Training Warriors for the 21st Century

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

25 May 2007

My Tekki On It: Tekki Bunkai

Taekwondo came to the region of the US I trained in via GM Jhoon Rhee i.e. via a Tang Soo Do Chung Do Kwan (or Korean Karate) lineage. There are some Japanese kata that we still practice which includes Chulgi (Tekki or Naihanchi), Balsek (Basai or Patsai), and Sip Soo (Jitte).

Taekwondo Founder General Choi Hong Hi was known to be a Shotokan trained black belt. His Shotokan influence is apparent to anyone taking the time to analyse and compare Taekwondo patterns to Shotokan forms. I have in particular enjoyed this comparison as it provides a rich source of bunkai or applications.

In fact, the more time I spend looking at Shotokan forms, the more I understand and appreciate the Taekwondo forms that I have learned. The video I have included above is of Tekki - which I have enjoyed immensely in recent years. I hope to be producing more application videos from this kata in the upcoming weeks.

Please download the following video showing some Tekki Bodyguarding Bunkai inspired by Shihan Dr Bruce Clayton.

Check out:
Orjan's Practical Application for Keumgang Poomsae Part Four
Charlie's Bunkai from Tekki with Cross Reference to Wing Chun
My Tekki Giveaway
Mokuren Dojo Review on My Tekki
Mireille Clark's post on Tekki Shodan
Tang Soo Do: Chulgi (Tekki) on TMAC Forum
The Karate Way
The Martial Arts Explorer
Mireille's Post on Tekki Bunkai Cont'd
Chulgi: Punching Across the Body
The first part of the word Bunkai is 'bunk'

As for my performance of a Japanese Kata? Shihan Grant McMaster says I'm a little too high, but other than that I don't think it's too off course - considering I am a Taekwondo practitioner. The height aspect is an interesting observation - something I should address in the upcoming videos...

24 May 2007

Chon-ji Middle Block Drill with Partner

The above video is from 2007 when we were bumming facilities off an unknowing local primary school here in Perth.

Sorry about the dimness - the video was off my phone. Notice the breathing, the extended elbows, dropped forehead, and the head high block! All this from a white belt! Amazing.

The following video is from 2017 ...

The preamble on YouTube reads:
Yop Markgi - possibly one of the most under-rated techniques in Taekwondo. How do you possibly get any power from that lateral move, depending on rotator cuff muscles to cut a move out of the line of your body? The simple answer is - YOU DON'T. 
The technique is a great close quarter technique that can be used to lever the arm, strike the body and other satellite extremities, and used to cover your vital areas. These extend from head high targets to the edge of your ribs! Yes, it does.  
Here we're running our two weekend beginners through a drill that helps them practice both centreline punching and that Yop Markgi middle blocking technique.  
While it is only a drill - take a closer look at what both hands are doing to cover - and then what do they do when that blocking hand is sent out. :-) 
Hope you enjoy.  
Just shows that there *are* things worth practicing, and that indeed we do practice them when required.

What Technique a Beginner Needs to Master

I am responding to a question by one of our beginners as to why we don't study any kicks sooner as beginners, as opposed to other schools where they study a lot of kicks (and presumably other hand techniques). My initial answer was because we follow a syllabus, and the syllabus follows the progression of patterns, and that there are few techniques in the first two forms and only a front kick in the third form. This response is also driven off by the following blog entry ...

How you train is how you react

There are two opposing issues when studying martial arts and 'self defence'. That is that the martial arts take a lifetime to learn. The second is that self defence (typically as provided in a course) attempts to pack in 'some' value so that the participant learns something of worth that can protect his/her life.

This is the main problem I see with martial arts schools, and one that I want to resolve in mine. It is that beginners are sold an idea that they cannot be effective for the next however-many-years, and this affects all other expectations of beginners . My objective however was to ensure that beginners know how to use four main techniques against any aggressor ... and to do them so that sufficient power will be generated to create a good deal of respect.

The two main striking techniques are: front lunge punch and reverse snap punch.

The two main blocking techniques are: lower block and middle block.

There are obviously other techniques that are taught in the first few kyu ranks and many drills. But these four techniques are an 'acid test' I use for grading and I'd like if my beginners obssess themselves with the effectiveness of these techniques. When push comes to shove and you need to pull a rabbit out of your hat - what are you going to use? You are going to use one of these striking techniques and you will not hold back nor doubt yourself nor falter in your committment. Read the corresponding blog entry. There're some good tips there.

Best wishes,


ps. The picture above is not one of me.

The Jon Alster Front Lunge Punch

19 May 2007

How closely can you get Kata to display Combat Experience?

Q. What happens when you take your combat experience and try to perform your kata?
Q. What happens when you use a 'sportive' power generation technique during your kata?

I was noticing something interesting at the last training session. My pre-grading students were falling over themselves doing their kata. Turns were off. Lunges were overdone. The problem? The problem is that they were trying to perform their techniques in the manner in which they were performing them on striking mitts/power bags - overextending their centre of gravity in order to get more sriking force.

Kata is a traditional exercise, and the way we do it focuses less on shoulder rotation and/or the throwing of your whole body into the shoulder and through the strike. To gain more force in this exercise you should generate the power through your legs, send it into your core, and then fire it into the weapon. In this way you can better control the equilibrium and take the 'recoil' back into your body. Rather than teetering over the front foot.

Without the pads, they would end up committing their focus beyond the point at which they could re-balance themselves and then, with their COG off, this would mess up an otherwise easy kata.

Kata, as I told them, is the syllabus. There are many other skills that need to be shown, but during the kata part of the test, the student has only to show their understanding of 'the structure' of the syllabus. For kata, this translates to 'performing' only the sequence of killing techniques with mental commitment. Physically, the body needs to maintain the 70% COG in front stance and the 30% COG in back stance. The weight is dedicated into the floor and kept low.


ps. The folk at Bullshido seem to have something to say about this post. Check out their comments. Just discount the rudeness. And for the record, everything we're doing has a purpose, we just need to know how each are building us as overall martial artists. For instance, I use bag gloves on a heavy bag - but I don't wear those gloves whilst out, so do I hold back body shots? And I certainly don't perform kata the same way I hit that bag, but I still train using a variety of different exercises. So yes, they are imagining things. I assume that's what happens with internet warriors who have little coaching experience.


16 May 2007

I'm going to take the Fifth on this one ...

Hanshi Tim White presents my certificate to me.

I would like to thank Hanshi Tim White, Director of MLCAA, for promoting me to Fifth Dan effective May 15 2007. I have been slogging away at the martial arts since 1983 and have never had any idea that I could take my journey and this humble hobby of mine so far. At heart I am still a student and such an award is an exciting recognition. Now to get on with life. :-) Best regards, Colin.

In addition, I would like to thank:

  • Sensei Bryan Robbins - my first TKD Instructor who is like a father to me. 
  • Sensei Michael Proctor - my Karate instructor, who took me in and made me earn my black belt. 
  • Sensei Paul Hinkley - there is a thing called 'technique' and it *can* hurt. 
  • GM Keith Yates - for graciously mentoring and inspiring me from afar. 
  • Shihan Dr Bruce Clayton - for making sense of it all and re-igniting my passion. 
  • Sabumnin Stuart Anslow - my brother in the arts - for sharing his love for TKD.

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14 May 2007

Punching Angles

At white and yellow we look at two punching levels - one is the midsection or towards the solar plexus, and the other to the upper level (to the nose). These two heights provide a nice 'parameter' for the basic strike to allow a good amount of force to be applied to the opponent whilst reducing the probability that you're going to break your fingers on a bony corner (like the chin).

The takeaway lesson for beginners facing a moving opponent is when the opponent moves, the punching angle needs to move in relation to the target being struck. For instance, if you're punching the nose, and the opponent is bent over, you may have to drop the elbow and strike more upwards - driving more with the legs and shoulders.

Baton Instruction by Hanshi Tim White

The above video shows Sifu Tim White providing military baton training. Instead of just punching directly at the target, Sifu White shows what happens when you direct the strike downwards. Similar to aiki throws, the force is directed at a triangulation point between and behind the opponent's legs on the ground. This forces the opponent downwards and backwards, rather than just take the hit and come back for more.

Lastly, while we can take the mid and high section punches as parameters, Sifu White's downward angle of striking lends credence to the mid-level oizuki (lunge punch) from Chun-ji. What a great lesson!


13 May 2007

How to Punch as Hard as a Black Belt

I was witness today to some truly remarkable power generated by one of my yellow belts as he's preparing for his grading next week -- off the humble front lunge punch.

Beginners typically time the punch with the step of the leg. Meaning as the leg goes forward in a 'step', the hand gets fired off at the same speed. As they progress, they then feel the expectation to strike harder, resulting in upper body tension. There's a lot of muscle tension that gets transmitted into the target through shoulder rotation. But pure power is lost.

What the practitioner needs to focus on to punch as hard as a black belt is ... the leg sprints as fast as possible whilst the body and the hand stays 'as is'. Only just before the foot lands on the floor, then you build up the muscle tension to fire off a punch. At the point of impact, the body 'locks up' to transmit the power of the legs into the arm.

My wonderful yellow belt after knocking his partner (holding a striking mitt) back 2 feet said that the punch was much more effortless than his strikes earlier in the morning! Can you imagine what would occur if you really tried to put power into something like that? Wow!


The Jon Alster Lunge Punch

10 May 2007

Chon-ji: Relaxedness and Rigidity

We finished off the class today doing a drill from Chon-ji that we did a week or two ago - deflecting the oncoming lunge strike from opponent using the fold for the lower block (Hardan Marki) and then coming down hard on the forearm using the blocking motion.

In theory, practicing the lower block in Goman (normal ready stance) the left blocking arm is folded to the upper right over the right ear. The folding motion also turns the body slightly to the right. The right arm is wrapped around the left ribs at about one fist away from the body.

The focus of the drill was to ensure that this turning occurs whilst under duress. Not only does the turning of the body present a much smaller target, it allows some deflection of the punch if the oncoming trajectory has not been modified by your block (meaning your block sucked). So if the opponent were to lunge at me with his left arm, I would turn to the left and block his arm from the outside with my right forearm.

Not only does the body rotate, in order to have solidarity in my body movement, I have to exhale. The exhalation allows me to think of creating a small convex in my body in order that I increase the distance between the striking arm and its target.

That's me doing Chon-ji, Perth, Western Australia

With a pliable, relaxed, and responsive body I then perform Chon-ji's lower block by dropping my entire body weight like a pile driver on the extended striking arm. This is a method of creating a lot of power without lunging forward. It's related to the 'falling forward' most beginners would use when striking with the lead hand in a 'self defence' situation. However, rather than just dropping one leg, both legs in this case are synchronised and move apart at once. The drop needs to be transmitted into your blocking motion - so some coordination is appreciated.

You cannot be tense and relaxed at the same time. Many people have the overwhelming urge to make a hard style martial art more tense than it should be. There is a lot of rigidity within a hard style martial art, but within this basic framework -- relaxation between techniques is very important. A good training tip is to make sure you are attempting to learn moves whilst being as relaxed as possible.


2 May 2007

Dan-gun Grading: Zero to Hero in Two Hours

Daniel Larusso did it ... in the span of two hours he went from high school loser to one legged Karate Kid Champion. Of course I'm no Mr Miyagi and this isn't Hollywood, but there are a few things we can talk discuss to help our students prepare for their grading.

Firstly, student practitioners need to come to class prepared. This means that the student needs to know what is expected of them and overview all techniques, drills, kata, and application from their pattern in their minds. This has to happen before even starting to warm up their bodies at each session. The main point to note is that if you are preparing to grade using Dan-gun, for example, most of the apps and drills SHOULD be drawn from the current curriculum, mainly from your Dan-gun hyung.

The performance last night showed me that our students did not show sufficient mental preparation before coming to class. We train only two days a week. Dan-gun is relatively straight forward. If we can't drive our bodies, you would think that you can at least make sure the mind is sharp for when you need to perform correctly.

It's really not difficult. What was tested was done repeatedly over the last four months or more.

Feedback for last night's performance - how to improve on your performance in this grading of Dan-gun

  • Chon-ji has mid section punches. Dan-gun has punches to the nose. Make sure they strike centreline and that level.
  • Defend against a push or grab or a punch by folding for a knife hand and then unleashing the knife hand onto the neck. 
  • Defence against a kick using a low section lower block or Hardan Marki and fold, and then a strike to the neck or jaw using a rising block or Chukyo Marki.
  • When I ask for strikes, perform three at the upper level to the front and kiai on the last one.
  • The double blocks counter a strike or grab to the mid to upper section of your body - the arm is wrenched down and forward and bends the opponent over. You can push him away from here or control his head and punch him out.
  • Poker faces throughout the form. No wincing or scrunching up the face while doing any technique. If you get lost, look to the other student and continue. If you stand around looking lost I will notice that. Worse comes to worst, start over again. 
  • A front stance is two shoulder widths long. The back stance is one shoulder width long. Please allow make sure we can all see the difference between the two.
Need more advice when you grade? See Relying on What you Got in a Taekwondo Grading

Want to see a sample Taekwondo Grading Result?

Dan-gun Links on Traditional Taekwondo Blog

A few weeks more to get it right! Keep practicing!

Students finishing off yellow belt or their Dan-gun pattern should look at beginning sparring advice.


External Dan-gun Links

1 May 2007

Killer Intent ... or the lack of it

The previous session, I had our yellow belts work off each other in preparation for their grading this month. They were doing a drill blocking two oncoming strikes: one for the head and the other mid section. The drill was to use the fold of a down block or Hardan Marki to deflect the first, and then to come down hard on the second. I stepped in to make sure they were performing it right - and kept on pushing one of the yellow belts to make sure the strikes were coming on target. The strikes were coming along nicely and I thought to stop the drill - straightened up a little - looked to the other yellow belt - and got a punch right in the side of the left temple!

Bloody beginners!

Contrast that with another school I visited. I faced off with a fairly senior belt and was in the midst of the drill when I notice that I had to compensate because the guy's punch was missing my face and flying past my ear. To make matters worse, the fist was overturned and limp. This is not the way.

We practice a martial art. Your partner - the opponent, needs to launch an attack which emulates a real life attack - sometimes laser focused, sometimes wild and flailing. There is absolutely no gain to be made if the person does a half-arsed attempt to send 'a hand' somewhere toward your face. (see 'Attacking in Aikido' - a totally hilarious post on the subject).

You must make an attempt to use killer intent in a controlled environment. Killer intent means that your strike would strike and would injure if you were not going to control the amount of impact you use.

This is less apparent in stances. I see a lot of beginners side-step the opponent when defending or practicing atemi. Your lunge attack, even if you miss, can be used as a striking tool to do real damage to either his foot or his knee. Your stepping in in a back balance, if not to do anything should allow you to sweep his support legs from under him. It won't happen if you think to 'walk around' the opponent. Hard style is about displacing his centre of gravity - or destroying whatever part of his body gets in your way.

In Eiji Yoshikawa's Musashi, the Miyamoto Musashi is arranging a duel for himself when asked whether he is using a real blade or a wooden sword. To that he replies that there is no difference - meaning it doesn't matter what weapon he's going to use, he's going to kill the opponent with or without a live blade. This is the kind of mindset martial artists - doesn't matter if it is Taekwondo or Karate or Aikido - and you must that killer intent it when practicing atemi or strikes.

Stay safe.