Training Warriors for the 21st Century

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

27 Jun 2012

Axe Kick - A Risky Taekwondo Sparring Technique

I don't like the use of the axe kick in sportive Taekwondo sparring.

Videos referenced from Taekwondo Animals

The problem with the axe kick is that it has to be brought all the way up, and then dropped a little way in order to hit the opponent somewhere in the head/neck or shoulder region. Wouldn't it be easier kicking the opponent somewhere lower down on the body? It would certainly expend less energy. And look at how much of your body is exposed. This seems to be an overly a risky technique with a poor return on invested effort.

I once had a visiting black belt who used this particular axe kick frequently in sparring. None of our students could understand why - since it wasn't really hitting them. When I pulled her aside she said the kick was to knock someone out. So I told her to perform the kick, and I lunged in and took the downward falling axe kick right on my forehead - full force. Then looked her in the eye and said there's a problem with this kick. The problem is that there are only certain situations where it'll work really well - and most times an opponent who is positioned to strike you will not be in those 'certain situations.' 

The counter proposed in the above video is to create distance and then return fire with a roundhouse kick. Wouldn't it be more logical to jam the rising axe kick? To block it in mid air? Then sweep the leg or perform a high level punch? The person has his leg all the way up and is perched on his support leg. He's not going anywhere!?

The way we practice the axe kick is if the opponent and defender are both grabbing onto a weapon - the kick is aimed at the hand or forearm or elbow or bicep. The impact is intended for mid level, and allows the defender to bring in an alternate weapon when both of his primary weapons are occupied. This strike is leveled at an opponent trying to wrestle a weapon away from defender, and the hope is to crush the bones in his hands or loosen his grip or hyperextend an elbow joint - all extremely 'lucrative' pursuits if you're trying to free a weapon to use against him or other opponents.

Look at the below diagram step 25b to 26 of Bassai, and then step 28a.

Bassai has moves that correlate to Taekwondo Pattern Hwa-rang

Both steps incorporate some leg lift and then a corresponding hand strike. The first move is a leg lift ala Toi Gye's mountain block, and is how we perform Hwa-rang step 24-25. The knee can be leveled against an attackers grab or wrist control or between a tug-of-war with a weapon. The knee strike hits hand or elbow region, loosening the grip, and the lower block comes dome on top of forearm or bicep to destroy the opponent's extremity. Same thing with step 28a - the axe kick makes impact with the opponent's extremity, then you sandwich a part of the opponent between left hand and right elbow. Nowhere do you see the axe kick performed as the finishing blow (ala the sparring video above).

Where I think this sportive axe kick might work would be for an opponent losing his balance or backpedaling. Or if he's performing a spinning technique and you are sure that spinning technique is going to go awry. Having that head and neck exposed means you can deliver the downward falling payload full force with less chance of retaliation.

The following video shows how an Axe kick can be applied at short range to compliment solid self defence skills requiring coverage, counters, or takedowns. Hope you enjoy.


Colin Wee
Joong Do Kwan Chung Sah Nim
[Traditional Taekwondo Techniques | Subscribe | FAQs | Sitemap | FB]
And help us rank on Google by clicking the '+1' icon, why don't you?
How much do you know of Taekwondo? Come take our Taekwondo quiz to find out.

20 Jun 2012

Choi: The Beginning

I read Yoshikawa's Musashi a number of years ago, and have pondered the ever-shrinking lines of distinction between the real 16th Century polymath Miyamoto Musashi and Yoshikawa's fictionalised account of the sword saint.

One of my favourite martial arts books, Musashi is an important novel in the present-day cult worship of the 16th Century swordsman

Musashi is a long epic, detailing the journey of the Miyamoto Musashi beginning just after the Battle of Sekigahara, the insight he gained leading to his revolutionary and previously unheard of two sword style, and the climactic battle with Sasaki Kojiro on Ganryu Island. Written as an 'serial' for the Asahi Shimbun starting in 1935, Yoshikawa's Musashi, whilst based on fact, is popularly received as a true account of the man himself.

Yoshikawa's work was part of my inspiration for starting research on Choi: The Beginning, which is really a historical fiction series surrounding the Founder of Taekwondo General Choi Hong Hi. I have always felt  there is too little literature in the world of Taekwondo world and I wanted to do something about it. So I set about researching events important to General Choi, from about when he was born in 1918 to 1960. I needed to see the world in which these Taekwondo pioneers lived in and when important personal events occurred. To gain further clarity I even juxtaposed these events with what was going on in the world of Karate.

Never ever forget how tough they had it. While there are the corollaries of the human condition, our world affords us luxuries that pioneers of Taekwondo never had. We must respect them for what they accomplished with what little they had.

My idea was to immerse myself in those years so I could recreate the sights and sounds of a Korea at war and in civil unrest. Then I busied myself extrapolating from what I found, filling in the gaps with my own perspective as a Traditional Taekwondo instructor.

While writing the series, a student of mine coincidentally loaned me a copy of Alex Gillis's A Killing Art. Already having the general historical background allowed me to really appreciate the work Alex Gillis did on the book. But it made me even more aware of Yoshikawa's lesson - and that was I shouldn't let facts get in the way of a good story.

Alex Gillis' book is an interesting read for any serious student of the art. 

My series Choi: The Beginning started taking a life of its own very quickly. It started off with the mundane smells of cheap KT&G cigarettes and the constant resentment Koreans felt to the years of having the Japanese hell bent on erasing their cultural heritage. But where it really developed a 'hyper reality' for me was when I started 'repurposing' classical literature related to Taekwondo forms. For instance, Yulgok's Four Seven Debate on Myohap or 'Wondrous Fusion' helped describe Chonji's inseparable Heaven and Earth. Wonhyo's Geumgang Sammaegyeongnon or 'Exposition of the Adamantine Absorption Scripture' allowed me to look into Choi's mind and explain how he could extrapolate from his previous training to understand that "all positions have at least some validity" with the new Taekwondo system he was creating.

Yulgok's Four Seven debate on Myohap or wondrous fusion - 'repurposed' to reflect Choi's thinking.

These gems of course all made their way into the young General's personal journal, of which then landed in my hot little hands. What blew me away was being able to travel to Korea and seeing Yulgok's Myohap scratched as graffiti into the cell wall. Graffiti etched by no other than a young Choi who was imprisoned as a rebel by the Japanese army for his involvement in the Pyongyang Hak-byung incident. It's incredible how far a directed imagination can take you.

Of course, none of these things really happened, and in fact Alex Gillis, the authority on Taekwondo's early history would proffer a reality that is sinister, more political and much harder-to-swallow. But I fear there is little wisdom to be gained from that version of events.

Where am I at with this series? Like Musashi when he enters a township and is overwhelmed by the heat, the press of the people, and the powerful rhythm of a Taiko drummer using two batons, my next article is about how our young Choi is walking past the parade square on the way to a meeting and gets jolted by the movement and shouting coming from recruits practicing bayonet fighting drills. In that instant, he has the realisation of the timing that is necessary between footwork, hand strikes and long range attacks.

This is a Korean saying used to describe how a young Choi guided his group of students, and reflects the common thinking of traditional martial art instructors. 

Certainly any serious practitioner has their perspective of what works, but is there a difference on how the  Founder of a martial art gets to that point and beyond? What can you accomplish with an hour of your time? What did Choi Hong Hi accomplish with an hour of his time? What obstacles do you face? Do you know the enormity of the obstacles he faced? This series is as much a mirror for our own development as it is about Choi's.

Come discover what you can take away from this story at Totally Taekwondo Magazine, and read the entire piece at Rebooting the Founder of Taekwondo [Historical Faction].


In the arts,

Colin Wee
Joong Do Kwan Chung Sah Nim
[Traditional Taekwondo Techniques | Subscribe | FAQs | Sitemap | FB]
And help us rank on Google by clicking the '+1' icon, why don't you?
How much do you know of Taekwondo? Come take our Taekwondo quiz to find out.

3 Jun 2012

Choong-gun: Double Punch

Yama Tsuki - Twin Fist Punch ... would you really ever do something like this?

A status update on FaceBook just recently had me writing that someone should put the above technique interpretation out of its misery. If ever there was an advantage for throwing multiple strikes at the same time, we'd be punching with both hands and throwing in a kick for good measure.

No, I don't like the idea of throwing two simultaneous strikes, unless somehow it was sandwiching something of the opponent between your two hands. And, no, I don't really care much for the yama tsuki bunkai as you see it above.

Choong-gun - Step 31 shows off Taekwondo's 'U-shaped' block in a back stance.
Today we practiced the twin fist or U-shaped block/punch as an actual strike against an opponent. We used the lead hand to grab onto the opponent's lead hand, strip it down and we launched a high level strike that crested over the opponent's shoulder to strike at the temple or behind the ear. The move works well even if the opponent is grabbing you (as opposed to you grabbing your opponent).

Most of the punches from our hyungs up to this level have been fired from the chambered position at the hip, through centreline to either middle, low, or high sections on the opponent. Such a strike is typically looked upon unfavourably by modern day practitioners who think boxing type punches are far superior than traditional martial style strikes. Choong-gun's twin fist punch however is the first strike that gets the elbow parallel to the ground - just like you were hitting a punching bag whilst bobbing or weaving under an opponent's strike.

Can you see the bottom hand applying some form of control to the opponent and the top striking
hand just tagging him in the head?  

The lift of the elbow gets your arm over the opponent's shoulder and it allows you to 'expose' the front face of your knuckles. Without the lift of the elbow, striking a target which is much higher than your own face height means you are exposing more of your fingers to hard corners of the opponent's face. This means you are increasing the probability that your fingers might break if your punch doesn't land just right.

Apologies for the artwork - that's about the best I can do on  MS Paint (actually it's the best I can do on any medium), but at least it shows one pragmatic solution for both arms being out at the same time. The base hand is pulling down on the opponent's lead arm, and the striking arm rises over opponent's shoulder. 
The aspect of the head being lowered and the arm raising above it poses two scenarios. One is when your opponent is towering above you, and you are raising your entire arm to strike over his lead hand or shoulder. The next is if there is some tactical advantage to dropping your head whilst performing the strike.

The net effect of landing your fist in your opponent's face is that the opponent's head is rocked backwards and is stunned for a moment. Whilst you already have your centre of gravity forward, then there is an opportunity for you to do a takedown either wedging your body against his and disrupting his centre of gravity OR if you go for a leg grab takedown.

As Sanko from Soo Shim Kwan says, the move that I am referring to in Choong-gun is indeed depicted as a block in my style with hands held in a 'tiger-mouth' position. In my own syllabus I interpret this as a defence against a head grab either from front or back. However, given that there is tactical advantage of punching higher than head height, this is a good add on lesson for an intermediate belt at this stage of his training.

Keep training.

Taekwondo Choong-gun Links

Pragmatic Self Defence Images
Taekwondo Upset Punch
Choong-gun Mid Reverse Knife Hand Block
Why Yet Another Set of Side Kicks?

Question: Any readers from New Zealand, Singapore, or Italy here? I've got some travel planned and am wondering if anyone would like to train whilst I am visiting this year.
Colin Wee
Joong Do Kwan Chung Sah Nim
[Traditional Taekwondo Techniques | Subscribe | FAQs | Sitemap | FB]
And help us rank on Google by clicking the '+1' icon, why don't you?
How much do you know of Taekwondo? Come take our Taekwondo quiz to find out.