Training Warriors for the 21st Century

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

29 May 2009

Taekwondo Pattern Dan-gun: A Momentary Lapse is Devastating

Taekwondo Dan-gun

You sometimes forget that these techniques are lethal.

We were practicing a defence against a lapel grab and punch - using a technique from Taekwondo's Dan-gun pattern. Essentially the grabbing arm gets a forearm slammed downwards on it before an upper block or chukyo marki is applied to the attacker's neck.

I partnered up with my 7th kyu student - and momentarily had a lapse - basically forgot that I was facing off with a guy who outweighs me by some 15 kilos. All I became aware of was something crashing into my forearm, my head being whip lashed backwards and forwards, and a series of cracks and pops coming from my neck.

The headache that followed is still with me after more than 24 hours.

It's a simple technique, but when performed with commitment and form, the entire body weight is accelerated and punctuates each move.

Let us not forget what we are capable of doing.


List of Posts on Taekwondo Pattern Dan-gun
Colin Wee
Taekwondo Techniques, Patterns, and Applications at the Traditional Taekwondo Blog. [Subscribe using email or RSS feeds] [Tkd Sitemap]

27 May 2009

Article: The Best Defense

The following is an article I wrote for For more self defence articles, please see my posts on self defence.


I had the stock of the paintball rifle pulled tightly into my shoulder as I leaned my back against the rocky mound. Thirty feet away, my opponent was doing the same. "Schnak. Schnak. Schnak." Enemy fire brought paintballs whizzing half a meter away from where I stood. We've been exchanging bursts like this for about thirty seconds; an eternity on the paintball battlefield. It was a standoff.

Either my martial arts training or some good sense kicked in and I decided to take the initiative. I started firing measured bursts, broke cover, and sprinted to close the gap. Twenty feet. Ten feet. The enemy had no choice but to stay behind cover. In seconds I had the snub nose of the paintball rifle held at point blank range. He was forced to surrender.

That game was over 10 years ago, but was a prime example of the favorite martial art saying "The best defence is a good offence." Meaning you should proactively take control of a situation rather than passively holding your ground. The statement is a valid strategy for the modern martial artist. It implies that one should not be passive during an onslaught, but to launch a counter-offensive immediately. The 'best defence' calls one to commit to a first strike, lashing out quickly. Personally, I liken the statement to the ideas I communicate in my self-defence course. Teaching untrained participants to defend themselves requires empowering them to go against the grain; to use an unfamiliar aggressive force. However, this "best defence" worldview is not altogether aligned with the philosophy propounded by traditional martial art systems. Many traditional schools, concerned with developing spiritual calmness, advocate non-violence. The Father of Karate himself, Gichin Funakoshi Sensei, stated in point three of his niju kun, "there is no first attack in Karate." Thus I'm exploring the mirror opposite of the "best defence," which is:
The best offence is a good defence.

The " best offence" makes one think that the way to win an encounter is to improve your defensive skills to a point where your opponent loses his fighting spirit because of his perceived inability to win. This is counter to the self defence idea of a counter-offensive.

Let's look at how the "best offense" relates to martial arts training, and let's start with Taekwondo's first pattern Chon-ji.

Most beginners dismiss Chon-ji for its basic two moves. Does the "best offense" draw our attention on Chon-ji's lower block? The purposeful block to a front kick. Or can it also relate to the high fold of our arms before the low block snaps downward?

In recent years I have taught the folding for the low block as an elbow strike to an oncoming arm or leg. Landing the hard point of your elbow on an opponent's inner forearm or lower shin creates immense discomfort. But think about the reaction hand. If you've got your left arm up and over for a left lower block, what is your right arm doing? Your right arm could be the other part of a powerful defensive sandwich. The opponent's arm being caught between your left elbow and the right forearm (or the palm of your right hand) is subject to crushing forces, bringing us back to the idea of the "best offense."

In this approach to the "best offense," the practitioner robs his opponent of striking tools. It's hard to concentrate on the fight if you've got a broken hand.

This is where martial arts and a good self-defence syllabus overlap. Taking the elbow sandwich idea, a resourceful practitioner could look through all the patterns and discover devastating techniques from rather innocuous, oft-discounted techniques. The following techniques are drawn directly from our Taekwondo patterns and are a few examples of moves that literally rob the opponent of the will to fight.

1. Dan-gun's knife hand fold can be used as an elbow break.
2. Doh-san's cross arm fold for the double knife hand block can be applied powerfully to a double lapel grab by dropping your body weight on your opponent's arms.
3. Won-hyo's cup and saucer hand positions can be used to grip the fingers of an attacker's hand and then wrenched apart separately as one performs the following sequence in the pattern.
4. Yul-guk's jump backfist could deliver a powerful foot stomp to end a fight.
5. Choon-gun's middle block followed by circular block could entrap the opponent's arm, locking out his shoulder joint.

Aside from self-defence type applications, students learning to spar can also explore the "best offense." It is when you wait for your opponent to attack, and as soon as he's committed, you launch a simultaneous counter on obvious loopholes. The trick is learning to read the subtle body shifts before the opponent attacks, and of course, moving quickly to take advantage of them.

This sparring tactic is simple to learn, and can be done with such basic strikes as those learned from Chon-ji and Dan-gun. The interesting point to note is that it contradicts the 'attack first' self-defence strategy for the beginning student. Beginners who use this counter-offensive know that it is fairly easy to successfully score against practitioners of similar skill.

But if you're reading this you might be thinking that there's a certain "trick" to sparring. Or worse, there's a certain "trick" to self defence. I know of a martial arts instructor who says Karate and Taekwondo practitioners "have gotten it all wrong." We train and we add more and more techniques to our repertoire, and finally when we're faced with a real threat, can't pull it together. To this, Funakoshi Sensei, in point fourteen of his niju kun, reminds us to "Move according to your opponent." Meaning, there is no one way to win. Stick with one strategy and you're setting yourself up for failure.

While I myself juxtapose martial arts training with self-defence training, the truth is that there are many overlaps. It is not true that sticking with a routine in one will result in success in another. This is why examining conceptual rules of thumb for both martial arts and self defence should be done throughout your training.

Funakoshi Sensei drives home the message again, "Devise at all times."

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

25 May 2009

Yul-guk: Overview of Pattern

Taekwondo Form Yul-guk by This is similar to the way we perform it.

“Pen name of Yi I, Philosopher and scholar who was nicknamed Confucius of Korea” (

According to Breen , “Yul-Gok and Toi-Gye are two closely related and yet opposite patterns. Both Yi I (Yul-Gok) and Yi Hwang (Toi-Gye) were important figures in Confucian scholarship in 16th century Korea, but the two men were leaders of two opposing schools of philosophical thought. According to Neo-Confucianism, all existence reflects two vital components, i and ki (sometimes written li and ch’i). The first, i, is the formative element. This describes the nature and behaviour of a thing. The second, ki, is the energising element. One cannot exist without the other. The argument between the two schools, therefore, is not to do with the definition or existence of these two components, but rather their relative importance. Yul-Gok believed that ki, the energising element, was the primary and fundamental factor. To this school, i exists only to govern the motion of ki, to give it form and direction. Accordingly, the performance of the pattern Yul-Gok should stress ki over i. Energy takes precedence over form. The physical movement of a technique is only required to provide a channel, a medium, for the power of the technique” (2001 p10).

At one level, you can say that Yul-guk emphasizes strength over form. However, I think that with the recognition that Yul-guk was a scholar, I would say it’s the correct use of strength over form that is important. At another level we can equate strength with effort, intention, or willpower. For the fighter, I think Yul-guk advocates the innovative use of power to dominate an opponent. The fighter should explore such issues of power and understand how to generate perceived or real power.

Similar Yul-guk pattern done by a Korean Oh Do Kwan practitioner. Looks like there's already some evolution that has occurred, but still more or less similar to ours.

Do You Hate Taekwondo Pattern Yul-guk?
Taekwondo's Applied or Augmented Double Blocks
Taekwondo Pattern Yul-guk: Grab Strike Control Strike
Taekwondo Side Kick: Yul-guk v Won-hyo
Yul-guk: Jumping Backfist into X Stance
Yul-guk: If you control the head, you control the body
Yul-guk: Side Kick, Grab, and Elbow ... What?
Yul-guk: Neck Manipulation, Leg Defence, and Backfist
Yul-guk: Side Kick and Cover
I've Broken My Finger and Have Lost the Will to Fight
Taekwondo Pattern Yul-guk Close Quarter Drill
Yul-gok: Step 36 as Takedown
Yul-gok: Step 7 & 8 - The Korean Occupation

For more information on Yul-guk, please check out Drysdale TKD's Gup History of Yul-guk.

Yul-guk bungai by Practical Taekwondo

Yul-gul application at

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

Do-san: Hip Throw onto the Hard Unyielding Ground

Currently only one 7th kyu who's just learning how to forward roll and breakfall from mid-air. So lucky me ... I had to be the sack of potatoes so that he could learn how to do a hip throw for his ranking requirements for Taekwondo's Do-san pattern. This wouldn't be bad news unless you consider that we train on 'borrowed premises' and have to land on a hard wooden decking. It could be worse I guess, he could have slipped up and dropped his massive 90kg frame on me. Fortunately all throws went smoothly and I only had to do a dozen or so breakfalls from hip high. Pat would have been proud.

Issues to look out for:
1. Entering needs to be done with a little more commitment - upper body pull and torque whilst legs jump in.
2. Hip needs to slip under quickly.
3. Thrower needs to rotate opponent through -rather than aim the body directly where he wants the sack of potatoes to go, he should continue the rotational aspect so that there is an increase in circumfrential momentum.

Taekwondo Do-san Pattern List of Posts
Do-san: Step 6&7 as Hip Throw

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

24 May 2009

Martial Arts Talk Show

I was honoured to be invited to SportFM's Martial Arts Talk Show by Margaret Stewart and Dan Djurdjevic from Wu Wei Dao and the owner of 'The Way of Least Resistance' Blog. I was a little taken aback that it was a 20 minute 'live' session on talk back radio. All in all a fairly intelligent chat with Dan, and I got to talk a little about what Traditional Taekwondo is to me, and how we've come to do what we do.

Colin Wee Talks Taekwondo with Dan Djurdjevic

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

23 May 2009

Why do I have to do this again? by William Mioch

New students of the martial arts will inevitably wonder - why am I doing this again? I have already done this technique/pattern correctly, can't I just learn the next one? New material seems so much more interesting. 

Although people may not be familiar with the term "muscle memory", everyone uses it in their day to day life. Riding a bicycle is very awkward at first, but after practice it becomes second nature. The same applies to brushing your hair, cleaning your teeth, even walking itself! (My 1 year old daughter is proof of that.)

Let's find an official definition of muscle memory - from Wikipedia
"When an active person repeatedly trains movement, often of the same activity, in an effort to stimulate the mind’s adaptation process, the outcome is to induce physiological changes which attain increased levels of accuracy through repetition."

Let's break down some of the parts of this definition:
1) "an active person repeatedly trains movement" - when you practice a movement with the intent to practice (active)
2) "the outcome is to induce physiological changes" - the result is a physical change in the brain/nervous system/muscle
3) "which attain increased levels of accuracy through repetition" - practice makes perfect!

This is the reason why forms have repetition, why we practice a technique many times and we must train regularly and with intent! Most techniques can be taught to a raw beginner in 5 minutes and the beginner can achieve a pretty good technique in half an hour of training. But come back 1 week later, and the technique is (almost) back to square 1!

By practicing our techniques with intent, regularly and repetitively we will reach a stage where it is automatic. The shapes and movements of your forms will become an integral part of you and the way you move.

And that's why we have to do it again!

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

18 May 2009

Practical Taekwondo: back to the Roots by Mathew Sylvester

I received a copy of the new book released by my online buddy Mathew Sylvester. Refer to Mathew's Practical Taekwondo Facebook group for more info. From my quick 5 minute overview of the book, I am happy to see really good solid practical concepts and a fantastic open-minded approach -- more or less similar to how I have designed my syllabus and how I conduct classes. I would highly recommend this book to all students and instructors of Taekwondo. The price of 23 pounds is worth it. Good work, Mathew! Colin

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

17 May 2009

Taekwondo Side Kick: Yul-guk v Won-hyo

Taekwondo Won-hyo Side Kick v Yul-guk Side Kick

Taekwondo's Won-Hyo Step 7-8 is a rotate step back by support leg and defensive taekwondo side kick with front leg. Step 25-26 is a step forward and offensive taekwondo side kick with back leg. The taekwondo side kick in pattern Won-hyo seem to compare defensive and offensive uses of the side kick whilst generating "respect for distance".

The Taekwondo side kick in pattern Yul-guk doesn't seem much different, or does it? The stack up and the offensive nature of the kick is similar to Won-hyo's step 25-26. The main difference is that the following move is an open palm strike or back-of-neck control followed by an apparent elbow to the face level. Anyone who's used an elbow knows that the elbow strike (or what could alternatively be interpreted as a choke) has to be done at an extremely close distance. What does this say for Yul-guk's side kick then?

I reckon that a possible combative or self defence interpretation is that Yul-guk's side kick is an extremely short range side kick. This is similar to Karate's Basai where the kick is done at knee height after both hands are chambered at the hip. The principle is that the hands control aspects of the opponent's upper body or arms, the raise of the side kick may introduce a knee strike to the extremities or face, and the short range side kick may be done to the lower extremities as a strike or takedown.

As a short range kick, the side kick may be used to foot sweep or hook behind the lead leg on the 'same side'. If this occurs, the kick can be sent under the opponent's legs to strike the knee of the back or support leg. Alternatively if the opposite leg is closest, the side kick can be applied to the outside of the opposite leg as a takedown of the opponent (like an Osotogari). Of course if any target is available, a short range side kick is a devastating and debilitating strike.

Check out Won-hyo's Side Kick for a more detailed analysis of the Taekwondo side kick as it is first introduced in our system. And if you're interested to read about defending or defence against the side kick, check out Taekwondo Side Kick Defence and Timing.

Related Side Kick Links
John Graden - Side kick on Youtube
How to Improve a Taekwondo Side Kick
How to Increase the Height of a Taekwondo Side Kick
Yul-guk: Side Kick and Cover

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

12 May 2009

Taekwondo Do-san: View from the Kyu

Taekwondo Do-san

“Pen name of Ahn Ch'ang Ho, a Korean patriot who devoted his life to furthering education in Korea” (

Do-san was not only an educator, be was also involved in the “Korean Independence Movement … under Japanese occupation” (Breen 2001 p8). To this I believe that tactical considerations should look at the freedom of movement and fluidity within the framework of Do-san’s techniques. Very much like the principles driving Wing Chun, movements are done quickly smoothly, center-lined within the shoulders. Breen says “Do-san … should flow, and float, almost as if the whole pattern were performed in continuous motion” (2001 p8).

The take away from Do-san is that there is an optimal amount of tension that needs to be present in your body, rather than being too tense and not able to move, nor being too relaxed that you don’t have enough power. It also alludes to an economy of motion that guides the fighter to strike within certain boundaries or parameters for maximal speed and effectiveness.

Taekwondo Do-san List of Links

Your Taekwondo Doesn't Even Look like Taekwondo
Taekwondo Do-san The Spearhand Counter Against Counter
Front Kick as Hard as a Side Kick
Taekwondo Doh-san: Step 23 Horizontal Shuto or Knife Hand Deflecting Oncoming Punch and Striking to the Neck
Do-san: Nuts about Patterns
Short Range and Close Quarter Taekwondo
Taekwondo's Close Quarter Punches ... say again?
Do-san: Step 6 & 7 as Hip Throw
Making Kata Work for You
Do-san: Defending Against Straight Blast Punches to the Face
Taekwondo Do San Pattern Posts on Traditional Taekwondo Blog
Taekwondo Do san: Step 7 & 8 Backfists of Fury
Taekwondo Do san: Front Kick Drill
Taekwondo Do san: Front Kick
Reverse Snap Punch on a Makiwara
Taekwondo Do san: Double Knife Hand Against Lapel Grab
Taekwondo Do san: Front Kick
Taekwondo Do san: Rising Block
Taekwondo Do san: Spearhand + Open Palm Block
Taekwondo Front Kick Equilibrium and Technique
Taekwondo: Spear Hand
Kick Defence from Pattern Dosan
Drive that Wedging Block into the Attacker
Happily Using Dosan's Spearhand

Do-san Video

This isn't one of our videos. I got it off YouTube - but it's similar to how we practice Do-san.

External Links on Do-san

TKD Tutor on Do-san
MacKenzie Taekwon-Do Do-san Tul Sequence List
International Taekwon-Do Do-san SOund Off

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

8 May 2009

Taekwondo Doh-san: Step 23 Horizontal Shuto or Knife Hand Deflecting Oncoming Punch and Striking to the Neck

The punch comes straight at me and I pull the knife hand from the outside hand back, grab onto the oncoming punch and strike out with a horizontal shuto knife hand across the face or neck. To all onlooking, the move appears smooth - chambering smoothly and cutting out towards the face and neck smoothly. Yet before the knife hand makes contact with the opponent, I am able to make contact with the punching hand at least three times - the chambering striking elbow/forearm clipping it on the outside, the wedge of my reverse hand deflecting it further, and lastly my chest catching some of the forward strike and deflecting it as the upper body torques as it moves forward. Then there is contact made by the forward leg against the side of the opponent's leg.

Large motions require you to move large amounts of weight; this reduces speed and reaction time.

To increase speed, one idea is that you need to alter the path of the oncoming strike with the closest part of your body you can bring into contact with the weapon. In this case, the contact points are all legitimate blocks allowing you to deal with the punch whilst stacking up and preparing to deliver power into the opponent. Such contact points help the beginner understand how to apply similar basic techniques against other situations -- providing a 'one size fits all (or many)' solution.

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

3 May 2009


I was very proud of my 7yo son today - he attended his first ever Judo class (held at UWA in Perth) and absolutely loved it. In fact, I was impressed that the class was sizable (with 30+ children), and had a number of parents/senior students as assistants. I'm sure Wills was more happy wrestling with people his own age and size - he doesn't often get to win when I put joint locks or chokes on him. At $5 per pop, how can you complain? Colin

For more on Judo, visit Pat at Mokuren Dojo and A Child's Perspective on Support Needed for Sport.


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

Taekwondo 'Self Defence' Against Shoulder Grab from Back

Opponent standing behind you, grabbing your right shoulder with left hand and punching with right. You spin around your right foot, block with raised right hand, left punch to ribs.

Opponent standing behind you, grabbing your right shoulder with right hand and punching with left. You spin around your right foot, block with raised right hand, left punch to ribs.

Looks similar doesn't it? Of course the follow through (we performed last Thursday and this morning) after the first initial punch differs. But the secret is that basic techniques need to be applied broadly to cover a wide variety of attacks. If you can't respond to a wide variety of different attacks with some stock standard techniques, your reaction time will be sub-optimal and you'll struggle to put up an adequate response to the attack.

We talked about this on Thursday. Beginners are equipped with basic techniques - techniques that should be thought of as 'the hammer.' Anything coming at you should be considered 'the nail.' A hammer is a highly reliable tool, you apply it with good commitment, and thus you apply your basic techniques with good commitment.

Taekwondo and Self Defence
Child Safety Means Self Defence Training
Self Defence for Children
Child Safety in the Face of an Aggressor


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