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!



Colin Wee said…
Check out response by Sensei Dr Lester Ingbar, who wrote the excellent book Karate Kinematics and Dynamics, and whose link appears at the bottom of my original post. Regards, Colin

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Hi. I appreciate the nice words. For sure, my studies in karate
reported in my 1970 thesis and 1976, 1981, and 1985 books were very
innovative and important to a few other people at that time, but I
expect that by now many Instructors have found better ways to relate
the same and deeper points to their students and peers.

In the context of your article you cite below, I think that training
in 1-person and 2-person combinations -- a new one presented in
each class -- is extremely useful to teach/train students that
Karate is a "body language" that need to be "spoken" creatively,
and this means putting otherwise isolated techniques regularly into
the context of new "paragraphs" of body interactions with opponents.

[Mat] said…
Very nice post. (again)

Food for thought for sure. I'll talk about it with Sensei to see what comes out of it.

The article on Shigeru Egami is so interesting. To have it integrated into training is such a nice opportunity. I've been using it as a guideline for my own personal training. Meaning I diverge a bit from what I'm being taught. Yet, I get excellent results.

I hope your students know the luck they have.

Colin Wee said…
Nice seeing you post here, Mat.

The article on Shigeru Egami is so interesting. To have it integrated into training is such a nice opportunity.

It is shrewd and pragmatic to understand the strengths of the art of Karate AND its shortcomings. Once you know your parameters, you can then go about exploring your options!

I've been using it as a guideline for my own personal training. Meaning I diverge a bit from what I'm being taught. Yet, I get excellent results.


This is a natural (and healthy) course for many serious martial artists.

I hope your students know the luck they have.

Who knows? I have yet to see any of the kyu grade students post here!!! If only I had this resource when I was training!

wmioch said…
Food for thought is right. I think you've highlighted a transitional stage that is often glossed over, but is just as important as the rest of it.

Especially prudent for my new student. She's had previous Karate training, but isn't confident (generally) and particularly in sparring. I think keeping this information in mind will become very relevant.

Actually, on that topic, I wanted to make a post about teaching rolls to a reluctant (read low self-confidence) student, but I don't think this blog is exactly the correct place. The IAOMAS forum perhaps?
[Mat] said…
"If only I had this resource when I was training!"

But then again, you are still training no(you know that is a litlle joke, right?)

Viva internet, where good information, good teachers and good knowledge is at fingertip.

Where else can I find such good people? :)

Colin Wee said…
Mat - It was not so long ago when I was a green belt and blue belt that I can remember knowing how to perform a technique yet not knowing how to do a technique. For instance, I could do most of the major standing kicks with one or two of the more gimmicky kicks -- but had no idea how to land them right. Yet most of our sparring consisted of using such "powerful and deadly" kicks to keep our training partners at bay! If at any time I caused hurt it typically would be unto myself when we would knock shins together! Sad but true.

Wmioch - teaching rolls, sure. If that's part of your weekly practice and if you'd use this blog as a 'technique workshop' you can go ahead and discuss how you go about things. Just keep it conversational and relevant to your day-to-day practice! In fact, even in regard to this post, there should be points of comparison when teaching rolls and teaching sparring.


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