Friday, 20 July 2012

Practical Application from Taegeuk Sa (4) Jang

Todays post is about a movement that baffled me when I first learned it. It is the second movement from Taegeuk Sa (4) Jang; The infamous finger tip strike or spear hand as it is also known as. In official or normal application the first move of that form the knife hand guarding block and the second move is seen as one sequence. In my application I see them both as seperate variations on one theme. They both give you options on how to defend yourself from lapel grab. The official application have the defender blocking the opponents lunge punch with the first block, and then the opponent imidiatly launches a second punch without moving forwards, wich the defender blocks downwards with the open handed block and counters with the spear hand to the opponents solar plexus, changing his stance from back stance to long walking stance but without the step to make the distance work.

As you can see there are a few things that I find lacking in the official application. The fact that the foot work is completly changed, and that the counter (spear hand) makes a high risk of injury to the defender himself as he will have broken fingers if he misses the solar plexus with as little as half an inch (or a centimeter) upward. One principle my teacher taught me early in my training is that you should "hit soft with hard and hard with soft." Examples of this principle could be a hard fist in a soft stomach, and a soft palm to a hard chin. Striking with your hard fingertips with a high chance of hitting the sternum (I hope that is the chest bone, as most of my English anatomy words are from watching "House") wich is also hard is not inline with this principle. I do not follow the principle slavishly but when it comes to my fingers I do follow the principle of hard vs soft. The first move will be explained in a future post but it is a simpler form of lapel grab defense. The second one is a little more "advanced" (slightly harder to perform)  and more deadly. I apologize for the poor quality of my drawings but this is the best I can do, and it is free:p

The opponent grabs your jacket with intention of controlling your movement and hit you with his free hand.

You do the preperation for the downward openhanded block. This will either parry his incoming strike if you are to slow/he is to fast and it is a good position for defending yourself. If you are fast enough or after parrying the first strike you preceed with the downward block to your opponents holding arm. This will unbalance the opponent and make his upperbody lean forward, and it will make him lift his hear upwards. Both of these effects can be made mechanicly and do not rely on vital points, allthough the point near the elbow will make a bigger effect than not hitting that point. I believe Richard (a frequent commentator on this Blog) said in a previous blog post comment that the point is called L5 (Lung 5) if I am not mistaken.

Now that you do the downward block motion you also do the spear hand to the opponents throat if you want to use your fingers. This is a possible lethal application and only extreme situations would warrant such a response from the defender. Another less lethal application that still maintains the gross movement is to bend your spear hand a little outwards so you strike the opponents chin with your open hand instead. The same principles and movements apply in either application but the second one is a lot more "humane" than the first one. (Sorry about the quality of the drawing, the end movement is the same as the opening picture).

Now in the last few posts here on this blog I have given application to several movements from several forms. The thing to remember when reading this blog and regarding all applications is that there is no definitive application to any movement. The movements are old and the originators are long dead. The movements themselves have been changed over the years so the original applications are lost in the sands of time. So if your instructor teaches you applications that are different to mine, or you come up with applications that are different to mine that do not make any of them right or wrong. Really the only thing that makes an application "right" is wether it is combativly usefull and effective. The "official" applications with stylized attacks, and static attackers, unrealistic range etc are not combativly usefull. How to recognize combativly usefull applications is something I have wanted to adress a long time now, but to make it very short they need to be:
  • simple so it can be used under the influence of adrenaline
  • give the defender the advantage
  • target voulnarable targets
  • imobolize the attacker through either strikes or grappling or a combination of both.
  • defend against realistic attacks
And with that I wish you all good training:-)


  1. We have a similar movement in the Chang Hon patterns, and when I was demonstrating it once many many years ago a friend who was a high level instructor in the chinese arts asked why I was striking with a vertical spearhand. Most of the spearhand strikes in chinese arts, from my limited knowledge, are done with a horizontal hand (palm down), aimed at the eyes or throat. Irrespective of the myths surrounding this technique, I don't have any illusions about sending it directly through the chest wall and grabbing the opponent's still beating heart, or embedding my hand into the person's stomach. In actual deployment, I am way happier thinking of the vertical spearhand as a strike to the neck, or eye using the fingertips. Or using it to effect a thumbstrike to the eye. An application which I've taken away from chulgi is to flex the fingers of the spearhand into a shallow cup so I can lay into the opponent with a heel palm that 'turns' the head to the side, before I sink another strike into the neck.

    1. Thanks for the comment Colin and the very informative link. But what do you mean by myths and illusions that the technique is not meant to penetrate the chest to retrieve the hart of the opponent?? I thought that was the official application to the move:p Joking aside it does make more sense to attack "soft" spots with the technique. Interesting that the Chinese arts use the horizontal spear hand. The horizontal spear hand does not appear in Kukkiwon Poomsae untill Sipjin Poomsae wich is the form that 5th Dan practises. In one of my Taek Kyon books the horizontal spear hand (or identical move) is used to grab the opponents body and pull him towards you while putting pressure with an open hand at his eyes(upper face region) making his head move up and backwards (looking toward the skyes). The end position is remarkibly simular to horizontal spear hand.

  2. Hello
    also works as a throw. i know it is counter intuitive, requires a crescent step,is not really a combat app, but is fun to play with the concept. simply fold their arms down, place spear hand either over or under opposite shoulder, walk through them one step (as in form)and down they go!

    1. Nice. I will play around with that one on my next "taekwondo play date":) Thanks.