Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Let us make Gibon Dongjak great again!

Sorry for making that terrible pun at president Trump's expense, but come on, give me this one. At
the time of writing this I have been discussing the realism and usefullness of Gibon Dongjak training. Gibon means fundamental, and dongjak can be translated as movement. In English we often hear the term "basics" which I really do not like because that sounds like something you learn, and then move on to "advancics" instead. Fundamental movements gives at least me better mental connotation as we are talking about functional movements that need to be adapted slightly for applications. It is like Iain Abernethy talks a little about in his podcast "The Case for Kihon" where he likens Kihon (Gibon Dongjak) to the foundations to a building. The foundation is vital to the health and stability of the building but it is not the directly usable bit. Again to paraphrase that podcast, as I write this I am not using the foundations of my house, but I am in a room built on top of it. There are a few issues with typical gibon dongjak training though so let us look a little on that first.

Gibon Dongjak training in its more typical format that you see in Dojang today is a pretty new inovation in the great scheme of things. The activity is often the class lines up and then perform single techniques or a short series of techniques to the count of the instructor(s) while marching up and down the Dojang floor. Another English term that is sometimes used to refer to this kind of training is "Linework". It is often seen as "dead training" which leaves you nowhere, and that it is little realistic. You lack a partner, and you do not actually hit anything. While Solo performance of techniques to sharpen them has always been done by warriors, the modern linework is as I said a relativly new innovation that was introduced in the early 1900s when Karate was introduced in the school system, and in Chinese martial arts when the solo performance of Quan (forms) were stressed for health and building a strong chinese nation (as spearheaded by the Jing Wu Association among others) around 1920-40s. As Taekwondo came about between 1944-1970 with the name itself being introduced in 1955 this activity has always been a part of our martial art as was the norm at the time of its formation. Now listen to Iain Abernethy's podcast "The case for Kihon", because he does a far better job than I will ever do on this blog for this topic. Instead of almost retelling that podcast I would rather give the readers a glimpse on how to make Gibon Dongjak more relevant in a more modern Dojang setting than what is the norm.

In the Kukkiwon Textbook it is stated that Gibon Dongjak training is done to become better at Poomsae. This means that you will either practise the single techniques that appear in Poomsae or that you will isolate certain sequences of Poomsae to train those and then become better at Poomsae. The trouble with this is that there is a lot of techniques in Taekwondo that do not appear in Poomsae. Bear Paw strike is just one, but there are many others, particular kicks. When I practised at Chosun University they would divide their Gibon Dongjak into two parts: 1: single techniques or sequences lifted from Poomsae to become better at Poomsae, and 2: Bal Chagi Undong (training for kicks and foot techniques). This worked so well that I copied it for years when I got back home and it is something to consider if you do not allready do it. One thing that Iain Abernethy say that I think many will recognize is that we practise unusable sequences at the instructors whims. Single techniques are no problem here as if you are doing single techniques you are sharpening one specific functional movment, but when it comes to sequences instructors often either: 1: Pick techniques at random for students to have something to do and busy work, or they 2: pick sequences which only works in a pure block kick punch paradigm which means that chambers, and many other factors makes the sequence improbable to be of any use unless they are heavily modified for application, or not useable outside a formal sparring setting (1, 2 and 3 step sparring).

One easy but not so easy way to fix this is to pick sequences that do work, but which consists of traditional techniques. This is easy if you know how to apply traditional movements (which is sadly often not the case), but it does demand more from the instructor when teaching because each sequence needs to work in real life.

On the 21st of April I taught a session one friday night and I made sure we did some gibon dongjak training, but I did it in a functional way. I will share one sequence with you in this post to hopefully demonstrate the concept and then you can play around with it and make your own practical sequences.

Techinque one:

Solo performance: Step forward and punch from guard with the other hand guarding the center line and or the head. We practised the technique in isolation moving from one end of the hall to the other end with no partner. Simply punch. As an alternative you can use a purely "poomsae punch" and you can start from a back stance and guarding block if you so wish.

Partner practise: From slightly outside range step forward and punch toward the opponents head. You step forward to get in range and to get as much power as possible into the target. The opponent blocks inward, either normal "an makki" with the forearm/ wrist or with an open hand. What is important for this session is that he makes contact on the outside of the punching arm.

Technique two:

Solo performance: You still step forward and punch in head height. If you step forward with your right foot, you punch with your right arm and vice versa. After completing the punch you step forward once again into back stance and do a knife hand guarding block. One count you do two techniques. Do this on both sides. Since we did this from one side of the hall to the other we just switched on the middle of the hall.

Partner practise: You step forward and punch the opponents face, he blocks inwards. His block is now in the way for a clean strike and you have to clear a path if you want to end this quick. You therefore step forward and clear the path with the chamber of the knife hand guarding block. If the opponent is a lot higher than you, you use one hand to clear the path, the other to strike hard on the arm to make him bed down a little. The actual "block" becomes a knife hand strike to the side of the neck. You can either simulate that this goes our way or you can let the opponent block the knife hand strike with his free hand. I let them block from the start so both get training from this drill. One point of attention though, make sure they block it as if it is a powerful knife hand strike. When drilling like this it often becomes light contact or that we stop the strike just short of its target. Some therefore block by putting the hand almost on their face instead of blocking outwards to stop the strike. Make sure they do the latter.

Technique three:

Solo Performance: You step forward and punch high section, you step forward into back  stance and do a knife hand guarding block, then shifting from back stance to ap koobi (long front walking stance) without actually walking forward you do a twisting single knife hand outward block, such as the one you do in Taegeuk Yuk Jang just before the roundhouse kicks.

Partner practise: You step forward to punch your opponents face and he blocks it inward. You step forward clearing a path and delivering a knife hand strike to the opponents neck which he blocks with his free hand. You then do the twisting knife hand outward block from taegeuk 6 jang just as in the form with the "blocking hand" coming on the outside of the pulling hand. This clears the path from the opponents block and the twisting in the stance turns him away from you while you still have all weapons locked on target.

Technique four:

Solo performance: You step forward and punch. You step forward into back stance and do a knife hand guarding block, and then do a twisting outward knife hand block such as the one from taegeuk youk jang just before the roundhouse kicks. The fourth technique can be anything you like which fits from the previous position, I let the students pick a strike of their own choosing, but you could be boring and give them a traditional roundhouse kick with the ball of the foot. This demands that you have taught them this technique as a short range roundhouse kick, because doing a long range modern roundhouse with the ball of the foot or the instep will not fit because of the range. Other strikes can be but is not limited to: Knife hand strikes (inward knife hand strike will be difficult to defend against at this point), open handed strike, forefist punch mid section and high section etc.

Partner practise: Do as before but after the last twisting knife hand block you do the strike/kick you are told to do, or you pick one on your own. I like the latter because it introduced some degree of "play" which makes the training more fun, and it also challenges the students a little as they have been spoonfed up until now.

This sequence consists purely of traditional basic techniques as we do them, but the sequencing makes sense from a practical point of view. This means that eventhough you do not have a partner you are practising something you can use, and not just random techniques thrown together in a sequence so you have a sequence to train. If you do not want to lift sequences from Poomsae, this is in my opinion the way to go with basics. You can do the partner practise if you like, you could just demonstrate them so they know what they are doing or you could simply do the sequence and let them do it as we do with most sequences in gibon dongjak training :-P

I will edit this post with a video demonstrating the solo performance and partner practise in the future if I can find someone who is willing to do it for everyone to see (which is kinda scary).

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