Tuesday, 10 June 2014

(Part 1) Applying Eulgeul Makki

I recently had a discussion going on wether "deep" Applications can be found in the KTA Poomsae (Taegeuk/Black belt Poomsae) or if it was impossible to find them because they were never meant to be there. This is a discussion I have had time and time again. I use my forms as a fundemental part of "my" Taekwondo and everything I do when it comes to Taekwondo and the martial arts are found within Poomsae. So for me practising Poomsae empty performance will make me better at all Things Taekwondo since my mental intent is different to those who practice for movement education, Block,
kick punch Applications, etc. After debating the historical facts for a long time (we agreed upon most Things but interpreted them differently) I said this (which the other party did not have a good Counter argument for):

"All Poomsae consists of roughly the same building Blocks as Karate Kata. We agree that Karate Kata had practical Applications. We are both fans of the excellent work that Iain Abernethy, Vince Morris, Patric Mcarthy, Jesse Enkamp and others has put forth on Karate Kata. They all say that each technique in Kata can be several Things however. So each basic technique has several different Applications. Making New forms out of the same building Blocks would therefore be like playing Scrabble With only the white pieces (the ones without letters). They can be any letter you want so eventhough there are New unique sequences in KTA Poomsae that are not found within Karate Kata we can still make Words and sentences With them."

Now after letting this linger in my brain for a few days I thought that I could see if I could prove that basic techniques has different Applications by choosing some of the more frequent techniques and seeing if we can apply them against different attacks and different situations.  For the first post in this series I would like to look closer on the most common way of applying the high Block/ face Block / eoulgeul makki as a Block/ deflection using mainly the primary movement of the technique. Below you can see the Kukkiwon standard on how to excecute the technique in question (This Clip will follow each post of the series and each Application I will provide will have its basis in this way of doing the technique):
Look at the performers left arm as that is the "primary" movement I will be looking at in this post.

I have previously said that simple single handed "Blocks" like low Block, middle Block and high Block can be used as defensive techniques pretty much as in normal mainstream Application. Note that I say pretty much and not "as is". Boxers (bare knuckle boxers at least), old School Karate, Myu Thai Boran, and pretty much all civillian self defense arts have used the high section Block as part of their arsenal. Not excactly like the big movement that you see in traditional main stream taekwondo Application but it is there if you know where to look. The old School Application of the high section Block is also in Our forms:-)

Before we look at how we should apply the high section Block as a Block lets look at the starting point that traditional Taekwondo gives you:

This is Shotokan Karate but it is the only video I could find that showcases the high section Block mainstream Application in somewhat correct distance (still to far away but the Taekwondo Clips I could find were shockingly bad).

Here you see a straight punch aimed at a point just below the nose. The defender steps back and do a high section Block, redirecting the punch above his head. The first high section Block actually has a few good Points:
  • Arms are low to start With so Block starts roughly from where you allready have Your hands (little chambering)
  • Defender drops into long front stance which allready puts him almost out of the way of the attack
  • body moves Down and Block moves up making an efficient use of the deflection that helps applying the technique as a Block
Now on step 2 and 3 these positive notes no longer apply. But as starting Points go this is not a hopeless Place to start, just make sure you are not stuck here like the white belts when you are a black belt.

So what are the weak Points?:
  1. Chambering takes too long
  2. Other hand at the hip little safety in motion
  3. Other hand moves With no function
  4. (on step 2 and 3) no body evasion except backwards.
  5. Moving backwards is not the best strategy in self defense and combat
  6. Attack is stylistic Karate straight punch
  7. (Please comment if you find more)
 So how can we apply it better than the starting point? Simple:
  1. Remove chambering and simply Block from wherever Your hand is
  2. Keep other hand up to protect yourself. In front of solar plexus or better yet at Your chin.
  3. Other hand ready to attack or defend
  4. Use body evasion and either move forward in a straight line or 45 degrees. Start from a high stance move into a deeper stance this will drop Your head and aid the deflection.
  5. Consider changing the attack to a Wild haymaker. This will make the end position of the Block more relevant as the beding of the arm Ensures better coverage of Your head if Your timing is off. Better redundancy.
So the real life Application of the Block consists of a relativly small movement and uses one arm where the other is redy to attack or defend. The best way to intercept a circular attack is to move inside it as moving outside will make you move straight into it if you miss calculate the evasion. Moving inside also buys you time.

So where on Earth can you see this used in Our forms without the stylistic Chamber and the hand at the hip? What about Jitae? Here against a right handed haymaker he moves forward inside the attack and deflect it while simultanious Counter attacking With his left arm!

You also see a similar defense in Chonkwon Poomsae. The side punch might not actually be a side punch but rather part of a nifty easy takedown along With the stance.

How about Taebaek Poomsae where you have Keumgang Momtong Makki? Could not find a video of the technique but it can be seen here at 25 Seconds in.

Here he moves in, deflects the haymaker and gives the attacker an upper cut punch as a reward:-)

So should we stop practising the big movement labelled high Block and its basic Application? No I do not think so. Each to their own, but I feel that there is merit in keeping the basic Application and that I learn transferrable skills by doing that. Should you at higher ranks start practising the way I show above? Yes undoubtfully. The problem is that this is simething few People do as they are content at staying in color belt land their entire career.

By the way here is the Picture of the technique if you do not get youtube to work:

Click here for part 2 where I will look at Eulgul makki as a wrist hold release

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  1. I mean no disrespect, but I think you are incorrect in your argument. Although the techniques in TKD poomsae come from karate kata, this does not mean that the applications follow. In kata, individual movements are not important, nor do they contain the applications. It is the sequences that contain the application. The way I look at kata/poomsae is like a sentence. In a sentence, words are specifically placed where they are in order for the statement to make sense and transmit a meaning. Without the words being in their specific order, the sentence simply becomes jibberish. In poomsae, even though the same words (techniques) are used, they are not in the same order, and therefore, the meaning behind the sentence is lost.

    1. This is perhaps oversimplification (albeit for my own clarity) of your response but when I read the quoted paragraph I got this as its meaning:

      "Application": arranging of any letters (techniques) in a sequence to make sense (principle).

      Where is that I think you believe this:

      "licationApp": arrangement of letters (or techniques) don't necessarily make sense.

      I believe the first was implied but I agree that you can't string techniques without thought. The problem that I see with this is that since meaning hasn't been properly passed down, multiple possibilities exist. I believe Bunkai proponents do their best to figure out sequence length, but even they cannot be certain. There could be a sequence of length 2 that makes no sense if you attach 2 more moves to it. Though I admit this is probably harder to confuse based on all the literature available nowadays.

      Hope my response made sense.

    2. What Starfish said:-) I believe that for advanced students the knowledge was passed down (But I do understand that I am a tiny minority in believing this and that there will be no concrete evidence of this). I also believe that if each basic technique have multiple applications then stringing together 2-4 techniques and making sense of the sequence will be a matter of finding the application for each technque that fits with the other techniques in a sequence. In this series I want to show that the high block can be applied any number of ways. Then only thing that needs to be done for a poomsae application will therefore be to find a proper and logical follow up or something that came before it. As for applications from Karate Kata making it through into Taekwondo Poomsae I do not believe that the same applications apply where the makers of Poomsae made new sequences, but if they understood the techniques then maybe they made new sequences to demonstrate the same principles as the art they studdied? The underlying principle of an application can be demonstrated in a wide variety of ways.

    3. I often go back and compare the Pinan set with the Palgwe as a bridge in terms of Karate Kata applications making it into TKD. When I read that others were doing this I knew I was onto something. I also tend to compare some of the techniques in the Black Belt set with the Palgwe and Pinan sets because they are far too similar to ignore. It is a great exercise and has lead to some interesting applications.

      In one instance, the High Block sequence in Taebaek (demonstrated in this article) can apply as punch/block & grab/ into armlock. If the armlock fails I can punch/kick/elbow. I could probably use the side kick as a throw, though I don't know if I would turn the last part into a arm lock or elbow. This is using a sequence from Pinan 2 (could be wrong, might be 1) and was demonstrated by Abernethy very similarly and modified with the principles he's put forth during ongoing tests.

    4. Thanks for sharing Your process of using Karate Kata Application as a help in Your own search for combative meaning in the Taekwondo Poomsae:-)

  2. Also, I mean no disrespect to you at all. Your blog is excellent and I have learned a lot from your posts. I too am a traditionalist and it is great to see that there are people who train TKD the way you do.

    1. No disrespect was perceived:-) I find comments to be very good thing for the blog and comments makes me more motivated to write more:-)

  3. As this post covers Eulgul makki in the sense of a block or deflection, my response will be geared towards that end. I also believe that the differences in the Eulgul makki contain different knowledge but that is for later.

    Both of my Masters' approach to Eulgul makki was a "block from a high section attack". This includes Axe Kicks, Arcing Knife strikes and even Haymakers. The Shotokan video is not indicative of my personal studies in TKD.

    In both my Masters Ho Shin Sul sets, all students are exposed to the concept of "Striking and Blocking at the same time". This mirrors the more advanced application summarized in the Black Belt patterns and I believe once in Sa Jang with the Knife Eulgul makki and Knife Strike. This discrepancy could also be explained away as I believe the Taeguek set is newer than the Black Belt set (which came with the Palgwe set) and reworked to increasing difficulty and different techniques.

    An example of Eulgul makki being used in tandem with a Front Kick or Stomp Kick is posited in fighting literature in the Book "The Marial Arts of Ancient Greece" by Dervenis and Lykiardopoulos (Page 39 and Page 41). The paragraph on Page 39 talks about the high block and the application on page 42 shows it. This now sticks out to me after just finishing Higaki's "Hidden Karate" where he describes blocking and attacking at the same time as being "true Karate".

    Higaki also asserts that some moves need to be peformed in one count as opposed to 2 counts for a proper Bunkai. If this is the case I can possibly see the Eulgul makki in Il Jang as a 1) block followed with the front kick and punch or 2) Block followed by the front kick as a lead into a reaping throw with assistance from the punch.

    1. I do not have the higaki book but his principles are listed in "Ramblings from a 10 square hut" (might not be the correct title though as it is from memory) and I find his principles very interesting. I remember reading them and thinking that it seemed as if he was taking the thoughts of Funakoshi, Motobu and Mabuni together in many cases. Striking and blocking at the same time is something my teachers also have stressed in the Ho Sin Sul and 1 step sparring practise. What I did forgot to write though was that you might want to extend the blocking arm further away from your head than what is done in basic technique when applying it strictly as a block or a deflection.

    2. Higaki's book touched on 3 instructions that I really liked:

      1) Cross Stance could also mean to go behind or turn around (joint attack) while vertical. I always thought it could be used horizontally as a Rear Naked Choke or Arm Bar or Half Guard, etc.

      2) The "switch step" concept.

      3) The idea to combine moves into 1 count. - Related to #2 but I don't think I have had it pointed out in literature so obviously before.

      I also appreciate his assertion that Bunkai was purposefully obfuscated by Funakoshi and his peers.

      Distance from head is important for the High Block as is the Angle. We are instructed to ensure it is at approximately a 45 degree angle in order to have the attack slide off the forearm to reduce any damage to the bone. I also think having it slide could help us maneuver the opponents limb in a better location for a follow up.

    3. If they are republished I will get them both, but these days the prices for his two books has gone trough the roof:-s

  4. hello
    a couple of comments: 1. the concept of kata as stringing together complete apps is a very tenuous one. while many contain useful sequences, as a whole i don't think that they do. Patrick McCarthy once referred to Pinan one as "very useful fighting techniques strung together in a highly improbable way". i know chinese forms that stet with simpler sequences and move to more complex ones towards the end.
    2. i usually suggest (as it was to me) that you take sections of a form and put them together in a different order and see what you can make of it. if a form is a b c d, you go ad, ba, ca, db, etc. sort of like you word analogy.
    3.often in modern usage the "blocks" are termed defensive but are taught as offensive. here there is no exception. the 45 degree up and out sweep is not to keep things off your head (it's not really that good at it) it is to strike with the forearm or hand to such targets as ST5 (hey oerjan here it is again) or ST9, LI16 and so forth. all of which are good targets. the actual "defensive" app of the same "high block" rises almost vertically to contact the downward strike and then pronates the hand to allow the strike to slide off the arm. if done correctly you do not feel a hard impact. it is almost as if you oiled up your arm and he just slid off.
    4. lastly do not discount the double block position that you see in Taebek (as i have been writing the apps for it) the idea that it functioning as a high/middle block simultaneously is not really true. what the upper hand does do is contribute much power to the lower block. i know it sounds crazy but try it your self. stand in that position and have a partner test the integrity of you block. now drop the upper hand and discover how much weaker your block has become! the upper hand changes the angle and tightens the back muscles. the same phenomena can be felt with other positions as well.
    wow! i am sorry, i didn't realize that i was blabbing on and on. will be shorter next time.

    1. Been on vacation so did not have that much time on the internet lately (this is me saying sorry for taking so long time to answer:-) )

      1: I think that each technique in a form is a stand alone Application, but I also think that a few of them should flow into each other logically for the form to be truly mnemonic. I am not saying that each technique has one Application that flows into the NeXT technique untill the form is finished from a-z but that a few techniques should be be able to follow logically in different sequences. In my Research a sequence is rarely more than 3 basic techniques though.

      2: I also do this and it is in my opinion a viable Method also. They are not excluding each other either. In Bill Burgars 5 years one kata book he has one primary Application and then a links this to other Applications in the same form as Natural follow ups or Natural "do this if this or that goes wrong". This way he managed to make a pretty decent Complete self defense syllabus out of one single form (Gojushiho).

      3: Interesting thoughts Richard and thanks for sharing:-) The striking (offensive Applications will follow later in the series though)

      4: I will have to try this out, but if it does indeed offer better structure of the "middle Block arm" is it still tactical sound to be in this position in a fight? The way I presented the technique from Taebaek as a deflection of a curved punch to Your head while countering With an uppercut is something I have seen from old style bare knuckle boxing and muy thai boran etc, and I believe I saw something similar demonstrated by Iain Abernethy too (as an Application from the same technique in the Pyung Ahn forms set).

      As always thanks for taking Your time to comment Richard:-)