Friday, 27 February 2015

Makki - It is more than you think! Part 1

Image Source:
Kukkiwon Textbook 2006 edition
In Taekwondo there is a few things that is very well understood these days. Two of those things are Taekwondo defense and combat distance. Taekwondo defense these days amount to either hard blocking (smashing the attacking limbs away from you) or dodging the attacks (sometimes there is also a focus on dodging and countering in the same movement). I am
not saying that hard blocking does not have their place (I think they do), but to exclude all neuances in "Makki" and dogmatically apply everything as hard blocks each and every time is something I think is wrong. Likewise with the focus on sport sparring the distance techniques are applied in is just plain wrong. Taekwondo as a martial art is relativly "new" when compared to other Martial Arts out there, but the techniques it contains are a lot older than the art itself. This is important to understand.
Some techniques are meant and developed for sport, other for combativly "duelling" (fighting) and yet others are old school self defense techniques. The forms we have and practise today largely consists of techniques and sequences of the latter which is why so many fail to see the link between application of forms and the performance of forms.

One technique in particular I like very much but sadly it is not introduced in the Kukki Taekwondo Poomsae until the higher black belt forms. It is however introduced earlier in variation but I like this particular variation better than the rest. The technique or tactic I am talking about? An Palmok Keudero Bakkat Makki or look at the picture below:
This technique was and still is by those who understand it a "Key-technique" in Okinawan Karate. If you have read Choki Motobu`s books and even Funakoshi`s books if you get an early one you will see that they and all the other pioneers of Karate wrote about the importance on having both hands in use. Motobu calls the principle "husband and wife hand", Funakoshi uses the Yin hand and Yang hand. The concept is that both hands work together at the same time. In this position the back hand is ready to attack or defend as the situation warrants it, likewise the front arm can also change from a defensive hand to an attacking hand in an Instant. The variations of this position function pretty much the same way, and in Kukki Taekwondo Poomsae (or KTA Poomsae) the first clear instance we see this is in Taegeuk Sa (4) Jang in the two opening movements.

Getting back to the illustrated "block" above from Hwang Kee`s 1958 Textbook you have probably seen this applied as a block from a static attack. This is how it is most often applied, and I think the reason for this is that the understanding of "combative distance" is skewed these days because of the focus on sport. One of the favorite applications that I have for this movement is against a punch, push or attempted grab; to use my whole body to smash into my opponents space and take out his structural integrety and balance. From there I can either follow up with additional attacks if the situation warrants it or run away if I completly took out his balance. Reading through Choi Hong Hi`s 1965 book on Tae Kwon Do I noticed that one of his "pushing" blocks is almost the same as my application to this movement except that it is done at a slighty excaggerated distance. Look below:
  This is a much more gentle form of application than mine but the whole gust of my application can pretty much be seen by looking at the illustration from the 1965 book and then move the opponent even closer. I would aim for:
  • Crashing deeply into my opponents space
  • Impacting with my lead knee into any open lower target (outside/inside knee for instance)
  • Contact point between my opponent and my lead arm would be near the opponents armpit.
The concept of "pushing block" has largely been lost in modern Taekwondo with the focus being on leg techniques and sport, but looking at the source of our martial art (our basics in our forms) you will find many instances where this concept is used. Another good example of this concept in use from the same book can be seen below:
 Again the distance between the opponents is too great, but it is a lot closer together than what you would see in most mainstream Taekwondo books today. I would go in at a slight angle and again use the lead leag to crash into the opponent. In this case it would be my lead knee into the opponents lead leg and the impact would be at the outside of his knee. Note how the two techniques share the same underlying principles, yet the technique themselves manifest into very different looking techniques. If you are aware of this principle in "blocking" you will find it in many instances throughout the KTA/Kukkiwon Poomsae (and I would guess you would find it in any Traditional Martial Arts form if you happen to practise another set). I urge you to try this concept next time you get a chance. Start out in a formal scripted way (one step format fits nicely) and then try to apply it in a less formal drill before attempting it in a sparring match or unscripted drill.
In Part 2 we will examine another concept that has largely been lost when it comes to Taekwondo defense :-)
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  1. You are right: "An Palmok Keudero Bakkat Makki" appears formally in Cheonkwon. Too late because most TKDin won't ever see it unless they practice outside their rank.

    During my slow (baby and work :D) research into the CMA influence on KTA forms, I've noticed the technique in CMA forms and whilst I haven't worked out or asked about applications from their point of view, but if one takes the movements in Cheonkwon (what I affectionately call "arm flailing") one could potentially have a sequence where they might crash into the opponent and then move the opponents limbs (or move themselves under the opponents limbs or combination of both) to either strike forward or take the opponents back. I've played with this idea over the past couple of weeks on and off and it doesn't seem off base. Keep in mind the movement at the end of the arm flailing was an "uppercut" but is now a "punch".

    The movements of Cheonkwon also appear to me to have the potential of both hard and soft. Say you crash (hard) into the opponent and then (softly) manipulate their limbs. VERY CMA but totally found in KMA.

    Great article!

  2. it seems to me that both of you are circling one of the key concepts here but not saying it out loud. i am referring to the positioning of you relative to your opponent. tkd people have a tendency to focus on the ending position and ignore how they got there. if instead of holding the position and stepping in, you utiliize the forward arms normal trajectory to make contact earlier and literally allow your arm to "slide" up his to anywhere between his elbow and shoulder (armpit is too high to maintain control) you will allow his momentum to turn himself away from you. of course, now is a great time for a knee strike. Boy, i find it really hard to describe this stuff in words!
    anyway being on opponents 5 or 7 o'clock is the best and safest for you to maintain control. also 2 other notes: 1. most of these arts forward hand=offense, rear hand=defense, and 2. much of the time this position is used for trapping and checking, two concepts severely under appreciated in modern TKD