Tag Archives: Taekwondo

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

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

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.

The 3 types of Taekwondo

Occasionally when I am teaching I will get in to discussion with people about tactics. A lot of students have a very misguided idea about what tactics they will be able to use in a self-defense situation. I catch students using in and out footwork and setting up big shots with their jab. All with the idea that they will have time and space to employ such methods. These methods are of course much better suited for competitive arena. There we are matched with someone of equal size and ability and try to win a competition under a set of rules.

 

To help clarify the differences we can talk about there being 3 types of TKD.The three types being, Sport, demonstration and Practical. By identifying these and their differences we can better prepare ourselves for the kind of situation we are likely to find ourselves in.

 

Sport TKD

This is the most common type of TKD. The sparring take place on a matted area with referees and judges.  We want to make our strikes as clear as possible to catch the referee’s attention and a higher number of points are awarded for more flamboyant techniques.

The situation is very controlled so the number of techniques that are used can be limited. TKD fighters tend to try to fight side on to each other so that they can easily use side and turning kicks, this side on or bladed stance also creates a smaller target for our opponent to score points on.

The tactics employed in a ring fight would include set ups, fake outs, drawing the opponent in, and general ring craft. Distance, timing, bobbing and weaving are all very important.

 

Demonstration TKD

In my experience I would put this as the second most common type of TKD. The purpose is to make TKD entertaining to onlookers who may or may not have martial arts experience. High kicks and double jumping kicks are the order of the day. We are may be not looking for a bobbing a weaving chess game but something that is visually exciting and makes people want to give TKD a try.

 

In Demonstration TKD, we want to display the particular characteristics of our art as best as we can. This can require a high degree of strength, flexibility and technical ability. We want to get everything right first time. Nothing is worse in a demonstration than missing a technique and having to do it again, especially if it is board or brick breaking.

 

Practical TKD

I struggled a little to find a name of this type of TKD, i could have gone with tactical TKD or applied TKD, I settled on practical as it has a direct application to one’s life, as opposed to an indirect application that all training can have orphysical fitness, lowering bloody pressure, dealing with stress etc. I really wanted to avoid any terms like street TKD.

 

The purpose of this type of TKD is to be used in live uncontrolled situations. We can’t depend on ourselves being prepared or having time to get in to a stance. All ranges will be viable and should be trained in attack and defense. We have to train the self-defense mind set. The movements in the patterns should be studied deeply as to the application. We need to train for short range power and explosive strikes.

If needed largely the purpose of the physical movements employed in practical TKD will be to damage a person as quickly as possible. With a view to that the real purpose of practical TKD would be not to use TKD at all

 

So there in very broad terms are the distinct types of TKD, all very different and all under the umbrella of Taekwondo. However, they all need a different training strategy, you can’t train for demonstration and expect to be successful in the sparring arena. Equally you can’t train for sport application and expect to be able to use you TKD for self defence.

 

At this point there may be people who want to point out the overlap between the types of TKD. Despite what you may think there is actually very little, in fact the only thing they have in common is that you are making contact with another person. You’d be as well trying to make connection between football and rugby, they are both team ball sports that take play on a pitch, but no one would train for rugby and expect to be successful in a football match.

You can of course train for more than one, you don’t need to specialize completely, and there are a lot of benefits to be reaped from each type of training. You do, however, need to be very clear on which type you are training and what your training goals are and train accordingly.

 

Through identifying the differences in the types of training and modifying our practice accordingly we will be far more successful in TKD as a whole

Deciding on applications

Alternative applications to the patterns is nothing new. If you have been involved in the traditional martial arts for any length of time you will have doubtlessly had discussions about the ‘real’ purpose of the movements that you practice every training session.

These alternative applications cover a wide range of things. From grappling, to pressure point striking, to using weapons in the forms. Whereas a lot of these approaches have merit there are some that I feel are just an effort to be different.

So when looking at applications how do we decide if an application has any value

Well, here is my process.

1. Look at the ITF encyclopedia.

I think it is a mistake to automatically believe that every movement in the encyclopedia is incorrect. It is a good place to start at least. If you don’t like the application that is presented, ask yourself why. Is it too difficult to pull off, is it unrealistic attack, or does it not put enough damage on the opponent. Again it is not so important that you like or don’t like the application it is important that you can express why, the reason should not be because you don’t see it in the UFC.

2. Look to other styles including karate.

OK so some people are not going to like this. However, through my study of other martial styles I have gained a greater understanding of the patterns from TKD. Even just to get a new view point of a particular moment it is a useful step. As one example I gained a better idea of knifehand guarding block through studying the chicken form of Xing Yi Quan.

This is especially valuable when you are looking at the grappling side of the patterns. Working on your own is great but you should also take time to study a little bit of the grappling arts to learn the principles and concepts that must be present in order for grappling application to be effective.

You should also look at the karate kata because some of the movements of the forms over time have been altered many times. Occasionally they have been altered to better meet the conditions of the mainstream applications. By looking g at the source we can maybe see how much the move has been altered and it also gives us and insight to the purpose. However, we should be able to draw a line here, lest we become the person walking round the dojo telling everyone that TKD is ‘wrong’ we should use our research to gain information and move our art forward

3. Form a hypotheses.

From the information you have you can start to look at your own applications. You should look at it from all angles. If you can’t see a block in the movement can you see a grab or a throw. For more advanced forms can you see a control?

Your application should be simple, direct, and damaging. A lot of applications where your opponent doesn’t end up in the floor are not likely to last long.

Also your applications should be linked. By this I mean that the principles or basic techniques that are represented by one application should also be present in others. If you want my view of principles you can look at the 3 Cs of tactical taekwondo here. In short you should build a system, not a selection of unrelated techniques.

4. Test.

This is where the fun starts. Grab a partner and work on the application. First as a compliant practice to see if what you think will happen is actually possible. Many time si have had a application in my head but when I try to apply it it turn out there is something a little off, this either takes some small adjustments or after a while if is still not working to completely change.

Next we go in to semi live, for this you need to decide if your application is self defence or fighting. What you pick will change how you will train this part. Whether you will be squaring off with some one or have on attacking another for example. The key here is the attack will be faster and harder and the defender will be working under some level of stress.

Finally we blend it with our system, again depending on whether it is fighting or self defense will alter how this section looks. However, the attacks and defenses will not be fixed, it will be up to the people training on how they work the new techniques in their system.

 

 

So there it is a basic step by step process of how to decide on application. Of course there are other but this is the method I choose to follow to ensure that my applications have a practical value and that they are all linked in some way.

 

If you are reading this then you are probably forming application to the movements in your forms. In that case I hope that these steps help you.