Whatever you do you have to have a plan, the less sure you are about what is going to happen the more open your plan has to be.
When we fight in a sporting arena, we are fairly sure about some of the parameters, there are a set of rules in place that both you and your opponent have to abide by. There is an open, flat, empty area that you will be fighting in, if you are fighting at a high level you will know the strengths and weakness of your opponent and can train accordingly. Therefore you can create a game plan
For self-defence however it is different, you don’t get to choose the place, the size, the number of people that you may have to deal with. So training in a way that is over planned i.e. he will do this and I will attack this way is foolish, however going in with nothing is also a mistake, you need a goal and tactics in mind. We can find a frame work for these tactics in the patterns. A framework for the purpose of this article I am going to refer to as the 3Cs of TKD
The beginning is made with contact. This can either be in the form of defensive contact as in where your opponent has made the first move or offensive contact where you are taking the initiative. A lot of movement in the forms we have our arms crossed up around our head, to me this is very similar to our natural in built reaction to anything coming at us. Any sudden threat or even loud noise we will instinctively bring our hands up around our head for protection. If this is our natural reaction it makes more sense to build upon that rather than fight against it. Take the beginning of Do San for example the pattern begins with our hand crossed to the right side of our head, this is a much better reaction to a hook that the following ‘block’ in the pattern and a much faster reaction to an ambush style attack.
Control is maybe the ‘C’ that has the biggest difference from completion sparring and self-defence. Usually in a sporting arena people would use footwork body movement to gain the upper hand while relying on their (hopefully) superior speed, however for self-defence we have to approach the idea of control in a slightly different way. We should be trying to put to opponent in a position where he can’t hit back. Now of course footwork and body movement do play a part in this but a bigger part is played by grabbing, pushing and pulling the opponent or their arms and legs. Grabbing at clothing, pulling at limbs, tripping to get them off balance are all vital skills needed for control as well as higher level control skills such as large joint manipulation. All of these can be found in the forms, most basically with the reaction or pulling hand present in most motions. By putting that hand in to action to grab limbs or hair and pulling the opponent towards us we are doing a number of things, pulling them off balance making their attacks weaker, gaining a feel for where they are making it easier to hit back accurately, make sure they are moving towards us when we hit making the stike more powerful.
Counter the final stage, after the control the opponent should now for a split second be open for a counter attack to a vital area. Hopefully somewhere around the head, what’s needed here is short range power with whatever striking tool you have. After that continuing the attack until you can make an escape, even though in the forms a lot fo the sequences end in a single punch this is more just to signify that you should be attacking now. After one successful punch you should be able to continue to attack in accordance with the reactions of your opponent.
So this I s the basic framework of self-defence as I believe is put form ward in the patters of TKD. In most of the movement sequences you and see this simple and effective frame work repeated over and over again and it is something worth taking time to understand, and once you understand the framework you will be able to mix the movements from the patterns and see better how one movement from the pattern can flow in to the next and how TKD is a more complete fighting system that maybe you once thought.