Monday, 2 April 2012
Vital Points; Are they a part of Taekwondo study?
All the techniques in Poomsae are said to attack either the "low section", "middle section" or the "high section" of the body. In each part there is one "main" vital point the students attack and that is "Danjun" about 5 cm under the navel for low section, "Mjeung Chi" better known as solar plexus for middle section and "Inchun" better known as the philtrum or the area just below the nose. All these points are located along the center line of the body.
In my Dojang this is basic knowledge and this is learned before you reach yellow belt (the second belt you get). Most of our training back the knowledge of vital points that we get through Poomsae practise up.
For instance in formal (one/two/three) step sparring the attacker and the defender both aim for vital points when they attack/defend. There is no denying that an attack at a weak spot on the body amplifies the effect of the attack vs an attack to a strong part of the body. For instance a straight punch delivered full force to the opponents shoulder might hurt a little. The same punch focused just right spot on the solar plexus will send the opponent to his knees struggling to breathe or to keep his food on the inside.
Taekwondo`s main aproach to vital points has always been to strike them with various parts of your body. That is why our art is called the art of kicking and punching. We also have some techniques on an "advanced" level of study that focus more on grasping and squezing the opponents various vital points, but as I said that is not the focus of attention in Taekwondo (but do not make the mistake and say it is not there).
The last 20 years with raw focus on "sport Taekwondo" has lead an entire generation of students and instructors alike to believe that vital points are not a part of Taekwondo. And for those who practise for sport why should they study vital points? The vital points are padded up or out of bounds when it comes to sport sparring anyway so there is really no reason as to why bother with the study of vital points in that setting. Even "Sport Poomsae" wich has increased incredibly much since the last 6 years or so does not require any knowledge of vital points at all. All that is needed is to know the correct motions of the form. That is all. But for those who still practise Taekwondo as an holistic martial art (either hard style/old school, or the formsbased students) need to study this.
Right from the earliest beginning of Taekwondo vital point study has been a part of the training. Lee Won Kuk founder of the first Kwan said in an interview that the techniques of Chung Do (Taekwondo) "were aimed at various vital points on the body". Choi Hong Hi also lists vital points in his publications starting with "Taekwondo" from 1965. Henry Cho stated in his publication from 1968 "Korean Karate" that the difference between Chinese, Japanese and Korean martial arts were how the vital points was attacked/exploited (Paraphrasing). Also my own teachers first two books ("Taekwondo 1 & 2) contains lists and charts of Vital points. Kukkiwon Textbook also contains detailed charts on Vital points right up to the latest edition (2006).
I honestly believe that the knowledge of Vital Points and how to exploit/attack them are right there in Taekwondo, but most people just does not care to look for it in their studies, rather seeking the knowledge outside Taekwondo instead. I am a great believer in Cross training, but I am also a believer that everything I really need to know is contained within my chosen art. Yes we do a lot of kicking and maybe they are not that practical in a "street fight" (what ever that means), but overall I have never been dissapointed in the knowledge of my teachers even when it comes to areas outside the core curriculum.
I guess the reason the study of Vital Points are not included in main stream Taekwondo is because many people start to teach before they have a good grasp of the system they teach.. Or that many teachers focuses on sport Taekwondo eventhough they might call themselves "traditional". If all the sparring that is done is competition sparring and the forms done is just for demonstrations (training the execution of the form only) then you are not really what I would call a "traditional" school.
In my grading for black belt I needed to do a written test before we were actually allowed to grade. One of the tasks on the written exam was to list vital points (I have forgotten how many but atleast 10) in both our native language and Korean. I also had to describe just where each vital point were. In addition I also had to give examples of techniques best suited to exploit these vital points. Does this sound like a martial art with no vital point study?
That being said Traditional Taekwondo does require the study of vital points, but it does not rely on them exclusivly. They are considered the poison at the tip of the arrow so to speak. The basic techniques of Taekwondo should be so refined and well trained that they should be very powerfull (and fast). It should not matter if you hit a vital point or not, the Taekwondo technique should have some effect anyway, but hitting a vital point is the goal, and it will of course provide a bigger effect than not hitting a vital point. Maybe this is the real reason the mainstream does not focus on vital point study? I know it is the reason why the real study of vital points does not start untill you get near to black belt level in my Dojang. But as I have allready said, a basic knowledge of Vital Points is provided (at least to my students) at a very early level (not to children).