Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Traditional Taekwondo Union, Black belt seminar.

I just completed a weekend Judanja seminar (black belt seminar or training weekend) arranged by the
organisation I belong to (TTU or Traditional Taekwondo Union).

(Today/day of writing is the 27th of October)

The point of this seminar is to go through the whole syllabus for your Dan grading (from 1st gup and upwards), training with new people and to arrange the physical tests and theoretical tests required for grading. I often write about how diverse the training in a traditional Taekwondo Dojang can be but after completing the weekend seminar I thought it might interest some readers to know what we did so they can compare with their own experiences how their own syllabuses compare to ours. The founder of the organisation is one of my two primary teachers and he has used Matchoe Kyorugi (formal step sparring drills) to preserve many of the aspects that are now lost in mainstream Taekwondo. I will not go into detail of every drill here, but I might do so in later blog posts if there is any interest in them. If you do step sparring in your Dojang you might get new ideas from watching others step sparring so I might include more in future blog posts. Anyhow lets look at how my weekend was:

Friday was regular training. I teach the last class of every Friday at the Dojang I belong to these days. As my goal for October was to get everyone up to speed in their formal sparring drill requirements the training focused consisted of:

  • Salutation and meditation
  • General warm up excersises
  • Specific warm up excersises (mainly dynamic stretching)
  • Kicking drills
  • Forms
  • Breaking with out measuring distance a rebreakable board. Both right and left arm, both steping and reverse punches so 4 breaks for each person.
  • Step sparring drills
  • Static stretching
  • Meditation and end salutation
I usually practise push ups, knee bends and sit ups just before the static stretching, but I did not do it because people were going to do it on saterday to pass their physical tests and I did not want them to be too tired. The board breaking is something I have not made much use of but I noticed we had a couple lying around and thought why not use them to test technique? We did regular fore fist punches but this Friday we will do knife hand breaks instead.

Saterday, Day 1:

We started out semi-early at 09:00 where we did the 8 3-step sparring required for coloured belts and the 10 3-step sparring required for Dan ranks. Personally I need to demonstrate 8 for coloured belts and 6 of the dan ranks kind for my 3rd dan test. The coloured belt 3-step sparring is quite basic and is what people usually picture as applications to the basic techinques and Poomsae. They all are purely forward and bakward movements. The Dan kind is also kick block punch but here we step back 2 times and the last one we sidestep instead. Counter attacks in this kind of sparring ranges from regular punches to elbows, kicks, knife hand strikes, etc.

The next lesson was on the 1 step sparring. We have 8 for hand techniques, and 8 for foot techniques. In the hand techniques the opponent attacks with high section punch and the defender defends with simultanious blocks and strikes using the hands (in the last two we also use the knees and even a head butt). The foot techniques variaty has the attacker doing the same thing but the defender only defends using the legs. The 8 for hands can be seen in an unformal and with less power and speed (just a run through) below:


After a short break we did a lesson first on general movement principles of Poomsae (breathing, turning on the balls of the feet, hip movement and "structure" before going through the KTA/Kukki/WTF Taegeuk and black belt Poomsae. I was allready feeling that I am no longer used to practising for several hours in a row by this point but it was still early on in the seminar.
We had a pleasent lunch while those who had to take the theory test did their test, before embarking on the next lesson which focused on the organisations set self defense (Ho Sin Sul) syllabus.

The Ho Sin Sul part of our syllabus is now "fixed" or set. Some years ago it was only the "attacks" that was predetermined. For instance the syllabus would state things such as: Defense against wrist grab, defense against lapel grab, defense against bear hugs etc. So instead of having a predetermined technique against each of these attacks you were free to make your own. My early applications from Poomsae was my way of doing it but many Dojang neglected Ho Sin Sul practise. Therefore the organisation made "set" ones so that at the very least the fixed ones would be practised and tested.  The lesson contained the 8 defenses against wrist grabs which covers some grappling techniques (straight armbar and an outward wrist throw/lock) as well as a wide range of counterattacks and release techniques. The 8 set ones can be seen below (again it is just static drilling not really put into any perspective)

In the lesson however the Master who taught made us block a jab and a cross before the opponent grabbed our wrist to make the drills more "combat oriented". I really enjoyed his way of teaching these so I will steal his method, but I will use them from a clinch, trying to gain a better position context instead of a punching context, but the concept is extremly great and I am glad I was able to attend the seminar.

We also did the 4 defenses against "body grabs" (Mom Jabgi). Number 1 against a lapel grab which essentually is the same as this:
Number 2 is against a front bear hug where his arms are covering yours. In this one you use your thumbs against vital points to break his grip and put him down on his rear (or at the very least send him flying back a couple of steps). This is a pressure point based defense and is a good example of "Ap heol bub" or using pressure to exploiut keupso or vital points. Number 3 is against a neck hold from behind where you do essentually a hip throw, but not as you usually see it, since the opponent is allready behind you, you do not do the turn that you would normally see in Judo or grappling matches. Number 4 is gainst a rear bear hug with your arms under his. In this one you drop Down while lifting your arms freeing yourself a little from the grip before flowing into a couple of rear elbow attacks. I usually take my opponent down with a knee lock as a follow up but it is not officially a part of the standard.

After this we started to do the self defense techniques against punches. The first two are against face punches where you block, counterstrike and use a lock/throw to take them down, and the second two are low punches following the same template of block, counterstrike and use grappling to take them down. The first ends in a hammer lock and a kick to the back of the knee. The second one ends in a shoulder lock that takes the opponent down, the third ends with an inward wrist lock that bends the opponent forwards into a front kick to the face, the fourth one ends with an outer wrist throw.

As some might have noticed there is quite a lot of "grappling" techniques going on here eventhough we are practising "Taekwondo" ;-) We were going to cover some knife defenses but we did not have the time unfurtunatly.

After a short break we did a class on sparring drills and sparring techniques which focused on Olympic sparring. I for one have just about zero interest in Olympic sparring but the instructor was so good that I ended up greatly enjoying it all the same :-) His sparring drills which he classified as counters to counters was eventhough specific techniques pretty principle based (that was the thing I enjoyed the most of the session). He demonstrated the drill and we drilled. After a while he demonstrated how we could use the same template against a whole host of other outcomes before giving us another template to play with. Again Olympic sparring is something I loathe but it was actually very fun to play with these drills. A great instructor (Master) can make anything interesting and fun :-P I will try and see if I can translate these "kicking based" drills into hand drills so I can have more use of them in my personal training as I am much more interested in the closer distances than the olympic sparring distances. At the very end of the session we did the physical tests for those who are going to grade. I did not do it at this point but I will try before Christmas and I am training for them specifically and regularly these days. All of those who tried managed to do it so everyone present was of good spirits:-)

Day 2 Sunday:  

My body was full of aches and pain when I woke up. When I looked at the program I almost wanted to skip the first two classes, but I managed to pull myself together and go despite all the pains and aches. I guess pushing 30 is harder than I thought :-P The reason why I was contemplating skipping the first class(es) was that they consisted solely on throws, and set sparring that would require me to breakfall and roll on a wooden floor with no matts. The first class focused on the 8 throws that we have in our syllabus which we employ against kicks when doing it for grading purposes but which we can adapt to clinchwork pretty easily when actually pracising them. They focus on lifting the opponent up and smashing them into the floor, but when we practise them on wooden floor we obviously try to ensure our partners safety by holding back. My organisation is one of very few Taekwondo assiciations that require throws at all for gradings. And for those few who actually do demand throws for grading purposes my organisation is one of the few whose throws are not "tacked on" from other arts but are a (and allways has been) a genuine part of Taekwondo. At the end of the session the first 2 knife defenses was demonstrated and drilled which was a nice change of pace for the body as it was starting to protest all the break falling it had done for the previous hour).

We took a 15 minute break before starting drilling the combination technique or eungyoung dongjak wich are 1 steps which include many elements of Taekwondo including what many people consider "ho sin sul". We have 8 (8 is a number that shows up a lot in our syllabus) of these where most consists of a block, a kick and a takedown either by sweep or some kind of lock. Again you might notice that there is an awful lot of other techniques than merely kicking and punching going on here. The class started with a lesson on rolling forwards and backwards (on the wooden floor just after having been thrown on it time and time again:-P ), before actually going into the techniques themselves. The lesson ended with drilling just the breakfalls as the teacher saw that many did not know how to do a breakfall (how on earth they survived the first lesson of the day is a mystery to me). After this we did the 8 2-step sparring we have in the syllabys. Here too we have attacks and sweeps and throws that you usually do not see in mainstream Taekwondo. Some are reminicent of the techniques in Sihak Henry Cho`s 1968 book but given the fact that my teacher is also from a Ji Do Kwan lineage that is not so strange. Others are the same as the examples in Choi Hong Hi`s 1965 book. After the lesson was over my body was complaining and protesting a lot. My muscles had contracted very much and I was a lot stiffer than I usually am. We had a 30 minute lunch before the last session started.

The last session which my own teacher taught focused on the so called TTU Poomsae (Actually they are "Soak Am Ryu Poomse"). We did a walkthrough and drilling with and without counting on 6 of them before the black belts holders was introduced and drilled the "new" ones. The first 9 has been taught and been published in a book on Poomsae and has therefore been known for some years now, but last summer(?) we were shortly introduced to 12 Poomsae with 12 Poom`s (counts) in each for black belt holders. We drilled the first 3 of these new ones in that session and they were very fun to learn. In contrast to the KTA forms the "TTU forms" have a little more kicking and a ton more variety in hand techniques and sequences. I greatly enjoy them but I still devote much of my "Poomsae practise time" on the KTA forms (about 60/40).

All in all it was a great weekend with great spirit and great people :-D I plan to go on the organisations second instructors course in November so I will probably be getting grilled equally much on the syllabus there, but one of the great things with weekends such as this is how fun it is to practise mainly the black belt syllabus as well as meeting people outside your own "bubble". The classes were held by 3 masters in the TTU all of them are technically from the same Dojang originally but all practise in seperate Dojang today. One in Meland outside of Bergen, one from Centrum (I doubt I need to say that they have a more "urban" setting) and one in the vest part of Bergen. The masters have all "mastered" the syllabus of the organisation but they also have their own areas where they tend to know more. I really enjoyed the mix of all this knowledge as they complemented each other in a great way :-)

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