Dan-gun, Hand Conditioning, and the Pseudo Soodo

A Taekwondo soodo marki ('shuto' or 'knife hand') performed in back stance has the pull back hand palm-up in front of the solar plexus mirroring the extended weapon, and the front hand palm-forward to opponent.

Most practitioners of Taekwondo would get to learn this technique during Dan-gun, believing the blade of the hand is the part of the weapon that makes contact with the target. While they are mostly correct, I have not seen many practitioners nowadays doing hand conditioning to the point where that part of the hand would be hard enough to cause damage.

35 years ago, my first martial arts instructor started us on conditioning equipment and poultices which thickened our knife hand and shins. I don't train the edge of my hand that much anymore but I can  see evidence of this early training.

My master introduced us to this technique by conditioning the side of our hands with large white candles. We would roll our knife hand blades into the candles that were placed flat on the surface of a table. Then we would roll the entire blade back and forth pressing downward. After a few weeks of this we would gently hammer the candle whilst it lay flat on the table. A few weeks after, we would hit the candle hard enough to crush the wax, again while it was flat on the table.

Our students have the option to pursue conditioning of the hand - so I do present it as an optional part of their training. However, considering that most nowadays don't actively condition their hands, I usually present a variant to the tool as it is commonly practiced in Taekwondo and Karate halls. This is a variation where we use the corner of the heel palm rather than the blade of the hand.

The best thing about this type of weapon is that you can create a fairly formidable self defence tool easily and immediately. It is also very similar to the heel palm strike - which we teach as part of a beginner's 'self defence' bag of tricks when they first step into our school.

Start by flexing the hand towards the thumb side of the forearm when the shuto is extended in front of your face. Then you make a very shallow hollow in your palm as you tense the muscles in the heel of your palm. The corner of the heel palm is where you make contact.

Try smacking the ground with the front face of your knuckles held in a fist - an uncomfortable proposition for most beginners. Then try it again with your shuto or the blade of your hand. Then with the heel palm. Lastly, turn the heel palm so you are hitting with only the corner of the heel palm.

It's easy to see how the heel palm is a good beginner self defence tool. You can strike a hard target with little chance of hurting your own hand. Angling it so it makes contact with only the side of the heel palm is a very elegant modification. In doing so the modern martial artist can improve their confidence in using this traditional technique. As your confidence grows, you can then depend on it more readily, then incorporate it as a ubiquitous part of your bag of skills.


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Last edited Dec 3 2018


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