Friday, September 20, 2019

Eui-Am 5 move set


It's my belief that the five move set from Eui-Am encodes two follow up techniques after using the wedging block against an attack. The set is:
  • Front stance knifehand wedging block
  • In place, open-handed circular block 
  • Bring front foot back into cat stance twin palm downward block
  • Shift front foot into back stance reverse punch
  • Slide backwards into back stance low inward ridgehand block, bringing back arm into chest
The first technique will use an unconventional application of the circular block: an arm lock:

Source: Martial Gamer

Block a left handed attack with your right leg forward. Use the long arc of the circular block to wrap over the opponent's elbow while you pull their forearm down with your reaction hand. Doing this with enough pressure will injure the opponent's shoulder.

The finishing move the form provides is the cat stance twin palm downward block. Because this lock forces the opponent to lean left, the cat stance is probably meant to trap their left leg. You may then use your two palms to push the opponent's face to the floor.

For the next technique we will still utilize the wedging block with the right leg forward, but this time against a right handed attack. From this position, our right hand is pushing on the opponent's neck. Grab their head and pull it downwards (pulling hand) while you either grab or underhook their right arm (reverse punch). We finish with a puter kepala throw, also known as "the clock" takedown. This is performed by sliding backwards while pulling the opponent's arm and pushing their head in.

Source: Craig Gray
Eui-Am is noteworthy for being the first of the "new" forms, not one of the original 20. Some ITF-schools do not teach these forms, for fear that they were made to be challenging to perform and do not have the self-defense value the original 20 do. But I find the movements in these forms have both applications and a logical arrangement behind them.


Monday, September 9, 2019

Gae-Baek opening


In Gae-Baek we open by stepping backwards into an X-knifehand checking block. (Notably, this is the first form that opens with a step back). The "official" explanation for the checking block is that we are blocking a punch.

Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do, Vol 11
There are a couple problems with this application. Why block with two hands when one will do? The wrist twist presented is not in the form. What if we applied this a little differently?

Source: One Minute Bunkai
By deflecting with one arm (the right forearm), we can use the left forearm to chop down on the opponent's elbow, creating a figure-for lock. A straight punch may be too fast for you to apply this technique, but this will also work against a lapel grab.

This technique is a shoulder-lock and will force the opponent to bend towards their right. We follow with the low twisting kick to their right knee, unbalancing them. We finish with the landing into the front stance "punch" as a takedown: pull the opponent down over your right leg with your left hand as you push with your right hand.

Example of a twisting kick to the knee after a figure-four lock
Follow with the second punch to your downed opponent before retreating.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Striking targets for middle knuckle punch

The use of gloves in combat sports has led to the exclusive use of closed fists as a hand striking tool. But in bareknuckle fighting, striking with the front fist is risky due to the chance of breaking your small finger bones on the opponent's skull. This is why, in my opinion, most punches in TMA forms are aimed at the rib or solar plexus level, while the head is reserved for other hand strikes. Bareknuckle boxing manuals also note the problem of punching with an unprotected fist, which is why the backfist ("chopper") was a favored tool to mix in with punches.

TMAs contain a number of hand strikes outside of punches and backfists. These include the:
  • Knifehand
  • Palm heel
  • Hammerfist
  • Longfist
  • Arc hand
  • Spearhand 
  • Ridgehand
  • Two-finger poke
  • Bow wrist 
  • Index knuckle (as seen in Choong-Jang) [1]
  • Middle knuckle

The latter shows up in Gae-Baek, Choi-Yong, So-San, and the KTA poomsae Cheonkwon. It is performed either straight out or upwards like an uppercut.

Middle knuckle strikes from Gae-Baek (left), Choi-Yong (middle), and Cheonkwon (right)
The important thing to know about this strike is that it is not meant to be aimed at the throat or jaw, even though that's how it may look in the above mentioned forms. Rather, the middle knuckle fist is traditionally aimed at small, vital spots such as the temple, solar plexus, philtrum (small area between the mouth and the nose), side of the neck, and the armpit.

(Left): American Kempo-ist demonstrating middle knuckle strike to armpit. Source: casadekenpo (Right) Vital point diagram from The Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do.
Yes, really, the armpit. There is a nerve cluster there that you can find on yourself by striking lightly with your middle knuckle. You should feel a tingly sensation when you hit. Supposedly striking this hard enough will deaden the whole arm. In Gae-Baek this allows you to use the next movement -- the nine-shape block -- as an armlock without resistance. The double knuckle fist uppercut in Cheonkwon is likely aimed at the armpits as well, perhaps as a defense against a double grab.

What about the straight knuckle punch in Choi-Yong? Here I don't prefer the philtrum as a target because while it may push away the opponent, is it unlikely to end the fight. We can use the previous movement in the form -- cat stance forearm guarding block -- as an armlock to turn the opponent. This exposes the side of their neck for a knuckle fist strike.
David Gimberline demonstrating a strike to the side of the neck. Source: Shuhari Institute
Alternatively, the guarding block might be a push as you trap the opponent's leg with the cat stance. You then grab and pull in their opposite arm, turning them, as you strike the side of their neck.


[1] The twin index knuckle fist in Choong-Jang is aimed at the opponent's temples. Presumably the index knuckle gives you more motor control to dig in.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The ITF low block chamber

Last time I talked about the knifehand guarding block and the theory that originally it was the chambers of basic techniques that were the blocks. To show another example of this, let's look at the ITF/Ch'ang Hon low block chamber.

In Choi's 1959 book Tae Kwon Do Teaching Manual, the Shotokan karate low block chamber is used. But by 1965, the chamber had changed to the wrist-to-wrist position. Many ITF basic techniques -- including the rising block, backfist, and knifehand strike -- utilize this chamber.

In this chamber, the blocking tool sets up inside the pulling tool, with the fists oriented such that the back of the wrists can touch each other.
ITF Low block
The traditional use of this chamber is brush-grab-strike. Meaning:
  1. You do an initial parry against a linear attack with your front hand.
  2. You do a secondary parry with your back hand (parry-pass) and grab. This forms the chamber.
  3. Pull in the opponent's arm to your hip while you use your front hand as a strike.
For the ITF low block, the "strike" is a hammerfist to the groin. This may be done from inside or outside the opponent's arm (depending on whether you parry the attack outward or inward), although for the low block is it safer to perform from outside since you leave your head exposed.

Source: Maul565
Source: Ryan Parker
What about if you parry the arm outward? From here a different strike, such as the backfist or knifehand to the neck, is preferable. ITF uses the same chamber for these two techniques.

In this 1956 taekwondo demonstration, we see both the chamber and pulling hand utilized. Source: hapkist
Other Applications

The chamber could also be used as a flinch block against a swinging attack. Since the pulling hand is on the outside, it can catch the opponent's arm and pull as your strike. This application is similar to the above gif where a punch is deflected outward.

The ITF rising block also uses this chamber. For two consecutive rising blocks, the chamber may be used to create a rudimentary figure-four lock. The application goes like this:
  1. Use the first rising block to block an attack or raise the opponent's arm
  2. Stepping forward, thread your other arm over the opponent's elbow as you grab their forearm with the blocking arm. This creates the chamber
  3. Circle behind the opponent and pull down their forearm (pulling hand) while lifting their elbow (second rising block), creating the lock.
Source: Nantanreikan Karate Dojo
From here you may walk forward or use a three-quarter turn (like in Dan-Gun and Do-San) as a throw.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

The original guarding block chamber

Many schools, I've noticed, practice a variant of the guarding block chamber. Some shoot both arms straight back before moving them forward. Others begin with their hands down near their hips.

The original way to perform the guarding block, as shown in General Choi's books, is to begin with the back hand high, near the ear, and the the front hand at blocking level, such that it moves in a horizontal line when executing the block.

Guarding block from Taekwon-Do: The Art of Self-Defense (1965) and The Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do 2nd Ed (1987)
Why bring up this minor point? Because originally it was the chambers that were the "blocks", not the motions we today call blocks. The reason the back hand sets up near your ear is to defend against a haymaker. After this, you overhook the opponent's arm (back hand downward motion) and push out on their neck (front hand horizontal motion), preventing them from throwing another strike.
The traditional use of the guarding block in action. Source: CrossFit
A few things should be said about this application:

(1) This is a defensive technique, not a "strike". Although pressing on the side of the opponent's neck is uncomfortable, the purpose is to control the opponent until the situation de-escalates. If it does not, then there are several follow-ups from this position.

(2) The motion of the back hand is an overhook, not a pull. The purpose is to hold the opponent's arm in close to your chest to prevent them from attacking you further.

(3) Notice that when the application is executed, you are 90-degrees from your opponent. Hence while the chamber seems to be performed to your side, in reality it is performed in the direction of the haymaker.

Two other applications

The downward motion of the back hand has other uses. Another common application is an underhook, performed by making the movement more circular. You may simultaneously use the front knifehand to push the opponent's head forward. If you manage to place the opponent's forearm onto your shoulder, you can lock their elbow, creating what's call a standing ude gatame in Judo.

Underhook/ude gatame application for the guarding block. Source: PracticalKataBunkai
Like the overhook, there are several follow-ups from this position; Iain Abernethy shows a few in the linked video. The circular performance of the guarding block is also found in Choi's books, and in some karate styles such as Kyokushin.

The circular guarding block performance, from the Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do Vol 3
The third application is a head crank, performed by bringing the two hands closer together. Working together, the movement of the two palms becomes a head twisting motion. The back hand begins high and then twists low, throwing the opponent by cranking their head.

Source: Jesse Enkamp
Another example by application researcher Richard Conceicao is here. This works well for the 180-degree turn into the guarding block in move 3 of Choong-Moo. In fact, all three of these applications are scattered throughout the Ch'ang Hon forms. Try looking for one the next time you spot a guarding block.

This post is an expansion on Ørjan Nilsen's article

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Koryo and Choong-Jang target punches

The target punch originally comes from the karate kata Chinte.

Chinte's target punch. Source: Shotokan Sensei

Both Koryo (KTA) and Choong-Jang (ITF) make changes to this technique. Koryo's version is in riding stance and sets up the punch with a knifehand block. Choong-Jang's version is in back stance and changes the setup movement into a backhand downward strike.

Both versions are commonly interpreted as grabbing the back of the opponent's head and punching their face. The trouble with this is the risk of punching their forehead, breaking your fingers. Traditional forms usually aim punches at the rib or solar plexus level, and reserve the head for other strikes (backfist, knifehand, etc).

Knifehand blocks may be used to push out the face or neck. If you push out on the side of the opponent's face with the knifehand block in Koryo, this exposes the side of their head, a target safer to punch.
Source: PracticalKataBunkai
But what of Choong-Jang? Here we perform the downward strike with a stomp. This bizarre motion, to my knowledge, only appears in Choong-Jang.

Stomping motions can be used as knee strikes or as attacks to the opponent's leg, so it may be that the stomp is the primary attack, and the downward "strike" is just setting up the target punch. Stomping into a back stance is ineffective because the weight stays on our back leg, so I favor the knee strike interpretation.

However, we can also throw in a grappling application for the downward strike, since I don't think it works particularly well as a "strike". If you reach around the opponent's face and grab their jaw, you may use the circular motion as a head crank, setting them up for a strike to their neck.

Application for Choong-Jang's downward strike and target punch. Source: Martial Arts Guardian.
Combine with the knee strike to the lower back for greater effect.


Monday, April 22, 2019

Koryo first wedging block


Source: George D
Here is an application for the 180-degree turn into the front stance inner-forearm wedging block (aka opening block) after the first "knee break".

I don't interpret the latter as an actual knee break. It's true that this technique appears in older karate manuals, but the breaking palm should be in front so as to apply more pressure. See the technique shown by Kenwa Mabuni below.

Kenwa Mabuni's knee break from Karate Do Nyumon (1938)
But in Koryo the downward palm comes from the back hand. I believe this variation works better as an irimi nage (entering throw) technique. The front palm pushes in the small of the opponent's back while you throw the opponent's head to the floor. Perform after using the preceding front kick as a kick to the groin.
Sources: DTDT, Rogue Warriors
This throw may fail if the opponent steps backwards to maintain their balance. Since you are pushing in their left side with your right palm, they will have to step back with their right leg.

Grab their left leg with both fists. Then step through and turn while pulling up the leg with the inner-forearm wedging block, tripping the opponent over your rear (left) leg. This is shown in the gif below.
Source: MEMAG
Other Koryo applications:

Double Side Kick
Low Target Hammerfist
Cross-step side kick (Richard Conceicao)