Sunday, 25 January 2015

Back to the Source(s) Part 2; Joint locks in Taekwondo?

Again we look back at the Source(s) of Taekwondo to bust another "myth" that has been told so many times it is considered as fact: "There are no joint locks in Taekwondo". Last time we saw how throws were a part of Taekwondo as far back as 1958 and I got quite a few comments on how wrong I was that they still are a part of Taekwondo. I will revisit throws in another post but suffice to say: Yes the
sources in part 1 were old and that was the point. How can we call ourselves "traditional" if we can not even look back to 1958 or 1965? I have no problem looking back at the sources and draw from them whatever I can that I believe will strengthen "my" Taekwondo, but the thing is throws, joint locks, and basic grappling skills have allways been a part of my studdies. My teacher did not loose this part of Taekwondo but I understand that many were never taught this side of Taekwondo and they are now teaching this limited Taekwondo on to newer students. That is OK for me and their Choice, but dont come to me and tell me that there is no grappling in Taekwondo. Maybe not in "Your" Taekwondo but in "My Taekwondo" it is still a part of the overall system and the sources are on my side.

So, joint locks where they ever part of Taekwondo? Short answer is YES and they still are many places. Traditionally joint locks as all the grappling contained in Taekwondo were easy to apply and quite "basic" when compared to dedicated grappling arts such as Judo, Hapkido etc. The reason being that while Taekwondo has allways focused on strikes as their primary tools, the joint locks, throws, etc only needed to be effective enough to open up the opponents for strikes, removing grips, repositioning the opponent into an unfavorable position etc. There was no need for techniques dealing with a well trained grappler because the focus of the training was on self defense (at least originally). Joint locks has in fact been part of Taekwondo even before the name was applied to the system. You see in the root arts of Taekwondo joint locks (and other grappling techniques) were an important part, so no matter what Kwan founder you look too they would have learned grappling techniques in their base martial art before they opened up their own Kwan (School).
Above you can see one typical joint lock/throw as taught by Kenwa Mabuni. Mabuni was at least one Kwan founders teacher (Yoon Kwae Byung) and he also taught several of Funakoshi`s students. The book where this is from is called a study of Seipai. Seipai is a Kata/Hyung/Poomsae/Tul that he taught. I write this so that you can see that the Kwan founders learned more than simple block punch kick applications to their forms. Did the other Teachers of the Kwan founders teach joint locks as well or is this simply a "lucky break" for me to find this in an old book? Of all the Karate pioneers to teach in Japan in the 1930s onward the one who influenced the greatest number of Korean Martial Arts pioneers was Gichin Funakoshi. Let us look at a picture from his 1935 Karate Do Kyohan:
If you are familiar with this work you will know that Funakoshi attributed this to a specific move in a specific form as an application. So he did teach joint locks, and he did teach them (at least some) as applications in his forms, so again the Kwan founders learned grappling from him and again it was linked back to the forms they studdied (the discussion is still ongoing on how much was linked back though).
Ok, so the root arts of Taekwondo had joint locks in them (there really is no discussion there and you are free to look up the sources as they are stated in the pictures themselves), how about Taekwondo? Did the Kwan founders really bring these techniques with them and did they teach them as part of their overall system(s)? Here is where it gets interesting because the KTA forms that we practised were not made by the Kwan founders. They taught the forms that they learned in Japan and China. The KTA forms (Taegeuk and black belt forms) were actually made by 2nd generation masters (People who studdied under the Kwan founders). And I am going to make one thing straight: I have shown one example of grappling as an official Kukkiwon Textbook Poomsae Application so there is grappling in Poomsae also, but officially the grappling applications are few and far between but they are there. Below you will see an example of one of the joint locks contained in Hwang Kee`s 1958 Textbook:
Here you clearly see a joint lock in action. It is a simple, direct and efficient. Some will argue that this is not "Taekwondo" and in a way they are right. The textbook was written for the Moo Duk Kwan (Hwang Kee`s School) but many of the Kukkiwon pioneers came from this school so it is a part of our lineage as Kukki Taekwondo students. I have another photo which some will find very interesting. Before the Kukkiwon, the WTF and the ITF when Taekwondo was simply Taekwondo and everything was organised in one organisation (Korean Taekwondo Association/ KTA) it was headed for a time by its president: Choi Hong Hi. He wrote the first English book on Taekwondo in 1965 where he among other things included joint locks and grappling techniques. One example can be seen below:
So here you have it from the leader of the (once only) Taekwondo organisation in Korea. Choi Hong Hi is perhaps best known for being the founder of ITF Taekwondo but in the beginning (1950s-late 60s) he was one of the most influential leaders of Taekwondo no matter the lineage. Oh and he co founded the Oh Do Kwan with Nam Tae Hi as a military school, he came up with the name Taekwondo and he took the first demonstration teams and toured the world giving it its first glimpse of Taekwondo abroad.
So are joint locks part of Taekwondo? Traditionally the answer is yes, but I do know that many instructors do not teach these techniques today. The reason often being that they themselves did not learn them. That does not mean that they are not part of the overall system and I think that it is time to look back at the sources of what we have today and reclaim Taekwondo as an holistic martial art instead of a martial sport which it is often seen as being today.
The Pictures used in this post were originally meant to be used only on the "facebook page" of the blog but I could not help but make them into a series of post.
I hope you enjoyed the post. The information on this blog is provided free of charge but I would like to ask you a "favour" or "donation". If you read this post and found it informative, please share it with others on facebook, twitter, or mention the blog to a friend that you think will like it. If you are on facebook consider looking up the blog there and give it a "Like" :-) Thank you for your support :-)

The Facebook page can be found on


1 comment: