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.

Samir Berardo who is a great knowledgeable martial artist who focuses on Okinawan Karate shared a video of himself demonstrating an Okinawan form, and eventhough this is the first time I saw that version of the form, I could imidiatly recognize applications for over 90% of the movements simply because I am "used to" analysing the forms I do train. The forms are different, but they are indeed a variation on a theme. But I am digressing here, the post is not about Taekwondo and Karate, but rather one of the strengths of having many different forms in one system, when the history tells us that we should study a few indepth. I agree with the past masters in that depth is much better than a shallow understanding of forms, but in modern Kukki Taekwondo I see a great interconnectedness within the forms we practise. They are variations on a single theme after all, and some solutions will fit different people better. Step 3 in training of Poomsae according to the Kukkiwon Textbook is to find out the practicality of the poomsae and I have devoted much writing on it, but we should not overlook step four which is all about finding out what fits you as an individual. This is where the interconnectedness of Poomsae comes into play, because I do not think that one form really do have all the answers to combat that fits everyone. This means that several options for the same "problem" is needed. The combative principles will not vary, but the way they are adhered to will.

One of my favorite principles that I stress in my own training is that I want to work my way to the outside of the opponent. This is safer than being on the inside. You do sometimes need to go to the inside, or you end up there, but in my book you should strive to work your way to the outside of the opponent. The reason is that if you have your "centerline" toward your opponent, while his centerline is offline you will have all your weapons trailed at him, while he will be very limited in his options.

In this post I will demonstrate 3 different variations on this theme all starting with a single knife hand block in back stance.

Variation 1 from Taegeuk Sam Jang:

This one is perhaps the most basic one. Here you parry inward with a shortened an makki while stepping to the outside of the opponent, pass and trap to your other hand, grab, pull toward your hip while punching the opponent with your other arm. In the old days if this was the only form practised I am sure they would have this as a basic demonstration of the combative principle, but that they would expand on it on their own. For instance adding different counter attacks instead of the punch, or perhaps add on some locks for control. The form demonstrates the key combative principle and the students expand on it. In modern Taekwondo however with lots of forms to draw on we get several more examples using the same combative principle as before (work yourself on the outside of the opponent with your centerline toward the opponent while being offline of his centerline.

Variation 2 from Taegeuk Sa Jang:


(I know, it is not a knife hand block, it is just a regular outward block.)
This one start out on the same way as before, but it does not necesarily have to be against the same attack. It could be from any number of "straight" attacks, or from a contact point, as for example the opponent blocked your previous attack (this is how I interpret the form). Anyhow parry, pass, grab and pull to your hip to straighten his arm, kick him low to take out his structure in case he resists and then hyperextend the joint with an inward forearm strike to the opponenets elbow. The way I interpret the form, it will tell you what to do from here if you please, but here I simply present this as an example of how the forms are variations on a theme.

Variation 3 from Pyongwon Poomsae:

The first technique demonstrates an armbar that have been explored previously in the Poomsae. This form however tells you that if you fail to apply the armbar and the opponent strikes you as a counter you again parry, pass, grab and pull, working your way to the outside and then deliver the rising elbow strike toward his elbow. This is very powerfull and I would not be suprised if it did take out his elbow joint. If not preced to kick him.

The parry pass method is used in most outward single handed "blocks", as well as high section block. Whereas one passes the hand to the side, clearing a path to the opponents vital points, the other passes it to the side and upward, opening up the opponents lower section more, and providing an obstruction for the opponent to see. In the KTA Poomsae the high section is therefore often followed by a kick. The parry pass method often fits when looking at techniques using chamber on the outside of the pulling hand.

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