Thursday, 20 February 2014

Myths: All blocks are blocks! (Not) and more.


This is going to be a relativly short post but it will deal with three Taekwondo "myths". All of the myths are being propogated by many people and even by relativly higher Dan grades too. It is time to put an end to these myths so this post will adress it and hopefully put it to rest. I will use an example from the Kukkiwon Textbook as my main argument against the myths as it is difficult to say that the Kukkiwon Textbook is wrong for the propogators of the myths.

Image Source: Kukkiwon Textbook

Is a "block" always a "block"? If you have not read them allready I reccomend that you read the following posts. Just skim through them and see where I am comming from. The three posts are:

Now on to the three widely accepted myths:
  1. Taekwondo blocks (makki) are always static hard blocks like you allways see in the pictures of textbooks. 
  2. The double blocks are against multiple opponents.
  3. There is no grappling techniques in Taekwondo Poomsae
Now the block I am thinking about is from Pyungwon Poomsae and is the "mythical" Hecho Santeul Makki (Spreading Mountaing block). The block can be seen below:

Now this is a typical "unrealistic" move where you block two opponents attacking you at the same time right? Even in the video clip above it is hinted that you block an attack at your face. I think that a regular textbook mainstream application to the movement would be something like this:

Mainstream application to the technique
But if you check out the example of application to this technique in the Kukkiwon Textbooks Poomsae chapter on Poomsae Pyongwon you will see this instead:
Image source: Kukkiwon Textbook page 504
The text might be difficult to see because the picture quality is low but Kukkiwon Textbook states: "Application of action 11-1: Inflicting the opponents arm with hecho santeulmakki". 

A few things of note here:
  • Application is against only one person!
  • "Makki" is not used as a "block" 
  • The movement from Poomsae in this case is used as a grappling move. 
  • The attack is not a typical "Taekwondo attack".
The Kukkiwon Textbook provide few examples from each Poomsae and it states in the training of Poomsae chapter that the goal is for us as practisioners to find out the practical meanings of Poomsae and how to use it and develop our own self style based on our experiences, strengths and weaknesses. There is a lot of mainstream applications in it as well but in this example they show a lot of interesting principles you can take with you when searching for combative meaning in Poomsae. I am not saying this is the best possible applicaiton for the movement. I choose this exact application from this exact source because the people propogating the myth often claim to just follow the Kukkiwon teachings not realising that they really are not. 

So after reading all this I have a few question to you:
  • Is there really no grappling within Taekwondo Poomsae?
  • Are "blocks" (Makki) allways "blocks"?
  • Are "double blocks" allways against two different opponents?
If you went in saying yes to all three questions, but leave thinking it is not so clear cut then this has been a good post:-)

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  1. After viewing Funakoshi's "Yari Dama", I've not looked at the "Mountain Block followed by an Uppercut" sequence in Pal Jang the same. It may not be the "right" application, but I can see the first part as an interception of the fist and hit to the groin and the second part as a grabbing of the head and lifting from the lower leg tossing the opponent behind you in a circular motion.

    1. Interesting. Which edition and what book are you looking at and what page number?:-)

    2. Unfortunately I am only starting my practical book collection and the best visual resource I have at this time for the throws would be:

      In throw #6 it is demonstrated as grabbing the wrist lifting of the leg, but I would propose there is nothing stopping you from grabbing the back of the head based off proximity to your attacker.

      I'm sure you are familiar with Pal Jang but for reference at clip:

      Not sure what book is being referenced as I am ignorant of a lot of the Karate literature and learned about people like Iain Abernethy and Simon John O'Neill very recently. What little I know is more of what and how I was taught it and how I have explored the practicality with other people.

    3. Thanks for the link. I have the book of Funakoshi where these pictures are from. I have often thought that I should feature them here like Jesse has done on his blog. Never seen the We Santeul Makki (The double block from Pal Jang) link before though. Thanks:-)

    4. You're welcome. I like that video series because it demonstrates most of the techniques clearly, despite being older in execution.

      Is the book pictured the "Karate Do Kyohan"? If the images support or clarify explanations and are public domain, they would be great tools to use on your blog.

    5. I can't believe this topic is still on my mind. Regarding the We Santeul Makki movement I can also see the movement possibly as a Kata Guruma. Plenty of youtube clips for reference on this one, but it wouldn't surprize me if you could get in close and throw your opponent over your shoulders. I just love how the movements make me connect and think of new possibilities.

    6. The gross mechanics of We Santeul Makki are the same, but the Chamber is different (at least I think so). I would label Kata Garuma as a (valuable) variation Application, or a so called Byonhwan Eungyoung to We Santeul Makki. Not a Direct Application but a variation on the movement. Thanks for pointing it out Starfish and please keep em comming if you find more:-) Much appreciated:-)

  2. Unfortunately page 523 of that same text reinforces the old myth. :-(

    1. They cant all be great, or this blog would not need the whole "practical applications from poomsae" posts I keep writing:p

  3. hello
    i have worked on "mountain blocks" before. i have a you tube on them as part of Keumgang discussion. couple of points: 1. the nine throws of Funakoshi have an excellent breakdown and discussion by Sensei Tony Anessi and a video of them all is available from him.
    2. the throws in that edition of Kyohan are much later than the 1922 editions and some of the apps have been changed to fit the later "Japanized" type of karate that he was developing. as noted before they were modified to fit the Dai Nippon Budokukai requirements (that alone is very interesting historically to see how the Japanese themselves modified the art, much baggage of that remains with us today).
    3. double blocks are almost never blocks, and they are NEVER against two people. these are modern, perhaps fantasies is too strong a word, attempts at interpretation of movements that seem inexplicable. take a look at arts that are explicitly designed for multiple attackers (ex. Baqua), the dynamic is footwork, and constant preservation of momentum (great tkd discussion right there--how we look at postural end points and forget that principle), not trying to stop kicks and punches simultaneously.

    history does make a difference!

    1. I have the 1922 edition I think:-) I will look more into it when I get the other Project out of the way:-) Wholeheartedly agree With Your point 3:-) Thanks for taking Your time to comment:-)

    2. Regarding point #3, the most recent example I found of a book in my local store that showed the We Santeul Makki as a strike to the head and face of 2 attackers standing beside you (and I think the person using it was looking forward towards the reader). m I'm open to a lot of ideas as part of my MA exploration but I still find it questionable.

    3. Hi Starfish, I see know why I did not clearly see the kata garuma Application in we santeul makki. You are actually describing Hecho santeul makki in that one and Santeul makki in this one (i think). "Santeul Makki" is used in Keumgang Poomsae, Hecho Santeul Makki is used in Pyungwon Poomsae (both have both arms at head height but the excecution is different) and We santeul makki is seen in Paljang (one high and one low). Using the Blocks as strikes is better than the two Blocks from different directions though. Bot not much better:-)

  4. Hello
    once again that series of simultaneous "high and low blocks" are not that at all. if you think about it strikes to the rear followed by nothing make no sense at all. your weakest blow somehow immobilizes the person behind you, but you must follow up with the person in front of you? there are other applications for this move. the slickest i have come across is using it as a throw: step behind- low block forces opponent over extended leg (not by twisting!) upper hand blocks the only counter to the move. Gotta look beyond the seemingly obvious.

  5. Great post and that is exatly the kind of things I teach with my White Dragon Dojang Martial Arts Training Program as I teach Kukkiwon Taekwondo.
    check that out people.

    1. Yeah, the blog "whitedragondojang" contain a lot of good thought provocing posts:-)

  6. Excellent! When I saw this in the Textbook I was thrilled that it is an "official" way of analyzing and applying poomsae. For a long time I've believed in applying the "spirit" of the technique. What I mean to say, using the body mechanics to pull off a technique, but not necessarily the technique that everyone thinks it should be. For instance, the base movement of the mountain block comes up under the arms and locks them.

    Sweet article!

    1. Thanks:-) If you look in the "Training of Poomsae" in the Kukkiwon Textbook the 5 steps of Poomsae training will be listed. Step 1 and 2 is about Learning and perfecting the form, while step 3-5 is analyse, practise and master the practical Applications of the form and making Taekwondo "Your" art and not somebody elses.