Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Practical Application from Poomsae Jitae

I highly doubt that many who knows this Poomsae will ever read this post as it is one of the higher black belt Poomsae in the Kukkiwon system, but there might be some use to read it either way. We will look at something unique in Kukkiwon terms but which also appears in Karate "Kata", older
Taekwondo "Hyung" as well as in alternative forms sets (my teacher uses the same sequence of moves in his soak am ryu forms). It is a sequence consisting of a simple kick-punch combination but if you look a little closer at it you will notice something strange about it. If I have your attention now please read on:-)

First here is the Poomsae in question:

The sequence is subtle and happens around 47-48 seconds into the clip. A right front kick is thrown with the back leg, put back to where it was and as it lands a two punch combo is done to the midsection. The right foot kicks and the right hand strikes first.

Many interpret this as it seems to be on the surface, you kick your opponent and punch him twice for good measure. In Taekwondo the breaking down of forms (Boonhae) to analyse them (Boonseok) to find practical applications (eungyoung) is not often done. If it was the serious flaw of this sequence as a purely "striking sequence" would stand out at once.

You see there are a few criteria that a "good" strike should have. On the top of my head (there might be more) some of them should be:
  1. Suitable striking tool
  2. Aimed at a vital point
  3. Good balance during excecution
  4. Body weight behind it
  5. Good structural alignment to maximize the delivering of force into the target.
As I said this is just a short list. On the surface the straight forward application being a front kick followed by two punches seems good. After all you can "check" 1, 2, 3 and possibly 5 (if the performance is good) on the list above but number 4 is so important that you would not generate any power whatsoever in the punches. And to be frank you would be out of range as well if you believe the kick contacts the target at 90% excecution.

A simple test is to kick the wall with a front kick that makes contact at about 90% extension then move the kicking leg back into long front stance and punch with your back arm. If you use the movement as in the Poomsae (the correct length of a long front walking stance, and not leaning into the punches) you should be well out of range for the punches to land. Also the power generation is off. Should you be able to land the punch after the kick Your body weight is traveling backwards in the opposite direction of where you want the power to go (into the target) so what little force you can muster is actually only your arm with no body weight behind it.

Another application to this sequence is more grappling oriented and removes many of the flaws of the surface application. It is a simple sweep/push with a back up punch if the sweep/push does not work. I am not saying this is the only or correct application every move in Poomsae will have a multitude of meanings and how you break down the Poomsae(Boonhae) will have serious consequenses on what you find during your analysis (Boonseok) which again will affect the applications you will find (Eungyoung).

Above you will see the purely grappling orientated version of the application I am thinking of. you can also see below for a more reality based version that is closer to the Poomsae form.

The difference between them is that the Judo version you follow the opponent to the ground, while the millitary version that is closer to the Poomsae form takes into account that the opponent may strike back as well as the fact that you do not want to go to the ground. The same technique used in two very different environments. If you look at the right hand in the millitary clip you will see that he pushes the opponent as he is sweeping or reaping the leg. This is the front kick put it back and first punch. In this application the range is correct and each movement is done logically and follows the form. The second punch in the form is simply a back up if the reap fails or the situation changes making a quick strike favorable. It might be a little unorthodox to view the application of the front kick being in the retreaction of the leg and not the kick itself (extension) but this is how Poomsae works as a mnemonic and viewing them from a movement perspective instead of a technique perspective is the reason why the old masters of the orient could get by with fewer forms (sometimes as little as just one). This contrasts the situation today where a 1st degree black belt "knows" maybe 8-10 forms depending on the system. 1-5 forms is more than enough for self defense if you look at them not as a collection of basic techniques thrown together but as purely movements that can be used any number of ways.

I did hint earlier that the way you break down the form changes the application(s) you will find. What happens if we take the previous movement into the sequence making it a low knife hand block in back stance, front kick putting the leg back into long front walking stance and punch twice? (look at the opening clip 46 seconds to 48 seconds).

Well I have not tried it out yet but a common simple alternative application with historical basis (as in Gichin Funakoshi himself demonstrated it) to a low block is a straight armbar or arm lock. You can say what you want about the forms applications being new and not based in history and that I am making things up (application-wise I am usually making them up) but using a low block as a straight armbar is very much correct historicly speaking. Anyway; you do a straight armbar, kick the opponent at a suitable target (could be to the legs, torso or even the head), putting your foot back to regain a secure base which to deliver the two strikes with might be a good tactic depending on the situation and range to the opponent and the environment (cramped space for instance).

Note how the emphasis has changed between the first application being a much more grappling oriented one to the 2nd one where the emphasis is on striking and the armbar is just to position the opponent for the strikes. Both sequences contain grappling and strikes together (the first one as a back up, the second one as a finisher), and both make use of simple grappling movements to position the opponent for finishing strikes (first one implied as the opponent is lying and you are standing but
you should really flee if possible, the second one is obvious in it use of the armbar to secure and position the opponent for strikes). While grappling is included in both applications they are very simple, they are taught within traditional Taekwondo (seriously if you never encounter these techniques in training you should seak another Dojang if you want the martial art. If you want sport then ok you do not need these techniques, and both are viable ways of practising Taekwondo) and they are very very effective.

Both the alternative applications I have provided in this post solves the problems or flaw of the surface application. Now if you do not practise Jitae Poomsae you might encounter this sequence in other form sets. I do not know if it occurs in Palgwe form set or the Chang Hon Form sets, but I do know that there are older Hyung (forms) that do make use of similar sequences.

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  1. wow!! that o soto gari application is very simple and quite effective (on a hard floor)

    will try it today for sure!!

    thank you :)

    1. Thanks for your comment and I am glad you liked it. The right hand can push the face on the way down making the application even nastier.. In training on a hard floor my Dojang usually push the shoulder then grab it and help brace the fall of the partner you train with. Remember to take good care of your training partners:-)

    2. yes sir,
      i took necessary precaution..
      it was a great experience..

      but today something special happened
      my martial art training was put to test today for the first time outside dojang

    3. I do hope you are both safe and unharmed Amrullah. I am glad you liked the application though.

    4. yes sir.. by God's grace, i am safe..

      whilst on my way to home from dojang, a mad-man suddenly hit me with his knee for no reason

      thanks to my nokia phone :D (which took the damage on my behalf)

      ( i always used to jokingly tell my friends "respect nokia, its not just a phone, its a weapon of self defense" )

      my instructor occasionally conducts mock street-fighting sessions (usually 3 against 1) the aim of these sessions is to take out fear of fighting (rather than excelling in fighting against 3 people)
      and this has helped me reduce my fear of fighting to some extent..

      i gave a turning back kick to that psychopath only to see him laughing.. so i left the scene

      it was unwise of me for not being aware of my surroundings, which would have helped me avoid a knee strike (which was aimed dangerously near to groin, luckily my phone in right pocket took the impact)

    5. Glad to hear you managed to do a tactical retreat:-)

  2. Hello
    fun to look at anothers apps for a form i am trying to memorize. haven't gotten to the analysis yet. i think that your essential insight is correct. in fact i used to teach students to practice unorthodox "returns" when doing kicks. especially side kick as i felt it was the most amenable to trips, sweeps, and throws. the "kick" was the least important part. i think i even published an app from Koryo that used the kick as part of a throw.

    with respect to Funakoshis' photos, while illustrative of your discussion, they have to be looked at with caution. some of those moves are modified from their original purpose. the double "bull block" shown in the right photo can be used as he demonstrates, it also masks the potentially lethal application. similar move in Yang style Tai Chi-- "boxing the ears". of course, it has nothing to do with ears.

    by the way- i am watching the Olympics as i write this. those snowboard guys must be on drugs. how else can they work up the nerve to do that crazy stuff!

    1. Hi RIchard:-) Yes you did publish a throwing app for Koryo`s side kick and you also put it on your blog:-) (Hope it is ok I link it here).

      I was only supposed to show the arm lock application from Funakoshi on the left but both pictures were one picture:-( For those interested the picture on the left shows Funakoshi an armbar and he states it is one of the applications for Naihanchi or Empi Kata (both containing low blocks and both being labeled a low block today). On the right he demonstrates "Muchimi" or "Sticking". It is not the whole application though. He uproots his opponent and lead their arms up and out, then he moves in and throws them by grapping both legs (a tackle type throw). Together like that the Funakoshi app is great, but take only the first movement in isolation and you will have to find another more effective app (as you have:-) )

      It is a great example on how the breaking down of forms in different sequences yelds very different results:-)

  3. i curious regarding that 'bull block',

    what would be more effective?

    striking ears with fists or slapping ears with cupped hands?

    1. I am sure Richard will provide a better answer than me on the actuall application he is thinking of, but if you re-read his comment you will see that it has nothing to do with the ears. It is simply a name of the technique or posture in the Yang Style Tai Chi form. It describes the movement since when you are alone you seem to be striking the opponents ears:-)

      Now to the question you have what would be more effective to be striking the ears fists or cupped hands my answer would be cupped hands.

  4. hello
    i generally don't like to delve too much into dangerous techniques in open forums, but i don't like to water stuff down as that goes on way too much and does students a disservice. the technique is a temple strike. here are some examples:

    the secret is in the way that the hands position themselves during the strike. none of that is shown (or known) in the video examples. Funakoshi is demonstrating the sequence from Basai/Balsek but gives an alternate explanation

    1. Thanks for making an exception for us Richard:-)

  5. I find the armbar (joint lock) application more plausible than the grappling one from Judo. I just dont think the Koreans had a sweep in mind with the back stance and front kick. I really think the one you showed with Funikoshi is more plauisible and more like the movement of the poomsae.
    I am only 3rd dan but I know all poomsae up to Hansu because I learned them on my own off of videos. Why wait to learn forms? I dont see a point. Learn them now and master them now when you are young.

    1. I am very glad that you found one of the Applications I provided useful:-) Two People will never truly agree what the best possible way of applying the Poomsae would be anyway because People will have different needs, strengths and weaknesses. I personally like the self defense Version of the Judo sweep (very Close to the military style demonstrated above) but that is me:-) What the Koreans who made the form knew or thought is not easy to say. I will not say that they thought one way or another, but early Taekwondo had a strong Judo link, and the sweep has been taught typecally in many Dojang as a self defense technique.

      Thanks for commenting:-)