Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Thoughts from "Advancing in Taekwondo"

Image Soruce: Amazon kindle
I recently read one of Richard Chun`s books since they were recommended by a few of this blogs readers. The only book that was available from him on Kindle was "Advancing in Taekwondo" and is aimed for black belt students (my Guess those who are nearing the jump from 1st gup to 1st dan or those who have recently gotten 1st dan). It is a generic Taekwondo textbook which covers a multitude of different aspects of Taekwondo and I found it to be a great read. It is one of those few Taekwondo textbooks that actually treat Taekwondo as something more than a combative sport. Something that grown ups can practise and something serious. In fact the way Richard Chun presents Taekwondo is extremly (not quite but) close to the Taekwondo I practise with the Dojang I belong to. If his other books becomes available on Kindle I will not hessitate to buy them as well (I will probably have to order the "analoge" books on Amazon though). I will share a little more from his books in the future but for now here are a few interesting quotes from "Advancing in Taekwondo"`s self defense section

Image Soruce:
Richard Chun
Advancing in
I am not sure how much of an introduction a legendary Grandmaster such as Richard Chun would need but he wrote some of the most important English language textbooks for the Kukki TKD stylists, he is of Moo Duk Kwan lineage and while he has incorporated the newer KTA forms (Palgwe, Taegeuk and Judanja forms) he has kept his older Moo Duk Kwan forms for study as well as the older Kwan era way of looking at Taekwondo as a way of life and art of self defense rather than just sport. If you have read many posts and their comments you will no doubt have had the pleasure of reading Richard`s comments which often expands the original blog post to a whole new level. Richard does not have books under his belt but he has a blog which can be found on the list of "interesting blogs" and he has produced some great video on youtube. Richard is originally a student of Richard Chun correct me if I am wrong). Another student of Richard Chun is Doug Cook who has written several books on Taekwondo. Below is the first quote I am sharing today:

"Taekwondo is the art of kicking and punching.
It relies for its power on chock or impact force,
rather than on throwing techniques, as in Judo or on holds, as in Aikido.
However situations do arise in which the student of Taekwondo
 would be well served to know some of these techniques."
The reason I loved this quote is that it very nicely defines what Taekwondo is and what it is not. It is a holostic martial art but it relies on impact. In short it is primarely a striking art not a dedicated grappling art. He also makes clear that eventhough Taekwondo is not based around throws and holds those kind of techniques do have their place in Taekwondo. There is a tendency in later years when people have learned Taekwondo only as a simplified sport system that they cross train in dedicated grappling arts and then just sort of "tack on" the missing pieces instead of adapting them to the overall strategy of Taekwondo. Likewise in Poomsae Applications (this area started out virtually unknown a few years back but now I feel I see it everywhere) there is a tendency to make everything into a grappling technique. I understand that tendency because the prevalent paradigm has been purely striking, but the real Applications to Poomsae I feel is not pure striking nor pure grappling it is both striking and grappling methods Integrated at once. The grappling part only as a supporting method to the striking techniques. This short quote from Richard Chun is brief but it does cover a lot of ground when describing Taekwondo as a martial arts system without it excluding aspects of the martial art that has allways been a part of it while it has been largely forgotten in recent years.

Another quote from Richard Chun from the same book and chapter:

"You should know how to fall without getting hurt"
The importance of falling techniques has been adressed by another grandmaster from another Kwan lineage:

As I have written before; If you are going to have high kicks as a part of your martial art you need to know how to fall just because you are kicking high. A common tactic used against high kickers is to grab the foot and sweep or throw the kicker. Another danger that I have seen time and time again in  Olympic sparring is that the foot gets caught on the opponents shoulder and when the opponent moves forward the kicker falls. The falling techniques are therefore important to know in Taekwondo even if you do not or will never throw or grapple anyone. Of curse once you start practising the Complete system of Taekwondo as a martial art and incorporate throws you need to know how to fall too but just the reason that we have high kicks makes break falls vitally important. It is also the only "practical" aspect of Taekwondo that you are most lilely to use in real life on the street :-)
Below is the last quote from the same author book and chapter:

"... suppose someone grabs you from behind
and you can`t use your hands or feet.
Your punching and kicking techniques would then
be of minimal use. In such a case,
it is helpful to know how to properly apply throwing techniques.
After you throw the assailant,
 you can then use basic Taekwondo techniques."

Image Soruce:
Richard Chun
Advancing in
Here Richard Chun gives a scenario and gives a great description on how Taekwondo is supposed to work. Once you find yourself in a situation where you can not use your primary skill set (striking) you should be able to use grappling methods to change the situation so that you can fall back on your preffered skill set again. The strategy of Taekwondo is that of striking the opponent. The grappling methods employed in Taekwondo are supporting methods so you can make use of the strategy of Taekwondo again. Therefore the grappling in Taekwondo can not be compared to the grappling of grappling dedicated arts but to exclude Taekwondo grappling in favour of only striking will severly limit the student in a real life situation and the instructors who claims to teach Taekwondo as a martial art (those who claims to teach a sport I have no problem with) does their students a disservice if they do not include these aspects of Taekwondo. I like the ending of the above quote. Once the grappling technique you did has served its purpose you fall back on Taekwondo`s strenghts again. 


  1. well, thanks for the compliment, although i do hope the new level i sometimes provide is an elevated one (as opposed to dragging it into the mud!). anyway i have always been a student of GM Chun, still attend one of his sister schools, and participate in his seminars.
    NYC in the 70's was a different place than what it is now. people took martial arts for the purpose of learning to fight. everyone knew that. during the breaking part of our promotion tests--if the boards didn't break the audience would hiss, whistle, and boo. You always made sure that your break was successful!

    anyway, GM Chun developed a well rounded curriculum that indeed included, wrist grabs, elbow and shoulder locks, a couple of Aikido like throws, and of course-falls.
    as a matter of fact you had to learn falling very well as the floor was wood over concrete!

    as a personal matter, i have always praised GM Chun for keeping all the old forms. they provided me a wealth of material to work with, and learn from. i remember going to him one day and asking what else i needed to know, he said "go out and research". this launched me on my martial art journey to explore other styles and arts. in retrospect i can say that he provided me with such a good knowledge of fundamentals that i never felt totally lost in whatever i did. to me it is a shame that the sport has suffused so much these days

    1. You consistently deliver an elevated Level to the blog posts ;-) I am currently writing about how many forms before it becomes too many forms. How many forms did you learn from GM Chun? I suspect the number is quite high when compared to those who learn the Taegeuk + Judanja Poomsae (17 total forms).

      I wholeheartedly agree with your last words:-)

  2. why thank you! i hope to keep it up. anyway in answer to your question to 6dan (me) you will learn a total of 42 (!) forms. truthfully i never counted till asked.

    Now, for my own impression as to your upcoming discussion-not that you asked :) is this too many? Yes/no many of Chuns schools will practice all of them as they are a required syllabus. i feel this is a good thing as you are forced to experience a methodology and movement absent from much of the WTF. where it falls down is when it becomes rote. many of GM Chuns schools have their students perform these with nothing other than the most basic KBP explanations. in which case-why bother. there would be no difference between any of them. i have heard instructors (i.e. anyone who teaches me something is an instructor to me- i feel i am forever a student) refer to this as just "busy work". it teaches you very little other than memorization skills. without an in depth exploration of what are the principles demonstrated in the pooomse and how are they executed. you are not really learning much. so an in-depth exploration of just one complex form is sufficient-as it was in the old days

    1. Thank you for Your answer. My own view is that you can study few forms indepth and many forms for movement education. I think that is partly what Kenwa Mabuni meant when he said that 2-3 Kata is more than enough to be studied indepth while the others can be trained for additional knowledge (paraphrasing). I have finished the draft and it will be online rd of July :-) I have included my own thoughts and some quotes from Funakoshi, Mabuni and Motobu.

      On a (slightly) different note: How do the Cun lineage organize their training sessions to allow for all these forms to be trained? I ask this because the Dojang I belong to are contemplating making a series of 9 additional forms into the syllabus. If this goes through the 1st gup will have to be able to perform 16 forms. Three of them will be "Gibon forms" which are very very simple so I am not really counting them so the real number would be 13.

      Earlier we had only Taegeuk 1-8 (and Koryo for going to 1st dan).

    2. in general, as it varies from school to schools instructors preferences, it follows this pattern.
      white belts will learn the 3 basic (kicho) forms and taeguek 1 and Palgae 1.
      this pattern (one T and one P per grade) continues through most of the color belt grades.
      at what used to be brown belt (i have no idea what that belt is now!) you would also learn Chulki 1 and Balsek as well.
      the remaining forms would be seeded through the the black belt levels in addition to the Kukki forms.
      Cook has a good listing of the forms on his Chosun web site, albeit he falls into the "busy work" category as noted above.
      lastly some forms were dropped, only to return at a later time, a good thing actually as they were more sophisticated than the lower Taegueks that supplanted them.

  3. Edward H. Valholm21 July 2015 at 12:26

    At some stage I had knowlegde of all the Shotokan Heian/Tekki katas, plus four others, then all the chang hon poomsae from Chon-Ji to Kwang-Gae. Then the palgwae poomsae and the Taegeuk poomsae up to Pyongwon.

    But at some stage I asked "why" so many? - I love forms. Have always done that.

    But in the end it just got too much. And that got me thinking..

    I am currently keeping my TKD activity to a minimum level as I have have been concentrating on hapkido instead for the last decade and some..

    For me poomsae is a part of the whole "cake".. And as with everyting, too much is just.. too much. I guess for my part I now try to strip things down to the essentials. The federation that I have been a part of for the last 30 years is going the other way.. They are adding stuff into the curriculum. And sadly that is a trend that is never ending it seems. Stuffing more and more cr** into the curriculum instead of looking into what is the essentials. End of rant :)

    1. I guess I just loooove cake :-D But I do agree with you in that we do not really really need that many forms at all. I have said before on this blog that I have 3 primary forms (Taegeuk 1 Jang, Keumgang Poomsae and Chulgi Chudan Hyung). Those three are all I really need and they contain more than enough material for a lifetime of study. So if I were going to strip "my Taekwondo" down to bare essentuals I would only have 3 forms, but I am enjoying the performance of the ones I do know + they make for a more fun way of practising basics when alone outside the dojang and without equipment than merely isolating each and every movement in thin air (it is more fun to practise 8 Taegeuk forms than "arae makki" 100 reps.)

      As for your org (I know which one you are referring to ;-) ) adding more elements to the mix they have indeed started to integrate an aditional set of forms, and they have made most formal sparring modes into fixed sets instead of free sets, but the sparring modes has allways been there in the org. Also if you look at the syllabus back in 2000ish you will notice that at black belt they had included a lot of other stuff that they have since taken out again. For 4th dan for instance you would have to be able to do the Yedo Iship Sase (24 short sword forms consisting of 1-4 moves each). The Bon TTae of Taek Kyon was also included in the curriculum as were many other things which is not seen anywhere today.

      Great rant by the way ;-)