Friday, 30 December 2016

Pointless discussions and why they are pointless

Strange title today is it not? The reason for this posts existance is that I have experienced watching
people discuss (and spending valuable partner time) the merits of the different blocks applied purely as blocks in step sparring. Now those who read this blog regulary will know that the organisation I train and study under have "fixed" or "set" (predetermined) step sparring drills for its students so the only punch we get in step sparring is the traditional straight punch. This is also the case for many who has not set or predermined step sparring in their syllabus too so that is why I write this post. The reason being is that many of the discussions on the different blocks are pointless and therefore steal away valuable training time!

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Why Taekwondo history research matter

Introduction: I put a lot of emphasis on both my writings, research and energy (not to say money as
well) into learning and understanding Taekwondo and martial arts history. Often I am asked why I bother with it, as there is perceived to be very little to gain from this, and it can be quite time consuming. Also I have heard (and will undoubtfully hear it more in the future) that understanding and learning history will not make someones side kick any better. It is true that history will not make you perform physically better, but in my opinion it is one of the areas that are grossly overlooked and despite what people believe and perceive, I personally have gained a lot from this research. In the hopes to motivate others into delving a little more into history I will write a few points on what this is in this post.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

The interconnectedness of Poomsae

In the old days it was normal even for a master of the martial arts to know as few as 1-5 forms, but
these forms were studied in great depth. Today we have a situation where we have an abundance of forms, which promotes a wide but shallow study of them, but as Funakoshi writes and I am paraphrasing heavily here; the forms are just variations on a theme. This means that if you know one or a few form(s) indepth, you will come to understand another form much more easily than someone who does not have a clue. The forms are made for self defense, and this is even confirmed for the Taekwondo forms of the KTA (also recognized by the Kukkiwon and WTF) by Lee Kyu Hyun in his 2010 book "What is Taekwondo Poomsae?". This means that the "problem" or "theme" that the forms are a variation of is the same for Karate, Taekwondo and many Chinese systems as well, the theme being self defense, or the countering of physical violence.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Sword + Taekwondo = True?

Taekwondo is concerned with unarmed
conflict for the most part, allthough it would be a lie to say that it did not have defenses against weapons too in its syllabus. It does not matter wether you look into the Kukkiwon Textbook or the Encyclopedias of Choi Hong Hi on this matter, and most of the early books on Taekwondo included some defenses against weapons. Many will probably be suprised when I say that in the Kukkiwon Textbook there are examples of defenses against long stick, club, knife, pistol, bayonet and the sword. Many will indeed be suprised, as these are not widely practised anymore, but others will still be taught defenses against all or some of them even today. My take on this is that to be able to defend against weapons you need to familiarize yourself with them, so I find it likely that the older practisioners of Taekwondo had some basic training with all of these weapons. That being said, weapons forms, and more systematizised weapons study has not typically been seen in Taekwondo Dojang. Sure there are those who wants to charge more money form their students and include some XMA inspired "weapons programs" (note the "-signs in "weapons"), and there are those who are even more "ingenious" when it comes to including weapons training. One Korean master I came across had developed a revolutionary weapons program with the sword where you would essentually be doing the Taegeuk series with a sword instead of the normal hand techniques. And Amarican master I came across tried to sell the idea of an ancient sword form that he had discovered in a Korean temple which turned out to be Taegeuk Il Jang with a sword. Except for Master Kim Bok Man I do not know of any Taekwondo masters who teach weapons as a genuine part of their art. This goes to show that Taekwondo is essentually a weaponless system.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Micro post; This months quote

Hi there:-) I was reading "The unfettered mind" the other day and one of the things Takuan Soho writes made me think about why we do Poomsae over and over again. It made perfect sense to me, so I thought I should share it with you here. As you know I think that Poomsa (among other things) display tactics and strategy, or principles through a collection of techniques in other words.

The Unfettered Mind by Takuan Soho page 11:

"Even though you know principle, you must make youself perfectly free in the use of technique"

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

The relationship between sparring and forms, a Taekwondo perspective

This article was originally published in Totally Taekwondo Magazine 1st of July 2016. It looks at Taekwondo litterature ranging from 1958 to 2010 and looks into how Taekwondo textbooks have defined sparring and forms individually and then tackles the age old quesiton wether the two have a relationship between them. I hope you will find this interesting, and since this is meant to be a serious article and not "just a blogpost" it contains references to all the books I have used for this article, as well as exactly where each of my quotes has been found. Earlier I have done a lousy job With this, just providing the person behind the quote and maybe a title, but if a reference is to have true value it needs to pinpoint a location so that people can go and check all my claims, and do it easily instead of having to sift through a whole book each time. It is my hope that more will try to write and produce more serious Taekwondo litterature over time so that we can elevate the martial art we all love and respect. I might not be a scholar but I do try, and this is the result of just that.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Dangkinun Son - The pulling hand

Dangkinun son (당기는손) or the pulling hand refers to the arm/hand that is seemingly doing nothing
in the textbook applications of Taekwondo basic techniques. This is the hand on the hip in most techniques in Poomsae. While one hand is punching, striking of blocking the other hand is pulled back to the hip. We know based on the writings of Funakoshi (and several others) that this part of the technique is actually a very important active part of it and not something passively done for the sake of it. Nor is the hand placed on the hip to be "ready" for the next move (although that happens also sometimes). More often than not the other hand is checking the opponents arm, removing his defenses, pulling him off balance and generally opening the opponent up for a strike. Taekwondo is often said to be a simplified version of Japanese Karate, Japanese Karate being an already simplified version of Okinawan Karate. I think that the Taekwondo we generally see today is simplified in the extreme (albeit with a lot of added foot techniques), not because it was based on Japanese Karate, but because over time Taekwondo has been sportified and defanged in many ways to appeal to new students. This has worked a lot when looking at the number of students as the number one sucsess criteria, but in my eyes a lot has been lost over the years. The concept of the pulling hand is one of these things. Why I devote so much time on this concept you ask? It is one of the most distinguishing features of our basic techniques, and after reading Richard Chun`s 1976 book I again was firmly reminded of what has been lost.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Micro post; This Months quote:

«One of the ultimate objectives of Taekwondo training is free style fighting. Of course, free style fighting is a substitute for the real ultimate of Taekwondo, self-protection against any attack at any time under any conditions» -«Korean Karate The art of Tae Kwon Do» 1968 by Duk Sung Son and Robert J. Clark page 267.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Warm up for Taekwondo

I got an interesting question the other day when I chatted with a friend about general Taekwondo training, and the conversation turned toward warm up. This is something that is often a missunderstood part of training, and it also comes with its own myths as well. I like to believe that Taekwondo being in the Olympics has made more instructors aware of sport science and that we generally have moved on from the 1950s/60s idea of a warm up based on army training. I see that modern Dojang that leans toward Olympic sparring is actually more up to date on this area, and holds an advantage over "traditional" oriented Dojang around the world. It is more often than not those "traditional" oriented Dojang that does not understand what a warm up is for in my own opinion. There is a lot of heavy science and theory behind what a good warm up should be, and what the purpose of a warm up is.

However instead of sharing a lot of dry research material, and a lot of theory, I would rather just share my thoughts on the topic of warm up, both its purpose, its length and proposed drills, and why those drills have been selected.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Review on Taekwondo; Origins of the art: a historic photospective

Taekwon-Do - Origins of the art:

Bok Man Kim`s Historic Photospective (1955-2015)

Review by Ørjan Nilsen

Being a self-appointed "Taekwondo-nerd" and amateur historian of Taekwondo, I noticed that the name Kim Bok Man showed up frequently during my studies of Taekwondo history. Despite his name showing up in several places, I did not really know much about him other than the fact that he was one of the original instructors of the Oh Do Kwan and close to General Choi Hong Hi during the formative years of Taekwondo. I am very interested in the history of Taekwondo (any lineage), so when I first heard about this project I anticipated opening the finished product, especially since photos and documentation in Taekwondo`s formative years (1950s to early 60s) seem to be quite rare. Being the lucky man that I am, I was asked if I was interested in doing a review for the book, to which I immediately said, «Yes!»

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Micro Post; This months quote

"If you study carelessly or haphazardly, your Poomsae* and techniques will never come to life"
-Gichin Funakoshi 1943

(*He obviously said "Kata" where I have put "Poomsae" in the quote)

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

This summer`s first outside training

In Bergen the schools gyms close very early for the summer. Last Friday (20th of May) was our last training and now we will only have sporadic training sessions outside (because we lack a place to be) until the government opens up their school gyms for us again. This is despite the lack of a place to be one of my favorite parts of my taekwondo year. I simply put out on facebook or by phone that I`m going to practise at such and such place at such and such time and People who genuinely want to practise show up. It is less formal, and I often use this part of the year to experiment on training drills and poomsae applications. Yesterday was the first of these training sessions and we had a small group of 4 people show up.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Taekwondo Philosophy and ethics

Kwan Heon

«All Kwan generally has the same Heon, but they express it in different ways»

-Cho Woon Sup (Quote from «Taekwondo» page 12)


Kwan can be translated as «school» and «Heon» can be translated as instruction or directive. Taekwondo as we know it today came to us through several different Kwan. Chang Hon Taekwondo (often called «ITF Taekwon-Do») is one style of Taekwondo that was first taught at the Oh Do
Kwan, with several of the first instructors being trained in the Chung Do Kwan. Kukki Taekwondo (often called WTF Taekwondo) is the result of a merger of all the major Kwan (including Oh Do Kwan) in the 1970s. In this article I want to look at how the different organisations and Kwan of Taekwondo expresses their Kwan Heon and see how they all are indeed variations on a theme. My hope is that after reading this article you will have a greater understanding of Taekwondo philosophy, ethics and goals.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Micro Post; This months quote

"His smile can win even the hearts of little children, his anger can make a tiger crouch in fear. This succintly decribes the true martial artist" - Gichin Funakoshi, Karate-Do Nyumon 1943

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

The Poomsae are "FIXED", you however, are not fixed.

I wrote in the last blogpost about how the teaching of poomsae applications for a new audience was going, and remembered a brief exchange between me and one of the students. The reason I am writing about this is that this is also an issue I have encountered online, and during teaching this kind of material before.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Teaching applications from Poomsae to a new audience

The last three Fridays I have had the pleasure of teaching the grown up class. I always start with Taekwondo done. Dont get me wrong though we kick during class as well. We do have multiple partner drills (Matchoe kyourigi) which are set, so we do kick a lot no matter what I do. Of course Poomsae and free sparring gives us ample time to kick as well. Since we started up the class after the Christmas holliday I have spendt a lot of time doing pad work drills focusing on punching and the last three Fridays I have also spendt some time covering applications from Poomsae movements in general with a focus on Taegeuk Il (1) Jang.
some stretching, and then focus mostly on "dynamic stretching" (i.e. "leg swings") so that I have gotten the "kicking part" of

Friday, 1 April 2016

Micro post; This months quote:

When we read about Funakoshi`s early training we often read that he was a student of Itosu. This is correct but if you read his autobiography or his own works on Karate, he often mentions and seem to consider himself a student of Azato as his primary instructor and teacher, with aditional training and input from Itosu. We know a lot about Itosu, and many karate lineages comes through him so we can clearly see his influence in Karate today. Azato on the other hand does not seem to have any "living" lineage except Funakoshi. Little is therefore known about him, which is a shame as Funakoshi describes him as the finest karate person the world has ever seen. We know he studied Karate, sword fencing and archery among other things so he was a very ecclectic martial artist, but we only have a few anecdotes about how he viewed the martial arts. This months quote is from one of Giching Funakoshi`s books on Karate where he attributes a quote to Azato.

"Invincibility in battle does not make a man virtous; a virtous warrior is one who defeats his opponent without engaging in battle" -Azato

The above quote mirrors a famous line in "The art of war" by Sun Tzu, and it is likely that Azato being schooled in the Chinese classics had a lot of knowledge about that book. It can indeed be were the quote of Azato originated in the first place. I agree with the sentiment from an ethical standpoint. It is always preferable and better to not fight at all and if forced to fight, do as little damage as possible. It is morally and ethically a great goal to strive for. It is also something that alignes itself very nicely into most of the self defense laws I have read.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Micro post; This months quote

"This months quote" is back! I mentioned a while back that I am currently working through all the translated works of Funakoshi, carefully taking notes as I go, and I just could not help to write down many quotes as I went along. Funakoshi is one quoteable guy! Eventhough this is a blog dedicated to Taekwondo, Funakoshi had a tremendous influence on the art we practise and so I think that his works are highly relevant to us as martial artists. We call ourselves "Taekwondo students" (or some variations like Taekwondoin) but eventhough we use other forms, we use Korean terminology and have aspects of our system that is unique to our system (most noteable the sport sparring system and high kicks), much of the base of our art comes from Funakoshi.

"You can not train through words. You must learn through your body."
-Gichin Funakoshi Karate Do Nyumon 1943

I read this statement and had to read it again. We can talk about Taekwondo, watch videos, and blog all we want, but true learning happens on the Dojang floor. Sometimes that is easy to forget, but it is true. Sure we can gain new insights through watching, listening and reading about Taekwondo or related material, but we need to actually train it and study it on the Dojang floor to make it an integral part of "our" Taekwondo and not just something "interesting" that you read/ listened to/ watched.
Over the next few months the quote of the month will come from Funakoshi. I am planning to go through a different book series when I am "finished" with Funakoshi, so if you do not like Funakoshi quotes, do not worry, he will be followed by other martial artists in due time :-) 

Monday, 22 February 2016

Hwang Kee`s 10 precepts + important points on physical and mental training

I have translated a few sections from Hwang Kee`s 1958 book now and want to share it. I have included the two pages I have translated at the end of the post so anyone more knowledgeable in Korean can give their two cents :-) I have translated most of this myself without help (the 10 guidelines have been verified to hit the mark so to speak) so any mistakes here is mine and mine alone. I will be the first to admit that I am in no way fluent in Korean.

First out is the 10 point creed of Mu Duk Kwan as written by Hwang Kee himself in 1958. I have no idea if this creed is still in use. He starts each creed with the number 1. Similar creeds or guidelines appear in many Japanese Dojo and the numbering each as 1 means that they are all equally important. You will note that many of these points are mirrored in the more famous tenets of Taekwondo and 5 rules of taekwondo by Choi Hong Hi as well as other Kwan`s philosophy. My own teacher said in his first book that allthough there were differences in execution of techniques and forms as well as different "philosophies" their philosophies usually had the same core.

Hwang Kee includes an explanation to each guideline in his original text. So far I have not had the time to translate them but I will give it my best shot as soon as my Schedule opens up :-)

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

7 Training precepts of Funakoshi

I have written many times about the history of Taekwondo, and how important Gichin Funakoshi is in it. He is the teacher of most of the first generation of Taekwondo masters. To me at least this makes him a central figure in Taekwondo history, and when reading his works I also get an apreciation of just how much of the traditional Taekwondo I study has been influenced by him. The Yun Mu Kwan (later Ji Do Kwan), Chung Do Kwan, Song Mu Kwan, and Oh Do Kwan all have roots stretching back directly to Funakoshi. Mu Duk Kwan`s founder Hwang Kee was also strongly influenced by him allthough he did not train directly with him, he did read Karate books (most likely written by Funakoshi) and he trained a little at the Chung Do Kwan.

Recently I filled my "holes" in my Funakoshi collection and got the remaining books written by him, so now I am the proud owner of all his translated works. I am "celebrating" by going through each book carefully, taking notes as I slowly make my way through them and I will share some of those notes and my thoughts regarding them along the way. So far I have completed "The Essence of Karate", 21 Guiding precepts of Karate and Karate Do Nyumon (Master introductionary Text of Karate). Going through the latter I found 7 training precepts that Funakoshi tells us about that I think might help people who study Taekwondo too. So without further adu here are the training precepts:

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Revamping mainstream Taekwondo to self defense

Taekwondo is different things to different people, and indeed there are many different reasons why
people practise Taekwondo. Some enjoy the sport of sparring, other the solo performance of its forms, yet others like the "brotherhood" of the Dojang they belong to. If you ask 100 students from the age of 16 and older why they first started though I believe there is a very good chance that the answer is at least partly for the whish to learn self defense skills. Many who reads this blog gets the impression that I am a full time instructor and that I run my own Dojang, but that is a mistaken belief.

I am training in a Dojang that operates out of a school gym with very limited training time as well as equipment. I have for a long time however taken charge of my own development outside the Dojang as well as inside it, so eventhough I only make it to the Dojang twice a week I do some kind of Taekwondo practise every day, and often if you count the small minute sessions I do it several times each and every day. For the most part however I see that most of the students at the Dojang I practise at and I guess based on conversations with other masters, that the "normal" students practises Taekwondo at the Dojang 2 times a week and thats it. When you look at the training time invested coupled with all that Taekwondo encompasses there is no denying that people dont really get their pennies worth when it comes to self defense. It is therefore not strange to observe that other martial arts and "reality based systems" who give more imidiate results gets more popular with the general public. The result is therefore that old students quit after 1-3 years, and new students comes in the door at longer and longer intervals.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Some application GIF`s (almost movie :-) )

I have been asked for video demonstrations instead of pictures when it comes to applications, but I have opted for pictures because with them I can use and reuse for different publications. Since I also contribute to various other formats (most noteably Totally TKD Magazine) it is only natural that most of the demonstrations are in picture and text format only. Messing around on blogger the other day I noticed that my phone and blogger had made various GIF`s of several application photos and I decided to share them and not let them go to waste. Since the applications have been thouroughly explained before on this blog I will not go into great detail here, only short explanations along with the gifs.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

The importance of "Chambering"

Traditional Martial Artists often discuss "technique" and how to properly excecute them. Great deal
of thought and teaching goes into minute detail for each technique. One thing that I see less and less in Kukki TKD these days is the variance within how to do the techniques. Before the internet, and the large focus of Kukkiwon to standarize its techniques many masters did the techniques different from each other. Often the differences amounted to very little if any difference in actual application, making most changes aestetic instead of practical. In some cases though how to perform a technique will change the application or in worst case make the practical application of a technique impossible.

I have opted to demonstrate two techniques in Taekwondo in this post: Knife hand guarding block (Sonnal geoduro makki) and forward back fist strike (Deungjomeok ap chigi) to show how the chambers fit in with the actual application of a technique.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

2015 in retrospect and where do we go from here?

Each January I like to sit down, have a cup of tea and look through the blog from the previous year
and reflect on what I want to do in the current year. Looking through the post I wrote in January 2015 I realize that the quote of the month did not go as planned (to put it mildly), and I do hope I can restart it this year, because I really love quotes. If you are looking for a freshly written indepth article you can skip this post, but if you are curious as to which posts were the most popular wth the raders, which posts were my favorites, which posts garnered the most discussion etc please read on.