Training Warriors for the 21st Century

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

31 Jan 2009

Nat from TDA Training Asked if I am Causing Conflict ...

Impressions, Aikido, Karate, and attacking first

A couple of months ago, there were a series of articles posted at Mokuren Dojo and TDA Training talking about several strategic concepts, basically discussing strike first or strike last philosophy.

My stance as quoted by Nat in the above post talks about the wisdom of being a pacifist in a highly-charged environment (think Ueshiba and Funakoshi). They are not entirely "representative" of their "antecedents" as Nat describes; my highlighting of their philosophical stance is just to look at the positives of their politics rather than to comment on their strategic value.

I go on (in expanding on the non-aggressive philosophy above) to describe that in my own traditional taekwondo practice that I often will start students off in a 'please don't hurt me stance' - with palms held out in a non-aggressive manner before practicing drills. This is the focus of the current post - Nat was thinking that in such an approach I may be the one who is causing a situation to escalate.

Firstly I think we need to focus on part of my quote: "One of the core things in our system is that we shouldn't engage the opponent in any way." Meaning we should avoid, not incite, seek to de-escalate, or to extricate ourselves from a situation in which there is a possible conflict that will or is occuring.

However, Nat equates this submissive posture to be an invitation for conflict to occur.

From a self defence perspective, no one wants to be victimised. Irrespective of what kind of posture you hold yourself in, if violence comes your way, there is some justification in using an appropriate level of aggressiveness to reduce the risk you face, to disrupt any sort of attack, and to extricate yourself to a defensible location. For this sort of aggressiveness to work there may be strategic value in adopting a 'please don't hurt me' stance and to launch a pre-emptive or simultaneous or responsive attack against the attacker as appropriate.

To be a pacifist in a situation where punches or weapons are being used against your body and to chase the lock or takedown while getting pummelled is ludicrous. Similarly to think that you are partially to blame for being victimised is a non-logical thought process - NO ONE WANTS TO BE VICTIMISED.

Now if you are some hot shot martial artist (whether Taekwondo, Karate, or MMA stylist) and in a situation where some home boys are talking smack and you have incite them and then pretend to walk away - this is akin to provocation and certainly would make the other person lose face. In such similar situations where you have publically engaged the opponent - whether you know it or not, the pacifist 'please don't hurt me' has a high chance of escalating a conflict. There is some wisdom in insisting the attacker back-off.

I've not been offended by Nat at all, and in fact his zero-ing in on my post is what this blog is all about. I have however been delayed in answering because of family issues and my lack of time during the holiday season.

This has been a good opportunity to also present and showcase how self defence training can overlap martial arts training. The objectives of self defence classes (teaching effectiveness in the least amount of time) as opposed to martial arts classes (who cares if you're not effective until black belt) sometimes makes for an important discussion for modern schools:
1. How can we get beginners in the martial arts more effective in a shorter amount of time? (A: Teach them less but make everything count)
2. How can we get beginners to understand the implications of self defence? (A: Just discuss them in conjunction with martial training)
3. How can self defence students be effective without lots of experience? (A: Decision making models and visualisation have to be taught by instructor before conflict ever arises.)

Related Posts
TDA: Impressions, impressions ...
Traditional Taekwondo: There is no first attack in Karate ...

Colin Wee
Taekwondo Techniques, Patterns, and Applications at the Traditional Taekwondo Blog. [Subscribe using email or RSS feeds] [Tkd Sitemap]

28 Jan 2009

Taekwondo Punches to Your Head Level Really May Hit the Opponent in the Chest

I had a brand new beginner train with our Traditional Taekwondo group last Sunday. To teach him the beginnings of a down block and to work on his timing, I put him at the receiving end of a garden-variety forward lunge punch at solar plexus. He was to stand with his fists held close to his head and all he had to do was to deflect the oncoming punch with a sideways jerk of the elbow. This would suffice as the 'folding' of the down block required for the first pattern of Taekwondo.

Anyway, he was doing fairly well on the first day.

The uke performing the "garden variety lunge punch" however was not faring so well. When the punches got faster and the elbow deflection is mis-timed, the elbow hits the back of the fist or the fingers and is painful.

What do you expect? If you were to try and hit someone's solar plexus, there's a high chance it'll get blocked by even the least skilled practitioner. Of course this was a drill and it was under instruction that my yellow belt was performing the lunge punch at that height.

My two cents on the subject is that the punch needs to be really good - it can't be telegraphed before hand (basically fired at point black range). Also in terms of targetting, it is far harder for an inexperienced person to block a punch at head height or a punch slightly below the solar plexus.

At head height, the aim is to knock out the opponent. Be careful of the angles of the head and mouth - the last thing you want to do is to break your knuckles or fingers on bony corners and teeth. Below solar plexus, the aim is to send the opponent toward the floor (see Punching Angles). Be careful to hit the body core perpendicularly. A bad angle of entry could mean a bunged up wrist.

Both are legitimate objectives.

When we drill this punch, there are two main targets - high is at your own nose height and low is at your own solar plexus high. So if you're in a low forward stance and the opponent is standing up, these two heights translate to the opponent's solar plexus and the dantien/hara or just under the belt knot.

The low punch matches what I described - your solar plexus height translates to opponent's belt knot. The upper punch however, may increase the probability that you may end up breaking your hand - just because of the decreasing angle of entry as you reach that high up. To mitigate this, I suggest for those who are unused to contact- the head high punch is better used as a gap closing strategy done faster with less power. Once you cross the gap then you can then of repositioning yourself and strike more accessible targets.

Roundhouse: Muay Thai v Taekwondo
I'm Happy Elbowing Jacob in the Chest
Getting Punched in the Nose
Won-hyo: Where are your eyes on the back of your Arse?
Won-hyo: The Kihon Kata Koma
Black Belt Coaching Course
Dan-Gun: Taekwondo's Knife Hand on Premium Unleaded Even in Back Balance
Chon-ji: Drills and Variations
Punching Angles


Colin Wee
Taekwondo Techniques, Patterns, and Applications at the Traditional Taekwondo Blog. [Subscribe using email or RSS feeds] [Tkd Sitemap]

23 Jan 2009

Why Go Headfirst into an Attack?

If someone has launched a tirade, a strike, a threatening motion ... what do you do? You could step back and retreat. You could stand your ground and deflect. And you could surge in and counter.

It would probably come as no surprise to you that many hard style martial artists (Karate, Taekwondo, etc) would probably choose the second option - stand, deflect and probably counter. Most beginners and inexperienced artists the first - retreat, regroup and counter. However, a pragmatic and less risky option than is usually understood is option 3 - surge in and simultaneously counter. The first two options are safer. You recognise the threat and deal with it. The problem is that the threat will quickly escalate because your attractiveness as a target has just increased. The third option however takes the fight to the opponent and forces him to deal with an aggressive response whilst his defences are down.

At Taekwondo class last night, we practiced using a fold for a middle block to cover and deflect an ongoing punch from opposite side while surging in. Standing in a backbalance and moving forward into more-or-less a forebalance means you step a little off centreline which sets you up to deflect and then eventually counter. But most beginners respond to the forward pressure of that initial strike and step too far off - outside of the centreline attack.

Unfortunately whilst this is great for a specific centreline attack, it increases the probability that you'll walk right into a roundhouse punch coming from a same side attack. What I'm saying is that if you normally step from a back balance to the front stance, this shift gives you a good chance to counter either a front centreline attack or a roundhouse haymaker. If you however step too far off fearing the front strike and you miss-read the strike in the first place, you open yourself up to a powerful swipe to the side of the head.

Stepping forward and bringing yourself into the wedge between your opponent's both arms allows you to counter either weapon whilst retaliating.

The drill followed up with middle block to the second punch, and trap for a third with simultaneous strike to the face with back hand.

Colin Wee
Taekwondo Techniques, Patterns, and Applications at the Traditional Taekwondo Blog. [Subscribe using email or RSS feeds] [Tkd Sitemap]

22 Jan 2009

Cross Style Comparison: Body Hardening

Ikigai has a fantastic post on Hojo Undo or body hardening called How Hard Should You Beat Your Body? I am extremely respectful of the amount of intensity and effort needed to do this. But this is not the way for all martial styles. Ikigai presents good objectivity and I'd recommend you look through the responses, including following the link and comment that I posted at his original post (this will hopefully set my perspective on Hojo Undo for traditional taekwondo beginners). This is fine example of my philosophy that there is no 'one way' for everyone. Cheers, Colin

What role does body hardening play in Taekwondo?

Colin Wee
Taekwondo Techniques, Patterns, and Applications at the Traditional Taekwondo Blog. [Subscribe using email or RSS feeds] [Tkd Sitemap]

19 Jan 2009

Traditional Taekwondo Program has Started for 2009

Little activity on the home front - lots of guests in my backyard, a road trip, Christmas and New Year events, and school holidays.

HRGB has started the year off nicely.

We arranged and attended a training session with our Wu Wei Dao friends a week ago. As an instructor it's always a little difficult to see how popping into someone else's training program or one-off seminar can improve your martial arts - but it surely does. It helps spur you on, change focus on exercises, look at new warm up techniques, and basically helps you appreciate new ways of engaging the opponent. Kancho Nenad being a very capable instructor also has a fantastic range of interesting techniques - I basically showed up and enjoyed the session rather than have to look after any of my own students! It was too easy. I'd highly recommend you try something different like this if you've got inertia or if your training program has hit a plateau.

Yesterday we started weekly session at Nedlands. The grounds were particularly unkempt and begging for someone to sweep up. It was a good session which allowed us to go through basic techniques and some grading requirements for orange belt.

In one particular application, I wanted to look at the opening sequence of Dangun to allow the student to deflect oncoming strikes and then to respond with a roundhouse punch to the face or head level. To make it real, the opponent has to throw a jab and a nice cross. If done with some force the opponent might take a half step or full step forward and maybe to the side. If this happens the defender needs to readjust to land the strike properly. In any case, the defender needs to look at the first few steps and to allow 70% shifting forward or backward through either defensive (back stance) or offensive (front stance) in order to cater towards proper distancing.

There is no 'real' stance that needs to be adopted. The basic stances are there to frame possible foot placements and COG locations on the ground.

Colin Wee
Taekwondo Techniques, Patterns, and Applications at the Traditional Taekwondo Blog. [Subscribe using email or RSS feeds] [Tkd Sitemap]

6 Jan 2009

Protecting ourselves from our "selves": Take a deep breath. ( Part 2) by Mireille Clark

In my first section, (Part 1) I mentioned how we are in more danger from daily stress, and stress related problems than from a random attack in the street, and how we may use our Martial arts experiences to help protect us.

There is a common saying of “Take a deep breath, and count to ten..” when faced with stressful situations. Our Martial Arts knowledge can affirm this wisdom. Breathing is central to a well executed attack and defense. Also, using self control over our impulses, and emotions can help us to time our attack for the most effective moment.

Let us look at breathing in more depth:

When one is stressed ( fearful, anger, etc.) we tend to go into a light, high, quick type of breathing that uses only the top part of our lungs. This does not offer good aeration to the blood, and also raises our blood pressure. We can control this, and chose to do deep diaphragm based breathing which also activates the cleansing our of bodies lymph fluid to remove more waste products from our blood system, and actually lowers our blood pressure. Or in other words.. “Take a deep breath..”

Deep breathing also helps unite the core of our body with the limbs, which is one of the reasons that we kiai. A simple experiment during class would be to have students strike a pad with punches or kicks in three ways. At first, ask them to Kiai fiercely as they initiate the movement. Then, have them Kiai as their attack hits the target. Finally, have them Kiai after the attack has finished. The idea is to concentrate on the feelings within their body as they do the three exercises. Depending on how much effort they place into the exercise, and how much attention your students are capable of achieving into their own sensations, they may feel how an early Kiai will excite speed, and contraction, a simultaneous Kiai brings connection, and a late Kiai seems to have no effect on the strike.

Patterns (Kata/Poomse) can also help a student become more aware of the rhythm of their breathing in/out as they perform the techniques. Once the movements of the pattern have become ingrained in the individual, they can start to focus on the minute differences that happen during the performance, and become aware of what their body is doing to keep up with the demand. Then, they can start applying breath control to improve their technique.

During daily life, the more we learn to read our body’s responses, and start recognizing our breathing patterns, we can become aware of the onset of quick stressed breathing, and deepen the breath by choice centralizing our mind’s focus on calming our body. This provides more oxygen to our brain, and allows us to see our situation more clearly. We will not be as tempted to fall into the verbal taunts, and traps placed before us by arguing, aggressive, or annoying people.

Colin Wee
Taekwondo Techniques, Patterns, and Applications at the Traditional Taekwondo Blog. [Subscribe using email or RSS feeds] [Tkd Sitemap]