Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Two basic dangkinun son drills (incorporating the pulling arm into training)

I have gradually introduced practical applications to our Poomsae during the last two years of training. There has been a lot of pitfalls by starting to teach them to people who do not "get it" and who have trained for years pulling their hands on their hips "because it is tradition" etc. One of my greatest pains was to get people to use both hands instead of one. You see we use both hands in our forms, and in our basic techniques, but once we start applying the moves in formal 1, 2, and three step sparring we usually use the one "active" hand and the other hand is just pulled back to the hip because it is tradition. So eventhough our forms and basics ingrain a functional movement, I struggled to get people to use it in a functional way. The simple punch is a great example. I realized only later what I was doing wrong. I was teaching the Poomsae applications just as they appear in Poomsae. This can surely be done, but if we are doing it that way we need to devote much training time so people understand it. Breaking the Poomsae down into single techniques and drilling the core concepts instead proved to be much faster and easier so I made two drills using the focus mitts to introduce impact too, and I did not mention Poomsae or basic techniques when I introduced them. I made it very simple.

The result was that people almost instantly applied the traditional movements without any problems. Whereas I had tried to get them to apply small sequences just like in their forms, this time I isolated some core concepts and let them at it.

In the clip below we see the first drill. It simply isolates a traditional taekwondo punch. In essence we grab and pull the opponents arm with one hand and punch with the other. Natural, simple and effective way of getting a punch in through the opponents defenses.

I quickly demonstrate a lead hand variant, but we just drilled using the lead hand to clear a path for our back hand cross. For variety if the students internalize the basic premise quickly you can start varying while using the basic template of the drill by starting from a contact point (you cross your arm with your opponents arm). This can for instance simulate that your initial strike was blocked, or parried by a flinch response. You grab and pull with the hand that is in contact and punch with the other. The skill is a valuable one as I said if you punch and the opponent blocks this is a basic way to clear the limbs that are in the way and get a shot in. Most Taekwondo students that I have seen rarely if ever practise what to do if the opponent defends against hand strikes.

After internalizing the core concept of using both hands while striking you can add other elements gradually. In the clip below you can see one way we added to the first drill by incorporating a simple elbow joint lock and a punch. In the clip I let the opponent get up a little from the joint lock so we can safely simulate a punch into the focus mitt which represents the opponents head. That is simply something we do to drill using impact, in actual application I would never let the opponent get up like that.

By adding the elbow joint lock and punch, I also added one application to traditional low block and punch combination. You could say that this is one possible applicaiton for Taegeuk 1 Jang move 3 (short stance mid section punch) and move 5a+5b (move 90 degrees into low block and mid section punch).

Additional variations can be to change the last punch into another joint lock (outward wrist throw for instance) and deliver a finishing blow to the pad when the opponent has landed on his back.

Just comment if you have any questions about the drill :-)


  1. interesting, i never thought that this was uncommon. i always demonstrated this to our white belts albeit more as an introduction to getting an opponents "feel" than a part of a form.

    the basic idea was to press on the opponents arm, if it gave way, punch right over the top. if there was resistance (very common in lower belts) the punch goes under the arm.
    the more experience, the more tactile information is available to you. someday i will have to relate an old samurai story that encapsulate this beautifully

    1. Looking forward to that story Richard ;-) Using the other "non striking" hand is not something I have seen in many Dojang, so my personal subjective experience tells me that this is rare, but since it is just my subjective experience it could be a very wrong view :-)

      I have not seen that many Dojang that practise with impact equipment at all, and when I do see people practising with focus mitts like we do in the clip they tend to practise in a very "boxing manner" because that is what they have seen. Here we are using the pads to practise in a very "taekwondonised" way, incorporating the pulling hand.

  2. i have always loved this story as it clearly shows the difference between familiarity and mastery.

    In old Japan there was a notorious bandit, responsible for many robberies and killings in the course of them. He eluded capture for many years but finally the law caught up to him. While sitting in jail, no doubt awaiting his execution, the samurai who captured him came in to speak with him. "i am curious, he asked. Most of the time you would just kill your victims, but every once in a while you would drop your sword and run away as if there was a demon chasing you. What changed your mind?"
    "it's actually very simple", the bandit replied. "I would take out my sword and press it against theirs. If i felt resistance, i would just kill them. however, i pressed against their sword and felt absolutely nothing-- I knew it was time to get the hell out of there! That man was a Master."

    i have found that this concept applies to so much in the martial arts.

    1. That is an awsome story. I think I remember hearing this many years ago, but some stories become better the more you know and learn. Like everytime I re-read Book of five rings I take something new from the reading because I know more since the last time I read it, if you know what I mean. Thanks for sharing though. I will probably steal this story for one of the sessions I teach :-)

  3. This is great, and just what the taekwondo-comunity needs. :) What would be great, is a somewhat longer video, explaining the use of the pulling hand (both for punches and blocks, as they appear in the poomsae) and applications in general terms with several more examples and elaboration. It doesn't have to be long or have high production values, but 10 minutes of video on youtube, with a general explanation of the concept as shown above, and a few examples and applications, would probably be met with a lot of enthusiasm among Kukki Taekwondo-practitioners who lacks this completely necessary part of their Taekwondo education. :)