Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Practical application for Keumgang Poomsae Part Three

This is the third part of a series where I look closer on Keumgang Poomsae to see if the motions the form contains hold more practical applications than the ones normally taught at mainstream Taekwondo Dojang`s. In the first post we looked at the opening movement followed by three openhanded strikes.

The second part followed with the next three movements (inward knife hand blocks performed in back stance). In this post I will look closer to the most signature movement of Keumgang Poomsae. Namely "Keumgang Makki" (double block with one high section and one low section block performed at the same time) done in "Hakdari Seogi" (one legged stance also known as "crane stance").

In both the first part and the second part of this rant I have repeatedly stated that sometimes when the same "technique" or perhaps I should say "movement" appears several times in one form it could mean that the function is different despite the fact that the movement looks the same without an opponent. Remember that when it comes to Poomsae we only observe "form"; what the movements look like, we do not see "function" what the purpose of the movement is. Nothing strange about it since we do our Poomsae solo without an opponent. The "Keumgang Makki" appears 4 times in that Poomsae. The reason for this might be several. Maybe:
  • The number 4 is somehow "special" in buddhism? In Asia it is often considered an unlucky number like 13 is to us westernes so I dismiss this right now.
  • Keumgang Makki was considered a cool pose by the forms creator(s).
  • Keumgang Makki represents a difficult technique that the creators thought we should focus on so he/they included it 4 times in one form so we train it a lot.
  • Keumgang Makki is a versitale movement that can be used in a great many different ways. Therefore each Keumgang Makki is for different situations.
My view is that Keumgang Makki represents a concept that can be used both offensivly, and defensivly and that is why it is included so many times in this form. The essence remains the same however. If you look at the picture below you might just grasp the essence of "Keumgang Makki".
This illustration is from the Okinawan Bubishi. A text 100s of years old and we know that Funakoshi and Mabuni both had access to it and used it in their research and I do not think it is that far fetched that Toyama Kanken also had a copy since his teacher Itosu also had a copy. Funakoshi, Mabuni and Kanken are the Karate roots of Taekwondo, so to look at what they had of resources is very important to understand Taekwondo too.

Look closely at the hand positions. This is a movement frosen in time, but if it was completed the hand holding the leg would be lifted up and the other hand is already nearly in the Arae Makki (low block) position. The only thing that is different from our Keumgang Arae Makki as performed in Keumgang Poomsae is that we perform it in Hakdari Seogi/One legged stance. What if the person on the left on the illustration above were to move his closest leg to his oponent toward his own knee as a sweep to help facilitate the takedown/throw he is doing? Then if we freze the motion at its completion we would be standing in a picture perfect Keumgang Arae Makki! Just like in the form... Look below:

Do you see it? The "high section block" is lifting one of the opponents legs while the other is pushing the oponents upper body out of balance and his foot has been used to sweep up the leg the opponent was standing on. 

This is the "essence" of the movement and can be used as a takedown (you should use a strike or two to soften up the opponent first), or as a defense against all kicks toward groin height or higher. I jokingly call Keumgang Poomsae as the "Anti-Taekwondo form" because the signature move is so well designed to put any "modern" or "mainstream" Taekwondo student on the floor. You move inside or outside depending on  his kick and do the take down. You can of course do small changes to the application to make it more brutal. For instance the lower block motion can be used as a hair grab or ear grab (rest of the application stays the same), or you can use the lower block motion to first do an elbow strike to the face before pushing the upper body out of balance (rest of the application stays the same).

Is this an unlikely use of Keumgang Arae Makki? I do not think so. It is taught in Traditional Taekwondo Union as part of our Self defense techniques against kicks (it is not linked back to the pattern but I made the connection so I am sure others do too), it was written in the Textbook of our teachers teachers (Except Moo Duk Kwan all Kwan founders had extensive training with one or more of the following: Toyama Kanken, Funakoshi, and Mabuni.). And simular techniques were illustrated in Choi Hong Hi`s 1965 publication "Taekwondo" as well.

What I see as an unlikely application to Keumgang Makki is this: Defense against two opponents at once: One striking toward your face, another kicking low at your side. The lifted leg in the one legged stance? Just so you are ready to kick, or to avoyd a foot sweep. I do not see any reason as to why you block low with your arm if the kick is so low that you have to lift your leg up though.. This is the mainstream application belonging to the kick, block punch hard style Taekwondo.

While the kick block punch applications have its good sides (especially in the beginning of students study) it becomes rather absurd the more you study and get promoted to higher levels. The Taegeuk Poomsae series do for the most part fit in with old hard style, kick block punch applications but even they have their absurd moments, especially when you get closer to black belt..

You can also download Totally Takeowndo Magazine issue 20 to see a different take on the same movement. Click here to download it directly or go to chose "back issues" and download issue 20.


  1. interesting application and different fro the one i published in the Totally TKD mag. i think that if you look at the reverse upper middle low block stance in taeguk 8 you will see a similar application

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the move from Taegeuk 8. This might be two seemingly different movements that originally had very similar applications. Just as two same movements can have different functions, I also believe that in some cases two seemingly different movements can have (almost) the same applications. In this case the only difference would be where you lift his leg and that you would not sweep his standing leg. Almost logical that you should learn Taegeuk 8 before moving on to Keumgang Poomsae if you look at it that way:-)

    The reason I see the application above so easily is that one of our "mechigi" (loosely translated as throwing techniques) we use this concept of catching the leg and lifting up and in one case we also sweep the standing leg while lifting up. This was a typical counter to a kick in the older days of Taekwondo (at least in my teachers Dojang).

    Do you remember wich issue you published the application in Totally Taekwondo Magazine? I could link to that issue so the readers of this blog could see a different take on the same movement:-)

  3. Hello
    the issue is totally tkd issue 20 (10/2010) on the motion above. there is a discussion of two applications of the "mountain block" within the form in a later issue--but i don't remember which one! if any are interested a video of the later application and various others have been placed on you tube under Returningwavesystems or my name. i hope they are useful. thanks for the link invitation!

    1. I put a link directly to issue 20 at the end of the post. Thanks for your contribution Richard:-)


    this video(between 1:01 - 1:09) shows demonstration of what you have explained above

    1. Yea that is the general idea:-) Thanks for the link:-)

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