Training Warriors for the 21st Century

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

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.