Monday, 11 June 2012

Ho Sin Sul Is Not Completly Forgotten:-)

This is the third part of a long rant (so long I divided it up in three parts) about Taekwondo`s largely forgotten aspect of Ho Sin Sul (usually translated into English as Self defense). It seems that the majority of Dojang all over the world today practise and focus on basics, forms and competition sparring. This leaves out both breaking (allthough that aspect is usually dusted off at most demonstrations) and the before mentioned Ho Sin Sul. I went "youtubing" and found three clips entitled "Taekwondo practical skills 1-3". It was a bit reassuring to see that "old fashion" Taekwondo Ho Sin Sul still lives on in this world where most "Ho Sin Sul" demonstrations are "Movie Ho Sin Sul" or "Circus Taekwondo" as one of my seniors so diplomaticly put it.

First a clip to show "Movie Ho Sin Sul/Circus Taekwondo":
Believe it or not but this is actually almost a realistic interpretation of self defense when compared to many of the demonstrations I have seen in later years. This works in movies and the techniques are "fun" to watch but it is not like traditional Ho Sin Sul at all. This is a good demonstration on how Taekwondo has devolved into a childrens martial art where even what little realistic aspect of the training is reinterpreted into "Movie style". I respect the athletes skill at this demonstration, I just do not get why they keep calling this "Self Defense, "Applied Taekwondo" or "Ho Sin Sul demonstration". If they simply would change the label into: Movie style Taekwondo or something simular then it would be all good:-) Just for the reccord I could not even do half of the things they are doing in this demonstration any near the level of performance that they show here.

Anyway here is the clip I did want to share with you:

The first technique demonstrated about 40 seconds into the clip is against a short stick (Dan Bong in Korean). The defender blocks and grabs the attackers hand, punches to the opponents exposed ribs and applies a wrist lock to disarm the attacker and put him into a great position to end the situation with striking. I do have a few issues with this technique but I chose to focus on the positive:-) The defender steps away from the line of attack (backwards at 45 degrees). This is great but it would be even greater if he stepped forward at 45 degrees. The defender blocks the attackers wrist instead of the stick itself. I would block closer to his elbow (but not on the elbow) or even at the tricep of the attacker, but the defender at least did not block the stick itself:-D The defender uses a strike to the floating rib to soften up the opponent for the disarming wrist lock (this is great), the wrist lock itself is of a simple and basic nature and while it does disarm the opponent it also puts him into a more exposed state for continous striking to finnish the situation. So the technique could be done a lot better but at the same time it does work within Taekwondo`s strategy, and it is light years away from some of the worst applications against the same attack (often the defender there steps backward and block the stick itself when it is at full speed... Auch).

The second technique is demonstrated about 2 minutes 15 seconds into the clip against a hair grab. I do not really have any hair (the little I have is cut so short that the attack is no issue for me) but people with long hair (most men in Korea do have a lot longer hair than in the west, plus most girls/women have long hair all over the world) should perhaps be more prepared for this kind of grab. Especially female Taekwondo studens should train against hair grabs as this is common in a fight between females. The defense is pretty much a wristlock using your own head against the joint before removing the grip and then putting the opponent to the ground by increasing the pressure against the joint while dragging him backwards (in the defenders perspective). I like the opening and that exact defense was taught to me 12 years ago when I still had hair (lol):-D But the ending I find a bit to complicated and it seems to be "Joint locking for Joint locking`s sake".. In my own opinion I would use a "wrist throw" (not complicated from the postition you have the opponets hand after releasing his grip you just twist the joint at 45 degrees and the opponent goes to the ground). That technique does not rely on as much strength as the one shown in the clip and it is simpler to perform (again in my own opinion). Both techniques does however put the opponent into a postition where you can end the threat by striking. I would however like to see a "softening up strike" between the freeing the grab from your hair and the putting of the opponent to the ground though. A low kick to the opponents shin for example would make the following action a lot more easier..

Technique three is demonstrated 3 minutes and 46 seconds into the clip as a defense against a straight punch. Here the defender blocks, counterstrikes and then apply a joint lock against the opponents elbow using the defenders shoulder as a fulcrum. This can be turned into an elbow break or a brutal version of the judo shoulder throw or a combination of those techniques. The important thing here is to get to the outside of the opponent and not on the inside as often shown in other clips showing this application of Taekwondo. Getting to the outside makes it harder for the opponent to counter attack and in this situation using this grappling move it is the safest position to be. The technique in question does not really fit into Taekwondo`s main strategy unless the defender uses the technique to throw the defender though. But even though it does not fit in it is nonetheless a very simple joint lock but in a real situation you would need to break his elbow or do something "more" to him as just standing there inflicting pain occupies both of your hands and makes you open for attacks from the attackers friends. Break the elbow, or throw him and move on do not stand just stand there.

That concludes the "youtubing" for this time and I do hope you enjoyed the clip and the comments as much as I did writing and watching them:-)


  1. In my dojang (in Chile) we have 3 teachers, and all worked as security guards and/or bouncers (one of them also has high level chin-na and kyusho training), so our ho sin sul level is high compared with other schools we see in tournaments, because they have had the oportunity of test run techniques (so it's a no BS aproach), and they have working knowledge of the legal aspect of self defense. I think all schools should at least have a talk with a police officer, lawyer, etc. about legal boundaries. Tae kwon!

    1. Yes sounds like you are in a great Dojang:-) The legalities of self defense is often overlooked or ignored which is a shame, but I am glad you ended up in a Place where you learn both practical skills and the legal ramifications of using them :-)

  2. Were also very lucky in our dojang and our organisation sself defense is taught at quite high levels in realistic real world situations like headbutting and swinging hook punches etc. Luckilly we have very experienced sabums and also boo sabums who are ex and current police . Were in the north east of England my greater issue is having to do flying techniques as im 6 foot 3 and well built and almost 50 lol.

  3. Thank you very much for this useful article. I like it.