Friday, 6 November 2015

Examining Poomsae Structure

Giles Hopkins might be vaguely familiar for my most hardcore readers out there. He has an excellent
blog og Goju Ryu Karate which despite not being one of the direct roots of Taekwondo is nevertheless an exciting and interesting style to look at as they have preserved a lot more of the holistic approach to their martial art, unlike how Taekwondo has in many places forsaken theirs in favour of sport. Unlike Taekwondo they have a very nice approach to "extra training" like the use of weights, and striking implements, and they often use their forms as the basis of everything they do, which is what I am trying to do with "my" Taekwondo too:-) Anyway, Giles has written a lot on applications and while I sometimes disagree or rather his approach to Goju Ryu does not fit in with my approach to Taekwondo (which is to be expected in some degree) his latest article on Kata (form) structure really made an impression on me. He said it casually in there somewhere but some forms where the same techniques are shown in mirror images the follow on technique is only shown once.
Here is a link to the article if you want to read it yourself:

That is pretty much one of the "assumptions" (or principle) I am working from when analyzing my Poomsae for combative meaning. I stumbled across this on my own a few years back trying to explain how to finish the opponent, and if you look at my Taegeuk Il Jang series where I demonstrate applications from start to finish you will notice how it fits together this way.

For instance: Move 1 and 2 is mirrored sequence so they show one application twice with the follow on technique being move 5 and 6. I am not dogmatic though so feel free to have multiple Applications for any and all sequences. I always have Muyedobotongji (an old Korean martial arts manual) breathing down my neck and whispering "Eventhough two techniques look the same, that does not mean they have the same function". But lets look at how it flows together if we put move 1,2 and 5,6 together:


Punch is parried

Arm is freed with the low block (this is move 1)

Punch to disrupt (this is move 2)

pivot 90 degrees as the form tells you and do a low block
this is actually an armbar. (Move 5)

Finish with a strike to the temple. (Move 6)
Ok fits great, let us now see if this holds true for the rest of the form :-) After Move 5/6 you do move 7 and 8 which is mirrored in move 9 and 10. These two being inward middle block and middle section punch. If we are "correct" that these two show the same application with the follow on technique being only shown once that means the follow on technique should come at move 11 and 12 (low block, middle section punch). Ok Then, can this fit?

Chamber for inward block (move 7or 9 )

Flow into hammerfist strike (actual move 7 or 9)

Prep for disrupting punch (prep for move 8 or 10)

Punch (Move 8 or 10)

Do a low block as an armbar (move 11)

Finish with strike to temple (move 12)
In both of these sequences we see that the first part is shown twice and the last part is shown once. You are drilling functional movements and to some degree functional sequences but you are not "fighting" when you are doing the solo performance of a Poomsae. It is not a well choreographed fight between you and a bunch of opponents. The Poomsae serves many roles but one of the most important or combat-pragmatic ones is to function as a mnemonic device to ensure that principles, strategy, techniques etc is being preserved and handed down to the next generation. I might change my mind about this "structure" in the future with more research and learning, but so far it has given me a way to "quickly" intepret my Poomsae for combative meaning. Taegeuk I Jang (form 2) was "cracked" in about 5 minutes timespan a few weeks back when doing a "thought" experiment on it. I must pressure test the application before daring to share them here though, but I have a lot of material on that form too now.

Let us see if the last part of Taegeuk il Jang hold up to this scrutiny. If my "assumption" is correct then move 13 and 14 which is mirrored with 15 and 16 should be followed with 17 and 18 with either move 13/14 or move 15/16 taken away in actual application as the finishing move 17/18 is only shown once.

Move outside the straight attack and brush it inwards
(prep move 15)

Pass to the other arm and lead it upwards
(actual move 15)

Grab and attack his leg with front kick
(move 16a)

Punch disrupting strike (here shown to the head but body is also good)
Actually if you strike the body as in the Poomsae the follow up technique
is delivered faster and with no wasted movement
(move 16b)

Turn as in the Poomsae and prep for move 17 being an armbar

Drop into front stance (here horse stance used for I dont want
to put the power into the strike) and do a "low block"
(move 17)

Step forward and punch to finish the opponent off
(Move 18)
As you can see all the primary applications I have fit in with the structure that Giles Hopkins is describing for some of the Goju Kata. It is always fun for me to see that different people with different backgrounds with no contact with each other (like me and Giles) can come up with the same or similar viewpoints independently of each other.

While this post does not really deliver anything "new" in terms of applications (all of these were presented in my Taegeuk Il Jang series) it does hopefully provide people with something new to consider. I am not saying this holds true for all of the KTA forms but it fits nicely within the Taegeuk form set at least. I have A LOT more study to do before becomming "dogmatic" about this. Also at the very least I have provided with a few short sequences for drills if you like the Taegeuk Il Jang applications I have provided earlier. In this post you will notice how they flow together in short drills. Move 1/2+5/6 as well as 7/8+11/12 and 15/16+17/18 makes three great drills.

It is also possible to make them  into a large drill (allthough a little artificial) by first letting the opponent do a straight punch (which you defend yourself with move 15-18), a haymaker (which you defend yourself with move 7-12) and then a wristgrab (move 1-6), or you can play around with it: the opponent does a straight punch but you are too slow and only manage to parry it so he fires of a haymaker which forces you to adapt with a new application etc. The Poomsae are "dead" entities on their own just like any fictional stories are. It is the readers imagination that brings the story and the characters to life, just as it is the Taekwondoin`s study and drilling of the Poomsae that brings the Poomsae to life.

The purpose of any book is to read it. No book, no matter what the content is will make you feel anything or make you smarter unless the book is opened and actually read. Likewise to really get all the benifits that Poomsae can give you, you must study them. Not just practise and master their solo performance, not just learning the surface stuff (kick block punch) but really really study them and try to understand them. Once you get a good start at this arguments of what kind of chamber to use, or what kind of stance you should be in, or any other thing related to solo performance gets a whole new light.

No comments:

Post a Comment