Taekwondo's Applied or Augmented Double Blocks

While I was in Malaysia I picked up a very retro 60s 'Tae Kwon Do Secrets of Korean Karate' by Sihak Henry Cho. It was all taekwondo technique related and did not feature any patterns. Flipping through the book whilst sitting on the john, I was fixated by one particular block - the 'applied arm block' or 'double arm block' or 'yahng-pal makgu.'

From my earlier studies, I was trained to understand that the first outward double block was just like a yop marki or mid block but was supported by the back hand - and thus was 'stronger.' This is not information that I would currently transmit to my own students. Practically I see the augmented middle block, appearing in Taekwondo Pattern Toi-gye (step 29 and 30) as a whole body throw ... the crouched low x-block moving into a standing double block allows you to scissor the entire body, throwing the opponent backwards onto his back.

The first appearance of the double arm block in taekwondo pattern Yul-guk steps 37 and 38 doesn't really lead up to the throw that is seen in Toi-gye ... but I think it is introduced at a real significant point for the developing student. At this stage, the 5th kyu or blue belt or equivalent is developing some good confidence in the skills, speed, coordination and combinations. However, I have noticed that often at this level, difficulties from 'hard style' training surfaces. This is when idiosyncracies of training methodology like the chambering of the fist at the hip, or the line drills, or the need for 'kime' or focus, collides with the fluidity needed so that the practitioner can move in a more unencumbered manner.

The double arm block brings this back chambering hand forward and allows the practitioner to get both hands in front of himself - covering or protecting his centreline. More importantly is not the prominence of both hands in front of the body, but the ability to use the back hand to strike the opponent whilst the opponent has his field of vision distracted by a raised front hand.

Once upon a time these double blocks were considered vital to 'proper' karate - in Motobu Choki's Watashi no Karate, a poster of Motobu Sensei (who was famed for his fighting prowess) shows him with his arms up in this exact formation - a middle block with a back hand augmenting his extended forearm. Apparently, 'mefutode' (p83) was the skill in using both arms for offense and/or defence, and this double block (or whatever else he used it for) was part of his regular bag of tricks.

taekwondo arm block
Choki Motobu demonstrating the double arm block

Nowadays those same double arm blocks don't receive the attention they deserve probably because of this 'hard style' idea that it is an augmented type of defence.

However, if you loosen up the frame and think of the arms as cover or deception or a fake/feint, the back hand or front hand takes on a whole new role and becomes an effective part of your arsenal. Loosen up the stance and allow the hips to rotate and you've got a system that is not unlike a boxer's ... with the ability to parry, gap close, jab, and follow through. Not something to stash away with the other items categorised under 'classical mess'. :-)

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Colin Wee
Traditional Taekwondo Techniques, Patterns, and Applications at the Traditional Taekwondo Blog. [Subscribe using email or RSS feeds] [Tkd Sitemap]. Colin is a martial art instructor with 25 years of experience across three continents. Colin leads a small Traditional Taekwondo group for adults in Perth, Western Australia.

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