Tag Archives: martial arts

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.

Armour

The martial arts can offer lots of benefits beyond physically skills. These are often listed in adverts for martial arts school, building confidence is often touted as one of the main advantages

 

However, in many of the gyms I have trained at often the confidence that people build stays only in the gym. In the dojang or other training place they are maybe a black belt and get respect from all the people around them. They feel safe and secure, and why shouldn’t’ they? The hard training that they have been through has developed them in many ways. The people they are training beside have seen them pushed to their limit and beyond maybe. It is part of the bond that keeps people together in a class

 

This is assuming that the Training they are doing is tough and not just a group of people hanging out in uniforms talking about mystical qi energy and living out their violent fantasies under the guise of self defence. Training at its core needs to be realistic and hard, you need to be challenged and challenge yourself every time you step on to the mats.

 

We also have to take things with us after training. I have seen many a hard trainer that when they step out of the class they are a completely different person, they don’t bring any of what they learn about themselves in the dojang with them to the outside world. They are still too scared to take control of many things in their life jobs, relationships, even controlling themselves. In this case their dobok has become armour and the dojang a fortress in which they sit. Often people will spend all their free time in the dojang just because they feel safer or more powerful there than anywhere else.

 

In this case we are not taking the lessons from martial arts and pushing them on to really life, we are only hiding in the dojang.

 

The cure for this is not to quit martial arts, nor is it to bury yourself deeper. Training should be a strengthening experience both inside and out but just like training unless we focus on our weaknesses they will always be with us. We need to consciously approach life the same way we approach our training.

This may involve some tough conversations with yourself and possibly others, but after that there is a feeling of strength and empowerment equal if not greater than that you have experience in the gym.

In my opinion you can only regard yourself as a martial artist if you are applying the lessons you have learn to your own personal life. Facing demons and taking control

Foul Language

Like many living in Jakarta I spend a lot of time sitting in traffic. I tend to use this time listening to podcasts, I find it a good opportunity to get some good information. I will post a list of podcasts that I listen to after this article

Currently there is some really great information being delivered by podcasts. However, I have noticed a (what I find) disturbing trend in some of the podcasts I listen to. That is one of over use of profanity. Now before I continue I should say I am not overly sensitive to such language and I myself have been known to use the occasional colourful phrase in my day to day life.

The problem with what I hear on the podcast is that the use of foul language is promoted in an effort to give the podcast a realistic edge. Often you will hear the presenter saying that they promote swearing or encouraging guests to use foul language. This is often greeted with cheering and laughing much akin to school children using naughty adult words. There seems to be the idea that for something to be considered real, it has to be rough and unrefined.

Strangely I see the same trend in the martial arts. People trying to show their style as ‘real’ by also acting rough and unrefined.

These days I see martial arts instructors going out of their way to include profanity in their classes, even to the point of barely being able to give an instruction without swearing. Trying to promote some sort of tough guy image better suited to the movies than the dojang

Some would say the argument for the use of offensive language would be that cursing and the use of foul language is part of self-defense and we should be desensitizing our students to it. Whereas I agree with this, I feel it is often used as an excuse by those wanting to promote the aforementioned image. I don’t feel that this gives way to losing all control over what you’re saying in a class. We certainly should not be actively going out of our way to try to swear all the time.

The other issue with that argument is you are not making an effort to desensitize your students by merely swearing your head off all the time. This would be akin to threatening every new student with a knife when they came in the door. Anyone uncomfortable with swearing would merely leave having learnt nothing apart from your dojo isn’t the place for them. An instructor may have no problem with that and want to only teach those who can already handle swearing, that is their personal choice to have such a place, but please don’t dress it up as a teaching method

If we are going to use the argument that bad language is part of a confrontation then maybe we should treat it like any other part of training. That is to include it at the appropriate time. swearing and shouting  in situational drills either hands on or pad drills, and hard sparring is permitted in my class because that is a suitable place for foul language to be included, it may however be a little out of place during a warm up or a stretching sessions.

I do say this keeping in mind that the occasionally swear word is part of some people’s everyday language. If you and your students are comfortable with that then go for it. My point is forcing it and using bad language to give your style or teaching some sort of creditability is pointless and in fact childish

Again the idea that for something to be real it has to be unedited and unrefined is one that is both dangerous and inherently wrong and not something that we should try to pursue or emulate.

3 Things to help your practice

In a previous article I wrote about cross training and how to approach it. However, in that article I only mentioned specifically how to train in other martial arts. There are of course many other activities that can impact your Taekwondo practice. In this article I am going to look at three things outside of the martial arts that your practice can benefit from.

 

This list is of course not exhaustive but the activities mentioned are things I have personal gained from and see a good cross over to the martial arts.

 

Kettlebells

This one will come as no surprise to most of you, the cross over between kettlebells and martial art is well documented. In fact the term ‘hard style’ kettlebells actually refers to the hard style martial arts, which many kettlebell practitioners also studied.

One of the reason that kettlebell transfers so well to martial arts is that the training isn’t really about the weight, it is about moving your body. The kettlebell is there to mere add resistance to your movement.

Studying the basic 6 kettlebell moves can greatly enhance your power generation and met-con endurance. The basic 6 are: swing, Turkish get up, clean, press, squat, and snatch.

One example workout I really like doing is:

– 1 min heavy bag,

– 1 Turkish get up each side

– Repeat 5 – 10 times

After a minute explosive movements on the bag, the Turkish get up forces you to focus on controlled movement underweight. Similar to moving from striking to grappling.

For conditioning you’d find it hard to beat the snatch, whereas a heavy swing will do much the same physically, performing high rep snatches pushes you to be more conscious of your technique while overcoming fatigue.

One very common approach to a snatch work out is called on the minute, at the top of the minute you perform the required number of snatches. For example 10 per hand. When finished put the bell down and rest the remainder of the minute. Continue in this fashion for 5mins or till form breaks down.

At this point I feel I should put a warning here. After seeing many examples of kettlebell ‘swings’ in my local gym I would urge everyone to spend the time to seek out a qualified instructor before attempting and serious kettlebell work.

 

Barbell work

Whereas kettlebells build great conditioning and explosive power, barbells build strength. At the very least you should dedicate one day a week to lifting something heavy.

The benefits of lifting are many but here are a few:

  • Improves co ordination
  • Strengthens central nervous system
  • Boosts metabolism
  • Makes you stronger
  • Makes you less prone to injury
  • Improves flexibility

There is a common misconception that barbell work will make you a muscle bound lump that moves like a dinosaur. Actually barbell work will greatly improve your ability to move.

For this I used 2 main lifts:

Deadlift

Basically taking hold of the bar on the floor and standing up with it. Sounds easy but this lift will test almost every muscle in your body.

Back squat

Load the bar on your shoulders, lower yourself till thighs are parallel to the ground then stand up again. Again sounds easy but similar to the deadlift this will test your whole body.

In these, similar to kettlebell and Taekwondo practice your focus should be on form and technique, not trying to lift as much as you can, anyway you can

 

Yoga

This one is a little new for me, I had often heard that there was some link between yoga and martial arts forms. After practicing for a short time I have no doubt that somewhere in history there was a cross over.

One of the main issue that many of my fellow trainers and student have had over the years is flexibility. Yoga, in my opinion, directly focuses on this but more than flexibly it is flexibility and strength.

 

The style of Yoga I practice is Ashtanga, know has one of the stricter and more demanding styles. It follows a fed routine similar to a pattern in Taekwondo and truly works every part of your body.

 

So in summary, kettlebells build conditioning, barbells build strength, yoga builds mobility and flexibility and Taekwondo locks all these attributes together in a skill

Of course trying to add all of these things to your practice at one and you will quickly burn out, I suggest that you pick one to start with depending on your goals. When become proficient at what you pick you may want to add more to it. Each of the activities above not only assist Taekwondo but also building to each other. Add them to your training and watch your Taekwondo and in fact knowledge of your body improve

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