Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Does Taekwondo Teach Elbow Strikes and Knee Strikes?

Image source:
Taekwondo; Secrets of Korean Karate
Published in 1968
This is one question I often hear or read. Many a prospective student of the Martial Arts ask these questions since arts like Muy Thai and MMA often display these techniques in a devestating way. The other day at work I overheard a few customers in their late teens discussing wich Martial Art they should start to practise. Taekwondo was one of the first arts that was proposed but it was quickly turned down by the fact that it is only leg fencing and it does not contain any close range weapons like knees and elbow strikes.

The guy who came out with this fact? 2nd Dan hoder of ITF Taekwondo! I did not step in or say anything since it would be out of my place to do so, but I could not help but wonder what kind of Dojang he belonged to.. I have no expertise in the subject of ITF Taekwondo as I have never formally trained in it, but I did believe the organisation was somewhat better to keep the "Martial Ways" of old than the Kukkiwon wich has been so dominated by the WTF (a pure sporting organisation).


First of all to make myself pretty clear: WTF Taekwondo does not contain anything else than a few blocks, footwork, a ton of kicks, and a few rudimentary "punches". It is purely a sporting organisation and as such only train and allow techniques that are allowed in "olympic style sparring". Kukkiwon Taekwondo on the other hand is something entirely else and is (at the current time of writing) the only Taekwondo grades that are recognised by the WTF (wich is the reason why many call Kukkiwon Taekwondo for WTF Taekwondo).

Kukkiwon Taekwondo has a lot of close range weapons at their disposal. The training time devoted to their usage will vary from instructor to instructor and Dojang to Dojang but the techniques are right there in the system! There is no denying it allthough many do for some reason....

In my Dojang we frequently train knee strikes, both frontal strikes (Mooreup Chigi) and a "roundhouse knee strike" (Mooreup Dollyeo Chigi). I teach these and use them during warm up in my classes as most of our kicks uses the knee lift as the first part of the kicks.. In Taegeuk Chil Jang (7th colored belt pattern) the knee strike is presented in a grappling context where the center line is controlled with a wedge block movement, the head of the opponent is seized with both hands and then smashed into the raising knee strike! It is right there in our Poomsae and not high up there in those Poomsae that you learn after years and decades of training, it is right there for the colored belts to see. The Poomsae only shows one specific example but the example should be toyed around with and experimented with so the trainee can master its application. To say that Kukkiwon or Kukki Taekwondo does not contain knee strikes is as absurd as saying that we do not have Poomsae! Of course we have... If the application of the knee strike is something that is overlooked in most Dojang over the world it is not the fault of the system it is rather the fault of the instructors!

But what about the elbow strikes??? We do not have those now have we??? Well we totally most certainly absolutely do! Even without sophisticated pattarn analisys or applications we do have elbow strike in a circular fashion in Taegeuk Oh Jang (allthough I would say that the basic application of a circular elbow strike is a misinterpreted wrist lock but thats another story), and again this circular elbow strike is not taught in a form that is learned after decades of practise it is from the blue belt form! We also have elbowing an opponent we are holding from the same form, and in Taegeuk Chil (7) Jang. The circular elbow strike is revisited in the eight colored belt form, and the sideways elbow strike is learned in in the first degree black belt form (Poomsae Koryo).

The downward elbow strike is written about in the Kukkiwon Textbook so it is very much part of the system but it is only implyed in the Poomsae, there is no clear downward elbow strike in the kukkiwon Poomsae. Again I will repeat it is clearly depicted in the Kukkiwon Textbook (not just the older version but the latest version as well!). Same thing witht the backward elbow strike allthough you could say that each time we pull our non striking/blocking hand to our hip we are doing a backward elbow strike.

The upward elbow strike is also clearly depicted in Kukkiwon Textbook but it does make an apperance in Poomsae Pyongwon. This is for 4th Degree Blackbelt so I can understand it if some people think that it does not appear in our Poomsae but it certainly does (just fashionably late).

I am no expert in Thai Boxing (I just know what I have seen in Thai boxing mathces, Tony Jaas movies and from a book, but I have never seen any more kinds of elbow strikes or knee strikes than the ones covered in this post.

This does not mean that you will learn the application of these techniques in mainstream Taekwondo Dojang today, or that it will ever be looked closer at than the performance of Poomsae, BUT they are in our system and the Kukkiwon Textbook clearly urges us to master the applications of the techniques in our Poomsae! If you are learning Taekwondo but you are not taught these techniques it is not the fault of the system but rather the fault of your instructor(s)! I do not teach these techniques to children or in classes where children are present, but for the adults and late teens I wish to teach the complete system not only those suited for sport but rather the complete Martial Art of Taekwondo. For the record if you practise "WTF Taekwondo" you can dismiss this whole post as the WTF is ONLY A SPORTING ORGANIZATION and it has nothing to do with Martial Art and everything to do with Martial Sport.

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