Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Korean terms for "lost concepts" Part Three

Image source:
Taekwondo; Secrets
of Korean Karate
This post will look further down the list for lost concepts as listed in the excellent article series "The Okinawan Elephant in the room" (part 4a) by Ciarân McDonald. If you have not done so allready, I will advise that you start at part one and work your way through the series in the order they were published. This is the last part and I will look at the last two concepts that the author of The Okinawan Elephant in the room" gave in his article series part 4a.

Warning/Disclaimer: I know some Korean, but I am not affluent in it and I am certainly not a Korean myself. So if you are reading this as a person affluent in the Korean language and you for some reason disagree with my please do not hessitate to drop a comment below.

No eungyoung 응용 (application) is complete without a proper target. To make the most of each application you need to study the body and its weaknesses. In Taekwondo today this is something that is often overlooked as speed and power is often the only thing that is trained, and the target areas are vague and big as the scoring areas on the body (front of the body, and the sides of the body) and maybe the face/head. To be frank this approach is great for beginners as speed and power is what makes the technique work in the first place, and the target areas are the "poison at the tip of the arrow" not the arrow itself. If you miss you should still create enough damage or at least stun your opponent enough to get away or create a new opening. The study of target areas in Traditional Taekwondo, and its root arts (chinese Quan Fa, Shudokan, Shotokan and Shito Ryu Karate as well as Taek Kyon) is based on Oriental Medicine, often targeting Acupuncture points (and other "obvious weak points such as the eyes).

The Japanese Martial Arts call this study Kyusho Juitsu and this term is often translated into English as "Vital Point Manipulation". Vital points in KMA usually described under the term "Keupsoh" (급소) wich indeed is translated as "Vital Point" or "Spot". If you look up a Taekwondo Text containing a list of vital points the Korean term for vital points in this list is usually "Keupsoh". But the term Vital Point Manipulation has another Korean term that I have only rarely seen in Taekwondo (sometimes I have heard it in Hapkido wich in my opinion has preserved more of this concept in their mainstream than Taekwondo has), a term my own teacher used when he wrote his first two books on Taekwondo in the early 90s: "Heol Bob" 혈 법  (also seen as Hyul Bob, and Hyul Do Bob 혈 도 법). Both a few Hapkido books that I have as well as Wikipedia  use Hyul Do Bob as the Korean term for Kyusho Juitsu. Heol/ Hyul 혈 is usually translated with "blood" but blood in oriental medicine and thought is very closely related to "Ki" 기, the energy or essense that oriental medicine is based on. Bob or bup 법 means "law", or "method".

In my teachers book from the early 90s he divided the vital point manipulation into two categories. The first was to use pressure to manipulate the points to force a response like pain or other reflexive responses but he notes that eventhough it is pressure the response could sometimes come from strikes as well. The term for (mainly using) pressure was "Ap Heol Bop" or 압 혈 법. He notes that you need to be very strong in your grip and fingers as well as being accurate to properly exploit the vital points using this method. Ap/ Ab 압 means pressure not to be confused with "Ap" 앞 or "Front" as in Front Kick (Ap Chagi). The other category is the striking of Vital Points wich he used the term "Tae Heol Bob" 태 혈 법(I am not sure about the Hangul for Tae 태 in this term so use the hangul at your own perril. The book only contained the terms in our latin alphabet, I have checked the hangul with dictionarys when I have been in doubt but I did not find that Tae 태 refered to striking anywhere. We do know that it is a term for kicking or using your foot as in Tae Kwon Do but as I said, the dictionaries failed me at this point).

So Vital points in Korean is Keupsoh 급소, vital point manipulation in general is Heol Bob" 혈 법 sometimes refered to as Hyul Do Bob 혈 도 법. Sub categories of vital point manipulation are vital point manipulation using pressure:  Ap Heol Bop" or 압 혈 법. Vital point manipulation using strikes: Tae Heol Bob" 태 혈 법.

The last concept that was listed was Qinna (Chin Na) wich is a Chinese term covering a wide variety of grappling and joint manipulation. Quote from the article:
".... it involves, attacking the joints, seperating muscle from bone, bone from bone, tendons from bones and pain compliance. This is such a fundamental part of White Crane kung fu strategy that it would make up a large part of any Chinese influenced Kata. The Japanese term for this is Kansetsu-waza" - Ciarân McDonald
It is a great explanation of how the term is used in the Chinese and possibly the Japanese arts except for choking and strangulation is also a part of the Quinna/ Chin Na term in the Chinese Arts. The Hanja for this term that the Chinese use is 擒拿. The first character means catch, arrest, seize and capture and the second character means take, hold, grasp. The Korean reading of this Hanja character is Geum na 금나. Now when I translated the Chinese Character into Korean through a computer program I got the Korean word for grab, seize, grappling or catch: Japki 잡기. I guess it is up to the practisioner if this is a term we want to use in our training and as long as you have the Chinese Character you can use Geum Na as a term to mean the same thing as in the Chinese Arts, but I do not think that a Korean non Martial Artist would understand only the korean writing on its own 금나. Japki 잡기 on the other hand is a normal word where "grappling" is a valid translation allthough not the most common use of the word (it most commonly is translated as "catch, grab or seize).

My personal suggestion for the mainstream is to use the current catch all phrase of grappling, choking, throwing well everything: Ho Sin Sul 호신술 translated it means the art of self defense. In my own opinion this term should be used for applied Taekwondo (not just the applications from the forms but the application of Taekwondo as a form of self defense). The current mainstream however (as far as I have seen heard and read) use this term to cover essentually the same things (and more) as the Chinese use their Quinna (Chin Na) term for. As the term is widely used today it might be the best and easiest to incorporate into mainstream teaching of Taekwondo.

And that concludes our short jurney into the "lost concepts" of Taekwondo. Please leave a comment if and tell me if you liked the series, or if you did not like it:-) Feedback is always great.


  1. Hello
    since no one else seems to want to jump in yet, i will take a bite.
    first off, good post!

    you are expanding on the idea that i was trying to get across with part I of my middle block discussion, i.e. that when this nomenclature gets lost, the concepts get forgotten with them. when this happens, many of the origins of certain techniques and approaches get lost, which renders many of them incomprehensible. in effect, it dilutes and weakens the art.

    in my own writing i was surprised-and somewhat dismayed- that i could not find Korean words for concepts like "range", "broken rhythm", etc. i knew that they had to have a way of expressing the concepts, but didn't know how they did it. admittedly my Korean is nil, but even the native speakers really had trouble with this.

    This happened in the karate world as well, albeit to a lesser extent. i mentioned before that the Japanese had names for everything, some of which are quite helpful. Example "body hair distance" the range at which slipping an attack, or {my favorite) "glue body distance" grappling range.

    anyway, to get back to the main point, the lack of nomenclature serves to narrow the vision as to what is possible. i guess i can blame some of this on the sport influence, but that is not the whole thing. the Japanese narrowed the Okinawan art because of their cultural view that training diligently in one decisive technique not only worked well, but it fit the notion of a total commitment to an art. (note: i realize there is much more to it than that, but i want to keep moving).

    i know a somewhat noted published TKD instructor who constantly states that there are over 3,000. techniques in TKD. Now where he got this remains unknown to me, but that is really beside the point as he could barely tell you any amount over 20, and could only supply the most basic application to those. is this his fault? not entirely, as this is the way he was taught. his problem is that he never looked past the surface.

  2. further thoughts on specific terms:

    1. Henka- although familiar with the term i personally prefer the Chinese reference to "stems", in the sense of a bud on a tree that grows into different branches. i think that it is one of the failures of the way "one step sparring" is practiced, in that only one attack is used (lunge punch) mostly and variations are not encouraged. the adaptations that actually make things work, or flow into each other are not thought through.

    2. vital points- when i first started learning this methodology, i was told that at its highest levels, if i could be touched, i could be killed. the goal then was to be able to fight without getting touched. Of course, easier said then done. the mindset however was important. instead of the standard hard focused block, slipping (see " body hair distance" above) and parrying became the most important avoidance maneuvers. even my boxing teachers regarded blocking as a form of "degenerate" parrying. in other words, it was a last ditch effort when the other stuff failed.
    nowadays too much is made of this methodology for beginners. it seems so magical. it is also too seductive. if you don't have the basic skills to back it up, it is useless. expert martial artists can make their use of distance and timing seem just as magical.

    having said that, i still regard it as a necessary component of the art.

    3. "sticking hands" Here again, criminal neglect. there are so many concepts that are based on the idea of controlling and redirecting energy that it would be impossible to list them all here. sooner or later, most black belts, at least when they get as old and lazy as me, realize that constantly banging away on each other gets to be counterproductive. it is far more efficient to allow your opponent to help with his own demise. isn't that a fundamental insight to many Asian arts?

  3. so, in closing, as i realize that i have gone on far too long: these concepts should not be sacrificed to sport efficiency or standardized aesthetic considerations, but practiced consistently. in many ways TKD is looked down on as a fighting art because so much emphasis has been placed on flashy showmanship. the loss of its roots only complicates the issue.

    i will get to part III of the middle block discussion (i promise). what has made it hard is that it was the syllabus for a 3 day workshop i had done. i have found it very difficult to take physical examples and explain them fully in print.
    but the genesis of the workshop was to show that the many variations that were applicable to just the movement. i began with what i described to them as an Aikido throw from a same side wrist grab. showed them how to execute the throw and had them practice it. afterwards i had them pantomime the motion with no opponent. fully 70% of the group could not see that the motion that they were doing was just a simple inside-to-out "middle block".
    it didn't register because they weren't "blocking" anything in the exercise!

    again, sorry about the length. i hope there is room for more comments, you hear enough from me.

    1. Hi Richard:-) I honostly thought that maybe this series of posts would be too boring for most people (and allthough part 1 was mildy popular, the follow up posts have so far been read by less than 10 people (yourself included):-/

      Your opening sentences in your first comment nicely summed up the importance of having this terminonlogy and names for the concepts. I was sad when I read "the Okinawan elephant in the room" and the author listed all these concepts as lost concepts. But I hope that this post (and an article in the next issue of Totally Taekwondo Magazine) will help to establish some of the concepts into the mainstream Taekwondo.

      Just think about the Dangki Son (Hikite). Understanding or even being somewhat aware about just a few of its possibilities will open the Poomsae up to a whole new level most people can not even intuitivly grasp.

      Couple that with some reading or practising of Chin Na and you will understand that the Dangki Son is maybe not only Taekwondos mostly trained technique, but also the most overlooked as well as nasty and effective in the art (wich explains why we do it so often).

      I too got the result of your "experiment" allthough far less than 30% understood my point before I explained it too them. We did some Ho Sin Sul with a partner (that I had picked out from our Poomsae), and then they practised it a little alone in the air, and then again with a partner. There was only one guy who commented that all of these movements resembled the poomsae that we train and asked if it was coincidential. The look on the students eyes when I told them that they had practised all these "self defense techniques" a long time through poomsae training was great to see.

      I am very looking forward into reading your part 3 of the middle block saga:-) And there is always more room for comments. I like reading your comments very much as they always make me see things in a different perspective. Now I need to find the Hanja for for "stems" that you refered to. It conveyes the idea behind the concept a lot better than "variation".