Friday, 8 November 2013

The Taegeuk self defense system!

I have refferenced, linked to and reccomended Simon John O`Neill`s book the Taegeuk Cipher to everyone who have the slightest interest in forms Applications and those interested in the Taegeuk forms series. He published a truly landmark book a few years back titled The Taegeuk Cipher. I have read that book to shreads and it is still one of my all time favorite martial arts books (and I have 100s). The only thing that could have made that book better was if there was bigger/clearer Pictures acompanying the Application section. I wished for a long time that someone could upload a few aplications on the youtube or something so it would be easier to see a few of the harder Applications but so far no one has. BUT THERE IS SOMETHING EVEN BETTER OUT THERE RIGHT NOW!!!! Simon has made a set of 4 DVDs where he demonstrates his now tweaked and updated Taegeuk self defense system and let me tell you it has been really hard to not say anything (I have known about the Project for some time) but now it has been officially launched in the Totally Taekwondo Magazine so I think it is safe to let the cat out of the bag now.

I am currently writing a detailed review but the short Version is: Buy the DVDs and you will not regret it. For those unfamiliar With his work here is the review I wrote on his book that I also reccomend for everyone (Even if they buy the DVDs there is enough different material in both Works that both are good to get). I wrote it shortly after it was launched a few years back. The DVD review will come here when it is finished:-)

December 2008

I came over this book on the forum, and I had to buy it. I have been working/researching pattern, but I have not come nealy as far as Simon O`neil has come. I have allready started implementing the applications in my teaching, and the adult students really love it. So over to the book:

The book is mainly concerned with the practical application of the 8 Taegeuk forms practised world-wide by the WTF organised Taekwondostudents.

It opens with a very well written and in my belief the most accurate Taekwondo history available. In many respects it is also the taekwondonised "Shotokans secret" written by Bruce Clayton as the author also presents his case of why there is possible more in the patterns than the kick, punch, block interpretations we normally see. He also makes his case of why the practical applications is not taught openly. Without telling everything some of the keypoints of why there is possible more to the patterns than is now openly taught is found in the founders of Taekwondos martial arts backgrounds, and their motivations of founding Taekwondo as a martial art. That and lots more is revealed in the book.

The book also contains a section on how to analyse forms for yourself. I personaly feel that this section could be a lot longer, and that it could contain more specific concepts like in Iain Abernethys "Bunkai Jutsu", preferably with examples from the poomsae itself, but then again the fokus in this book is to show the reader that there is more in the forms than what meets the eye using the authors own applications rather than a textbook on how to analyse forms like "Bunaki jutsu" is.

A very good explanation of what self defence actually is when compared to fighting, combat, and duelling follows the interpretation section. This is something that is lacking in many martial arts books and is one thing that sets this book apart from the vast majorety of Taekwondobooks out there (except the fact that it is the only book explaining the WTF patterns in a realistic way on the market). Many people get the terms mixed up and practise duelling while thinking that they are practising self defence.. This section is sure to open a few eyes out there (and we have not even come to the applications yet).

Then at last what we have been waiting for: The applications themselves. This is the big bulk of the book.
The author divides the patterns in 3 groups. "The Preliminary stage" (where the fight usually starts at talking distance), "The infighting and clinching" (when the preemptive strike, and the striking has failed and grips come into place) and "advanced self-defence". Before each group of patterns there is an explenation of that stage of the fight and what the strategy of that stage should be. Then the patterns in that group follows. Each pattern is opened with a sumary of the movements, and a sumary of the key concepts and principles the poomsae/form is trying to teach the student. This gives a very good overview of each pattern and what you can expect to learn from it.

The big draw back in the applications section is that the pictures are very small, and sometimes unclear. The illustrations could also have had some arrows to show the direction of the movements to help the reader. That being said, any serious student of martial arts should be able to understand the applications with a close look at the text and the pictures. The applications are mostly simple and highly effective (at least those I have been able to put to practise).

The book also contains sections on pattern performance, some drills to help putting the applications into practise, and a very interesting section on designing a syllabus (for self defence, pattern applications).

This book is absoloutly worth every penny.. I personally feel that the history section alone was worth the cost. It was so good to finally read a history of Taekwondo grounded in reality and not coloured by any political bias.. It seems very well researched and unlike most Taekwondo books it does not just repeat everything that has allready been written, but contributes with new (and interesting) facts. The applications are like I allready wrote simple and effective, with the only draw back being the small pictures. They are easily the best applications to the Taegeuk poomsae I have ever seen in a book.
Link to those who wish to buy it:


  1. Hey...this is great news... I love this book and would love to get the DVDs! Can you tell us where they are available to buy? I don't see them on Amazon after a quick search.

    Also, I would love to see O'Neill (or you) do a similar work for the WTF black belt forms... there are many movements that often leave me wondering what a realistic application is.

    1. Hi and thanks for commenting. Here is the link to the DVDs. They are not available on amazon just yet but I think they will be eventually.

      As for your other question I guess you will see a work on the black belt Poomsae IF the interest grows high enough. So far the interest on forms applications in the Kukki/WTF exponents has been dissapointing to say the least. The market for these kinds of works is an extremly specialised market (martial arts > Korean Martial arts > Taekwondo > forms aplications ) so as for the time being I do not see any of the very few people working on forms applications investing the time and money to publish any works on the black belt forms alone. Of that very narrow market most exponents will know the Taegeuk forms and few will know the black belt forms so it will be even harder to get back the investment (even breaking it even) if you focus on the black belt forms. Maybe Simon will produce more DVD`s if the sales goes very well? I know he has interesting thoughts on the black belt forms too:-)

      This blog does contain some information on Keumgang Poomsae if you are interested and there will come more on Keumgang and the other Poomsae as time goes by. It is "free" for me in terms of not paying to publish and I do not pay for the blog, but at the same time it does cost a lot of money to research the information I publish here in terms of going to Korea, getting rare out of print books (and other works), DVDs, attending seminars etc.

  2. hello
    i am working on one. i just can't decide between one on foundational stuff (like the structure, knife hand, etc.) that i feel people need, or just apps to the forms.

    the forms are fun to do, and people do like them, but i would like them to be a complete run-through of each, but find that difficult. anyway, complete so far: Koryo I, Koryo, Keumgang, Taebek, part of pyongwon.

    1. Nice Richard! I hope to see either work published one day. The structure etc that you speak of is equally overlooked in Taekwondo as forms aplications but if I were to Guess the Applications would get more attention than a work on "basic" (even if of fundemental importance).

      I have played around the thought of making a book or dvd With forms aplications myself, but when it comes to the black belt forms the higher you go the less People will be in Your market. There are some forms collectors out there who undoubtfully know more black belt forms than their rank demands, but how many of them will be interested in studying deeply when they are attracted into knowing as many forms as possible? And With each Dan rank the number of practisioners having that rank diminishes. There are many 1,2,3,4th degre black belts out there so Koryo to Pyungwon should be more than enough but what about sipjin jitae chonkown, hansu and illyo? The allready tiny market will diminish into nothing at all when you Reach hansu:-p

      The black belt forms are more like the karate kata than the taegeuk set in that they are unique. The Taegeuk set is one set of forms where each belong into the same set. The black belt forms are much more loosely organized. When I analyse them I often find that they either focus on a specific skill set that can be used in conjuntion With what is learned in the taegeuk set or that they are their own fighting art on par With the karate kata (excluding the pyong ahn forms as they too are one set). This means that you could easily Write one book per black belt form and doubly so if you follow the recipy of 5 years one Kata of Bill Burgar (not that you need to devote yourself to one kata for 5 years to Write a book, but the way he lays out is aplications and how each is analysed etc is very good).

      It would be great if you published a book on Your Koryo 1&2 aplications though Richard. I felt that the Koryo book that was published could have given the Taekwondo society so much more than what we got.

  3. hello
    thanks for the input, it is well considered. i have not read the 5yrs kata book though i have heard good things about it. while i have apps written as i mentioned i didn't feel that 2 forms were enough. when i look at Cooks book i feel that it is only half of what it claims to be. he spends some time on the history--ok, then spends a lot of pages on what is a back stance, front stance, etc. in a book that purports to deal with BB forms, i would assume that these would be known. the book ends with a presentation of competition rules, Korean glossary of terms, and brief bio of Master Chun.

    to me, the heart of the book should have been a contrast between the two forms, the strategic philosophies they represent, and provide applications that were rudimentary, and almost laughable on their face. NB. the above sentences represent my direct opinion, the paragraph above is me attempting to give a more objective point of view.

    so in the end, i am not sure that two forms are enough, but also, if i were to go into depth, it would be too much. this seeming paradox is because of the feeling that i would have to explain the concepts mentioned in previous post (structure, movement, intent,etc.) in order for people to grasp where i am coming from in the apps. Oh well!
    anyway thanks again for the input and encouragement.

  4. sorry, typing too fast. the sentence should have read "and to provide applications that were not rudimentary, and almost laughable on their face"

    1. The 5 years one Kata book is a very thick book in two parts. The first part goes into the theory I has made use of for finding the aplications, visualisation techniques, probability theory, how to judge if an aplication is good or bad etc etc. This theory part is a Whole book in itself. The aplication section is also Heavy. He presents the solo performance of Shotokan, his own solo performance (altered slightly to accomodate the aplications) and then the aplication With a partner. He then presents one or more "henka" or Byonhwa (variations) if something goes wrong etc. Then on top of that he proposes linkage to other parts of the forms as follow up or as part of the variation he presents. This makes the aplications section quite large and gives a glimpse into the old saying one kata 3 years:-)

      If you were to do something similar and also including the structure, vital point striking, history, etc etc etc one or two forms would be more than enough for one book:-) For economic reasons if I were to Write about black belt forms I would focus on Koryo to Pyongwon since this will be the forms the majority of the market knows.

      I would love to see Your thoughts published and the little market we do have on forms aplications on kukki forms has the black belt forms in demand.