Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Back to the Source(s) Part 5; Grappling in Contemporary Sources?

In part 4 we started to look at contemporary sources because eventhough the sources are clear on wether grappling is a genuine part of Taekwondo or not and that the series has largely seen positive feedback, one negative one centered around the fact that the sources I used to draw my conclusions from were too old. We are talking about sources specific to the KMA from 1958-1968 here, allthough
I also referenced earlier ones from the root martial arts of Taekwondo to illustrate that there were much more in the original martial arts as well and not just in Taekwondo. In part 4 we looked closely on the Kukkiwon Textbook and how trips, take downs, joint locks and throws are as much part of Taekwondo as any "Taekwondo kick" out there. It is not the "kukki Taekwondo system" that is lacking, rather it is the knowledge about the system that is sorely lacking, something that even very high ranking masters is clearly displaying when they say stuff like: "In pure Kukki Taekwondo there is no grappling". In this post I will focus on the 15 Volume Encyclopedia written by Choi Hong Hi or more specifically Volume 5 in that series. Many practisioners today learn Taekwondo (wether WTF/Kukki/ITF/Chang Hon) as a pure kick block punch art with little to no grappling at all.

I can understand that "Kukki Taekwondo" People believe that there is no grappling because of the sport focus that has been relentless since the 1970s, and the fact that the Kukkiwon Textbook was hard to come by until recent years (just order a copy on Amazon). The thing I do not understand is how ITF or Chang Hon Ryu groups of Taekwon-Do claiming to follow the teachings of Choi Hong Hi can claim that there is no grappling in the art. The man himself documented his art in the most comprehensive way that has ever been done in any martial art (that I have come accross). A book series of 15 Volumes each book being houndreds of pages thick, everything illustrated in 1000s and 1000s of photographs and the 1986 version is available online for free! Sadly this unrivaled incredible resource is not often used in a pragmatic way, most of them that do use them usually look at how forms should be performed and thats it.
This blatently disregard of the sources are very apparant in KMA circles. I do not know why this is, but if you look at other martial arts you will often see that black belt level students and instructors actively searches out the founders writings and studdies them. Many Shotokan practisioners have Gichin Funakoshi`s Karate Do Kyohan in their libary. Likewise the Okinawan Bubishi has become very popular since its translation ca a decade ago. The students of Karate systems are lucky if the founders wrote anything at all but they use what they have for the benifit of the system they teach. In ITF/Chang Hon Ryu Taekwon-Do you have 15 books written by the founder of the system himself where he outlines everything from how to instruct a class, develop power, traditional training methods, basic technqiues, forms, throws, joint locks and sweeps etc.  An open question from me is "Why are you not using this incredible, valuable and awsome resource to make sure you are in fact practising the whole system?????????" And with that rant out of the way here is what you clicked the read more buttom for: Does grappling exist within the ITF/ Chang Hon Ryu system?

Short answer is yes it does exist and it exists in abundance. The Volume you should be looking at when it comes to grappling is Volume 5. I wrote earlier that there are joint locks in the Encyclopedia but that would be a little misleading since the Author does not view them as locks but rather as "breaks". Perhaps a legazy from the days of Taekwon-Do being a Martial art for the military the joint locks are treated as breaks instead. Any joint lock is a break or dislocation of a limb if it is done completly with a follow through so you do have the choice to either break the limb or lock it.

When writing about defense against holds in the self defense section of Volume 5 Choi Hong Hi gives the Taekwondo three Choices of action if being grabbed by the opponent;
  1. Release technique
  2. Attack a vital point (Whoa wait a second, does this mean vital point study is a part of Taekwon-Do too????????????)
  3. Break the limb of the holding arm
I love how simple he makes it. If you are grabbed these are the only three options available to you (you can lock the limb instead of breaking it but what do you do after you have done that? You have not really gained much and must keep the pressure on. In a situation with multiple opponents there really should be no "locking"). In the section this is from he goes on to demonstrate different ways you can be grabbed and how you can defend yourself in all three "modes of defense" (realeasing, breaking or attacking). Since this post is about grappling in Taekwon-Do I will focus on the illustrations he has for that "mode of defense". Below is the first illustration coupled with a quote from the same book:

 As you can see in the illustration above there is no doubt that the last picture very much depict a wrist lock (or break) that is still taught in traditional Dojang (plural) all over the world. It is only in the last two decades or so that these techniques have been "forgotten" due to rapid expantion of the art, sportification and simplification so that it can be taught on a large scale. The Complete system is however very well documented if one cares to open the books (which again I have to stress is available on the internet as a pdf file download). So is this the only example of grappling I could find in the Encyclopedia? Far from it; look below for a selection of a few more breaks (or locks):

So what are we seeing here? These are just a very few examples on grappling techniques from the Encyclopedia which by the way was written by Choi Hong Hi himself. There is absolutely no doubt that there is a lot more to Taekwon-Do than high kicks and sport sparring. And it is all right there for everyone to see if they can just open up the book and read. I here the sceptics out there right now in my head (is that a sign that I am not all well?) that while there might be a few locks (or breaks) in the Encyclopedias there is no way that there are any throws in it as well. To them I say: "Look below for just a few samples of what the system of Taekwon-Do really contain if you bother to study the complete system. I am just shocked reading all this after having a million discussions on wether these kinds of techniques are a part of Taekwon-Do or not when it so blatently obvious that it is almost a crime not to be completly aware of the fact and implement it in the teachings in the mainstream!
I do believe however that eventhough the ITF groups market themselves as "traditional" and "martial art" as opposed to WTF`s martial sport the fact is that in most Dojang (plural) that I have seen and interacted with the true focus lies within the sport of forms and sparring just as in most "WTF Dojang (plural)". Many turn a blind eye to this but it is the truth (as experienced by me). With a focus on forms performance and sparring there really is no room for throws and grappling as they take away training time for what the focus is (sparring and forms). That being said Choi Hong Hi meant throws to be as much a part of the overall system as kicks and punches if you care to look at his writings.
If there is one thing I have learned after going through all of the older books I could think of and I have access to it is this: Taekwondo is a much more versitile martial art than what we see today. In the publics eye Taekwondo is seen as a martial sport with a huge emphasis on high kicks and little else. The truth is that there are still people out there teaching and practising Taekwondo as a martial art and these "martial artists" have so many more tools at their disposal than mere high kicks. Those who have been taught a stripped down version of Taekwondo and decides to reintroduce grappling techniques are not doing anything "radical" or "destroying the pure true Taekwondo" because of it. They are instead taking their art closer to their roots than what most mainstream students and teachers are doing today. Grappling has been with us since before Taekwondo was formalized. If you look at the root arts pre Kwan era (before 1940s), the Kwan era (1940s-70s) and modern era (70s- today) you will see the references, illustrations and explanations of grappling in every incarnation of Taekwondo. It does not matter if you are a Kukki Taekwondo student, a Chang Hon Ryu Taekwon-Do student or Tang Soo Do student. Grappling has historically been a part of the Korean Martial Arts in all of its existance. Its only the last decades of sportification, simplification and "defangation" so Taekwondo and other KMA could be brought out to the masses and taught on a large scale that the grappling aspect has been lost or ignored. I hope that this article series can remedy that and inspire instructors and students alike to look at their textbooks and sources and teach and practise a more complete version of the art.
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  1. hello. i too have mentioned that so much of the TKD world is stuck in the kick/punch paradigm. i honestly don't get it. perhaps the MDK school that i came out of always had a series of basic wrist/shoulder locks, and basic throws as part of the standard curriculum. granted these were not the equal of a jiujitsu school. but the basic principles were there. we even had to learn to fall--albeit on a wooden floor.
    later when i would practice at friends Japanese school we would free spar, starting standing and would continue all the way to the ground. it would only end when you tapped out, or were pinned for more than 30 seconds. (where i lived (New York City) it was felt that if you were on the ground in a fight for more than 30 seconds, you had lost, and were probably dead). because the TKD i learned was considered a martial art, not a sport, i was quite able to keep up.
    i don't see much of that nowadays. it seems to be flashy 720 degree kicks with perfunctory emphasis on self defense. worse than that, many are told that the sport applications that they have learned are good for self defense--their not!

    1. We too have allways had Locks, throws, sweeps etc in the syllabus. Most of it is encoded within Our step sparring which are "set". We also include groin kicks, head buts and other "dirty fighting" techniques within Our step sparring. Too few of us take these techniques and play around With them in a freer setting, but it has ensured that the grappling has stayed With us all this time and that it is at least practised regulary (in a fixed format but something is better than nothing). This gives the students a much broader Picture on what Taekwondo is and is not than those who learn poomsa and Olympic sparring and thats it. If all you have is a hammer the world looks like a nail (I think I read that in Shotokan`s Secret).

      When looking at the earlier Works on Taekwondo I am suprised at how holistic and much more well rounded it was when you compare it to todays mainstream art.

  2. The 80's provided a similar experience for me to that of Richard (except we had carpeted concrete floors, ha). Realistic self defence scenarios, Ho Sin Sul curriculum for Yudanja that included moderate grappling escapes, even from the ground. Failure if you did bad on a test.

    I spar realistically now 2-4 times a month with my friend on Sundays. That is my "religious experience". We spar similarly to the MDK video MAist posted in part 4, save for the emphasis on "safety".

    My school nowadays attempts Applications when testing for 3rd Dan and above but I feel that is too late even if better than most Dojang.

    @Richard - I love Mr. Chun's book on TKD and I cannot express that whilst it may perfect, I still smile when I see "defenses from lying down positions" section. It serves as an example of things TKDin used to practice (at a reasonable TKD level).

    / rant

    1. Playing around in Your free time and do much more "free" free sparring is a great way to learn how to apply the art. I try to play around as often as I can when I have training outside of the Dojang. These days the weather stops me a great deal but in the "down times" I can focus on attributes needed at the closer ranges, conditioning, finger strength, grip strength, and the basic hard style Taekwondo in the Dojang :-)

  3. well since i knew them all we actually we had a grand time teasing them about "rolling around" on the floor. i had even more fun laughing with the participants of the "boob grab to standing arm bar" technique filed under "miscellaneous Grabs and Holds"

    1. Theres a boob grab defense in the book? :-D That`s probably something I am going to need in a few years when gravity sets in :-P

    2. Apologies but I didn't like my last comment too much as I think it may have presented my humorous attempt with a lack of tact.

      There are many funny pictures in Master Chun's book, especially the ones where he demo's with a young woman in street clothes and in the last picture she is wearing a Dobok because the skirt she was wearing would show off her panties. This is frankly well edited but still funny to me.

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