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:-)
I came over this book on the iainabernethy.com 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: