You can train attributes for Taekwondo like strenght in just about all of the body, or maybe basic techniques, or forms or shadow boxing not even needing a partner to train with. Today numerous Dojang that operates
out of school gyms (very common in my country) or other such places does not have or make use of any training equipment what so ever. Not even matts (wich makes the training of Nak Bup/breask falling difficult). That being said traditional Taekwondo did make use of a lot of training equipment most practisioners has probably never even heard of today.
In Okinawan Karate there is a whole other culture to training. In the west we were told not to mess with weights because they could make us bulky but slow and that it was a lot more important to have good technique than muscle. While many martial artists in the west were taught in rented spaces where equipment were scarse or non existant, coupled with the "weight myth" it is no wonder that many stressed the traning of Gibon Dongjak (basics), Poomsae (Forms), Kyorugi (Sparring) and Ho Sin Sul (Self defense) with a few push ups and sit ups thrown into the mix while in Okinawa and China (as well as Japan in the 20s-40s when the Kwan founders of Taekwondo studdied their base Martial Arts) "Hojo Undo" was stressed a lot more. "Hojo Undo" is a Karate term that means suplemental training and consists of the use of various equipment as well as excersises that only makes use of the body. Hojo Undo is 보조 운동 Buchu Undong in Korean
In older incarnations of Taekwondo in Korea (the different Kwan that was founded in the 40s-60s) this culture of training was precerved a long time. As recently as 1965 General Choi Hong Hi of the Oh Do Kwan (and honorary member of the Chung Do Kwan) published a book he called Taekwondo the Korean art of Self Defense where he describes several training equipment that has since then fallen into disuse. The training equipment he describes were in common use in Korea at the time but I personally think that their usage was lost due to the expansion of Taekwondo westwards. Many of the early pioners did not have a lot of money and they rented spaces and taught at schools, YMCA`s, church halls etc. It would be some time before the "proffesional" Dojang came into the mainstream. Faced with the limitation rented space provides it is no wonder that the focus on technique and excersises making use of the body were stressed as the teachers at the time did not have a lot of other choices. But as we will see eventhough a lot of the training equipment has fallen into disuse they were considered an important part of Taekwondo training both in Korea and the Pioners did try to bring their use to the west when they started exporting Taekwondo.
Pick up just about any of the old writings from the 1960s-70s and you will be introduced to one of the most important piece of training equipment in Taekwondo; enter the Kwon Go, or Dallyon Joo (striking post). In Karate circles it is known as "Makkiwara" and it was considered a key piece of training equipment in Karate
|Image source: Tae Kwon Do|
How important were this Kwon Go or Dallyon Joo as it also was known as in training? Well it is reported that Ro Byung Jik the founder of Song Moo Kwan (actually the Korean pronounciation of Shoto as in Shotokan) would strike it several houndred strikes each day, and he did not allow his students to start the main training exercise for the day unless they first strook the post at least 100 times!
Another thing that was often in use before the Korean war was trees. Being taught Taekwondo by a Korean 9th Dan old school teacher I have been exposed to this kind of training. It is always funny if new people are at our Dojang and my teacher say to everyone during training "Everybody out now!". I know what is going to happen but the looks on the faces of the newer ones who are told to go outside (we do not stop put on shoes) and told to find a tree (there are multiple trees just outside the Dojang) and strike it with knifehand strike 200 times, and then with the fist 100 times and maybe do a little blocking (low block, inward middle block, outward middle block etc) before going inside to continue our training. With the blocks and knife hand strikes we strike very hard, but when we use the fist we strike moderatly hard. We have to strike 100 strikes so you want to be able to keep on striking untill the end, but the purpose is more to correct wrist alignment, body posture, etc than to actually toughen up the knuckles as many seem to believe. The look on the passersby (there is a street a little further down from the trees) is also a great spectacle as they see a lot of white pyjamas clothed people screaming and striking trees with their bare hands... We also kick the trees, and this method of training was encouraged by Son Duk Sung in his aforementioned 1968 book:-) He also makes the point of selecting a small point on the tree in the size of a coin to use as target. This way you alos practise accuracy in kicking/striking. I guess if you want a Korean name to the tree in training it would be dallyon namo (dallyon = forging, Nahmo = tree).
|Image source: Korean Karate;|
The art of Tae Kwon Do
But the training equipment might have Kwon Go / Dallyon Joo in the center as a forging tool in Taekwondo, it was far from the only one. You also had Dallyon Gune wich functioned much like the heavy bag would do today. It was/ is a striking pendulum suspended from a beam or roof. It could be a steel pipe or a log
wrapped in anything that would cushion the blows a little depending on the training intensity and level of proficiancy of the practisioner. Where the Dallyon Joo trained the fists, elbow and low kicks, the Dallyon Gune was more suited for combinations, forearms, shins, etc.
Dallyon Tong is another vital piece of equipment that was in use in the old Kwan. It usually started as a box filled with sand or something "soft" but in the course of training the content of the box would be changed to harder materials as you progressed. The Dallyon Tong (forging box) was used to strengthen your fingers for vital point (keupsoh) attacks. In Taekwondo we have spear hand, one and two finger thrust to mention just a few manners of attacks that would benifit from training with the Dallyon Tong.
The training equipment did not stop at tools to enhance striking technique and forging your attacking tools however. There was also gripping jars or Danji to strenghten their grip and different weight training equipment to increse their overal strength. You might notice that gripping strentgth and finger strength is something we no longer stress in mainstream Taekwondo, but both of these were and still are vital in old
school practical application of our forms and basic technique. The pulling hand (dangki son) for instance benifits imensly by this and is a nasty technique unto itself when properly understood. To go back to the accounts of Song Moo Kwan training in the Kwan era it was expected that the students first did weight training excersises followed by pounding the Dallyon Joo before starting the actual training.
|Image source: Korean Karate;|
The art of Tae Kwon Do
I think that we should try to if not reintroduce these tools, then make great use of the modern equipment we have access to that promote the same training possibilities (heavy bag, kick shield, pads etc). I honostly think that we should incorporate Dallyon Joo into our training once again as eventhough the heavy bag is a close substitute there are still certain areas Dallyon Joo still has the advantage in training.
|Image source: Tae Kwon Do (1965)|
This is called "Blocking aparatus"
and I have only seen this in Okinawan Karate styles
and in Choi Hong Hi`s book from 1965.
Happy training everyone:-)