Sunday, 18 January 2015

Back to the Source(s) Part 1; Throws in Taekwondo?

One purpose of this blog was and still is to bust "myths" about Taekwondo that has been propogated as fact for so long that they have become "common knowledge" and indeed are accepted as "fact". Quick tell me: How many times have you read or heard or even said it yourself perhaps that
"Taekwondo does not have any grappling", "Taekwondo does not have throws/trips/take downs" etc? If you are not one of those who say and write it I can guarantee that you have been reading all about it for several years. Not to mention the "fact" that "those who practise grappling/throws/trips etc in Taekwondo these days only do so as a direct influence of the UFC and MMA". I have repeatedly stated that Taekwondo can be (and still is some places) practised as a martial art first and a sport second (while the general mainstream seems to be all about sport). For those who do practise Taekwondo as an holistic martial art throws, trips, pressure against joints etc have allways been part of the studdies. Its not Hapkido/Judo/Aikido in Taekwondo it is simply "Taekwondo Taekwondo":-)

I for one have grown tired of seeing my beloved art being "dumbed down" and "simplified" into a pure kick block punch system or even worse; a kick and dodge system as it is often seen. I have also had my share of people asking me if I can show them the 720 degrees jump spinning kick that "everyone who practise Taekwondo can do". Taekwondo today is often practised as a childrens martial sport instead of a grown ups self defense/ personal development martial art that it used to be. Can it be enjoyed as a childrens sport and as a grown up version and can they co-exist? Yeah of course they can. Its just that most of the money lies within teaching the childrens martial arts instead of the grown up version or even worse, the childrens martial art disguised as the grown up version. The lack of knowledge by instructors who starts to teach too soon without a solid understanding of the art, or who stikes out on their own without anyone to guide them (a teacher, master, grandmaster, anything) must also take their blame in this. Or even instructors knowing full well that throws are part of the system but dont teach it because they dont know them themselves and fail to take action to learn them.

So did Taekwondo contain throws before 1990s when the MMA and UFC craze began? Yes Taekwondo did contain them and here is proof from way back in 1965 when the MMA and UFC was not even thought of yet:

As you can see above the quote and pictures are from Choi Hong Hi`s 1965 book on "Tae Kwon Do". This predates the Kukkiwon, WTF and the ITF. At that time Taekwondo was simply Taekwondo and eventhough it does contain the "Chang Hon Hyung" (Choi`s forms) it also contains the Karate Kata that was widely practised at the time, making this a functional textbook for all KMA stylists of the era. I especially like the beginning of the quote where he says falling techniques are more important than the throws because that is so true on so many levels. Most of us will luckily never have to use what we study for self defense, but most of us will at some point in our lives fall, and breakfalling techniques will save you. It has saved me twice allready in my life and I am still "young". Also if you practise a martial system that makes use of high kicks you will also fall down sooner or later because of a mistake in timing or that you are swept down by the opponent. And then there is the safety issue, you can not practise throws if you can not fall correctly making falling techniques more fundemental than the actual throws.
So this is 1965 but what about other Kwan (plural)? Do we have earlier sources that demonstates throws and trips etc? How about a picture from Hwang Kee`s textbook from 1958?
Is 1958 classic and early enough for you?:-P Moo Duk Kwan is an important Kwan in Kukkiwon`s lineage as there was a lot of people from this Kwan that left the Soo Bahk Do movement to join the Korean Taekwondo Association. These  people would have studdied this textbook and they would train these kinds of techniques because it was a part of the overall system. Kukkiwon is a little special in the sense that it was founded as a "synthesis system" of all the Kwan at the time. Therefore the Oh Do Kwan (often seen as the forerunner to the ITF), Moo Duk Kwan (often seen as the forerunner to Tang Soo Do/ Soo Bahk Do) and the rest of the schools at the time (Chung Do Kwan, Song Moo Kwan, Ji Do Kwan etc) are a part of what we as Kukki Taekwondo students practise even today. We do not generally practise the same forms (unless you are a lucky student to have a master who kept the old forms along with the new ones) but the forms we do practise (The Taegeuk and Black Belt forms) were made by representatives from all the schools.

Note that I am not saying that Taekwondo had a well defined grappling syllabus that could compete with Judo or any other dedicated grappling arts, but I do say (and so does the sources) that simple trips, throws and take downs along with break falling techniques were and still is a part of the overall system. If you are practising throws as part of your training you are not doing "not Taekwondo" but in fact you are indeed doing "Taekwondo Taekwondo", and if you are not practising throws as part of your overall art I just got to ask you: "Why not?"

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  1. I've mentioned this before and I will mention it again for those who don't know: GM Chun's TKD textbook has "Defences from Lying Down Positions" and a whole section on break falling and throws. You will see open/closed Guard and shoulder and hip tosses. The orignal was written in 1976 with an update again in 2007. They won't replace learning a comperhensive Jiujitsu or Wrestling art but it is scary cool to see how hollistic TKD really IS.

    I practice "TKD TKD".

    - Starfish

    1. There is actually some ground based techniques in Hwang Kee`s 1958 book as well. I will try a different Picture editing program and see if I can enhance it. The Pictures are of poor quality at the moment so I can only use those that are so Clear that you get an idea of what is going on:-) GM Chun`s book is on my wish list so I hope I will get around to buy it some time soon:-)

      If you look at the older books as snapshots and different pieces of Taekwondo and that among them all contain the bigger Picture you will see how much more Taekwondo is than todays martial sport With a high focus on kicking. It has just about everything you really need for self defense, but People did not learn this as the focus was on sport and now we have 1-2 generations of instructors who dont know the Complete art and never learned it. For those individuals their taekwondo might not have these Things but the Sources does not lie, it was there at the start. You are gonna love the next part which is on joint locks in Taekwondo :-)

  2. If you only learned punch-kick Taekwondo, why not take Judo?

    1. A lot TKDin suppiment with a grappling art. I do so with BJJ. The perspective shift helps a lot!

      Take the first movement of Keumgang for example. It is taught as a double block but it is not hard to see it being a stuffing of a wrestling takedown. Think of MMA and using 2 underhooks with a strong base of a front stance.

    2. I like crosstraining, and I think there is a lot to learn from other arts, including a healthy shift in perspective, BUT (its a big but:-P ) you need to take your arts preferred strategy (overall plan) into account when looking at the other martial arts. While learning Judo, BJJ, Hapkido etc will teach you a lot about grappling their strategy might be/ is different than Taekwondo`s strategy. Therefore a take down you learn in Judo could also have a Taekwondo version where the difference lies in the strategy preferred by the different arts. For instance a certain sweep (o soto gari?) in the Judo Version you follow the opponent to the ground to continue the grappling while in the Taekwondo Version you remain upright. It is the same gross movement but the strategy makes you employ this same "technique" in a different way. Does that make any sense at all? Note I am not saying you should not cross Train because I believe that to be healthy but you need to do so mindfully. Hope that rant was understandable.

    3. Stuffing a take down and staying off your back is a great strategy in a percussive oriented Martial Art I would say :D

      Your "rant" is actually good advice: one should understand the aim, no, philosophy of their art. If one is interested in pure Martial Technique, going to the ground is suicide and only sparingly employed. If one is interested in the sporting aspect where a focus (in this case BJJ) is ground oriented, going to the ground is perfectly acceptable and encouraged.

      For example, in my case, one of the learning tools I employ is to visualize during a grappling exchange where I can escape back to my feet and practice that principle. During that process also I picture myself striking an opponent because the reality is that in a fight (sporting or otherwise) you will do what you need to do to loosen up and escape to survive. Striking is my mainstay, but knowing when to strike to loosen someone up or grappling so as to strike is a very powerful principle to practice. This can only be learned by practicing the technique in a reality based environment. Unfortunately, due to the limitations of the recent generations of instructors, we are all lacking something that we need to make up in another environment.

      MMA is a good middle ground in terms of seeing what reality might look like. Unfortunately, it still suffers from rules that prohibit a lot of "low blows" and the like but it isn't hard to see how TKD might have started sans the major insistence on ground grappling. The grappling in TKD is more akin to Japanese Jujutsu than anything else.

      LOL: pardon my rant. :D

    4. Nice rant :-) I agree wholeheartedly With "Stuffing a take down and staying off your back is a great strategy in a percussive oriented Martial Art I would say :D"

      Actually I agree With everything in Your comment. My original reply was just my view on cross training. There is a difference between crosstraining to learn deeper aspects of Things that are part of Your art vs cross training simply to learn grappling. Taekwondo and Judo are different arts With different strategies and goals. Therefore importing Judo techniques wholesale without thinking into Your taekwondo might result in a semi optimal personal art. I need to point out that importing techniques from another art is not a bad thing and if you for instance have not learned throws in Your taekwondo but you want to have them and take judo you will have to keep taekwondo`s strategy in mind when you decide how to apply the judo techniques. I hope I am making sense because for some reason I seem to rant without any meaning :-P Be mindfull when you cross Train and dont import stuff wholesale without taking Taekwondo`s strategy into account. Unless you simply cross Train to cross Train if so that is Ok ;-)

    5. I believe we share similar, if not, the same views on cross training, Ørjan. I think that a key point we're both circling is that cross training be of benefit to the art that we choose to add depth to, versus simply learning a separate set of new skills which we interpret or replace detrimentally whilst practicing the original art.

      People can train any way they wish, but that doesn't mean they all do it smartly. ;D Unfortunately I opine that cross training for the sake of it alone leaves a person with a disjointed skillset that overall cannot harmonize. One thing I would advise is to think about how the arts connect but try not to do it during practice because it is harder to learn whatever it is at the time. Other than that...harmonize!

    6. Thanks for getting to the heart of the matter :-D

  3. Wonderful illustrated information. I thank you about that. No doubt it will be very useful for my future projects. Would like to see some other posts on the same subject!