arts attempt to bend their knees in stance, but within a few breaths, they find themselves in too much discomfort, and they pull out taking a much higher position. They do not realize that this straight legged position will make many all of the techniques far more difficult to achieve because they do not have the flexibility offered by a bent knee. One of the main problems will be that their stability, and balance will become more easilly tipped over. Also, a straight leg is far more prone to being broken by a front kick, than a bent knee.

However, rarely in our normal modern everyday movements do we use our leg muscles in such a way as to develop the muscles in the leg, and knee to be able to keep a stable bent knee position. This kind of ability has to be developed through patience, effort, and persistence. Weight bearing resistance exercises that target the legs help us to achieve our goals of having strong power, good balance, and proper application of all of our techniques, including hand strikes. Traditional kata that forces the student to change stance which use inner, and outer tension, distribute their weight in different places, and smoothly turn controlling their balance demands bent knees. These patterns usually take less than a minute to execute, and then the pressure is removed from the muscles allowing them to re-energize, and rest before the next pattern. It is similar to weight lifting in sets of 10, and then taking a 30 second rest between sets. The various directions and positions in kata help build up not only the big muscles such as the thigh and calf muscle, but also the smaller muscles surrounding the knees, ankles, and bottom of the feet. All of these muscles are needed for good balance, and total delivery of power. It does no good to have an unbalanced muscle system wherein one muscle can deliver alot of power, and the support muscle is weak. This unbalance can create interior stress, and even possible damage to the tendons instead of power. ( Here is a website on various knee injuries/problems that dancers have experienced, and how to self-help them. The information is just as valid for Martial artists that place their knee joints through similar training.

Our bones, and joints truly control how we can move. By trying to do martial arts techniques with straight legs we are endangering ourselves in many various ways. A bent knee releases the hip joint to move as it should. Traditional kata training helps develop strong legs, and joints so that we can use our techniques with balance, power, and proper technique. I strongly encourage Martial artists to value their kata training as more than just another thing to be learned to gain their next rank.


Knee is the Key Part 2

9 Sep 2007

Won-hyo: Where are your eyes on the back of your arse?

I got the group to do a side kick drill on a kick shield today. The point was to get students who are just learning the side kick to walk up to the bag, set themselves up and give it a decent kick with moderate power. This would teach them distancing and reach, targeting the kick shield, and then kicking it with proper skeletal support.

I was noticing some spinning of the kick shield. When I kick the thing, the power is 'injected' into the shield and forces the person holding it backwards. Most often when the beginners kick it the target spins one way or the other.

Of course there were other problems, using the wrong muscles, not setting up the kick right, falling away from the target, etc. But the main issue was when the kick was applied more or less correctly, the power wasn't transmitted into the person holding the kick shield.

I then noticed that when the person approaches the shield, for example kicking with a left side kick, they would zero in on it, swing their left leg toward centre line and then fire the kick off. However, when they do this, their support leg is clearly 10-15 centimeters off the perpendicular line towards the target. Meaning that they were aligning their heads to the target (so they can 'see' the target directly) but yet their legs were not aligned to it. So when they kick the shield square on, the kick really is coming from a side-on diagonal, hitting the shield in the centre and then torques it around the person holding it. The net result is the kick shield is mostly thrown off toward the left of the person holding it.

Do you also have similar problems kicking a kick shield with a side kick or other kicking technique?

All this is because the student is targeting the kick shield with his eyes and there is a horizontal difference between the position of his eyes and the fulcrum of his weapon (in this case the kicking hip). Worse is when the beginner turns more to the left to look at the target full on ... he sees the target swinging off to the opponent's left and he aims more to the left. This just ruins it further!

The trick is to understand that the eyes need to be calibrated taking the fulcrum of the hip of side kick as the point of origin. Meaning you need to have eyes on the back of your arse!!! All you need to get here is to use peripheral vision to 'capture' the side of the kick shield and off you go.

This point of origin concept is an interesting one that I use for intermediate and advanced students in order for them to understand how to use angles of entry around the opponent's coverage and blocks. Get your students to drop to their knees, and look up at their opponents standing in fighting stance. The view is different isn't it?* It offers you a totally different vantage point in order to understand how to place kicks onto the body of the opponent. Targeting opportunities look different and your students get an idea of how to take advantage of loopholes so that their kicks adapt to their sparring opponents.

*If your intermediate and advanced students don't understand the differences in vantage points from placing their eyes at hip level - in terms of kicks, that means they do not understand that kicks can penetrate and hit specific points on their opponent's body. This may also mean that you might want to reconsider allowing students to practicing light kicking drills on their partner's bodies rather than using kick shields or pads. These training aids are sometimes detrimental to the targeting of kicks onto the body proper as they condition the eyes away from the body core (most targets are held away from the body or center line).

Won-hyo: Side Kick
Knee Position after the Kick
Pad Work
Won-hyo Blog Posts
Beginner Sparring Part Two: Objectives


7 Sep 2007

Won-hyo: The Kihon Kata Koma

I wore my very non-traditional US-inspired first-dan red gi top last night. It prompted me to use more solo drills and partner drills for the Taekwondo session last night.

What was interesting was my observation of the student just entering the Won-hyo level. Otherwise just learning some sparring skills, he's had 13 months with us, and has done very well on basic movement and techniques (what the Japanese would call kihon). But last night, the difficulty when relaxing out of the traditional framework was in the distancing, angle of entry, and tracking of his opponent. Somehow he couldn't place the strike where the target was as his feet were 'programmed' to do something entirely different (read 'Oizuki' or front lunge punch).

So instead of talking to him about the steps and the basic movements (of which he had little problem understanding), I talked to him of 'pressure'. The blocking and striking drill was against a strike mitt. We stood in open stance, with me standing right side forward holding a strike mitt in my left hand at the side of my face. I would swing with my right at the left side of his head. He had to duck, step forward with his right, check my right hand, and cross punch with his left. The pressure he was applying was right on the money as my striking hand came back towards his head. But the strike was not striking the target properly - his body and solar plexus was facing toward the right side of my body, and at worse facing further away at times.

Discussion of the 'pressure' applied onto the blocking arm allowed him to hip twist, engage shoulder rotation in order that his left roundhouse punch was able to crest the shoulder or outstretched arm easily and then reach the target.

I would have posted this under sparring skills if not for the fact that I think it is one of the most important lessons in self defence that I rave on constantly about. The lesson is this - it is that at the beginning level, everything that we teach and ask from our students are taught at some prescribed distance and at some prescribed angle. Without recreating the exact environment and setting it up as has been prescribed, the student will be hard pressed to modify the technique or place the technique on the requisite target effectively. It won't work if you don't do it the exact way in which we taught!

Saying that, I then asked for a front kick into the ribs. I stood just outside the range of the 'prescribed' front kick. As expected, the technique was awful - the body arched back to cover the distance, the support leg was not entirely stable on the ground, the arms flailed and were then raised as shoulder and uppper body muscles were wrongly tensed. This was not the beautiful front kick that is typicaly for this person nor belt level. So I repeated the lesson asking whether this was the 'usual' distance for the kick. So I asked for the 'usual' distance to be set up.

The student obligingly came forward and performed a nice front kick, which was blocked with my elbow as I had slightly turned my body to the outside of his kick! :-) Elbow cracked onto instep. Ouch. So I asked again whether the target was presented the way in which we had set up. Again after receiving the right answer, I then asked for him to kick me with the front kick except now I started moving, slowly at first, and he would walk with me (amazing) instinctively tracking the target area (my ribs/obliques).

It is this mental tracking that students of his rank are required to do. This is when sparring should be relaxed, gradual, and not be a stress inducing exercise for techniques and combinations.

Look at Me, I'm doing Taekwondo and That's Why I Look as Stiff as a Board
Kihon Kata Koma Part 2
The Jon Alster Lunge Punch
Oyo-jutsu: Is kata an effective training method for self-defense?
A radical reviewing: the ineffectivity of the karate tsuki
Mir's Karate Goals for 2006
Karate Topics by Lester Ingber

Enjoy the links!


1 Sep 2007

Black Belt Coaching Course

I've been spending the last couple of days training Bill Mioch, our associate Black Belt member who's visiting us from the Eastern States. We've been going through his entire karate syllabus of techniques and discussing:
1. Proper muscles dynamics - power generated from hip twist or shoulder rotation or lunging force or whipping force.
2. Position of COG - for mobility and for control.
3. The nature of each striking technique - to reduce injury to yourself and to maximise striking force on the opponent
4. Techniques and strategy to use each technique - some techniques are used for close range, some for further away, some for gap closing. Such strategy or objective affects the way in which you hold the weapon or unfold it or apply forces as your technique bypasses opponent's defenses and strikes.
5. Aikido hand locks and throws - either forcing the joint into the spine and opponent's static COG or taking it out from the baseline.
6. Coverage and protection using traditional techniques - it's all related, kata and sparring - so it needs to protect you whilst you are facing an opponent that can hurt you.
7. Bill also got to experience some interesting sparring kumite theory - dealing with techniques which couldn't be seen so clearly until the end. Or techniques that messed around with visual perception so that they appeared faster than they were.
8. The last day Bill gave our students a good self defence lesson in response to an escalating scenario, which I'll highlight in a following response.

Perhaps I should let Bill highlight one or two techniques and expand on them for the sake of this Blog.


28 Aug 2007

Beginning Sparring Part One: Problems Encountered

Pick on someone smaller, won't ya?

I am going to provide some sparring skills training to a black belt practitioner; partly to assess his skills and partly to work on a progressive training system for his students. I thought to take the opportunity to discuss some basic challenges students have when starting sparring training. The following is a basic list of sparring skills I came up with off the top of my head.

1. Objectives: I've seen most schools throw their students in the deep end. Sparring skills should be built up in a progressive manner, similar to other skills acquisition they are doing. Pressure testing should come much later. First off is to define what the students are doing and what they should be looking out for. I tell my students they should be focusing on a) recognising strikes and techniques used by their opponents, b) gauge distances, and c) test simple techniques - reaching out to opponents lightly.

2. Distancing and Reach: Many people have difficulty understanding distances when time-pressure is against them. Also tunnel vision and reduction of peripheral vision make distancing more difficult. Students need to re-learn how to guage distances for sparring and improving their spatial awareness for martial art techniques.

3. Targetting: Students have no clue how to perform a technique let alone where to hit the opponent. I tend to point out major possible areas before sparring. This should be in line with complementary drills like one-steps during practice sessions. Beginners should not overly think about specific strike points, but look for big targets to aim techniques at.

4. Weapons to Use: Many students start off sparring knowing 4-6 strikes (hand and foot), 3 blocks, and 3 stances. But when faced with such a pressure test - how many things can a student think of at once? One or two only! In fact this continues even up to when the student becomes an intermediate or advanced belt, but it's just processed at a faster rate, so it seems that they've learned a lot more.

5. Combinations: The student can think of one or two things. Block. Strike. Strike Block. They can't think of combinations. These can be 'handed' to them so that they can engage a sequence without having to be so aware of everything.

6. Protection and Coverage: Here's a downblock, mid block, and up block - all great for blocking things that your grandmother throws at you. Now block something from the Chuck Norris brown belter who's training with you. Doesn't work at all! Students need to be taught more coverage skills. They've got to be taught how to move away so that the opponent needs to always track them. They should know how not to walk into a technique!

Who's protecting your opponent from you?

7. Stamina and Endurance: Never smoked a day in my life ... yet I feel like I have emphysema as I try to dance around the room. You can't breathe because you've not been taught how to breathe during sparring. In fact whatever new breathing technique you've learned in a hard style system is most often WRONG. It's not the student's fault he's holding his breath! This is natural when you start getting stressed and tensed.

Can't breathe? Pick up a healthier habit!

8. Fear and Discomfort: It's confronting, and is one of the exercises that really tear down the walls of confidence in a person in order to build it up again - stronger than ever. But to have a person face such fears, you need to be cognizant of it and cater to this period of training. Once they cross that hump, then you can let it coast, but before that happens, the student cannot think of much else let alone technique or distancing, relaxation or proper movement.

Bring along protection at all times.


Related Links
Taekwondo Chon-ji No One Wants to Get Hit
Fighting Concepts from Ways of the Warrior Blog
Kihap Shouting in Taekwondo
Traditional Taekwondo Sparring

26 Aug 2007

Your Views on Traditional Taekwondo Blog

This is a Traditional Taekwondo Blog created to look at techniques from training sessions in our weekly Taekwondo practice here in Perth, Western Australia. It's been easy for me to focus on my Taekwondo students as they progress, and discuss things that matter to their practice. So, tell me ... would you like to see me discussing more advance techniques? Or would you like me to discuss basic Taekwondo techniques but with a coaching perspective? Such may be a departure from the basic Taekwondo syllabus (though I'll still endeavour to cover basic techniques but not so frequently). Let me know and I'll try to cater to your interests.


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24 Aug 2007

Taekwondo Side Kick of Won-hyo

Taekwondo Side Kick of Won-hyo

The Taekwondo Side Kick is the second kicking technique appearing in Traditional Taekwondo. It appears in Won-hyo and is called yoko geri in Japanese. If the front kick is a kick known for its ease and speed, the Traditional Taekwondo side kick should be known for its power and penetration. One of my martial arts instructors said that the side kick is the most difficult to perform of all the 'non-gimmicky' kicks. He was right.

There is more than one side kick in Taekwondo's Won-hyo

There are two side kicks that appear in Won-hyo Hyung! It's true! One requires you to take a step back and prompts you to think about it as a defensively applied side kick in response to an opponent's attack. The second one is an offensive penetrative side kick going forward.

The kick from won-hyo we practiced last was a basic side-on side kick. We stood the students facing 135 degrees away from the target (pointing bodies to 8 0'clock or 5 O'clock), raising their knees at about 90 degrees away from the target and then firing the blade of the foot at their targets. We started with the motion in the air, then progressed to working with an opponent (holding hands for stability), and then worked on the kick shield.

Maintaining dynamic balance with the side kick

COG for the side kick has to be between the support foot and the target, and should tend towards the striking area. Not to do so is a mistake a lot of beginners or non-kickers make. Such kicks look great in the air but rarely do much of the damage that side kicks are capable of. Also to the the foot rotating in the right direction, there needs to be some vertical rotation in the hip (bearing about 135 degrees away from the target) - so that the kicker's gluteus maximus moves toward the target area. (If you have problems with your side kick, you should look at my post Calibrating the Side Kick.)

Maintaining control means not locking out the legs while doing the side kick

Another critical success factor for the taekwondo side kick is to remain level whilst kicking or drop the support leg lower (allowing the knee to maintain some bend). Standing up or tensing the shoulder muscles whilst kicking AND straightening the support leg reduces maneuverability, and doesn't allow for dynamic support. The base leg has to be involved in the entire movement. The kicking leg goes forward, and thus the support leg has to move in the opposite direction based on vector forces.

Which part of the foot to use for the side kick?

Blade or heel of the foot? I didn't stress much on this last night. Typically I kick with the blade of the foot - but lately, with suspected joint inflammation/arthritis developing in one of my hip joints, I've opted to reduce as much torque on the hips as possible. So I've been experimenting with focusing power into the heel and adding a little more 'snap' in the leg extension - so the lower leg travels faster. This seems to increase power and keep my joints happy.

Taekwondo Side Kick Muscles
We'll talk about this image in later posts.

Targeting the Opponent with the Side Kick

The side kick is 'punched' out from the hip to the opponent in a straight line. If we are not discussing tactical advantage, the best way to launch this kick is when it is fired parallel to the ground. This achieves the longest reach and allows the kicker to generate a good amount of power. This is counter intuitive for Taekwondo practitioners - raising the side kick reduces its power, decreases it's reach, and opens your groin up for counters. Tactically it is most sound to raise the knee to chamber but fire the kick downward to the thigh or knee or even apply it as a foot stomp to the shin or instep.

For a comparison of the basic side kick, check out Taekwondo Side Kick: Yul-guk v Won-hyo. The post compares the side kick as it is introduced in Won-hyo and later how it is practiced in Yul-guk. The following video compares this side kick from Won-hyo to a thrusting side kick - a variant we practice for close quarter encounters.

Related Links

If you liked this post, check out Roundhouse Kick Muay Thai v Taekwondo and if you want a combo to make an offensive side kick work nicely, check out Nat's post High Low Combination Jab - Side Kick. Don't forget to read through the comments on the end of this post - some are quite good.

Colin Wee
Joong Do Kwan Chung Sah Nim
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