It is has been a while since I took a look at a pattern in full so this month I will be breaking down some of the movement in Yuk Gok. Quite a long post this month due to the number of things covered in the pattern.
Similar to Do San, Yul Gok seems to be largely overlooked by TKD practitioners. The main reason for this seems to be the number of ‘soft’ movements contained within the pattern. However, within Yul Gok there are a lot of very interesting movements that are worth deeper study. Studying this pattern in depth also makes us ask some very important questions about pattern practice and pattern application.
Sitting stance punch
The opening movement of the pattern brings up one of the issues of pattern practice. This would be pattern movements changing over time. When I learnt Yul Gok, many years ago I was taught that the foot moves out in a slight arc rather than straight out to the side into a sitting stance.
An example of this can be seen in this instructional video with GM Donato Nardizzi
In other recent videos and speaking to current practitioners It seems that this arc movement has been removed. Such a small detail may not make much of a difference in the competitive arena, especially if everyone is using the updated movement. However, it makes a large different to the application.
If you move the foot out in an arc, I see this movement being applied as a reap. Shifting your left foot (in the case of the first movement) behind the leg of the attacker while grabbing and twisting their shoulders with the slow motion punch movement of the hands. This movement may not be enough to take down the opponent but will hopefully be enough to take their balance. The following double punch is there to continue the counter attack.
Inner forearm block, front kick double punch.
The next movement, although labelled as a block, I like to apply as a collar or clothing grab. Again we see the raised crossed hands preparation, similar to Do San we can see this as a natural defence to an attack. We then work to secure the opponents attacking hand but instead of going for a hair grab, as in Do San, we try to grab the shirt of the attacker. When we have hold of these points we are in a better position to control our opponent and counter. This goes in to the 3 C’s of tactical taekwondo. Our counter in this point is a kick to the groin and a double punch.
Palm hooking Block
Again, this movement brings up a couple of questions. It is seen in mainstream application as grabbing someone’s wrist from a punch. There is a very good reason why it is seen like this. However, if we look at other applications, when we are always grabbing the arms and wrist of the opponent, then why do we need a movement specially for this? Grabbing, holding and hitting is a basic skill of the self defence side of TKD one that is present in many possible applications and never done in the large movements that are presented here.
In my take on this pattern, this is actually an anti-grappling technique. If some one grabs you by the arm or wrist the twisting movement here will help release your opponent’s grip and reverse the situation and grip them. The crossed hands position here is to assist the release and grab with your other hand. This in turn clears the way a punch as seen in the pattern sequence
Bending ready stance
This is by far one of my favourite applications in the pattern and maybe in all patterns. I think the issue here is the name, ‘ready stance’. It gives the impression that is it a stance you adopt in preparation for something. I even heard one 3rd degree putting forward the idea that it is a stance used for intimidation. Clearly it is not an intimidating stance at all, in fact it is a stance that would invite attack from any possible opponent.
In my opinion bending ready stance comes under taekwondo grappling. The hands in in the forearm guarding block position, which I had written about before as being a stand up grappling position. With this we add the leg position and to me it looks like your front leg is attacking the knee of your opponent’s front leg (left on left as in the pattern). The following side kick can be applied low and attack the rear leg of the opponent. These are down in order to unbalance the opponent. You then locate their heads with your forward hand and execute an elbow strike. This is easily on target as all you are doing is aiming for your own palm.
Twin knife hand block
This again falls into the grappling side of taekwondo. I apply this when the opponent has hold of you in the traditional grappling grip, back of the neck/collar and triceps/upper arm. The movement is to separate the arms of the opponent and create space. This allows you to perform the next movement as a unbalance/take down
Jumping in the patterns remains one of those topics that people argue about. In the mainstream, it is seem as jumping over something to attack. In self defence, if there is an object in the path of a would-be attacker, you would generally want to keep it there. Not try to remove the obstacle yourself.
Others say that jumps are just for performance basis. In some cases I can see where they are coming from.
In the case of Yul Gok, right now I would say that the movement it there to make the movement (back fist or clothesline) more powerful. I realise that for some of you this will seem a woefully inadequate explanation, but it is where I am in my study for the time being.
Double forearm block
I have written about the double forearm block before, but mainly in the patterns that come after Yul Gok. In this pattern I actually think there is no real application here.
I have a couple of reasons for this.
If it is a defensive movement, whether the mainstream block or the application I promotion this blog, you need a movement after it. You cannot just block and expect that the attacker will give up. In the pattern that is exactly what happens, we block left and right and finish.
The other reason I think that there is no real application to this movement and it is more for performance or a philosophy, is that ending patterns with a left right movement is very common, and of these instances ending with a block left and right is also very common. If something is repeated so much through all pattern practice, then I would suggest there is maybe a reason other than self defence that is it there. The same goes for the crossed hand position, although there are some places where it can be applied, there are other instances where the crossed hands position can make an application more difficult.
So a rather long post this month, but I think the pattern Yul Gok is deserving of a lot more attention that many people give it. I hope you enjoyed reading this article and found it thought proving at least.