Sine Wave

One of the things that seems to very important in pattern practice is the inclusion of sine wave. A good sine wave in your patterns can make all the difference in competitions. Instructors everywhere make comments on how important it is and a lot of time is spent developing that nice up and down motion in movements. But is it really that important? Where did it come from? And why was it included in the patterns?
Certainly the sine wave was not always present in TKD a quick look at youtube and the difference can easily be seen. For example:


Now without making any comments about the standard or skill of the different gentlemen, there are obviously a lot of differences between the two performances, perhaps the main ones being speed and the sine wave. So from this we can see that sine wave is a fairly recent addition to the TKD system.

But why was it added? It would seem that the most commonly accepted theory was that General Choi added the sine wave to his patterns to further distinguish what he did from Karate. This theory would seem to hold true with the strong roots that certainly the early patterns had in Shotokan. It would only make sense that General Choi would want to make some changes to his art to make it stand out. In fact he continued to make slight changes to the sine wave and other aspects of the art almost until the end of his life. But sine wave isn’t really a new creation in fact the up and down motion of the body is used in many martial arts for power generation. In Chinese internal martial arts, Aikido, and many grappling arts you can see body dropping motions that are similar to the sine wave in TKD. It is possible the General Choi came across these movements in his early training and then transposed it on to the karate movements he had learned.

It is maybe because of this reason for adding the sine wave that its effectiveness is still a matter of debate among many groups. Some stick to a very direct motion claiming that it was the original TKD and therefore the most powerful, while others claim that TKD is progressive and we should try to take on the changes that the General made during his life.
My personal take on this is that the sine wave is a solid and efficient way of creating power that has been over stylized in pattern practice and not applied in a realistic fashion. It therefore has remained as something largely misunderstood and in some cases dismissed as art or ascetics.

The problem of not applying sine wave is that it has become a blanket principle that is given to every movement of pattern regardless of effectiveness. An example of a movement where the sine wave would actually be a hindrance to power generation is the upward elbow strike found in the pattern ‘Jhoong Gun’. The elbow strike moves quite a short distance. If you drop your body at the same time in the opposite direction then you are actually taking power away from the strike or worse pulling the attacking tool away from the target area altogether.

Another time when sine wave may not be so applicable is continuous motions. When we perform a number of motions in one stance, using the sine wave can actually slow us down as we have to essentially ‘reset’ our body position after each movement. The purpose for this practice is something that I discuss in the ‘pattern practice’ article on this blog.
There are of course many advantages to the sine wave as well. By using the sine wave we can learn how to base and how to generate power on some movements. But as with many practices connected to patterns and the more traditional aspects of TKD sine wave has been side lined and labelled as ‘art’ by many schools and therefore won’t be developed.
I think this lack of development of sine wave and some other principles is a great shame and could actually be holding TKD back. If we took a step forward to looking at sine wave from a practical point of view and practiced using it in applications then we couldn’t help but gain a deeper understanding of the purpose of this movement then be in a better position to judge it effectiveness.

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