Monday, 26 March 2012

Practical application for Keumgang Poomsae Part Four

This is the 4th part of a journey of disovery. Often when you try to discover and uncover the combative meaning of a Poomsae/Hyung/Tul/Kata/Form you jump from technique to technique or sequence to sequence. This is not possible when I have started doing this series the way I started. I explore one part of the form after another just as they appear when we perform Keumgang Poomsae. Before I started this series I wanted to just give some of my favorite applications to a few of the techniques/Sequences but then I decided I should challenge myself into comming up with applications for each and every move, and not only that, I should also come up with different applications to the moves that appear several times in the form.
This time I am going to continue where I left of: The next move in Keumgang Poomsae that is not yet explored from a combative viewpoint is the "large hinge" or "kheun doltzeogi ".

"kheun doltzeogi " is often mistaken as a "hook punch" by the vast majority of Taekwondo people, and though I have spoken out against label disease in the past this time I want to look at the label of the movement. If the originator(s) of Poomsae Keumgang wanted this to be a hook punch why not just call it Dollyeo Jirugi (translated as "round punch") or something simular? There is nothing in the label to imply this being inteded as a punch, allthough that is how it is treated by just about any Dojang in the world. The arm movement can easily be used as a hook punch, and a hook punch is a valid combat technique that should be in any Taekwondoin`s arsenal. BUT in the form we do the technique in a rather strange way, the stance does not really fit in, and if we are to believe that the oponent is at our side then the punching arm is a little to short. It does not cross our body but rather aligns with your oposite side. See the opening picture for the technique in question.

Now if we were to put the opponent directly infront of our center line the hook punch fitts better, and the stance as well. Now we have some weight transfer into the punch. So a close range hook punch is one application to the movement IF we change where the oppoent is normally placed (at our side) to our center line (directly in front of our body). What is the non punching hand doing in this application? It can be used for a great number of things:
  • Clearing obstructions to our strike (e.g. an arm)
  • Pulling the opponent off balance.
  • Create more power by pulling the opponent into the strike.
  • Grasping the opponent to get a tactical feel of his movements and wherabouts. (This is more important than you would think in a close range situation)
  • Etc (this is just a few examples of the possibilities)
The movement also lends it self great for a choke. You stand behind the opponent and choke him with your "punching arm" by cutting the air supply to the opponent, while sinking down into the stance to become stable and get him into an unbalanced state, and the non striking (choking:-p ) hand is controlling the opponent or the opponents arm. Do not confuse "choke" with "strangle" as the choke puts pressure on the wind pipe to cut off air supply, while strangulation puts pressure on the side of the neck to cut off blood supply. The latter is considered faster and safer to the opponent, while the former is based more on the performers instinct (I find it more natural for once). This is of course a dangorus technique that should not be employed in free sparring.

There are two ways the "large hinge" movement appears in the form. One is done quite static (like in 00:23-00:24 in the video), while the other is done with a spinning motion (00:24-00:25). What on earth is the spinning movement for, and does it change the application of the "large hinge" movement? Here I will go out on a limb and say it is a hip throw.

You do need a little imagination here, and I wish I could find a better video. The throw itself follows the movement in the pattern quite well, but the entry is different than what I picture. In my head I see myself grabbing the opponents arm, stepping in, put my other arm around his body under his arm like in the video and turn, going into horse riding stance, bending at my waist, pulling my one hand to my hip and continuing with the "hook punch motion". This entry to the throw is picture perfect Keumgang Poomsae, the only difference is that we do not bend forward during Poomsae performance. I learned this throw with the entry I described earlier in Hapkido class in Korea.

The reason for not bending forward when we do Keumgang Poomsae if we are doing a throw is also maybe a little unconventional "wisdom".. One reason to do Poomsae is to develop "inner strength". Some are more focused on outer strength and other are more focused on "inner strength". Keumgang Poomsae can safely be put into a the category of inner strength developing form.

Key principles of Ki-training also known as ki-gong or Chi-gong or even Qi-gong is breathing deep abdominal breathing. In Keumgang Poomsae this is developed several times during excecution. Another key principle is to have all three energy centers of the body aligned. We have three centers in the body. Danjun (wich is about 5 cm under the navel and also our center of gravity), we have the solar plexus, and we have "the third eye" (slightly above eye level in the center of the eyes). When all these three are aligned you have a good posture to develop "Ki".

Training "inner strenght" through forms can be traced back a long way. One of the articles in the Okinawan Bubishi is about this very thing. It does not matter wether you believe in "ki" or not, what matters is that it was an integral part of the originator(s) of Keumgang Poomsae culture.

So quick recap: The movement "Large hinge" (often said to be a hook punch) in Keumgang Poomsae can be used as a hook punch, a choke, or a hipthrow. 

Again I would like to emphasise that there are a great number of possibilities for each move, you should explore and try to figure out for yourself. The applications I provide are only to serve as an introduction and should not be thought of as the be all end all of applications.


  1. Hello
    i am starting to have fun with this. i prefer a neck release/break as the app. i love the chi kung discussion and would like you to consider that in the central portions of Pyongwon

  2. Hi again Richard. Glad you are having fun:-) Could you please eleborate the neck release/break? Do you mean a release from a grab or do you mean a neck break? I definitly see the neck break now that you said it:-)

    Is this you application for the same movement in Naihanchi/Chulgi Kata/Hyung too? (I think your Dojan still practise that one if I am not mistaken).

    You wrote that I should consider chi kung in the middle of Poomsae Pyongwon, do you mean that the application you have in mind makes use of a bending of the waist or do you perform the keumgang makki hakdari seogi slowly with danjun/abdominal breathing as in Poomsae Keumgang?

    I know that there are variations to this form as to when it was taught/learned. I learned the new Kukkiwon standard as of 2006 when I went to Korea, there we perform the technique fast and with normal breathing. The only movement done slowly in this incarnation of Pyongwon is the opening moves. I do see that most of my seniors in Norway perform the technique as in Keumgang Poomsae though.

    Could you eleborate on this?:-)

  3. Hello
    will come back to other issue later as i feel it is longer discussion, but with regards to the neck break. Yes i meant break. pressure on the anterior side of the jaw (mental nerve,stomach 5, coupled with a grip to the opposite posterior side of the head (think 3/4 of the way around) will release control of the neck. this represents arm position. the issue is that people commonly believe that result is achieved by pure rotation. what you are doing is using the inertial inability of the body to follow the rapidly moving head (hence the "whipping" action at the end of turn = break.

    1. Looking forward to it Richard and thanks for the more detailed explanation of the neck release (sounds so more politicly correct than neck break:D )

  4. I'm happy to have found your blog. I've got a similar one that talks about Traditional Taekwondo Techniques at :-)

    I like that term 'label disease'! It's spot on.

    The picture you stuck at the top of the article of Choki Motobu reminds me of something I read in his book Watashi no Karate, which says that naihanchi was all that he needed in a real fight, and that pivoting left or right in his stance would allow him to adapt to whatever situation he's facing. He never mentions that the block or stance has to be just like so, or be angled in any specific way ... and I like this mentality as it helps relate a move against a dynamic opponent as opposed to just figuring out what angles we're supposed to keep.

    I have seen some good applications online for the side punch - from an ikkyo arm bar, to an elbow strike, to a control of the opponent's arm, and a strike to opponent's neck.

    What I do like however for this particular move is the analysis provided by Bruce Clayton in his book Shotokan's Secret. It's helped clarified some of my thinking about the okinawan forms I learn at black and then all the particular techniques drawn from those and other shotokan forms for the Chang Hon Taekwondo forms I use in class.

    Hope to continue to chat with you.

    Colin, 6th Dan
    Joong Do Kwan Tae Kwon Do

    1. Thanks for joining in Colin. I have been a huge fan of your blog for several years now. is a great blog:)

      I have that book of Choki Motobu too. He is one facinating person, and the way he saw his martial art is really rare these days. While most Karate pioners (teachers to our Kwan founders) based their teachings on Kata performance, Motobu based his on Self defense (old school Kumite/sparring), while also including Naihanchi/Chulgi in his system.

      The application from Bruce Clayton is holding a person as a shield in front of you while fending off attackers right? This fitts in Naihanchi/Chulgi but not in Keumgang Poomsae. Still holding one semi knocked out attacker as a shield while defending against other attackers is an interesting concept that is not usually explored in modern Taekwondo. We used to do this in my dojang when sparring against two opponents. (Please correct me if I am wrong. Its been a while since I last read the shotokan`s secret:-) )

  5. The hypothesis from Bruce Clayton is to use the person in front of you as a shield while you are protecting someone directly behind you. That creates an interesting interpretation of the form, but is only one way of looking at it.

    I like it that the kata's embusen helps you 'relate' its techniques to the opponent, as oppose to just thinking you're moving left and right whilst the opponent is in front of you. For instance if you present one side of your body to an oncoming opponent, deflect an oncoming strike and counter, you will be side on and then what of Chulgi will be at your disposal now? Answer - loads.

    I have always thought of the kata or hyung as merely a syllabus, what you learn or are taught from it should not be limited by the framework you have been provided. I think this is one of the things I've taken away from Motobu. Yes, he's astute and ... is as real as they come.

    Thank you for your kinds words.

    ANd it was great chatting with you the other day.



  6. I think I wrote in a different post (I should if I have not done it) that it is not the techniques/Tactics that are important, but rather the strategy or the message they are trying to convey. In Taegeuk Cipher Simon O`Neill says (paraphrasing) that memorising and training the exact applications to Taegeuk forms will in itself ceate a hollow and limited understanding.

    Learning the underlying principles on the other hand is what is important. The form is just a few practical examples on principles.

    I kinda like the math book analogy that Poomsae are like the few math examples to illustrate the underlying principle. After reading those the students are given different tasks to solve using the principle the examples illustrated.

    Thinking about it like that you see why the masters of old "only knew" 1-4 forms instead of the modern notion of a master "knowing" a dozen or more forms.

    Great chat the other day:-)

  7. Just talking about the idea of using strategic thinking... That works for a skilled or experienced practitioner. It's like jazz music ... which a beginning player can't do as yet. For a lesser practitioner, they only have tactics that they can 'apply.' If the person strikes me like this I've got this one technique so I'll do it this way. If he strikes me some other way I still have this same technique in my mind and should be able to apply it in another way. This is what Tekki and Basai have taught me - the repurposing of the 'same' tactic so that a less experienced person can still be effective. Cheers, Colin

  8. hello
    interesting discussion that i largely agree with. i was never happy with the Clayton explanation of Tekki. i found it too limited to a particular purpose. the form is to rich for that.
    i have known a few instructors who taught in a principles based way, even if they began with what someone called "lying to the children" (ie. show them a basic way until they understood the gross mechanics--then moving them to underlying principle). But really how many of them exist!
    most teach the way they were shown--even when they know it is not correct. they are just too wedded to technique. unfortunately most of them never even allow the students to experiment with variations, angles, etc.
    how many times have you heard in your travels cogent explanations of proper weight shift and control, alignment considerations, structure, vital point manipulation. my experience has been that strength and momentum carry the day. i believe that much of the historic subtlety that comes from something as simple as feeling the technique against another body over and over again is overlooked.

    when i wrote out the applications for Master Cooks book on Koryo, i was somewhat surprised to find that he really only wanted to keep them limited to specific applications, not to expand them into the underlying concepts. perhaps it was an editorial decision. as it stands now, i don't even know if he kept my "alternative applications" (his term) in the book.

  9. hello
    i just occurred to me that you had asked in another forum about the move in Koryo where the arms raise and circle around to a fist in the palm- i didn't want to do it there, but this is less public.

    Explanation: opponent attempts two arm strike/choke/grab, both hands go up to deflect (wedge principle), then swing around his arms pulling them down (leverage principle), and the fist smacks in to Pericardium 6 (vital point that drains energy from the upper body), the fist then grabs the arm it just struck, pulls in and down, other knife hand strikes side of neck (st, li, si, whichever is most available), turn and throw.

    Have fun with it!

  10. "i was somewhat surprised to find that he really only wanted to keep them limited to specific applications"

    Sometimes there is no wisdom in force feeding an infant. You feed sufficiently to grow into a healthy child and adult. You expose them to new foods so they will be nourished and interested in maintaining a healthy diet. You use food to sustain and teach them a healthy respect for it.

    Putting too much fat or sugar in the diet, providing a banquet at every meal, using food to punish or reward, and gorging on special events is a sure fire way to create a dysfunctional relationship between you and what you put in your mouth.

    There are times when you take a vitamin supplement (like reading a specific book or attending a conference) ... but otherwise ensuring you get nourishing meals helps build you into a strong person.

    Thanks for indulging me.

    Traditional Taekwondo Techniques

  11. Thank you so much for the application for Koryo Richard. I will have some fun with it, trust me:-).

    I do hope he keeps some "advanced" applications in his book though. I am really interested in the book, not only because it is of a "forgotten form" but also because you made the application section and I was really looking forward to it. He did "touch" on more advanced applications in his (maybe first book) Taekwondo traditions, philosophy and technique, so I hoped that he would include lots and lots this time:-)

    This being a form that is not mainstream, or competition usable form makes advanced application study and "forms playing" much more possible.

    But then again, maybe the "mainstream" practisioners is not ready yet for "advanced" applications? I get my share of "that is not Taekwondo" when I teach more advanced students. One of the most funniest moments was at a weekend training. I showed a bit more than average application for the side kick elbow strike in Taegeuk Oh Jang, not saying it was from a form. A red belt said that "this is not Taekwondo, we do not use elbows". 15 minutes later we are shown the newest DVD on forms from the kukkiwon and in Taegeuk Sa Jang you see the exact combination as application to the sidekick elbow strike:p

    Almost forgot to write: Allthough Bruce Clayton`s thoughts on Naihanchi/Tekki/Chulgi is very limiting, it is none the less (is that written in one word?) a fresh and new perspective and I applaud that:-) I do not think it is more limiting than normal Shotokan applciations though. The form itself is extremly application rich hence why and how many people of old only studied this form and others have claimed it is more than enough for a life time of study.

    Hope you both (and any other readers of course) have a happy easter:-)

  12. Hello Ørjan,

    This is a great article, thanks for posting it. I am not sure a koshinage fits the form very well; the manner that the doltzogi is performed is a full turn - 360 degrees. A hip throw - omote or ura - is always done with a 180 degree turn. In other words, if you start to face north, then, you perform the throw whilst facing south. I think, though, that two other throws - kaitenage and jujinage - are much better representations, because - especially the kaitenage - you can perform a full 360 degree turn. In fact, the step across, coupled with the "hook punch" is a perfect kaitenage, while the "hook punch" without the step across is a perfect jujinage. What do you think?

    1. I think that I like how your mind works, and thank you for posting:)

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