Training Warriors for the 21st Century

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

28 Dec 2007

Reverse Snap Punch on a Makiwara

Guess what this sound is, my brothers.

BNK!-rrr. BNK!-rrr. BNK!-rrr.

The first 'BNK!' is only the sound that my reverse snap punch makes when hitting the makiwara (actually it's not a real makiwara, but a cheapo wall-mounted striking target) in my garage.

The second sound 'rrr'? Why, that's only the sound of the garage as my punch vibrates its single brick walls.

I've posted on this before, but working with this particular punch is one of the best things to happen to me in my black belt years. It's how I'd like everything I am practicing to proceed - more power through technique and through less effort. The reverse snap punch indeed starts with the knees, legs and the hips. The hip twist movement is then transmitted through solid core muscle tension and tight lats. The lats hold the upper extremities close to the upper body in order to benefit from the increased body mass. Letting the punching arm leave the body and have freedom of motion only reduces striking power as it is driven by shoulder, pectoralis muscles, and arm muscles.

I have not yet installed a real makiwara. Even the martial arts supply shop guy thought I was half-mad throwing any sort of power onto the wall-mounted striking post he sold me. So I really try to restrain myself to keep those arthritic knuckles at bay! But this punch rocks, baby!


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26 Dec 2007

Roundhouse Kick: Muay Thai and Taekwondo

Muay Thai Roundhouse Kick versus Traditional Taekwondo Roundhouse Kick

I actually embedded a clip talking about the Muay Thai roundhouse kick but it seems to have been taken down. So I've searched for a new clip from youtube and came up with this one. First off, I really dislike it that he calls it a 'damn foot'. Second ... I think that floppity foot shows an amateur technician. But saying that, the following text refers to the previous clip - which isn't there anymore, and I apologise for not yet updating this information. But it is still pertinent.

***old discussion on Muay Thai Roundhouse vs Traditional Taekwondo Roundhouse***

This is some random martial arts video I picked up from youtube searching for 'Roundhouse kicks'. The guy is not an unskilled kicker - though he seems to like the sound of his voice. He may benefit from some instructional skills. But not a bad attempt at all.

I'd just like to go through what he says about the roundhouse kick.

First up, he says "round kicks in general ..." and I like that because the basic roundhouse kick I was taught and continue to teach in Traditional Taekwondo hits with the ball of the foot rather than the instep as he says. I have learned that long range instep roundhouse kick variety and also use it to great effect in sparring, but that's beside the point.

Ours is a very conservative roundhouse kick done on a horizontal plane, and does not require the practitioner to lean back to extend the kick out far. In fact the roundhouse kick is more like a front kick done on a horizontal plane. The abs and obliques are tensed (or utilised) in order to generate power without a lot of extraneous movement. If the opponent were standing side on to the practitioner, the kick would hit the opponent straight from the front or the back. It is not angled upward nor would it have a tangential angle of entry. Check out my response to Mireille's post on topic of roundhouse kicks.

The roundhouse kick that he represents as being a Taekwondo roundhouse is a modified variation off the basic traditional roundhouse kick that we learn. When I started it was called a 'turning kick,' but irrespective of the name, this is the roundhouse kick that we learn in our 2nd kyu pattern Hwa-rang (that's one away from black belt). It is still kicking with the ball of the foot but leveled on a target directly in front of the practitioner. Meaning if the opponent is side on to me, I'd be kicking him in his ribs.

If you were going for an instep roundhouse kick, I'd assume you'd want to snap the kick like he says. In fact, in general, all kicks should be snapped. Funakoshi Sensei, the Father of Karate, says that all kicks should come back as fast as they go out; this covers all of the basic kicks from my style. However, whether you'd choose for the kick to be a light jab or gap closing type of kick, or if you want it to be a more powerful penetrative one depends on the situation at hand.

He says that Taekwondo roundhouse kicks are now done for speed and are more like "half roundhouse" kicks. I teach that the front kick describes a vertical angle of entry and the roundhouse the horizontal angle of entry - and that all slices between the two are legitimate kicks that are applicable dependent on the target available. So the weapon is chosen for the target, rather than for the pure objective of speed.

I also think that it is strategically more sound to be able to modulate the kind of power (see Power Generation and Common Sense) used in the kick throughout the cycle of the kick. What I mean is in direct regard to the Muay Thai roundhouse he is demonstrating. He says something like "unlike the snap or whip of the Taekwondo roundhouse, the Muay Thai kick is more like a baseball bat". My opinion is that the person using kicks in actual combat or self defence needs to be real smart about the kick; kicks are risky, they open you up, and you have a high chance of missing. So any kick that requires you to wind up and then power through is only great for one thing - competitions.

I would also add that most of the kicks he is performing, both representing his idea of Taekwondo or Muay Thai styles would benefit from him bending his support knee just a little more. It's fine to do what he's doing on the mat - straight support leg. But if you're in combat mode, I'd be choosing control over how I extend my leg and retract it. The bent support leg makes for better overall control of body dynamics - though it looks much less glamorous.

>> If you liked this post, check out Hwa-rang: Roundhouse Kicks, The Long and Short of it


More links to Traditional Taekwondo at sitemap.

23 Dec 2007

Beginner Sparring Part Two: Sparring Objectives

Beginning Sparring Part One: Problems Encountered

Objectives: I've seen most schools throw their students in the deep end. Sparring skills should be built up in a progressive manner, similar to other skills acquisition they are doing. Pressure testing should come much later. First off is to define what the students are doing and what they should be looking out for. I tell my students they should be focusing on a) recognising strikes and techniques used by their opponents, b) gauge distances, and c) test simple techniques - reaching out to opponents lightly.

Pyung Ahn Cho Dan is a post I did on TMAC forum and is a dialog I have with Mireille Clark, my Shotokan BB friend from Canada. While it is not directly related to sparring objectives, I've included it here because it is a good benchmark relating to how many instructors view the exercise of sparring. Instructors don't place a lot of emphasis on sparring because it really is just part of the entire training program that a practitioner has to undergo - sparring is not the be all and end all of training.

Is the objective of sparring total annihilation? No. Even when I grill my students during sparring training, they get to walk out on their own two feet at the end of class!

The point of sparring is not to injure your opponent, but no one said anything about not hurting the person in front of you.

Sparring allows you to string your techniques together. Beginners should work on movement, cover, and awareness. Don't worry about landing the technique. Just look at what the other person is doing. Cover, block and get out of there. It's intimidating enough facing someone intent on striking you. If you do more than a few things, you'll be totally confused. Not to mention out of breath! Once you figure out how to move and how not to get totally winded, then use only one or two of the most basic techniques to start gauging distances and timing. I would suggest hand strikes first - once you nail the strike you'll find it much easier to calibrate all other techniques. If you use your kicks exclusively to maintain distance you'll find you'll not gain effectiveness in other techniques.

Back to sparring objectives, stringing the techniques together, and learning how to apply them to a person that is intent on striking you is really quite difficult, and is a journey in itself. Once you gain some effectiveness however, sparring can be a real buzz. You'll find yourself gaining better combinations, and learning what you like to use against an opponent. This is when you should start to reflect on your overall training. Check out the following post. It helps you analyze your own ability and how you should modify your approach to sparring. TDA Blog: Handicap Sparring.

At this point, my opinion is that you should balance out your growing sparring skills with continuing studies of traditional martial arts training. Why? There are lots and lots of really good training methods or training objectives with TMA that can benefit the practitioner growing in the arts. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying traditional taekwondo or karate training is the be all and end all. There are modern training aspects all serious students should look into as well. But by and large, no one should get blinkers from a predominantly sparring-oriented training hall.

Keep an open mind folks! And go light. Lightness doesn't mean sloppy technique. It just means pull back on the commitment.



21 Dec 2007

The Knee is the Key ( Part 2)

In my last contribution to this blog, I looked at body mechanics during movement stressing how the knee needs to be bent to allow for the best, and most economical movement during training. Today, I'd like to address a common problem when attempting to keep one's knee bent, which I'd like to call "the moving wall syndrome".

A big issue that beginning students have with the knee is that, as they start, they bend it to achieve a good looking stance, but in transition as they move forwards, they straighten their legs, and then bend the knee once they've finished moving. Suddenly, their energy is directed in an up and down manner instead of forwards towards their opponent. You can tell that you are doing this as you move forwards because you will actually witness the wall across from you moving up and down. I can still remember my first Sensei walking calmly up to one of the dojo walls, placing his hands on it, and calling back at us "It's o.k. now.. I'm holding it steady for you." This was his humourous way of telling us that we are standing up, and going back down as we were moving in stance.

Not only does this up and down movement waste energy, direct power in the wrong way, cause more joint stress than necessary, but it also makes your body movement become more noticable to the eyes of your opponent. Why? Because your body is not staying in the same place coming forwards, instead it's visibly moving up, and down which activates the targeting system in the eyes. You only need to think about how difficult it is to track a ball that is coming straight at you, and to gauge it's distance in order to catch it, and compared that to catching a ball that is coming at you in a downwards arc.

"When an object of interest appears in the peripheral vision the eyes are rapidly turned towards it. The same ocular motor response may be provoked by a sudden noise or painful stimulus applied to the body’s surface. This sudden fast eye movement is called a saccade from the French word meaning the flick of a sail in the wind or the jerking of a horse’s head by a tug on the reins....... When a target is moving, the saccadic system can initially capture it but soon loses it as the image tends to slide off the fovea (termed retinal slip), necessitating another saccade. The smooth pursuit (SP) system overcomes this deficiency by enabling a target to be tracked smoothly rather than with a series of jerks, thereby keeping its image steadily centred on the fovea. To prevent blurring, movement of the retinal image has to be kept less than 5º/s. For the SP system to be effective, the target’s velocity has to be relatively slow, i.e. less than about 50º/s. If the target moves too fast for SP, the saccadic system is activated to recapture it. The latency period for a pursuit movement is usually 100–130 ms. ........Normally SP is triggered by movement of the target’s image off the fovea (retinal slip). During the latency period and from the retinal input, the brain first plots the direction of the target’s movement. The eyes then begin to turn in that direction and rotation accelerates to match the speed of the target. The accuracy of SP is reduced and its latency period prolonged when attention is distracted by a simultaneous second target.24 " To learn more about how your eyes target, and see movement click here.

Keeping the knees bent as one moves forwards: Whether in fighting stance, or in formal Traditional stance creates the least amount of body movement and contributes towards an illusion that you haven't moved as far as you have, nor as quickly as you have since the eyes have more difficulty registering horizontal movement. One minute the opponent is over there, and then almost like magic he/she is closed in. That's one kind of optical illusion that I would like to take advantage of when sparring!

17 Dec 2007

Martial Arts Blogs

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Bunkai Jutsu
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The Way of Least Resistance
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13 Dec 2007

Multiple Person Drill

Great to see a similar multiple person exercise from another martial art school.

Our multiple person drill has some 'gaming' rules. Lately, we have not been using this as a sparring session due to the number of beginners. The drill has been however incorporated into our warmup sessions - and really maxes everyone out.

The game rules are simple. The person who is 'IT', needs to align the two or three others that are rushing him - 'IT' is allowed to grab. The people doing the rushing are trying to come at him from either side - and are not allowed to grab.

Having Fun in Multiple Person Drills
Where it gets fun is when 'IT' attempts to use one of the opponents as a shield. As I have done so before, this can be in a form of a hair/uniform grab, arm lock, fish hook into the neck, or choke.
1. Also fun is when 'IT' breaks free and runs away from both opponents as they try to approach him.
2. It is cool to abuse the shield, then immediately discard the shield and lunge towards the other baffled opponent who was trying his best to get to you.
3. It is even more cool to drive the shield into the other opponent.

The speed at which we do this helps people cope with the rush when dealing with a dynamic situation. As you can see from the video, it's not pretty. Self defense is not pretty at all. What is driving both sides are simple objectives. Keeping those in mind, you will then have to look at the environmnet and make it work for you.

To read the original post, and see a few good discussion points, go to Video: Check and Move from TDA Training.


Multiple Opponents video

10 Dec 2007

Relying on What You've Got in a Taekwondo Grading

The big lesson I felt I had to reiterate this grading is related to the way our syllabus is organised.

Beginners have no clue of martial arts - they've got to learn fewer techniques; intermediate and advanced students can learn more techniques and are able to learn them faster. Beginners have no clue of how to apply techniques - they've got to have commitment and faith to make the few techniques work; intermediate and advanced students are starting to gain some experience, timing, and mental tools - and are able to work on game plan to win.

So the issue for grading at the basic level is to not only see the technique, but to judge whether or not the technique is going to pull its weight when need to. So strikes have got to have clarity and blocks have got to provide good coverage. The point to note is that the beginner doesn't know any of this - it's hard enough to coach yourself when you're expert level, the beginner shouldn't know what to look out for. Neither do we have mirrors for them to see themselves anyway.

So the lesson for those who just took their grading (and who did really well, I might add), is that each technique needs you to have full commitment and total faith that the technique will work.

Really in a combative or self defence situation, if the beginning student has no faith in the technique nor commitment to striking or blocking - ALL IS LOST. The grading is just a way in which to ascertain that you've got what it takes to pull it out of your hat for real.


Fist in the Frost: New Brown
Fist in the Frost: Brown Day 1

1 Dec 2007

Side Kick Variations - Conservative v Risk-Taking

This is a bomabastic, risk-taking version of the side kick designed to cover lots of ground and apply lots of momentum if you successfully land it on the opponent. It is done by none other than Bruce Lee. This is a good example of a kick that you shouldn't do if you've screwed up your knees and hip.

The following is a video I just found off youtube. Aside from the irritating music (mute your volume), the side kick (in the later half of the video), is a good example of a conservative kick that preserves COG in order to allow practitioner to return fire with hand strikes. Notice the stylistic nuances - they are not entirely necessary to perform the side kick, but don't overly detract from it if you know how to land strikes on the opponent. This is a kick that will help reduce joint and hip injuries.


Won-hyo Side Kick
Martial Arts Sources: Bruce Lee