Saturday 19 September 2015

Part 3: Self defense application of Taegeuk Il (1) Jang + Bonus!!!

I have really enjoyed this months unrelenting focus on Taegeuk il Jang. If you have not read the last few posts on this blog I recommend that you start with my "love letter to taegeuk il jang", and then read practical applications part one and practical applications part two before reading this one. That way you will see why I love this form so much, and learn practical applications from start to finish.

This post of this (dare I say) groundbreaking article series will focus on the "eulgeul makki, ap chagi, momtong jireugi" combination (high block, front kick, middle section punch).

The reason I call this a "groundbreaking" article series is that I am not aware of anyone anywhere on the web who has laid forth practical applications to any of the taegeuk forms, or indeed the KTA/WTF/Kukki forms from start to finish like I have in this series (in book form yes, but not for free online). I hope that it will inspire others to share their takes on their forms as well as providing a hopefully good starting point for instructors and students out there to start implementing alternative applications into their training. When you have a thourough understanding of the fundemental form (Taegeuk Il Jang) you will see and understand much more of the rest of the forms than you did before. Suddenly you will make connections between the forms and you will come to understand that while the technique (tactics) are different from one form to the next, the underlying principles do not vary. The applications you see in Taegeuk il jang is "revisited" throughout the Taegeuk series (and black belt Poomsae) with different entries, different follow ups and different variations. I will try to demonstrate this with the last sequence of Taegeuk il Jang and the first sequence of Taegeuk Oh Jang so you can appreciate this point.

Move 13-14 (or 15-16)

This is the eulgeul makki, ap chagi, momtong jireugi combination, or in English terms: the high section block, front kick, middle section punch of the form (26 seconds into the above clip). There are many key lessons inherent in this form and this particular sequence teaches you effectively what is known as a "drop punch" in boxing. Here you time the punch with the foot comming down so you get maximum power. This is taught each time you step and punch yes, but here it is emphasised as you foot comes down after a kick. Application wise this sequence is great for a any number of attacks.

The normal "traditional" application is to block a high section punch,

and then kick and punch to counterattack. This is not the worst application, and it does work if you eliminate the chamber, and the range is spot on if you deliver the front kick to a low target. It works well against a straight or round punch. If you face a round punch you move to the inside, if you face a straight punch you can do it on both sides but the "outside" of the opponent is safer and preferable in my personal opinion. Below you can see how this demonstrated with techniques where the chambers have been shortened or eliminated. A traditinal way of practical application if you will.
Against a hook, step in and block with a shortened high block.
NO chamber! The other hand guards the center line as it is not doing anything.

Grab the punching arm and deliver a low front kick.
Any number of low targets can be used.

In this case to follow the form I do the punch in mic section.
The other hand is pulled back to the hip controlling his arm

Applied against a lapel grab

Another "popular" application is against a lapel grab, into a forearm smash, kick punch combo. Look below for illustrations on this.

The opponent grabs the lapel

I raise my arms in case a punch is comming. I also prepare for the "high block"

I chamber for high block, but here the chamber strikes his arm downward.
This unbalances the opponent and tilts his head up presenting the target
for the next part.

The high block itself. Here used as a forearm smash. The other hand is
in control of his "holding arm"

The chamber for front kick. Note how I am using him for maximizing
my own balance.

I could have used a front kick but my personal preferance was this one

Keep control of his "holding arm" by switching to your right hand
to keep control. This nullifies his defenses as you punch with your left hand
over his right arm. A natural follow up is demonstrated in move 17-18.

Applied against a(n) (upward)  wrist hold 

A third take on this starts from a wrist grab, but a variation that we have yet to cover in the form. Incidently this application is demonstrated by Grandmaster Richard Chun in his book which he co-wrote with Doug Cook on original Koryo. In his demonstraten he used a knife hand block but I have not had any difficulty applying a normal high section block.

Forgot to take pictures of this :-(

Sequence as an introduction of the "Parry-Pass Method"

Here is where I think the sequence shines. This is against a straight attack. It is demonstrated against a straight punch, but it works equally well against an attempted grab, push, shove, etc. You slip out to the outside of the opponent, parrying with a shortened an makki or inward "block", and pass it to the other side and upwards with what most people consider the primary block.

The "Parry-Pass" Method of defense is a fundemental part of the root arts of Taekwondo which is why many of our "Makki techniques" make use of this method to deal with the opponents attacks. I usually get a comment of the likes of: "that looks like wing chun" when I apply Makki-techniques in this fashion. "That looks like Wing Chun" was also a running gag in a facebook group devoted to the practical Application of Okinawan martial arts for a long time too. The reason why this method is so popular and shows up in many different martial arts I think is because of its inherent redundancy. If you miscalculate, or if the opponent throws a second punch the parry-pass will make it much simpler for you to recover. Also against straight attacks it makes it easier to work your way to the safe side (outside) of your opponent. In addition to this it covers a lot of your body in one fluid motion and that is very good as well.

Below is one demonstration on the "Parry-Pass Method":

Against straigh attack

Move to the outside of the opponents straight attack while doing an
inward block (an makki) without any chamber and a small movement.
This is the chamber for the high block. If you do this in one fluid movement
the other hand would be like it is in a high block chamber.

Do not smash the attacking punch away but pass it to your other arm and "lead"
it upwards. This blocks the vision to your opponent.

Grab and pull your opponents arm and do a low level front kick to his leg.
If you pull his weight onto his front leg you will do more damage.

If I were to do a full follow through I would essentually make him kneel
on one leg, but I would hurt his knee in the process. I am telling you this as
you will note in the next picture that I have punched "high" insted of "middle"
but the form demonstrates this with a full follow through so a "middle" heigh
would be correct.

Punch to any available target.  Two possible follow ups are the arm bar from move
5-6 or the application from move 17-18.
 Below is same application but from a different angle:

"shortened inward block" (inward parry)

Pass to other arm and guide it up to block vision

Grab, pull and kick


As the most observant of you will note, the above application was shown against straight hand punch, but first a lead punch and then a back punch. Works on both kinds of attacks. It also works against attempted grabs, pushes etc.

The parry pass method will be revisited in a future blog post.

Step 17-18

Here is the last sequence of the form; the apkoobi arae makki, step forward momtong jiregi (low block in long front stance, step forward long front stance middle section punch.

Mainstream Application, block and punch

The most prevalent (and in my opinion flawed) view on Poomsae being a choreographed "fight" with opponents comming at you from all angles the most often seen application is that you have just finished one opponent with a kick and punch combo, and then turn to block an attack from your side (front kick) and then step forward to punch him or her.

The "problems" with this sequence as a pure kick block punch application is how unnatural we turn to face the attack. I am sure I am not the only instructor who has struggled teaching taegeuk il jang to beginners where 90 % turn on the wrong foot when starting this sequence. The reason for so many people do it wrong is that they are thinking mainstream applications and in that view the most natural thing to do is wrong according to the poomsae. If you where to use the two last techniques of the form as a "pure" block the most efficient way and natural way would be turning with the opposite foot. The form makes us do the block in the most longwinded way possible. This happens many times throughout Poomsae in general which is one of the reasons why I think that the originators of Poomsae meant for deeper applications when they designed the Poomsae. The following application has been shared before but then it was with drawings, this time it is a little better:-) It is also one of the few apps that I can think of that makes sense given the footwork and direction in the Poomsae as well.

Low block, middle punch as arm lock, hammerfist strike and finishing punch

This can be done in any number of ways but I will demonstrate it as if you have established a cross wrist grab on your opponent. It can also be used against a cross wrist hold.

Aaaah.. We did this from a cross grabbed wrist hold? :-) Well just reverse
the grip so he can not let go.

Turn as in the Poomsae!!! And chamber for low block.
Unlike the "block punch" application this one actually explain the turn.

Dropp down into long front stance and strike his groin with hammer fist strike.
I am in horse stance because I did not want to deliver the power
"into the target".

The response that follows in my personal experience is that either you hit him
hard and he bends over, or he flinches away from the strike and thereby bends
over all the same.

Change "controlling hand", step forward and deliver a finishing strike to the head.
The form has a middle section punch because the head has been brought down
in response to the preceding technique.

The Oh Jang Connection:

In Taegeuk Oh Jang the opening sequence revisists this application and share a different finishing strike depending on how the opponent bends forward

Chamber for low block locks his arm

Drop into long front stance and deliver a hammer fist strike to the groin.
This is the actual low block or move 1 in Taegeuk Oh Jang.
(horse stance used here as I am not trying to generate power into the target)

Step back and deliver a hammer fist strike to any target of oppertunity.
Back of the head, base of the scull, the spine etc are all good targets.t
Depending on your position in relation to him and how much he bendt over
the kidneys etc are also good targets.
You can of course implement the forward lunge punch from taegeuk il jang after the hammer fist strike. If we look at an old Taekwondo form or Karate form" you will see that this was encoded here also.

In Pyung Ahn Chudan or Heian Shodan / Pinan Nidan can also be seen as being in relation to Taegeuk il Jang and Oh Jang. Here you do combine both:

Prep for low block to lock his arm

Hammer fist strike to groin

Hammer fist strike to any good open targets

Change "controlling hand", and step forward and deliver a finishing punch.

Heian/Pyung Ahn Shodan/Chudan also known as Pinan Nidan can be seen below:

In the above clip you can also see how closely related our "basic techniques" are to those of Karate and perhaps you will also notice how closely related our forms are as well.

If this series was interesting to you, and you want to learn this from an instructor or to learn more, I am available for seminars or workshops. If you are interested you can get in touch with me via the blogs facebook page at 

I hope this makes any kind of sense to you and I hope it is something that if you can not use then perhaps you can be inspired by it to make your own application. If you liked the application and want to see more of this in more Dojang around the world please share this post so as many people as possible can get the chance to see it ;-)

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  1. Ya but why would you get someone in a good joint lock putting them in submission and then release it just to punch with the other hand? It would be an awkward punch, but what is worse is you would release an albow lock just to punch them with the other hand that is securing the wrist? Why not just punch with the othjer hand and keep the arm in your control?

    Some of these tae geuk applications are a little too imaginative for me.

    1. Because we ae not going for a submission. We are using a lock either as a break or to set up a strike to the groin. Groin strikes are hard to land but using the lock to make an opening is a good strategy. Locks for submission only works in low level confrontations. I am sad to hear you don't like the applications but I hope you will post your own one day:-)

    2. "It would be an awkward punch, but what is worse is you would release an albow lock just to punch them with the other hand that is securing the wrist? Why not just punch with the othjer hand and keep the arm in your control?"

      I am a little confused here: The elbow Lock you are talking about is from this post right? Here I punch hammer fist strike to the groin With the same arm that had the "Lock". From Your comment that sounds like something you would do? Or is it the finishing strike (move 18 in the form) you are thinking of? Doing it With the back hand allows me to punch much faster as I do not need to "reload" the other hand before punching. It is simply the fastest way to do it, and since I have practised the form so many times it is not the "slightliest" awkward for me :-) The reason I punch from the hand at the hip is that it is allready "loaded" and can go straight into the target, while the other hand goes back to the hip securing the arm on its way. If you are talking about another app from the series (move 5/6 for instance) then the same applies. Punching With the "locking" arm would mean that I would have to either do a very short range punch, or to realease the Lock and Draw my hand back to then punch him in the head. Punching With the hand that is on the hip means I can go straight into the target With no delay while the other hand secures the opponent increasing my tactile sensitivity and thereby my accuracy. In that app the Lock is either a break, or to position the opponent for the finishing blow. I feel the "Poomsae grappling" should be simple and be a supporting Method to the primary Methods of Taekwondo (striking). Both the elbow Locks shown in this series follow that reasoning.

      Perhaps if you could clarify where you feel it would be awkward and where the problem is? As the Applications follow the Poomsae very closely they are not any more awkward than the Poomsae itself in my opinion.

  2. nice bLog! its interesting. thank you for sharing....
    master taekwondo

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Just recently read through these and I want to say, great job putting these together! Even the simple forms have a lot to teach us. I especially liked using the chambers as locks and strikes.

    1. Thanks David. I`m glad you liked this series. Perhaps there is something here you can use in your future post(s) one day?:-)

    2. Haha, I wish I saw this before I analyzed Dan-Gun, because the use of the high block as a jaw strike is pretty much my analysis of the movement. (Parry-pass doesn't quite work with our chamber).