Training Warriors for the 21st Century

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

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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