Tag Archives: itf patterns

Taekwondo on the ground

90% of all fights end up on the ground

 

The above quote was made famous by those looking to promote ground fighting. Whether it is true or not the point is that we may end up on the ground, and if we do we need to know how to cope. Taekwondo and many other arts seem to be sorely lacking in this area.

So much material has been written about ground fighting that a simple on line search will turn up many, often conflicting, ideas on the subject. Form people taking ground fighting systems like BJJ or trying to adapt what they know from their own stand up system to the ground.Some even clinging to the idea that purely stand up is all they need

My view on this falls somewhere in between.

Certainly if you want to be a solid ground fighter you need to spend some time in a specialized style, the most prominent of which is probably BJJ. Spend some time on the ground and understanding it, if you have skills from your stand up system then maybe you can find somewhere where they would fit in, but do find instruction in the basics at least.

However

For applied, self-defense based martial arts the ground is somewhere we don’t want to be. We neither want to take the fight to the ground nor do we want to engage in any ground fighting. While we are on the ground we run the risk of being kicked by our attacker’s friends, a weapon being drawn on us, our loved ones being attacked while we are occupied on the ground, or many other things that we can’t control.

Considering all this, what we should be training to do is get back to our feet as quickly as possible. Training to get back up after going to ground should be the main focus of our training. For this I have a basic stage system I go through with my students

 

Dead

From various positions, your training partner just lies on top of you, makes no effort to hold you down but is merely a dead weight for you to remove.

Semi-live

Again,  from different positions you partner is on top of you and can give small resistance, correcting their position as you move, so it is no longer simply just rolling them off you, you’ll need to find other way. At this stage I don’t include striking or pain compliance and it is more about movement than anything.

Live

This is when you partner is trying to hold you down, just like stand up sparring you can focus on different strategies, pain compliance, striking etc. as can your partner. Also because of the proximity to your opponent you may find that ‘dirty fighting’ may be easier to apply.

Transition

Going from standing to the ground can be a shock, so again we have to train for it. First with just being taken down from standing then from a moving/fighting situation. It should go without saying that break   falls should be studied before attempting this type of training

 

Of course the above is nowhere near the level of a wrestling or BJJ curriculum, and I don’t ever pretend that it is. As mentioned before my objective, both for myself and my students, is to regain my feet, not to beat someone one on the ground. As an aside, Jocko Willink former Navy SEAL and BJJ black belt said on a recent podcast that fighting someone who is trying to get away from him and escape is much harder than fighting someone who is willing to engage in a ground fight. Food for thought

 

Ok, so I accept that the title of the article may have been a little bit misleading as in the stages above there isn’t strictly any taekwondo techniques. However, by being able to fight your way back to your feet puts you in a better position to apply what you know.

 

I think this is an important part of applied training and sadly on that many people miss out

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Doo Palmok Makgi – The power move

When I was coming up the ranks in Taekwondo, I got to blue belt and I was introduced to the ‘most powerful block in the Taekwondo syllabus – Doo palmok Makgi, or double forearm block. First appearing in the pattern Jhoon Gun it quite rightly deserves the title as most powerful block. All of our energy is being thrown in one direction, there is no reaction hand to balance the force. Unfortunately that is usually where the understanding of this block stops. The application is very similar to all other block except that the attack may be stronger, a kick for example, strong attack means a stronger block is needed sort of idea.

 

So, I am going to lay out my own interpretation of this ‘block’ as I see it in applied taekwondo. However, before we look at the application we need to first look at the principle of ‘structure’. To explain the whole concept here would take too long but basically, if you have a good structure you have all of your balance and all of your power, if you have a poor structure then your balance and power diminishes. Some things that contribute to a solid structure are:

 

  • Vertical spine, curved a little forward
  • Stance not too narrow or long
  • Major joints stacked so they can work together

 

There are a lot more things that go to make up a structure but I am sure you get the idea by now. All of the points are covered in stance training but I find people have a habit to concentrate too much on the feet when we start discussing stance.

.If you want to see the importance of stance and structure, try to work the heavy bag with a stone in your shoe. You will quickly find that your  body shape will have an effect one everything you do. You movements will be awkward and you won’t be able to punch, kick or move as you want to. This is exactly like the application of Doo Palmok Makgi

As mentioned before doble forearm block is apwerful move, it is meant o distrupt the opponents balance and alignment to open them for throws and takedowns. I can bee seen as from the simlair point of view as sonkal daebi makgi, in the way that they are both techniques used to set an opponent up for attacks

If we take Kwang Gae as an example, your opponent may have their hands up either in a sort of guard or attack, you perform doo palmok makgi,  your (in this case) right forearm smashing across the neck and arms of the opponent, your right leg fits steps behind your opponents lead leg. This is the set up (or connect in the 3 C’s of Tactical Taekwondo), if done well your opponents structure has been compromised, their weight distribution is off and they are open for a follow up

 

As you slide back, you left arm clears and pull the opponents right arm and your lead leg catches and drags your opponent’s lead leg. This really takes your opponent off balance, extending their stance and putting them in a very vulnerable position.

 

The final move can be seen as a fingertip strike to the throat, or as using your forearm to the opponents neck to take them down.

 

I chose Kwang Gae, because I feel the application here is very nicely laid out, however if you look at double forearm block  in other patterns you can see a similar use for it being a set up for a throw or take down.

 

 

Again when I am looking through these application I am surprised and excited at how complete an art Taekwondo actually is, covering many aspects of stand-up fighting.

In the next article, I am going to be looking at TKD on the ground.

Yop Joomak, the forgotten fist of Taekwondo

Maybe it is because of the sporting application of Taekwondo but it seems that over the years the applied techniques of Taekwondo have become less and less. The full complement of techniques is more than 3,000 yet today in most dojangs we would likely see no more than 7 being practiced

Of course this is an example of people training what they need to train. The 7 techniques that are practiced is enough to see you through your competitive career. When you change the focus of your training however, you shouldn’t work from the same point thinking that the handful to techniques that saw you safe in the ring are equally applicable in self defence.

Yop joomak or hammer fist is one technique that has been left behind. Rarely trained in most dojangs and largely absent in the patterns it is maybe seen as a very low skill technique and one not worth practicing. I have discussed the importance of training low skill techniques before, but I feel hammer fist deserves a little more attention that it currently gets.

For a start it is a very safe strike. Whereas with a straight punch you run the risk of damaging your knuckles. With a hammer fist you can strike full force with little or no damage to you hand.

It is also a very versatile strike. The number of directions and angle that you can strike with a hammer fist far outnumber most other strikes, and in most of these direction you can actually create more power with the hammer fist than other attacking tools.

As well as being a ‘low skill’ technique another possible reason why yop joomak is over looked is it is a softer attacking tool, whereas this is the reason it could be regarded as a safe strike, it may also create doubt in the practitioners mind that it will do much damage. This is true, but we have to also look at how many other techniques we practice that are not knock out shots. We cannot give ourselves over too much to the idea of ‘one hit, one kill’ this leads to a flaw in our training and our thinking. We should always aim to hit hard but we should never think that one strike will do the job. We should be attacking our opponent with a flurry of hard strikes then looking for an exit. Not relying on one big strike and then waiting to see what happens.

My preferred application of the hammer fist is to use it in combination with other strikes. For example, if someone is in front of me and acting in a threatening manner, my hands naturally come up to either try to calm the person down or control the space between myself and the other person. From the ‘hands up’ position a good option is to strike to the nose of the opponent with the hammer fist. After this initial strike, we can then following up with whatever is appropriate. A similar strategy also applies if the person is off to the side or even behind you.

In short then, hammer fist is a safe, versatile, and powerful strike. It can be easily applied as an opening strike in many different situations and defiantly not over looked by someone wanting to develop the practical side of their art.

Working from the patterns

Very often, when people are teaching pattern applications they teach them as isolated techniques. No matter what the application is good or bad, things like, timing, distancing, positioning are very often left out. We would never do this when practicing for a sparring competition, for every sparring technique we have we are aware of where it fits into the sparring dynamic. Similarly then we have to have this for all our pattern applications.

To talk about how to draw this out of the patterns I would like to use the technique ‘gorburyo sogi’ or bending ready stance. For me this is not the preparation for a side kick, but an attack to the legs while grappling. If we look at the pattern Yul Gok, for example during a grapple we attack the legs of our opponent by sharply bringing our front foot first to the back of our opponents front knee, and then to the knee of his back leg. To do this we efficiently we need to be in L-stance. As our opponents balance is disrupted we shift our hand from the grapple to control the head and then finish with and elbow strike to the face. To put body weight in to the technique we shift to walking stance.

Again, if we were just to practice that application, we may gain an understanding of the pattern but not the skill to actually apply anything. So first of all we have to bring thing back and look at the situation we are finding ourselves in. in this case it is grappling, so with a training partner we take up the classic grappling position and just practice moving them around the floor. As we improve in this skill the movement can be more aggressive till we are actually trying to unbalance one another, switch grips, throw in basic attacks, etc.

When we are comfortable with that we can start adding thing in from the patterns. In this case bending ready stance. There are a lot of things we have to work out, does it work when I am being pushed, or pulled? What foot position do I need to have? Where should my centre of gravity be? And so on. Through practice we can answer these questions and then make adjustments to our movements. Later we can also make adjustments to the techniques themselves to better fit your own personal style.

This process should be done with all the applications, starting with the range or the situation it is being applied in, working to get comfortable at that range with basic movements, applying the techniques from the patterns, finally making adjustments

I think when we get to the last stage we can finally say that we have unlocked an application. As we continue to unlock application we will no longer have a set of isolated techniques but a more complete and integrated system.

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.

Po eun, The jewel of TKD

Just as we all have patterns we hate, we all also have the patterns we love. For performance value and spectacle many people would choose the likes of Juche or Moon Moo as a favorite to watch. There are many patterns people love to practice too, for example I know people that really enjoy practicing Gae Baek

For me however, the real jewel of TKD is Po Eun., the series of movements in a single stance and the sideways motion makes it stand out against all other patterns. Certainly when I was starting out in TKD I used to enjoy watching the senior grades performing this short explosive pattern. It is however, left out of many competitions, maybe because of the apparent lack of technical difficulty or flashy techniques

It is maybe this lack of flashiness that draws me to this pattern. The lessons that can be learned from studying Po Eun go well beyond its ascetics. I think

Right from the beginning of the pattern we are introduced to some close in grappling movements. Taking the practitioner from a position of disadvantage, to a clinch, to a series of movements designed to break down ones opponent.

The series of movements that come next could be described as the signature of Po Eun, commonly seen as ‘punch blocks’ it is, in my training, a method of dealing with close in grappling. Pulling arms down while punching, gaining head control, culminating in a double leg throw/take down.

If you look at some of the older Chinese systems you will see some partner practice very close to Po Eun within them. Crossing hands and trying to find or create openings in your partners defence.  Often this is done in a natural stance, because you shouldn’t be pressuring forward. In fact I think this is the reason for the constant sitting stance in Po Eun, it is not really to do with moving to the side, for the most part, but mainly because during the closing in fighting you shouldn’t be pushing too hard forward or yielding too much.

Try facing a partner in sitting stance and crossing forearms then slowly start trying to work round your partner’s arms and make contact. As you progress with this you may want to start grabbing arms this si fine but you shouldn’t start to go overly fast. As with everything you should go at a speed that you can investigate the movements and techniques. From there you can start applying to movements from Po Eun, this maybe happening already in a natural way.

Hidden within in the simplicity of this pattern are a series of effective close range striking and grappling techniques. That are worthy of in depth study. It is also worth mentioning that it is one of the very few patterns that the practitioner learns to generate power in all direction. By that I mean there are upwards, downwards, forwards, backwards and sideway motions.

Po Eun is a very important pattern for applied TKD and is worthy of the attention of any serious practitioner.

Tactical Taekwondo Pad work

Padwork is an integral part of TKD training. It is often seen as only having sport application but with a little bit of imagination we can make it suitable training aid to pattern application and self defence.

The drills I am going to talk about are hand orientated I am going to leave the leg drills for another time. Before we get to the drills I think we should look at some equipment prefrences.

The Pads and The Holder

I personally like stiff focus mitts to train punches. I find with softer pads you don’t get the same feedback. Feedback is also important when learning to hold pads for someone. There should be a small amount of tension in your arms when you are holding. Just a little bit of resistance when the punch lands so the puncher can feel how hard the strikes are. If too much the punches can be jammed or the holder can end up generating more power than the puncher. If too loose there is a danger to both the puncher and the holder for injury and strikes will never be delivered at full power as there is nothing to absorb the power. It takes time to get the skills for holding but it is an important aspect of training.

Gloves

There is some discussion about whether to wear gloves for pad work or not. For me it is a matter of what your goals are in a particular session. If you are going to be working for a long time at your max power then maybe you should protect your hands a little. If you are working on technique then I suggest you go without gloves, this helps better with the form of your hands and hand conditioning. A while back I found after working with gloves for too long that the form of my fist hand changed and still to this day I can spot people in my classes that have maybe over used gloves in their training.

The drills

These are a few examples of drills that I use in my classes. Before doing these drills you should have basic abilities in punching so that you can train safely. Time should be spent just going through basic punching combinations. This is good for the puncher and the holder to practice.

The first two pad drills are taken directly from the techniques shown in the patterns

Stripping and clearing

This drill is essentially to train your non punching hand. The drill starts as normal with the holder presenting the pads to the puncher. Jabs, straights, hooks, and uppercuts can all be used. Randomly the holder also has the choice of holding the pad for a punch but covering it with the other pad. The puncher should then clear the obstructing pad with their non-punching and then delivering the strike. I like to call for multiple strikes each time this happens, you have just cleared a pathway may as well make the most of it.

Pad control

This drill is also based on keeping both hands active. Instead of letting the holder dictate the strike used, the punch takes control of the pad by holding from behind. Essentially grabbing the holder’s hand. The puncher then moves the pad and delivers three fast strikes, then shifts the pad and delivers another three fast strikes. The strikes again range from, jabs, crosses, uppercuts, hooks, and can also include downward hammer fist and various elbow strikes. The changes and strikes should be fast, after all the puncher is punching their own hand the pad is merely in the way.

When you are well practiced at this you should try the same drill with your eyes closed.

Last three strikes of your life

This is for developing power. Once a variety of strikes have been practiced. The holder calls for a strike or punch. The Puncher then deliver three of the prescribed strikes as hard and as fast as possible. As soon as they have finished then another strike should be called. This continues till the power or form of the strikes starts to drop. Then either the partners switch roles or the puncher gets a short break and goes again.

Cover

Similar to a boxing drill, during a punching drill the holder can attack the puncher with the pads. They should be strikes aimed and the head and the puncher should cover. The reaction of the puncher should be to either grab, clear or grapple the holder. Not just to ride out the punches and continue.

Surprise

The holder engages the puncher in conversation. At a random moment the holder bring up the pad and shouts at the puncher. The puncher should respond as quickly as possible in an appropriate manner ie. Striking and backing off. The more relaxed each person can be before the strike is called the better the practice is. This can also be done with multiple people

These are just a few of the pad drill I use with my students to practice movement straight from the patterns. Of course nothing beats live practice but I find padwork an invaluable part of my, and my students, development. I hope you try some of these drills and see how they work into the TKD self defence system