Tag Archives: tkd

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!!!

 

 

Sparring Drills part 2

Previously I wrote an article on some sparring drills I use with my students. In that article the sparring drills covered a number of different skills and approaches.

In this article I will be looking at drills specifically that deal with altering the tactical mindset of my students, from sport sparring to self defence

As with all sparring drills it is important that you set things up correctly, make sure everyone is aware of the rules of the particular session and proper safety precautions are observed.

These are slightly more advanced drills and time should be taken to introduce the skills needed to deal with the situations that will be presented before going in to the drills. More information on this can be found on the time under pressure post.

 

No gentlemen

A very common point sparring drill set up is to have maybe 4-5 pairs sparring on the floor with the rest of the class waiting in a line. When someone scores a point off their opponent they bow out and join the end of the queue while their partner stays up and spars the next person.

Usually, as the rules of the sport demand, the students bow, touch gloves and then begin. When I am looking for a more reality based version of this drill, I remove the bowing and glove touching. The new student can run in from the queue and attack immediately. The student who is already up has to deal with the initial attack, normal point sparring rules apply

15 seconds

This is one of my favorite drills, and the only one that I don’t necessarily fully explain to the students before they practice.

The drill is just simply introduce 15 seconds, of time before sparring. During this 15 seconds the students are free to do whatever they want. They can find a better position, they can grab a weapon, try to talk the other students down. After 15 seconds there is a signal and the sparring begins.

Often, as I stated before, when I introduce this drill I won’t give much instruction. I will just tell my students that they will wait for 15 seconds before they start sparring. Always they will wait in their ready position, usually with a puzzled expression on their face. Even if I move to multiple attackers or weapon based attackers they will wait and then fight. After we have done this a few times, we discuss what else could be done with the 15 seconds that they have.

The main point of this drill is to open their mind to other options and to get them thinking outside of the ring where you always have to fight.

 

Weapons

Again, this drill is very simple and the main purpose is to open the students’ mind and get them use to having more options and get use to a non-competition sparring format.

After the students are comfortable with weapon defenses, I lay dummy weapons out, these can be rubber knives, padded sticks, or even just pads and kick shields. During sparring if they can the students can pick up any of these and use them to attack.

 

The first few times maybe no one will pick up a weapon, or both with run for different weapons. However, as they students get more use to this format they will develop different tactics for the situation. Those could be be kicking weapons away, fleeing when someone picks up a weapon, preemptive attacks when someone is picking up a weapon and so on.

 

Ok, so a few of my favorite drills to teach mindset and to break students out of a competitive sparring format.

I hope you find these useful, if you try any of them in your sessions please let me know how it goes.

Under Pressure

In these days of RBSD and applied martial arts it is fashionable to pressure test techniques and students. However, I a lot of what I labeled as ‘pressure testing’ see is somewhat random. There may be nothing wrong with an individual drill, but it is left floating, there are no easier drills leading up to it or more challenging drills to be faced after. This shows maybe a lack of thought or understanding of the training process

I can see that sometimes what is labeled as a pressure test is actually throwing students in at the ‘deep end’ without building the skills or mindset required to complete the drill successfully. In certain cases I have seen the instructor taking pleasure in their student ‘failing’ a drill, seeing it maybe as him defeating his students and proving the toughness of his system. This of course is not the purpose of drills nor training

Similar to foul language, if we are going to call something a training method then it has to have a goal and also needs to have a progression.

As I have mentioned before outside of martial arts I enjoy lifting weights. The something is true there. If you have a goal of deadlifting 200kg, but currently can only lift 140kg then obviously jumping straight to your goal would result in failure or injury. We have to slowly increase the stress over time adding small increments. The same can be said for the martial arts.

The aforementioned way of conducting drills, only benefits those who are already competent in fighting or self-protection. It is a completely useless method for students who are less able and who come to your class to learn some skills.

There are lots of ways to achieve this but in short, but in short each drill should be the right level of challenge to make the student reach a new level. Each drill should build on others to reach a specific goal. The final goal usually being ‘live’ practice under certain conditions.

I have alluded to this process in a few other of my posts, but wanted to directly make this point after seeing some class examples recently.

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