Tag Archives: Kata

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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My Journey – Part one

A little while ago I received a notification from WordPress that I have been blogging for 5 years, this coincidences with my 50th post. To mark this milestone I am going to write about my own personal journey in the martial arts.

To make it a little easier to read I have divided it into two parts

As I said in the ‘about’ section, I started TKD when I was 16 as a very unfit teenager who could run the length of the hall without turning purple and collapsing. over the years i got better physically but I was never much of a competitor despite winning a few medals over the years. I was always more interested in the application of the movements found in the patterns. I think it is that interest that has led me to study different martial arts.

I am also lucky that I travel with my work quite a lot which has exposed me to a lot of different cultures and teachers.

So here it is… my journey part one

 

Chinese styles

After achieving black belt in TKD and training in Scotland, Italy and Russia I moved to China. Originally for a year but ended up staying for 15 years. While in China I had the opportunity to train in a number of arts. At first I studied the Chinese internal martial arts, initially under Professor Liu Yuzeng who taught Taiji, Xingyi, and Bagua. It was under him that I discovered how different training in the Chinese martial arts were. Training was done early in the morning and consisted of practicing the movements and forms over and over, we would start with the short explosive movements of Xingyi, then move on to the circular walking of Bagua and then finish with the softer movements of Taiji before closing with qigong. Although I enjoyed the training I think I was too young and inexperienced to really make the most out of it. I had gone from the pad work and sparring of Taekwondo to just movement practice, I often felt frustrated with not fully understanding what the aim of the training was.

Training under Professor Liu gave me a keen interest in Baguazhang, which eventually caused me to move to what could be regarded as the birth place of Bagua, Beijing. It was in Beijing that I met Zhu Baozhen, who I regard as my main teacher of the Chinese styles. Similar to professor Liu, Zhu Laoshi (teacher Zhu) taught all three of the internal arts, however he mainly concentrated on Baguazhang from the Yin Fu lineage. Similar to Professor Liu his practice also consisted of single movements repeated many times and the circle walking forms, but he also included a lot of standing qi gong. In fact for my first class under Zhu Laoshi, all he taught me was the standing practice and walking method specific to his line of Bagua.

Although both Professor Liu and Zhu Laoshi were both highly skilled in their arts and very capable teachers, I feel I was in a better place to learn from Zhu Laoshi. This was both in my understanding of the Chinese arts and also my Chinese language ability.

I spent about 4 years with Zhu Laoshi, then due to circumstance I stopped training under him regularly. Sadly Zhu Laoshi passed away in 2014

Aikido

While training in Bagua I also took up Aikido, this was mainly to get some more partner practice. I had read that Bagua and Aikido were somewhat linked so it seemed logical to try Aikido to supplement my training.

In the beginning I got a lot out of training in Aikido. Our teacher, the only female teacher I have had, was highly technical and appeared to really love the art. Through the Beijing dojo I also had the pleasure of training with Horii Shihan from Japan on a number of occasions

Everyone in the dojo started out really enjoying the training, however over the years our teacher seemed to get progressively more frustrated with her situation. I don’t know if she wasn’t getting the recognition she wanted, wasn’t developing herself as much as she wanted, or if the issue was purely financial. Whatever the reason it started to show in the classes. There was a distinct lack of patience with new students coming in to the dojo and even some of the classes were trained with an atmosphere of displeasure.

In time the dojo was to close, it reopened months later and all the students went back for a while but as the frustration continued the students, including myself, started to fall away. Aikido still leaves me with a sense of unfinished business. One day I still plan to return to the art.

Continued in part two……

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!!!

 

 

Grappling Revisited

In the previous post on grappling I looked some of of the concepts and training that I believe make up TKD grappling.

In this article would like to go through some specific examples of course it is always difficult to describe a technique in text, however, I hope that you will be able to understand

First the basics

Forearm guarding block

As stated in the previous article in the patterns forearm guarding block represents a basic stand up grappling position. We need to get used to getting into and moving in this position before we can start looking at the techniques

When we are ready we can start looking to see where it appears in our patterns, as always I am referring to ITF patterns here. I have linked to each pattern in the headings so if you are not so familiar with them you can check the movement i am referring to

 

Won Hyo and Yul Gok

So the first pattern that contains forearm guarding block is Won Hyo, but in my mind not where you think. Sure it is the final 2 movements of the pattern but I tend to disregard these as a stylistic. The forearm guarding block in Won Hyo are in the bending ready stances.

For me the top half of bending ready stance is a forearm guarding block, which put the stance in grappling rather than the preparation for a kick or a stance to intimidate your opponent as I heard one black belt claim.

Here as we are grabbing and holding the opponent, we are using our front leg to attack the opponent’s legs either catching behind the knee of their front leg or siding kicking the back knee, obviously for this we are kicking much lower.

We can see an similar expression of this in Yul Gok when we take advantage of the unbalanced opponent, locate his head with our front hand before delivering an elbow with our back hand.

From there we can look at Jhoong Gun.

Jhoong Gun

He we have another very misunderstood movement in the form of pressing block, it is sometimes seen as a double block or as a leg break. My personal interpretation come from using the guarding block as a lead in.

From the grapple position our opponent I burying their head, either to avoid punches and head butts or because the defender is pulling it down. Another possibility is that the opponent is attempting to grab the defenders legs. In either case we are pushing the opponents head down without back hand and lifting their shoulder without front hand sort of like an underhook. We slide into a low stance to give us better grounding for this.

The final move of the sequence shows us moving out form the line of attack while locking the arm and head. Form there we have a number of options.

Choong Moo

Finally we are going to look at Choong Moo, here we have one of the more skilled uses of forearm guarding block. From the block, we are going to turn on our front foot and perform a low knife hand block.

My take on this movement is a hip throw or cross buttocks throw. As we enter the grapple, our front hand slips from the collar to under the arm of our opponent, as we turn we load the opponent on to our hips and throw them over as represented by the hand position of the low knife hand block.

 

Ok so there we have a slightly more in depth look at the grappling application coming specifically from forearms guarding block. I would encourage anyone interested in these to look deeply into the skills and training needed to be comfortable with these techniques, from getting used to being close in and grabbing your training partners, to the necessary break falls.

Of course, if there are grappling application in the patterns, somewhere there is also anti grappling applications. However, I will keep that for another article

Thoughts on Knife Defense

Recently on my YouTube feed I saw this:

Silla Knife Pattern

I have to admit that I had no idea that this form existed but with a little research it seems to have been around for many years. I have my own ideas about the pattern and the techniques included within. However, in this article I am going to focus more on knife defense.

I am not sure if there is a more controversial topic in the martial arts beyond knife defense. Many different systems have different ideas on what should be done, from simple tactics to having large chunks of the syllabus devoted to knife and blade defense.

There is really so much to write on this subject that for now I am just going to write some of my thoughts on knife defense.

 

Can you defend yourself against a knife?

This question is often posed by students and instructors alike. In my mind, it is a totally worthless question. Whether we think it is possible or not, it is something we may have to deal with. We shouldn’t make the issue academic but have a realistic look at what options we have in that situation.

 

You will be at a huge disadvatnage

Following on from the initial question, we have to be very realistic about our chances, you will likely get injured, possibly badly if you opponent has a knife. I was trying to explain this to one of my students the other day and he was surprised that I wasn’t telling him that the techniques we were discussing were full proof.

If you are taking what you do seriously you need to realistic about you chances in different situations, lest you teach you students that they are able to handle any situation with a low block and spinning back kick.

We can’t rely on attackers or criminals being clumsy and stupid, just to make ourselves feel better and add validity to any techniques or strategies we may want to teach. If you know that someone has a knife, and if you have another option, don’t engage in physical self-defense with that person.

As an additional, resorting to physical self-defense should always be our last option

 

You won’t know there is a knife

To follow on from the previous point of ‘if you know the person has a knife’ we need to realize that most time we won’t be aware the other person has a weapon.

Generally, unless you are being threatened, people don’t wave their weapons about. They don’t want other people to know what they are carrying, they are not interested in giving you a warning so that you can test your martial techniques.

 

Also in many countries carrying a knife for no reason is illegal, even if it isn’t likely displaying blades about your body would attract unwanted attention from the police.

The first you know about a knife is usually when you are being cut or maybe, if you are lucky enough, when the person is reaching for it.  It won’t be presented from 8 feet away.

 

The attacks won’t be telegraphed

Again, following on from the previous point, knife attacks are going to be close ranged, they are not going to be presented from a distance that gives you lots of time to adjust yourself to a knife attack.

Things like, check if the knife is double edged, look at the grip that is being used, check the style of knife and so on are all impossible.

The only time that you will see the knife at any sort of distance will be if there is a knife threat, in which case you should be active. Not waiting for any sort of attack

Don’t try to disarm

Disarms are cool, they look great and are a real mark of ‘skill’. However, there are extremely dangerous and difficult to pull off. Especially the way a lot of systems present them as a neat step to the side, crank the wrist and wayhey you have the knife.

The frantic aggressive movement of the knife and the cost involved if you fail make this a high risk technique.

The best disarm is to knock out or otherwise incapacitate your attacker, not go chasing his knife.

Don’t try to have a knife sub-system

As well as having held a black belt in TKD, I am also an instructor in Krav maga and Balintawak Eskrima. One of the things that these 2 systems have in common is the empty hand and knife defences are very closely linked. There is no need to completely change your movement and tactics when dealing with a knife. If we take the previous points in to account then this can only be a good thing.

Spar/drill with weapons often

As with everything, the best way to find out what works is o train live. This involves:

Gentle sparring with a dummy knife

Introducing the knife unexpectedly in to a sparring situation

Situation and pressure drill involving knives.

 

When these things are introduced into your training you will find that you and your students’ attitude to knife defense may change a lot.

 

I hope you enjoyed reading this. Like I said knife defense is a very big topic and one that I hope to revisit in later articles. But for now these are my main thoughts on the subject

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.

What you should be listening to…

In my last post I mention that I am an avid listener to podcasts. Below I have listed a few that I think are worth your time.

 

Iain Abernethy

https://iainabernethy.co.uk/audio

One of the best, if not the best applied, traditional martial artists. Goes in depth in lots of different subjects concerning karate kata application. There is some crossover to TKD and all martial arts.

 

Live Life Aggressively

http://livelifeaggressively.libsyn.com/

I got in to this because I practice kettlebells. However, this particular podcast offers so much more than just workout tips. Excellent guests, very frank and relevant discussions. Well worth your time. A lot of the guests and even the non-guest shows you’ll listen to many times over

 

London Real

https://londonreal.tv/

A very wide range of guests, a great interviewer. Similar to the above, you’ll want to listen to some of the guests over and over

 

Jocko Podcast

http://jockopodcast2.com/

Former Navy SEAL and leadership expert Jocko Wilinks. A lot of the time Jocko will pick a book and read extracts on it while giving his own commentary. Excellent listening and great for teachers, managers, and any one in a leadership position to listen to

 

Tim Ferris  

http://tim.blog/podcast/

Lots of diverse guests and great information on a lot of different subjects, from working out and getting fitter to running your own company

 

And one more…..

Joe Rogan

http://podcasts.joerogan.net/

 I believe this is one of the original podcasts, certainly one of the first that was done well. in fact a good deal of the other podcast hosts regularly mention the Joe Rogan podcast.

 

So there you go, I hope you give some or all of these a try. There really is some great and even life changing information presented in these podcasts.

 

Happy listening