Monthly Archives: June 2013

Do San

Ask most ITF practitioners what their least favorite pattern is and they will probably screw up their face and mutter under their breath ‘Do San’. Certainly when I was a junior grade performing Do San felt so uncomfortable. Compared to the nice angles and symmetry of Dan Gun and Won Hyo, Do San just felt like a bunch of moves thrown together.
However, my study of the application of Do San has really made me rethink my ranking of the pattern. Contained within it there are some very simple but vicious techniques. In this article I am going to take some of the techniques and look at their standard applications and comparing them to some alternatives. To keep things as simple as possible I am going to stick to the English names for the movements

High outer forearm block, reverse punch.

So the opening of the pattern is often seen as a block to a straight punch to the face followed by a counter punch. I have also seen it demoed as a block to a hook then a punch. Either way there are some issues with using the first movement as a block. The main ones for me are:

• It ‘s a fairly weak position for your arm to take impact
• Why is your other arm down on your hip, not protecting your head?
• Why when you see an attack coming from your left do you first cross your hands to the right?

These questions are some sometimes answered by the catch all phrase of “it’s art” or “ you need to train more” which I don’t really like as I see it more as side stepping the issues rather than looking more closely at the movement.

My own interpretation of this movement doesn’t have it as a block at all. Instead the ‘block’ is the crossed hands position that most people take as a preparatory movement.

I believe this crossing of the arms is to show the natural reaction of bringing your hands up to protect your head when you are attacked. From there you can use one hand to grab the opponents arm and bring it down. The other hand (the block) now goes out to grab the opponent’s hair. This secures him and then you can pull his head on to the follow up punch. In this day and age with shaved heads and crew cuts sometimes you need to grab other things but the idea remains the same.

The next movement I would like to look at is :

Outer forearm wedging block, front kick double punch

the standard application for this movement is defense against someone grabbing your lapels with both hands. We again run in to a number of issues relating to structure of the block and positioning of the body. I think my main issues for this are the 45 degree step is explained once again as art, and the wedging block itself doesn’t have such a high success rate. Sliding your hands between a grab then trying to snap them out is not likely to create space. Also you don’t actually need that space to deliver the front kick.

For me the application of the ‘block’ is closely linked to the opening movement, as your hands are in the same place. The 45 degree step puts you outside of the opponent’s direct line of attack and you can then use both hands to secure them. This can be done by grabbing their hair and arm for example. The kick therefore would be best aimed at the legs in order to break his structure and maybe bring him down to his knees. This puts them in a very vulnerable position for the double punch. These is another application for the double punch at this stage but I don’t feel it would be responsible for me to detail it here.

The last movement I would like to look at is very simple:

Rising block

Whereas rising block itself is not a bad application I feel that in Do San it has a different application. Again the reasoning for this is based on some of the principles of the first movement. When any attack comes towards you it is a natural reaction to out one or both hands in the way. So for a high attack we put our hands round our head and for a low attack our hands would naturally drop to meet it. If we look at the movement of rising block we can again ask the question ‘why do we first drop our hands in order to block something high?’. My answer to this is that you are dropping your hands to block a low attack and then grabbing the attacking hand clearing the way to drive your outer forearm or hammer fist into the opponents jaw. This is a simple and effective technique based on our natural reactions.

As an aside hammer fist is one very effective technique that seems to be almost nonexistent in modern TKD teaching.

I hope you have found this look at some alternative applications of Do San interesting and useful. As always it is difficult to fully describe a technique in writing. In the future I am hoping to be able to put some videos on the blog to better show what I mean.

Until next time happy training.


Aggression and intensity

One of the things that is often overlooked by people practicing self defense arts is the importance of mental conditioning. People can spend hours hitting pads or releasing from chokes etc only to find that these much needed skills abandon them when they need them the most. The reason that these techniques can fail is not in the techniques themselves nor is it in a practitioners physical ability, but rather due to the fact that the practitioner very likely hasn’t spent enough time conditioning his mind as much as his body.

Maybe this is due to the number of ways that Martial arts have been changed to martial activities. In sporting martial arts it is seen as bad form to be over aggressive and in cardio kick boxing there is just no need to put yourself in the same mind set as in self-defense training. However for self-defense we need to condition the mind as much as the body in order to be effective.

Aggression is something that makes a lot of people feel very uncomfortable. In this day and age of civilised society being aggressive is often frowned upon and we are taught largely to be polite and gentle with each other. This is all very well until you come across someone who is not going to be polite and gentle with you. Again these kinds of aggressive people often make others around them uneasy and our usual reaction is to ignore them or just give in and let them rant. In fact people often use this very reaction to get their way in social settings. In unsocial or self-defense settings letting someone have their way through aggression or intimidation could very possibly the worst thing you could do.

So we have to prepare ourselves to be aggressive but also to deal with aggression towards us. This process starts in the pad work drills and it starts with the practitioners themselves. Each time you are doing a drill you should feel yourself getting focused aggression on to the pads, your aim should not be to pace yourself for a number of rounds but to deliver maximum damage with each strike for as long as it takes there is no real room for pacing yourself. We are looking to simulate the hard attacking needed to survive a confrontation, but also internally looking for the mind to be focused and push through even when are bodies are under stress and telling us to stop
During training techniques you should also bring that level of intensity to your practice. If you approach your partner with the mind set of ‘he is a friend of mine, he won’t really hurt me’ then the training will have a very different feel, one of dancing with a partner rather than training with them. If you put yourself in mind of a real attack that you have to get out of even if the actually attack doesn’t change you have started to train a real self defense art. Through this aggression and determination will naturally start coming out.

As mentioned before this can feel quite strange to a student but it is a necessary first step to making your self-defense workable. After working on aggression internally we can start bringing it out. Verbalising aggression and posturing to our partner helps out both parties. The aggressor gets used to being aggressive (which sometimes is a good self-defense technique in itself) and the defender gets used to having someone being aggressive towards them. As with most things this takes practice to do well and in the beginning you’ll often find yourself saying silly things or laughing in the middle of the training. This is natural and your way of telling your partner that you are not really angry at them, in our civilized social world you are reminding your partner that you are playing a role. In time and with practice however these practices can become an invaluable part of a person’s training.
Once you have learnt to be aggressive you then need to learn controlled aggression but that is a topic for a whole other article.

As with everything in training, getting your mind set in to the right place takes time. Through drills and partner work students are given the situations but it is up to each individual student to work out how to get themselves in to the right frame of mind. Once you do then you will see a change in your training and the way that you approach your training