Tag Archives: Do San

My Jouney – Part 2

This is a continuation of the previous article detailing my journey through the martial arts, if you would like to read part one you can find it here

 

Krav Maga

After leaving Aikido I floated for a few months until I was invited to try Krav Maga by one of the Aikido black belts I had trained with. I was a bit reluctant at first, I wasn’t at all sure about going for what could be seen as a modern art after spending so much time in the traditional styles.

After a bit of persuasion I went along to see what it was like. I loved it. Running about hitting pads, sweating, and breathing heavy was like returning home. The simplicity of Krav and the training methods makes for a very effective self-defense system.

The classes had just newly opened were quite small, in fact I was in the first group of 8 people to train Krav in Beijing. Of the 8, every single one of us had a black belt in one style or another, this made the training really hard and a lot of fun. We all knew how to train and whether it was pad work or contact drills we were all pushing each other as hard as we could.

One thing that happened while I was Krav was I realized how much extra power I had from learning to relax in the Chinese styles. I was no longer forcing the punches and feeling tight in my body but letting fly with loose strikes. Due to this, the standing and walking practices I learnt from Zhu Baozhen remain part of my practice to this day.

Krav Maga grew rapidly in Beijing, class numbers rose from 8, to around 20, to over 30 on some evenings. With the increase in students more instructors were needed, I happily put myself forward for the instructor’s course. Different from other martial arts, in Krav you don’t become an instructor after time served. You go through a very demanding course. In my case it was 2, two-week long courses. During the course you train every day from about 8 am – 6 pm, constantly running through the technical aspects of the art and the teaching methodology. Each course ends in a day long exam.

The standard expected from instructors is very high and the course is both mentally and physically demanding. It was a great experience, really pushing yourself to your limits each day.

I passed the course and returned to the gym to face the new challenge of being an instructor. I took my turn running regular classes, women’s self-defense classes, and special seminars. I was very happy to be working in the industry.

Balintawak

From time to time I go online to find out what is happening within the martial arts in my local area. It was through a casual internet search that I found my final teacher Mr. Frank Olea. He had posted an ad on one of the local forums that simply said ‘weapons training’. Being a Krav trainer, which involves a number of different weapons, this sounded something that would suit me.

I contacted him and set up meeting. It turned out he was living very close to me and was a Master level teacher in the Filipino art of Balintawak.

Balintawak is a single stick system of Eskrima, traditionally taught one on one from instructor to student. The instructor teaching the student through giving them increasingly complex and rapid attacks for the student to deal with.

That was how the training was, first defending against simple attacks, then attacks where my weapon hand was held, then defending against disarm attempts and so on. All of this was done training outside, and because of our individual work schedules, in the dark.

Frank would continually push me to understand the weapon movements especially the knife which he specialized in. He was also always pushing himself and trying to develop his art, the benefit of having a younger master as a teacher. He would occasionally come up with a new attack combination or angle that I had to defend against, either with a stick or a training knife. One night he came down from his apartment and announced that for the next few weeks we would be training with live blades.

For me Balintawak brought a number of things together the methods of Balintawak complement the Chinese systems very well due to the close in nature of the style. It also blends quite well with some of the Krav techniques.

Frank granted me permission to teach his style shortly before I left Beijing.

Currently, I live in Jakarta where I teach both Krav Maga and Balintawak with some Tactical Taekwondo thrown in. I choose not to study any additional  styles right now. I use my time in this country to consolidate what I have learnt from all the teachers I have known.

As I said in the about section I try to bring everything I learn back to the original TKD patterns that I learnt. For example, my interpretation of the opening movement of Do San was inspired by the attention paid to natural movements in Krav Maga techniques, and my application of Sonkal Daebi Makgi was taken from the chicken form from Xingyiquan and some of the Bagua entering movements.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my journey through the martial arts. I don’t know where my path will lead me next, but I know I will be training and studying martial arts for as long as I am able.

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San Makgi – The most misunderstood ‘block’ in Taekwondo

I mentioned in a previous article that Do San was the most hated pattern in TKD, but how it contains some very strong applications. The same can be said for san makgi. When teaching Toi Gye, it is difficult for new students and teachers to go through the section of the pattern with 6 san makgi in a row with a straight face. The movement looks so odd and unmartial, I have heard it called may things, cowboy walking, space invaders, this silly move, and many more things.

The mainstream application, to defend a kick or a punch, has a lot of common flaws in it, and generally leads instructors and practitioners to view it as an exercise to work the hips.

In an effort to give it some martial validity, some teachers present this as a forearm strike with a block and even a kick added. I have a few issues with this particular interpretation.

Firstly, you are changing the basis of the movement. When executing san makgi we are driving both arms,  and one leg with the hips at the same time, of you change it in to 3 movements, a kick, block and forearm strike then you are changing the way that the movement is being performed. You can read more about my views on movement variance here.

Also, why a forearm strike, it seems a fairly impractical attacking weapon, when a knife hand would be much more effective and in keeping with the attacking tools that are represented throughout the patterns.

Even the kick seems like a little bit of an afterthought when I have seen this being demonstrated it always seems cramped and uncomfortable for the person demonstrating the kick. Techniques, as a rule, should never looked forced or uncomfortable.

So, my take on san magki is a little different.

Going back to a recent article I wrote on stances and applications, I suggested that sitting stance is mainly used in tripping and throwing movements. This is exactly what I think san makgi is.

What is seen as a kick, is actually stepping over/round the opponents leg. We are aiming to have our ‘kicking leg’ land either in front or behind our opponent lead leg, depending on the orientation of the opponent, either facing towards (leg behind) or away from you (leg in front). This puts us in the position to throw our opponent over our leg.

Our arms are going to be used to pull the opponent over our lead leg. The back hand on the opponents arm and the front hand on the body. Again it depends whether the opponent is facing you or facing away from as t where your hands are.

The hip motion brings the movement of the hands and feet together at one time, planting the foot as we pull our opponent over

Of course to do this we have to gain position, this s the reason for the repeated movements in the Toi Gye pattern., as the opponent moves back to avoid the first attempt then  they open themselves for the second, front to back, or vice versa

 

To complete the sequence we have another misunderstood move, doo palmok miro makgi. If we use the application above, then the purpose of the ending block is easier to understand.

If the trip is done to the front, then there is a danger of it not having much effect, more just unbalancing the opponent. They can easily just get back up and continue their attack. Doo palmok miro makgi helps us to maintain the dominant position by wrapping the arm and helping us locate the head of the opponent.

With this application of the technique I believe that there is less changing of the movement from thr way it is presented in the patterns. Making it a stronger use for the movement rather than changing everything to make it fit the block punch system. As with everything else, the techniques cannot be taken on surface understanding, they have to be trained and adapted to the person and situation only then can it be included into a personal system

I realise that explanations of techniques are sometime difficult reading. I am hoping soon to make some video demonstrating the various application that I have discussed here.

Until then I hope that you enjoy my discussion on the various techniques.

 

Happy Training!!!

 

 

Stances and applications

When a new student starts in a martial arts class they tend to focus on what their hands are doing. This is maybe linked to how me move in everyday life, we do more with our hands that we do with the rest of our body.

I was no different, but as I have continued to study the martial arts my focus has been taken away from what my hands are doing and more in to the hips and feet. This has also affected my teaching so that I now tend to teach a lot more stances and footwork than I used to. This has also shown that a large number of new students are disconnected with their bodies. This may have always been true in the martial arts or maybe it has become more of an issue with the amount of sitting that people do these days.

In a lot of TKD training that I have had been a part of, the stances were not really broken down. There was a lot of focus on footwork in a sparring sense but not in the traditional application of the patterns. Students are generally taught the dimensions and weight distribution of the stances but not the purpose so much.

Here I am going to break down 3 of the most common stance in the TKD curriculum, their uses and how they can sometimes hold the key to applications

 

‘L’ stance

This is largely a defensive stance, our weight on the back leg shows that we haven’t really committed to anything yet. We are finding a way in often using knifehand guarding block to clear and secure limbs. Our weight is lesser on our front foot to allow weight shifting forward when the time comes.

In forearms guarding block, we keep our weight back to help prevent being thrown and to better use the front foot to kick or trip our attacker at close range.

So we can maybe suggest that all movements in an ‘L’ stance are not completely aggressive in nature. For example are the punches in Hwa Rang really punches?

 

Walking stance

The most common stance we have and opposite of ‘L’ stance, walking stance is an aggressive committed stance. Any movement done in this stance even if is labeled a block should be seen as forceful. We are moving our body weight into our opponent. Most commonly in punching we can see this but it is equally true for double forearm block, even though it is called a block the nature of the stance that is it performed in changes the application quite dramatically. I discuss this more here

 

As you can see the difference in the application is more connected to the weight distribution than to anything else. So it should be studied in depth. The standard stances are not there to be copied exactly but to give access to this concept of weight back and weight forward.

 

Sitting stance

To my mind sitting stance is the most misunderstood of the basic stances. Often it is used as a strength exercise than a fighting stance. Often we see student being asked to assume this stance for a period of time to increase strength. However, when we see it isn’t the forms it is of a very different purpose. Certainly while in the idle of a fight is not the time to start strengthen your legs but dropping in to a sitting stance.

 

I think the demotion of the sitting stance to a strength exercise is mainly due to it’s static nature. With this particular stance we are pretty much rooted to the spot, which in a competitive TKD environment it is exactly what we don’t want.

In my mind sitting stance is a stance based on throwing, tripping and sweeping applications. These are times when we may want to have a stronger and maybe even a bit of a lower stance. If we look at the opening for Yul Gok, W-shaped block from Toi-Gye, and scooping block in Gae Baek, they can all be applied in tripping, throwing, or controlling the opponent. Not that these movements are exclusively for sitting stance, there are throwing application for many stances. However, sitting stance is particularly suited to the purpose.

 

So there you have the three basics stances as I see them. So what about the other stances? Well for a good deal of the time they are variations on the basic three, for example low stance, fixed stance, or rear foot stance can all be seen as variants of either walking stance or ‘L’ stance therefore the applications can be seen in the same broad terms i.e. defensive or aggressive.

 

For me, viewing the application from a stance perspective shed new light on some of the movements that I had been struggling with. I hope it does the same for you.

Competition Benefits

Competition

 

If you have read any of the other article in the blog you could easily get the impression that I am against competition. However, this could not be further from the truth. This time round I would like to too at some of the positive aspects of competition and where competition crosses the line to stop being useful

 

These days you could split TKD, or in fact any martial arts style, in to competitors or traditionalists. Both groups seem to have a pretty poor opinion about the other.

Traditionalists often have the opinion that sport martial artists are uncultured and can only use sporting techniques that are in some way inferior. Sometimes they hang on to the belief that their techniques are superior because they are too effective or dangerous to be allowed in a sporting arena

 

Sport martial artists have the opinion that the traditionalists practice ineffective techniques. They spend their time living in the past dealing with unrealistic attacks and silly unworkable defenses.

 

To be honest both opinions have merit. Whereas sporting techniques really belong in whatever arena you compete in, people who only practice traditional forms can often suffer from never having their techniques being tested

 

I have spent time in both camps and seen the attitudes of each. I think that the words ‘sport’ and ‘competition’ are often confused. Whereas sport will lead you in one particular direction, lack of competition won’t lead you anywhere in a practical sense

 

For example, it you have been training for a while, what gauge do you have to know if your techniques are powerful as they could be? You may train one particular kick 50 times a day and think that it is a good strong kick. That is until you have a competition against some on who practices 100 times a day.

 

Such an experience would surely reset your scale as to what hard training really is. I am sure if you are reading this article you have been through such an experience. Likely afterwards you went back and examined everything you did and grew because of it.

 

Competition requires us to push our limits and often times we find we are capable of much more. In his book Arnold Schwarzenegger talks about people believing lifting a certain weight was impossible, until someone stepped up and did it. Afterward the same feat was accomplished by many others. Would this have happened without some form of competition?

 

Competition can bring out the best in people. It pushes people to their limits and to find strength or skill that they never thought they had. When you adrenaline is up and you are against someone either directly as in sparring or indirectly in breaking competitions you have a will that in normal training you may not experience.

Lastly, competition is real. Self-defense can be seen as a competition, a very serious one but a competition all the same. No one ‘lets’ you perform your techniques. You have to fight them through. If you are not use to some form of competition then you will be left wanting when someone suddenly doesn’t want to play your game.

 

In my classes we often have competition, sure we spar but we also turn drills in to completion. I ask the students, “can you apply your technique (a punch) better than your partner can apply their technique (the defense). Then we work at it, people get hit but it lets them improve and grow as they realize that what they though was a solid technique has a gaping hole it. They grow through competition and at the end their understanding of all the techniques get better.

However, it is important to make the diction between attacking the person and attacking the technique. I see this a lot and it usually ends up in an argument. One partner resists, the other partner complains or goes harder, before long people are complaining about their training partner. In my classes I insist that people attack the person in the prescribed way or ways. Within the attack they are allowed to be as aggressive and hard as they like, what they are not allowed to do is to intention change their attack to mess up the defense.

For example, if we were practicing the opening technique from Do San, the arms cover, move to a control by hair grab, then counter with a straight punch. The attacker can throw a hard, fast haymaker. They can move, they can shout and swear at the defender. All of those things are ok but what they can’t do is throw the haymaker and duck or move their head in anticipation of what they know is coming.

Of course the argument there is “it might happen” yeah, sure it might, but is it likely? Probably not. So we keep the training in the parameters of what will happen most of the time.

 

When people start attacking the technique as in the above example is when people get confused about what is effective. This is when I feel that we can cross over in to sport. That is when we start attacking the techniques of an opponent rather than the opponent themselves

As we train the standard techniques sometimes we think up counters against the techniques. This is possible because people know what is coming. In some cases the counter is very effective and that causes the original technique to be dropped from the curriculum. Not because it is ineffective in its self but because in a sporting context people learnt how to deal with it therefore something new had to be developed.

In sport this is very much the way things go so we can kid ourselves on to think that what we do is effective because we beat other trained people.it is in truth the result of people attacking techniques rather than people. Which is fine, but we must acknowledge the difference.

 

In short, competition helps us all grow but we must be careful the parameters of the competition that we set.

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.