Training Warriors for the 21st Century

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

26 Mar 2008

100 Posts on Traditional Taekwondo in Perth Western Australia

I started this blog last April 2007 with a simple aim - to talk about taekwondo techniques from our training perspective. I wanted to literally share HRGB's weekly experiences with readers - basically one post after each of the two training sessions we had per week. Just in 4-5 months, this blog started ranking on the first page of Google for basic key martial arts terms, and I started reaching out to a small network of like-minded martial arts bloggers. Through the posts, I have opened up my practice and my thoughts to all. It still requires some nerve to be so transparent, but I believe this helps improve the quality of training in my taekwondo class. This is my 98th post, and I invite readers and friends to share any thoughts of what you'd like for a 100th post on this blog. So, any thoughts? What techniques are you all working on now? Sparring strategies? What information would you like highlighted in your own school? Let me know.

21 Mar 2008

Won-Hyo: Defensive Side Kick

Won-hyo Steps 7-8 Defensive Side-kick
See also Won-hyo Side Kick

Our green belts did a drill off Taekwondo's Won-hyo last night - a defensive side kick from steps 7-8 against an opponent reaching out to strike or grab with the hand. Opponent steps forward and reaches out with the hand. Defender slaps hand down, shifts COG on back foot, and performs a defensive kick to opponent's ribs.

Like all other taekwondo drills, this is of course repeated a few times. When I came to check, one of the students had returned to a 'fighting stance' with COG on the back foot. This should not be the case. To reduce telegraphing your intentions, you need to adopt an aggressive fighting stance that means business. Any opponent will think twice to step within a range where you can hit him with a hand technique. This means the student needs to look like he's going to lash out with either hand for a knockout blow ... not have his COG on back foot so that only his front foot looks 'dangerous'.

The shifting of COG from front to back leg when you perform the slap down on the striking hand then allows you to get your front leg off the ground properly. If opponent comes light on (read: being nice or not committed), it is easy to throw a standard penetrative side kick. You do this by bring the front knee up (like performing a front kick), and sending the foot out to the ribs.

If the opponent is rushing at you and applies much greater forward pressure, distances will be shortened immensely and you will not be able to extend your leg comfortably with the standard side kick. This is the reason why each side kick in Won-hyo is set up differently! With the distances between the two players closed, the student has to keep his front knee close to the back supporting knee. The heel of the kicking foot is then lifted up toward the target and 'mule kicked' out and upwards to wards the ribs.

19 Mar 2008

Won Hyo: Scoop Block v Kick Punch Combo

Check out my forum on Taekwondo's Chang Hon: Won Hyo Hyung

We did this as a green belt drill in our last session.

There are natural movements and combinations through the various martial arts, Taekwondo included. These combos are seen regularly through sparring or self defence. For instance: jab-hook, kick-punch, jab-kick, etc. Bunkai or drills needs to introduce this concept to the student and prepare him to defend against them.

Step 18-19 of Taekwondo's Won-hyo Hyung is a reverse scoop block at mid-section. Aside from other more exotic interpretations like a neck break, one of the drills I use is a traditional intepretation that pits the student's scoop block against a kick punch combination. In particular, a front kick plus a lunging jab type punch.

The scoop block performed in the pattern is done dead straight, with movement culminating in what seems to be a mid level yop marki (or middle block).

In performing this technique against the kick-punch however, the body is encouraged to rotate freely, and the arm is turned so that the elbow faces forward. This means that the forearm is much more vertical than if the user were pointing straight towards the opponent. A vertical forearm is a more effective blocking tool for a kick than if you were to only reach out for the kicking foot with the hand. The point of impact can be anywhere from the ridge hand area to the forearm.

The scoop block is not allowed to swing too aggressively to the left or opposite side. Having a large swing increases the distance covered and reduces the probability that you can block the ensuing punch. With elbow centreline, the mid level block is done using a lot of latissimus dorsi contraction. This helps 'pop' up the arm to face level after dealing with the kick. It also means that both arms are staying centreline to protect your fact and chest. --> if the arms are too way out either way, the lats movement would be pronounced enough and is an indicator that the practitioner has not received enough jabs or punches to the face!

Whatever it is, the elbow is forward so that if there is not enough time to effect the mid level block, the elbow can be raised and the face lowered behind it so you can deflect the punch with your elbow.

Don't forget to provide coverage with the back hand!


ps - the opponent doing the kick punch needs to do the kick punch realistically. Meaning after the kick, you drop the leg and use the downward pull of gravity to lunge your body forward with the jab or lunge. If you do both techniqes separately, it'll just be unrealistic.

Won-hyo: The Kihon Kata Coma

10 Mar 2008

Poomse teaches proper mental attitude towards self defense by M Clark

I have noticed how easy it is when training with a partner on self defense movements to lose one's serious focus, and mental attitude. There seems to be a little voice at the back of your mind that interrupts your actions with "I do not really want to break this person's leg, neck, arm, etc." Often, I've seen people become uncomfortable with the content of the self defense move, and be reduced to embarrassed giggling especially when practicing a groin kick, or a violent choke hold.

YET, to truly be effective in applying the movement in real life, one has to see themselves doing the action, and mentally agree with it's results, and consequences. We have to be willing to commit ourselves to the action. There has to be a "follow through" to the movement, even if it is only a mental imagining of the happening. Otherwise, we are practicing to stop ourselves from completing what is necessary in that kind of situation.

"At any given moment in our waking lives, our brains are flooded with a bewildering array of sensory inputs, all of which must be incorporated into a coherent perspective that's based on what stored memories already tell us is true about ourselves and the world . . . the brain . . . [sifts] through this superabundance of detail and [orders] it into a stable and internally consistent 'belief system' - a story that makes sense of the available evidence. Each time a new item of information comes in we fold it seamlessly into our preexisting worldview (Ramachandran & Blakeslee, 1998, p. 134).

The brain fits new information into existing categories or understandings based on prior memories and learning, keeping the person's worldview relatively coherent over time. This means that the brain helps "create your own 'reality' from mere fragments of information, that what you 'see' is a reliable-but not always accurate-representation of what exists in the world, that you are completely unaware of the vast majority of events going on in your brain" (Ramachandran & Blakeslee, 1998, p. 228). This may explain the individual's ability to deceive him or herself and to create and live in another reality, a reality that others have difficulty accessing or understanding."

So therefore, when learning self defense applications your former experiences, your inner mental attitude, and the present experience will affect how well you can use the information being presented to you in the future. In other words, will you be able to avoid, or stop an attacker from harming you?

Kata/Poomse/Patterns are a wonderful tool for creating the right mental focus, and attitude as you do self defense movements. You can mentally visualize yourself breaking through the attacker's arm, or throwing the attacker to the ground and breaking his neck without actually physically doing the move to a real person. Since your brain cannot distinguish between real and imagined, it will treat these visualizations as actual experiences, and help form the right kind of reality needed if ever placed in that type of situation. The great thing about Kata is that you can solidify, and ingrain the right attitudes, and responses through repetition. The more that you take your pattern seriously, and envision what each move can do for you, the more you invest in your Martial art.

8 Mar 2008

My Traditional Taekwondo

I have trained in various martial arts, but I draw primary inspiration from my training with American Karate and Taekwondo Organization, then known as Southwestern Taekwondo Organization.

The syllabus A-KaTo uses was brought over from Korea by GM Jhoon Rhee in the mid 1950s. I have learned in recent years through discussions with A-KaTo director GM Keith Yates that GM Jhoon Rhee came from a Chung Do Kwan Tang Soo Do lineage. This is an interesting point in that the Taekwondo Chang Hon syllabus we inherited was transmitted through a Tang Soo Do perspective.

A further point of interest is that it was brought over to the states during Taekwondo's formative years, and had not undergone a lot of the evolution that would start a couple of years later as it sought to create an identity separate from Karate. Unlike other Taekwondo schools which have embraced such a natural evolution, our school was happy doing things as you'd probably see them in a Tang Soo Do school - which really looked a lot like a Karate class (or more accurately a Korean Karate class)!

I have continued this spirit and have sought to bring a clarity to this style of Taekwondo I have myself inherited. In my mind I practice a 1950s styled Karate-Taekwondo Hybrid. I call this style 'Traditional' as opposed to other schools which call their Korean Karate 'Classical'.

By traditional I am not saying that I do things the 'traditional' (read sadistic) way - line drills, shouting at students, lots of basics, hard training, etc. By traditional, I mean my style is locked in time for a specific reason - and that reason has been to allow me to add stylistic and pragmatic value to my martial arts by looking at developments and practice occurring before the 1950s that would then influence those practitioners of that early Taekwondo. This includes other hard styles that directly relate to early Taekwondo practitioners like Tang Soo Do or Shotokan, and softer styles such as you have it from Jujutsu or other Chinese based systems.

This liberal approach to martial arts practice brings a great wealth to my practice as I look at all other styles through a 'Traditional Taekwondo' lens, and I don't feel limited by any 'official' bunkai syllabus that a 'traditional' karate practitioner would probably have to consider. As you will ultimately find out, I value my patterns highly and the corresponding syllabus that results as an extension of my patterns.

But the compartmentalization stops there - as A-KaTo does, we train in Shotokan patterns at black belt and above. :-)

All lessons, counting, and explanations are done in English. Very little Japanese or Korean terminology is featured during class - only for the sake of identifying the name of the technique for posterity. Many of the Japanese and Korean terms featured on this blog are for keyword optimisation. My pet peeve lies with those who would link quality or credibility of any training program with the usage (or misuse) of Asian terminology. My take? All lessons should be conducted in English - so that the best possible explanations and analogies can accompany training sessions.


6 Mar 2008

Dan-gun: Soodo - Don't get slowed by the fold

The basic soodo or knife hand taekwondo technique is introduced in the second pattern 'Dan-gun'. It has a large fold, much larger than the karate crossed handed shuto - and requires the practitioner to pull back both hands, held parallel, and then swing them forward to perform the strike. Look at my post 'Knife Hand on Premium Unleaded' for more info.

I teach the knife hand fold as it allows me to communicate proper objectives of the technique. The folding helps present the entire body dynamics to help generate power for the strike. Without the fold, the beginner will probably be sloppy and not generate the kind of energy that is possible.

The fold for the taekwondo knife hand is also an opportunity to discuss tactical variations. The fold to me can show deflection of oncoming strikes, blocks, handlocks, throws/takedowns and chokes. It is a great way to expand the technique for more senior belts to link additional tools with basic techniques.

But the challenge is to be able to perform the first strike or block with sufficient speed, and not get too slowed up by the huge folding. Personally I can strike fairly hard without a very big wind up. Of course it'll be more powerful with a nice big pull back, but sometimes you don't get the luxury to do that. A chinese sifu friend of mine puts it nicely "you strike from wherever your hand is". This is very different from the 'traditional' starting point of the hip/ribs where your hand is chambered.

THe fact is that once you get proper technique to generate the required power, you are able to replicate that power using body dynamics - travelling much less distance with your hand. Sometimes this has got to be the way - to sacrifice the pull back or fold in order to make it to the point of impact.

This has got to be practiced during weekly sessions. Otherwise beginners start to get psycho-ed with the hip chamber or big folding movement.

Pseudo Soodo