Monday, 9 July 2012

How to make official applications better/Practical application of Taegeuk Sam (3) Jang

Image source
In older Taekwondo textbooks movements from the forms are often explained with pictures and everything. These days however many no longer consider these official interpretations valid as they would never be usable outside the textbook. Even the striking applications that are pretty straight forward seems to be missing something as the illustrations often have the defender placing his non striking hand on his hip for no reason. In this post I want to share one tip that will often solve this problem with "official" applications and make them more combativly sound.

The tip of todays post wich I have revealed several times before on this blog is simply to consider the hand that is drawn back to the hip. You see today most people think that the pulling hand is drawn back for traditions, some think it is an outdated fighting style that we practise anyway, but we modify it on the street. Others say it is done to create more power. In the older textbooks "the pulling hand" is indeed often explained as a way to create more power. In some textbooks the answer is pretty vague, and in others the authors go to great lengths to explain it within newtonian "science". E.g the pulling hand is the reaction force as all action creates an equal reaction etc.

Look at the drawing below to see the "official applicaiton" to movement 5/6 in Taegeuk Sam Jang (Inward knife hand strike to the neck).

Here you see the normal application. It is very straight forward is it not? You simply strike the opponents neck. But the thing is the "traditional" movement is very big. You lift the striking hand all the way up to your shoulder and then it goes in a circular motion toward the neck. All the opponent has to do to prevent the strike from landing is simply to lift the arm. No block, no parry no nothing, just a simple lifting of his arm nullifies the attack, and the defender is completly open for a counter attack as he has placed the non striking hand at his hip. That being said, IF the defender lands a knife hand to the neck of the opponent it is most likely lights out. So how do you go about to make the traditional movement work for you?

If we go back one step further than the Kwan leaders and look at how the pulling hand was explained by the teachers of the Kwan originators we find a very simple yet effective explonation. Gichin Funakoshi who is often lamented as a Karate teacher without any deep knowledge in the application of his forms writes a very good explonation for the pulling hand in his Karate Do Kyohan. He writes (paraphrasing) that the pulling hand is used to grab the opponents limbs and pulling him into the attack while twisting the arm. This increases the efficiancy of the defenders attack, while decreases the opponents chances of counter attacking the defender.

I have just taken the normal application seen in the earlier drawing and applied Funakoshi`s explonation from Karate Do Kyohan to it and if you look below you will see the result:
Here you see the same application as the normal one, but the defender grabs the opponents arm on the same side as he is going to strike with his knife hand strike and uses his non striking arm to pull the opponent of balance, and nullifying the opponents chance of defending himself in that the opponent is both unbalanced, and the arm that he should be defending himself is controlled. This way the official application is repaired in that the same "traditional" movement is used, and it does not make the defender open himself up to a counter as easily as the normal application does. I am sure that there are more effective ways to use the movement, but this is a great improvement on the normal well known applications and all we have really done is to consider the pulling hand at the hip.

The same principle can be used in all striking applications that do not use the pulling hand in application but it does in the form. It can even be applide to several "block" as strikes. Low block becomes hammer fist strike to groin, inward middle block becomes hammerfist strike to jaw and high block becomes forearm strike to side of the neck or jaw. All three with the same grabbing motion used in the second application in this post.

Considering and making use of the pulling hand is one fast and easy way to make a lot more sense in the forms than the things that are normally taught as applications.


  1. Hello
    in the Japanese nomenclature:
    1. age uke-"high reception"
    2. chudan uke-"middle reception"
    3. Gedan Barai (english-low block)-"low strike"

    funny how things get lost in translation, eh?

    1. Yeah It makes me wonder just how much else is lost in translation too. I looked up "Makki" in the dictionary when I studied in Korea. Among other things it was translated as "a method to hinder an attack" (I also got the block translation though). The first translation opens up a whole new world of applications and the second one with "block" makes you think of static blocks like we have in Taekwondo. Maybe "Makki" does not have a direct English counterpart and "block" is the easiest and as close we get to a translation? Maybe the translation is overly simplified as many just translate "Ki" with energy, or "Do" as way or art etc?