Friday 20 December 2013

Three posts for the price of one! (mental traps, practical application and more!)

Here are three Things I want to adress this time. 1: Common mental traps you will be facing when researching Your forms for combative meaning, 2: Practical Application for knife hand guarding
Block and 3: why Taekwondo techniques are different from their Karate counterparts.

Part one: Mental traps

There are a couple of mental traps you might fall into when researching Taekwondo and that is:
  • Taekwondo founders got everything wrong
  • Taekwondo founders got everything right
  • Only Karate techniques in Taekwondo has practical Applications
  • When in doubt discard the "Taekwondo way" and embrace the "Karate way" for practical Application
I have fallen into most of them at some point or another. The first one is suprisingly popular these days even among Taekwondoin who Research their art they dismiss the possibility that there are much more in Poomsae than what the mainstream texts say because someone said that the Koreans only had a basic understanding of Taekwondo`s root arts. I recently adressed this issue to Death in another post (click here to read it) so I will not go into detail here. Just read it if you feel you disagree and see if you still do after Reading it (and if you do not you will at least have read my arguments before judging).

The 2nd one is one that also many People get wrong. Taekwondo was created by humans not gods, so I have no problem if the knowledge in the "main stream" can be improved upon or maybe even there are Things they did get wrong. Taekwondo does work however as it has proven in two wars (Korean war and the Vietnam war) as well as in the civillian environment. It has been used successfully in both war and for self defense so while we should always strive to make the art better by researching we should not forget where we came from either.

The 3rd one is related to the first one. Many People say that "if" Taekwondo indeed have practical Applications within it, it is only the result of directly imported techniques from an earlier practical martial art. This makes any technique altered by the Taekwondo pioneers null and void as it has been altered from a practical technique into an unpractical technique. Later I will show a typical example of this in the knife hand guarding Block.

The 4th one is really a pain and a trap I nearly drowned in early in my "bunkai" studies. You see it is extremly easy to look at the information available (Taekwondo pioneers got it wrong as many People say) then see a very practical Application of a Karate technique which has been altered so much in Taekwondo that the Karate Application no longer apply. The knife hand guarding Block is a prime example of this and that is why I choose this exact technique for this post:-)

Just remember when researching Your art that Taekwondo has been used in war and self defense for a good long time. Yes today some People study a very narrow system that they Call Taekwondo which makes Taekwondo as an unpractical martial art in the eyes of some, other pursue it as a sport and that also has its cons and pros but Traditional Taekwondo containing all the ingredients is an effective martial art and it has proven itself to be this in the harshest environments available (war and post war). The People who study a narrow system or People not studying long enough are the ones that makes the ridicolous myths and claims like: Taekwondo have no low kicks, Taekwondo has no effective arm techniques, Taekwondo does not teach elbows and knee strikesTaekwondo does not contain any grappling etc.

Now over to the practical Application of knife hand guarding Block. (Part 2)

Like so many other Martial Artists that uses forms in their training one of my earliest Sources that opened up my eyes for poomsae Applications were Iain Abernethy. In his books, DVDs and youtube Clips he showed (shows) some very impressive Applications to the Karate Knife hand guarding Block. He uses them as limb Control and he uses them very effectivly. I fell in love With the Application, but there was one thing that was wrong With it. Training Taekwondo we did this technique in a completly different way than what the Karate way is. In Karate the Chamber of the Block is done With the blocking hand at Your ear and the non blocking hand extended to the front.

(Seen below the Karate Chamber of the Block) 


(Seen Below the Karate Knife hand guarding Block)


The end position is the same as the Taekwondo end position but how we got there is completly different. What I "often" see is that the few who Research their forms in Taekwondo discard the Taekwondo Chamber and import the Karate Chamber and then change their technique so they too can use the Application that Iain Abernethy demonstrates below:

(Seen below the Taekwondo Chamber for the Knife hand Guarding Block)

(Tilt Your head 90 degrees so you see it correctly)

As you can see the Chamber for Taekwondo Places both hands behind the Taekwondoin instead of one hand to the ear and one hand to the front as my beautifull drawings no doubt showed very clearly above:p The end position is the same however

And when you see how Iain Abernethy has interpreted the Karate style block it is easy to see why many forms researchers discard the seemingly unpractical Taekwondo Chamber and import the Karate Chamber instead. There is nothing wrong With importing the technique as Ji Do Kwan used this Chamber (and the Taekwondo Chamber) for quite some time. Sihak Henry Cho demonstrates both in his classic 1968 book Secrets of Korean Karate. The problem I see is that there are a multitude of practical Applications to the Taekwondo style Block that people miss out on when they simply disregard the Taekwondo style in favor of Karate style Block. I will show one dealing With round punches/ hooks or haymakers to the head. The chamber is a little smaller than in basic technique training but the gross movement is the same as the basic technique.
The attacker delivers a haymaker to the defenders head. The defender steps inside the haymaker and receives it With both hands. This requires very little training since it is a case of just using Your Natural flinch panic Block. It is very reduntant too. I do not see this being used in MMA or full contact sparring but I see it as a defense against a very committed haymaker from an untrained attacker.

The defender then controles the attackers arm With his back arm (in the technique this will be the arm that "guards" the solar plexus) while striking the attacker on the side of the neck. (seen below)
(Bonus Byunhwa or variation technique) What if the attacker imidiatly launches another punch With his free arm when you use both hands to Block his first??? Do as before but use the knife hand strike to the neck as a knife hand Block against his 2nd punch if you are too slow With Your Counter attack.

Now this is only one Application there are a multitude of other out there. This one Works brilliantly for me but might not be everyones cup of tea. I understand that and respect it. But the problem still stands, if you disregard the altered Taekwondo techniques in favour of the "unaltered" Karate techniques in Your quest for practical Applications you will miss out on a lot of valuable material!

(Trivia: The Taekwondo Block was actually used by early Shotokan Karate, and very simular techniques can be found in other styles. If I am not mistaken there is a very simular technique in Tai Chi as well)

3rd part:(Micro post)  Reasons why Taekwondo techniques might be different:

Taekwondo does not only come from Shotokan Karate as many People say. Especially the Kukki style Taekwondo is a result of many different styles coming together to form one New martial art. The knowledge base of these pioners strethced from Karate (Shotokan, Shudokan, Shito Ryu) to Chinese Martial Arts (Tai Chi and others), to grappling arts (most notably Judo/Yudo), western arts (most notably Boxing), to native Korean techniques and arts. The techniques of Taekwondo might therefore not be the same as their "typical" Karate counterparts because of this, it might also be the case that one particular Application have been stressed to the point where the basic technique were changed from the original to facilitate this particular Application. The pioneers of Taekwondo had a broad knowledge base so it would be wrong for us today to dismiss everything because Karate does it differently. An healthy sceptisism is always good however because Taekwondo was formed by humans, but it has a very good track record so we should not throw the baby out With the bathwater before researching "why" the technique is different.
There are other "changes" in the basic techniques of Kukki Taekwondo too that seperates main stream Karate techniques from the Taekwondo techniques. I shall try to Write more about them in the future to show that Taekwondo is not doing Karate techniques "wrong" it is in fact doing Taekwondo techniques "right" :-)


  1. I am very happy to discover your post as it will become on top in my collection of favorite blogs to visit.

  2. That haymaker defense is very similar to what I teach to my students, even though our version looks a little different than the normal taekwondo version. Good stuff. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi there Gretchen. No problem with the sharing. After all sharing is caring :-) (have you ever submitted a question for Iain' s podcasts? I just read your name in his voice :-P )

  3. Hello Oerjan, thanks for this. I'm a TSD stylist and currently my org uses a yet different chamber, with the rear arm thrown straight back, as opposed to 90 degrees. I've seen other TKD stylists use this chamber too.

    I'm wondering if you have any insight on who uses which chamber and when they were created.

    Thanks in advance.

    1. First: Thank you for commenting:-)

      I first learned this chamber as well. My teacher comes from Ji Do Kwan, so there might be several Kwan that did this chamber.

      My application for this chamber was to use it as a hip throw/ hip trip :-) You strike the opponent and as he is dazed you grab him with both arms (the chamber), turn 180 degrees and do the "block" to throw/trip them depending on if you bendt over or stayed relatively upright during the turn.

      As to who developed it? I have no idea. I do think it is a Korean thing as I have not seen it anywhere else, but me not seeing it anywhere else does not exclude the possibility that it does exist in other styles that I don't know about.

      My personal guess is that this chamber is an exaggerated version of the taekwondo chamber I describe in this post. Again that is my personal "guess" and it should not be taken as cold hard fact:-)