Friday, February 17, 2017


This blog has been fun to write. It's given me a chance to organize my notes (which are very long and chaotic) in a presentable way. However, even though I've only been writing this blog for a few months, it takes up a lot of work and time. There are some other things in my life right now which take precedent, so I've decided to put this blog on hiatus.

The purpose of this blog is not just to share applications, but to inspire others to do their own searching. If you have any questions about the ITF forms (Chon-Ji through Gae-Baek) feel free to comment and I'll look through my notes and see what I can find.

My posts on Joong-Gun and Ko-Dang might have given the impression that each set in a form has one application and that's it. While I think discovering the form's strategy or theme is important, many of the sets -- especially those in the lower forms -- have multiple applications to them. For example: the wedging block set in Do-San can be used to block a roundhouse punch, to block a shove, to create a nikkyo wrist lock, to defend against a double lapel grab, or as tomoe nage. So I wouldn't get too hung up on what the "right" application is: find something that both works and follows the form.

Here is a directory of the posts so far:

Chon-Ji and Dan-Gun

Using chambers to parry attacks (Discusses both parry-pass and brush-grab-strike)
Addendum: More on basic blocks
The front stance middle punch
Dan-Gun: Defense against roundhouse punches
Additional Applications


Locking in Do-San, Part I
Locking in Do-San, Part II


Kick-catching, Part I
Kick-catching, Part II
Kick-catching, Part III


Throwing in Choong-Moo, Part I
Throwing in Choong-Moo, Part II


Even more throwing, from Po-Eun!


Tackle defense, Part I
Tackle defense, Part II


Why the ITF forms are not just remixes of Shotokan karate kata

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Tackle Defense in Ko-Dang, Part 2

View part 1 here.

The second half of Ko-Dang covers other common tackle defenses: step back and front kick, the guillotine choke, a sideways sprawl, and a sacrifice throw.

Moves 23-27
Front kick versus a tackle.
Source: GloriaPhaeton

At this point the form "resets" and we defend from a distance tackle again. Step back with your front leg and kick with your back (now front) leg. The step back is just to gain distance, but in a closer range you might be a knee strike instead. After the kick, land forward and execute a double inward strike to the opponent's neck.

Source: Andrew Lock
For the next defense, we're going to begin with the double knifehand strike -- using it more as a double forearm block to mitigate our opponent's charge (see left image).

But of course, they're going to keep charging, so we execute knifehand rising block to their throat -- lifting their head upwards  (we can use the outer hand of the chamber to first push their head to the side) -- and side step to the right while pushing them out to the left and downward (side step into low guarding block). From here, grab their head and execute downward punch with your back hand, either punching the back of their head or pushing their body to the ground.

Moves 27-29

Source: Fight Authority
Finally we get to the guillotine choke -- another common tackle defense that makes the whole tackle idea very risky to begin with. The back hand downward punch is actually the first part of the choke; look at the right gif if you don't believe me. (He actually says, "It's like you're trying to punch the ground" in the video). This downward punch both traps the opponent's head and strikes the side of their neck with your forearm. Lift your forearm up under the opponent's neck while pushing their shoulder down with your other hand. You can also link your arms by grabbing your right wrist, though this isn't in the form.

From here, slide backwards while lifting your arms back (guarding block chamber) to choke out your opponent. Some grappling arts will tell you to fall down on your back to choke, but we want to stay on our feet if we can so we slide backwards instead.

Source: Expert Village
Next we jump straight upwards; is that a choke out too? Nope. That's actually a neck break. In order to make this work, you have to crank the opponent's head (knifehand guarding block) while they are in the guillotine, as the Hapkidoin in the left gif show. From here you jump upwards to forcefully hyper-extend their neck. Needless to say, this technique is very dangerous to the opponent; stick to choking them out.

Moves 30-32

Source: KarateCulture
This next defense is sort of like a sideways sprawl. We first use the backfist chamber as a whizzer-crossface; that is, the primary hand gets an overhook while the reaction hand (which faces outward) pushes away the opponent's face. From here, we're going to hop forward with our back leg, and then slip our front leg out of our opponent's reach, creating the rear foot X-stance. The backfist is just lifting the opponent's shoulder (which we have overhooked). You can see a similar defense in the image from Karate Culture on the right, although the positioning is different. The result of this is that you end up leaning sideways on your opponent.

From here, we should naturally turn as our opponent keeps advancing. As we turn 180-degrees (like in the form), we use our free arm to press the opponent's head to the ground (outer-forearm block). The combined two gifs below convey the basic idea of the technique. It's essentially just side-stepping your opponent's tackle, turning 180-degrees, and then pressing them to the ground.

Source: FightTips (with Firas Zahabi) and Nick Drossos
Of course in the form we perform all this vertically, because there's nothing to lean on, but the movements for the technique are all there. The hand motions are high relative to your own body, but in reality they are lower since you are leaning on your opponent. I recommend watching the video with Firas Zahabi; he explains the turn as like knocking the opponent with your hips. What's interesting is that as he turns, his legs naturally fall into the X-stance position.
Leaning weight with overhook and x-stance. Source: FightTips
Moves 33-37

We're nearing the end of the form and there's only one class of tackle defenses left: sacrifice throws (fnt. 1). The following throw is sort of like Judo's tomoe nage (circle throw), but the opponent is thrown at an angle. The two examples below show the throw from a single leg position.

Source: BruiserTV
Source: Jared Jessup
1) The upset punch with the front hand coming in used as both an overhook (back hand) and a grab which pulls in our opponent (front hand).
2) The hooking kick (fnt. 2) is used to first hook the opponent's leg(s) and then kick it/them up as you sink your butt and roll. It's aimed at 90-degrees because that's how you turn when you fall and roll.
3) The outward cross-cut we use as a follow-up strike after the opponent is on the ground

"Ground cross-cut" from the Encyclopedia
I suspect this application won't be popular, because, "What, are you crazy? We don't do groundwork." There is groundwork in the Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do actually: both a section on hand techniques and foot techniques. (I also spotted tomoe nage in there once, though I've lost the location) So probably unlike the majority of taekwondoin, I don't think a sacrifice throw being in a form is crazy. It would also make sense to put the sacrifice throw at the end of the form, since it's both more advanced and a last resort. And besides, why not learn a sacrifice throw? It looks fun.

Why do a sacrifice throw at an angle, rather than going straight back like in tomoe nage? The most obvious reason is that it lets you roll on your shoulder, not the back of your head. But you also end up in a good side mount position, from which you can quickly strike and then disengage from your opponent.

Moves 38-39

The final two moves feel tacked on, perhaps to increase the number of moves to 39 (the number of times Ko-Dang was imprisoned). My school doesn't practice them, and it's the same set we finished Hwa-Rang with. Nonetheless, here is a tackle defense application.

We again use the forearm to guard against the opponent's tackle. This is the preferred tackle defense of self-defense instructor Nick Drossos. If your opponent grabs your front leg anyway, grab their head with both palms (chamber for second guarding block), and crank it away from your leg (turn 180-degrees into second guarding block). Remember that for knifehand guarding block, your arms move in parallel, so if you bring your palms closer together it's like you are holding someone's head (we also used knifehand guarding block as a neck crank earlier for the jumping neck break).
Source: Code Red Defense

That concludes Ko-Dang. My intent with these two posts was to show that the form -- rather than being a random collection of movements -- is actually a collection of thematically related defenses. It's a nicely packed little form; it's a shame it was removed from the ITF set for political reasons (fnt. 3), but many schools still practice it. I haven't learned Juche yet, but from what I've seen it doesn't appear to be about tackle defense. As I stated previously, the ITF forms are meant to comprise a single fighting system, meaning that it makes sense that the higher forms would each be dedicated to a certain self-defense situation.

The "pattern" is thus a set sequence of movement of attack and defence in a logical order. Imaginary opponents are dealt with in sequence logically and systematically under the assumption of various situations. ~ General Choi, Taekwon-Do, The Art of Self Defense

A student’s sparring or fighting style becomes his adaptation of the principles he has acquired from hyungs [forms]. The hyungs, then, are the student’s line between Tae Kwon Do training and actual fighting ~ Jhoon-Rhee, Tan-Gun and To-San

The punch-block-kick applications do not reveal what these principles or logical ordering are, but the deeper applications do.


1) Well, there are also "reversals": where you counter a single leg with your own single leg takedown. However, these are techniques you would do in a competitive situation rather than self-defense.

2) To anyone who's never practiced Ko-Dang: a "hooking kick" is not the same as a "hook kick". It looks more like an outside crescent kick, but it's called a "hooking kick" because the shape you make with your foot is meant to hook something.

3) Ko-Dang, the pseudonym of Cho Man Sik, was a political opponent of the Kim dynasty in North Korea, for which he was eventually executed. He is considered a patriot in South Korea. When Gen. Choi sought funding from the North Korean government, he of course couldn't have a form named after Cho Man Sik, so all of a sudden he had a revelation that Ko-Dang was an inferior form and replaced it with a new form, Juche, named after the North Korean philosophy of self-reliance. Needless to say, this was an unpopular move; several of Choi's commanders left the ITF organization. Chang Keun Choi -- who helped create the form Gae-Baek -- claimed that Gen. Choi was now teaching a completely different style of taekwondo. The South Korean press branded Choi as a traitor, and the Kukkiwon excludes him from their version of Taekwondo history. Choi himself was born in North Korea, and was likely hoping that introducing taekwondo to the north would help unite the two Koreas.

The Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do Vol. 3

Friday, February 3, 2017

Tackle Defense in Ko-Dang, Part 1

Ko-Dang's ready position
represents pushing an opponent's
head down, setting up a sprawl
Besides Joong-Gun, the other form I have a schema for is Ko-Dang. Particularly, the whole form seems to be about tackle defense. E.g. single leg dives, double leg dives, or waist grabs. Why? It just explains the sets, and Ko-Dang has a few weird sets in it. Thanks to the popularity of MMA (where single leg and double leg shoots are commonly) there's no shortage of information on tackle defense out there, so I've compiled applications from various sources.

In this two-part post, I'm going to go through the whole form and explain the tackle defense applications.

Moves 0-22

The ready position (move 0) represents what is commonly referred to as "sprawling": pushing your opponent's head down and leaning your weight on top of them as they dive towards you. The form follows with stepping backwards at a 45-degree angle and pushing with the palm. This is simply redirecting your opponent away from you. This is shown in the gif below from Karate Culture's excellent video on takedown defense (which I'll be referencing a lot). In the form, we also follow up with a punch after the 45-degree push, presumably to the side or back of the opponent's head.
Source:  Karate Culture
The next set in the form is a tackle defense that in Eskrima is called "baliog pomali". First, step backwards with one leg and use your front forearm to block the opponent (guarding block), while grabbing their arm with your back hand (closed fists). Raise their arm while pushing down their head (transition), getting an underhook while still pushing the opponent's head down with your forearm (inner-forearm block). From here, pull out their arm (back hand low block) and drop your weight. This technique puts intense pressure on the soft tissue located in the back of the neck; be very careful when practicing it. You can watch a full clip explaining the technique here, which comes the TV series "The Human Weapon".
Application for Ko-Dang moves 3-4/7-8. (Note: the upper left image is with left leg in front; the rest are right leg in front) Sources: Nick Drossos and "The Human Weapon."
Next up is the set beginning with bending ready stance B (a one-legged stance with a low wedging block). You side kick to the back and then perform knifehand block to the front while landing backwards. This has led some to believe you are facing two separate opponents at once -- one in the back and another in front -- but there's a better explanation.

Instead, assume an opponent has grabbed your leg. Sprawl your weight on top of your opponent (low wedging block) while lifting your leg -- further placing weight on them. (fnt. 1) From here, use your same-side arm to get an overhook ("whizzer") on your opponent's arm, and then kick free (side kick to the back). The gif below demonstrates this:
Source: Karate Culture
What about the knifehand block to the front? We use this as a head push or "crossface" to aid our escape. The image below shows a wrestler using both an overhook (reaction hand) and head push (knifehand block) used to escape a single leg grab.
Application for Ko-Dang moves 9-11/12-14: overhook, head push/crossface, and kick to escape a leg grab.
 Source: modestograppling
Now we get to the line work. These four hand techniques are performed individually on both sides before moving to the next, as opposed to being preformed together as a single set. This is because each is a stand-alone waist grab defense.
Downward elbow strike (top)
Whizzer + head stuff (bottom).
Source: JiuJitsuMag
  • The downward elbow strike while moving backwards is just striking down on your opponent's back or head. This application is shown in the Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do; it is currently illegal in MMA.
  • The palm pressing block we will use as a whizzer, head stuff combo. "Head stuff" is just pushing your opponent's head to the ground. You move forward because you are pressing your weight on top of your opponent. The palm moving upwards overhooks your opponent's arm whereas the palm moving downwards presses your opponent's head. This is also a common single leg defense in wrestling.
  • For the next technique my school does a low block, but the canonical move seems to be a "downward block". The difference is that low block is an in-to-out motion whereas downward block is an out-to-in motion. Either way, the application is the same: striking the back of the opponent's head with a hammerfist. This defense is potentially lethal (fnt. 2), and is also banned in MMA. In Ko-Dang, this technique is performed once moving forwards and once moving backwards, indicating that the direction isn't important to the technique.
  • Upward palm block as a head crank.
    Source: CodeRedDefense and  Karate Culture 
  • Finally, the cat stance upward palm block we use as a head crank. The right gif shows this motion. This is also often called a "crossface", and is another common single or double leg defense, intended for when your opponent's head is outside your leg.
The palm pressing block, oddly, is not performed in low stance like it is in Joong-Gun, but rather in a normal front stance. This could be because Joong-Gun assumes your front leg is being lifted (your kick has been caught) and you are trying to drop kick free, hence you put extra weight on your front leg.

Whew. That's half the form. The second half is a bit more complex, but already we've been introduced to several tackle defense tools: sprawling, guarding with the forearm, overhooks, striking the back of the head, and crossfaces.


Push down and knee strike, a possible application for
bending ready stance B. Source: Aikidoflow
1) Other interpretations of the motion are that the opponent is lifting your leg, or that you are performing a knee strike to your opponent's face while pushing them downwards. See right image.

2)  In 2014 a soccer referee, John Bieniewicz, was killed when a disgruntled player punched him in the back of the head. A hard enough hit to the back of the head may damage the cervical vertebrae or spinal cord. Source: wikipedia.

View Part 2 here


The Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do Vol. 5

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Chon-Ji and Dan-Gun: Additional Applications

Previous posts:
Chon-Ji: Using chambers to parry attacks
Chon-Ji: The front stance middle punch
Roundhouse punch defenses in Dan-Gun

In my last post on Chon-Ji, I gave three applications from the form.

  • Brush, grab, strike followed by takedown
  • Parry-pass followed by punch and then takedown
  • Takedown (o soto gake) counter

Just three seems paltry considering that karateka have said that low block followed by lunge punch has anywhere between 20 and 50 applications. However, I don't think this sort of application overload is very helpful; if you learn 30+ applications, how many of them will you actually practice? Nonetheless, here are a few more applications to Chon-Ji that I personally like. I will also discuss the remaining two roundhouse punch defenses from Dan-Gun and some alternate applications for those sets.

Chon-Ji: Front Bear Hug Defense

Believe it not, the ready position (junpei) actually has applications. It's traditionally performed by bringing the arms up to chest level, and then down again, sort of like a double low block. This could be used to push down the arms of an opponent doing a double grab.

Another use, however, is to push out the hips of an opponent bear-hugging you. You may then attempt to throw them by turning into front stance low block. This is shown in the below images, which I've stolen from Art of Manliness, but they originally come from Modern Judo and Self Defense by Harry Ewen.

Chon-Ji: Hammer-down, push

Something even simpler than the groin strike is use the low block to press down the opponent in some way. You can push down the opponent's arm (by striking inside the elbow) after deflecting inward, or if you deflect a punch outward you can use the low block to strike and push down the opponent's head, as in the gif below:
Follow up with the lunge punch to both hit and shove your opponent away from you.

Chon-Ji: Lapel grab defense

The inner-forearm block may be used to trap the arm of an opponent grabbing you, an application commonly used for the similar circular block in Won-Hyo. Wrap your arm over the opponent's arm first, then perform inner-forearm block to shift the opponent off-balance. Step forward and strike them across the face.
Source: Evangelos Efseviou
Chon-Ji: Wrist grab defense

The inner-forearm block also makes a good wrist grab defense. Using the chamber strikes the opponent's wrist, forcing him to release you. You may then step in and punch. Damian Laszuk has a video on this interpretation of inner-forearm block; images from the video are shown below:

Chon-Ji: Rear bear hug escape

One thing I'm neglecting in these applications is the 90-degree and 180-degree turns, but people have come up with applications for them. Low block with a 90-degree turn can be a powerful pull, for example.

The front stance middle punch can be used as a quick bear hug escape. The punching arm releases, but the back arm, which comes back to your hip, functions as a rear elbow strike. Then, turn around (180-degree turn) and use low block to strike your opponent's groin.
Source: Blind Sensei
The source video for those images has several other applications for low block followed by lunge punch, in case you are interested.

Dan-Gun: Roundhouse punch defenses

I skipped two roundhouse punch defenses in my last post on Dan-Gun. The twin outer-forearm block itself can be used as a roundhouse punch defense; in fact, this is likely its primary purpose. You see similar twin blocks in other arts; e.g. it can used to simultaneously block and grab your opponent's shoulder. However, the front arm can also be used to strike the opponent, either with the forearm or the elbow.

The full defense uses:
  • Twin outer-forearm block
  • High punch
  • Turn 90-degrees into low block
After blocking, use an arm drag (reaction hand for high punch) to get the opponent's arm out of the way. Then use the high punch to strike across the jaw and also bar the neck. Finally, turning 90-degrees and performing low block will throw your opponent. Russ Martin performs a similar application below, except that he uses inner-forearm block to do the throw.
Source: Russ Martin
The reason I don't prefer this one is because the follow-up at the beginning of Won-Hyo -- an inward strike to the neck -- is much faster. Dragging the arm gives the opponent time to react with their other arm; unless your forearm strike is effective, that is.

Augmented block. Source: Fight Method
The second defense uses:
  • low block, rising block combination
Use the low block chamber as an augmented block, stopping the opponent's punch (see right image). You then hammerfist the opponent's ribs or groin (low block) and, as your opponent bends over from the blow, use the same arm to strike their jaw with the rising block, pulling them in with your reaction arm for extra force. The reason I don't prefer this one either is that striking low leaves your head exposed to their other hand, but there are close-range situations where this can work.

Here are other uses for these two sets.

Dan-Gun: Wrist grab defense

Suppose an opponent grabs your wrist same-side. Performing the outer-forearm block with your front hand twists their wrist and exposes their elbow. Push their elbow up over their head (rising block with back hand), and then walk forward while raising it (high punch), throwing them.

You can use a similar defense against a cross-side wrist grab, except that after raising and pushing the elbow you press down to put your opponent into a standing arm bar.

Both of these defenses come from Dan Djurdjevic's Pi Quan applications video.

Dan-Gun: Grab defense, and low punch defense

A common application for the low block, rising block combination is to strike down on the arm(s) of an opponent grabbing you, and then strike upward with the rising block, smashing them in the jaw/neck. (Right image)

Yet another one, if you are facing a puncher, is to block a low punch (like an upset punch or maybe an uppercut) with the low block. Circle around their arm (rising block). Then, walking forward into the next rising block, defend against their other arm. You are now in the position where you are pulling one arm and pushing up the other one, off-balancing your opponent. Step out with back leg and rotate 270-degrees to throw, as you do later in the form.

Dan-Gun: Straight punch defenses

Throat punch
Some of the sets in Dan-Gun can also be interpreted as straight punch defenses.

First: knifehand guarding block followed by high punch.

After you deflect a straight punch outward with the guarding block, slide your front hand forward and use it as a palm strike to your opponent's face. Your target here is the chin; you want to push it upwards to expose their throat. But if you get their nose; well, that's okay too. Come forward and punch through your opponent's throat with the high punch. (I should point out, however, that a fore-knuckle strike is better for punching the throat than a fist).

The twin outer-forearm block, since it chambers with the rising block on the outside (canonically anyway), can be used as a parry-pass, using the rising block to deflect an attack inward. Use the front arm to strike the opponent while raising their punching arm; then follow up with the high punch with your other hand.
Twin block followed by high punch application. Source: Dan Djurdjevic
The only issue is that this better suits the karate version of the twin block, we uppercut with the front arm. In taekwondo the front fist faces outward, so we might hammerfist or grab a part of our opponent instead.

Finally, the knifehand strike itself makes a good straight punch defense. Utilize the chamber as a parry and trap. Pull the opponent's arm in as you knifehand strike their neck. Following up with the high punch might be unnecessary, but you can always circle around your opponent's legs and use it as a throw. The gif I've chosen for this comes from a 1956 taekwondo demonstration; noteworthy not just for its age, but because you see the use of the chamber and the pulling hand.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Kick Catching in Joong-Gun, Part 3

View part 1 here and part 2 here.

So far I've covered six of Joong-Gun's eight scenarios.

Ready position & moves 1-3/4-6: Front kick catch and takedown, ver.1
Moves 7-8/9-10: Front kick catch and takedown, ver. 2
Moves 11-13: Front kick catch counter, ver. 1
Moves 14-16/17-19(+20): Front kick catch counter, ver. 2
Moves 20-22/23-25: Roundhouse kick catch and takedown
Moves 26-27/28-29: Roundhouse kick catch counter
Moves 29-31: Side kick catch and takedown
Move 32 & return to ready position: Side kick catch counter

In this post I'll cover the remaining portions, which concern the roundhouse kick.

Roundhouse kick catch and takedown

That gif is almost the same as what we do in Joong-Gun. You can clearly see using both forearms to block (fnt 1), the setup for the back stance punch, and the side kick in there. The major difference is in how we take the opponent's balance before sweeping. In the above gif, the defender pushes with their opposite hand. Although this certainly works, it also opens you up to being grabbed, punched, or blocked.

Lifting and pushing keeps you out of
your opponent's range.
Instead, you can lift and push with the arm holding the leg, as the gif on the right shows. This takes your opponent's balance while keeping you out of their reach, and in the form is represented by the back stance punch. I tested the move with a partner (while I was overhooking his leg) and it works quite well as a push. Of course your arm can't completely straighten, so you end up pushing on your opponent's inner-thigh instead, but it still works while maintaining the hold.

The leg reap
A friend of mine disagreed with this application because he thinks the side kick doesn't make a good reap compared to, say, the hook kick. Instead, you could just use the side kick as a literal kick to the opponent's standing knee or inner-thigh. I think he has a point: the way you perform the move (side kick to the front rather than the side or back) suggests you are directly targeting the leg, and the military men who made Joong-Gun would have no reason to prefer a reap to a direct strike to the knee. However, he also didn't take the close range of the kick into account; you can hook the opponent's leg with the chamber and then force it out with the side kick like in the gif. When practicing, you should stick to the reaping motion for safety.

The full defense goes like so:
  1. Blocking an opponent's roundhouse kick with both forearms, stepping in to avoid taking the full brunt of the kick (double forearm block)
  2. Overhook opponent's leg and step back, using your opposite palm to block the knee, preventing the spin-out escape (setup for back stance punch)
  3. Lift and push opponent's leg while stepping forward to take their balance (back stance punch)
  4. Reap or kick the opponent's standing leg with your back leg (back leg side kick) while pulling them backwards (setup for next move)
Application for moves 20-22/23-25 of Joong-Gun

Universal block to underhook
I've noticed that a lot of traditional martial artists prefer to use an underhook to catch a roundhouse kick rather than an overhook. It's usually performed after blocking with one forearm pointed upwards and the other pointed downwards. This is called a "universal block" in American Kenpo, and is a very common roundhouse kick defense. It's not what we use in the form, but I mention it for the sake of completion.

Roundhouse kick catch counter

Remember how I said that going straight in for the sweep without first taking the opponent's balance opens you up to being blocked or grabbed? That's basically what the form tells you to do.

The spin-out escape
But before we get into the counter: the first thing you should do if your roundhouse kick is caught is the spin-out escape (left gif), in which you keep turning in the direction of the kick. Unless your opponent knows how to block this (see above), you should be able to pull free. Another option, popular in MMA tutorials, is the heel-to-hip escape. You try to place the heel of your kicking leg on your opponent's hip and then push off. This may not be possible depending on positioning, however.

Application for closed fist guarding block in Joong-Gun
Suppose you can't escape though and your opponent is coming in for the sweep. What do you do? As your opponent comes in, use your front forearm to block their neck and your back arm to block their arm, keeping distance between the two of you so that they can't properly sweep you. (Closed fist guarding block). From this position, keep trying to escape.

The set doesn't end there: the opponent may try to get around your forearm by ducking under it. This effectively turns the situation into a low single leg takedown. Because of this, the form provides you with a single leg counter that any wrestler would recognize: the whizzer and head-stuff combination.

Application for palm pressing block in Joong-Gun
A "whizzer" is just an overhook. You overhook the arm that is grabbing your leg (rising palm) with your front arm. A "headstuff" is just pushing your opponent's head down (downward pressing palm). This is a very common single leg defense in wrestling, as well as the similar whizzer and crossface combination (a "crossface" is just using a palm or forearm to push the side of an opponent's face, turning their head). You can probably guess why this move is performed in low stance, as you are literally pressing the opponent's head down as low as you can. This also sprawls a lot of weight on your grabbed leg, which can help you kick free.

This is a much more practical use of the move than its "standard" application: simultaneously blocking a punch and a front kick. Not only is that scenario ridiculously unlikely, the two movements aren't good at blocking either. Raising a punch doesn't block it; it just moves the punch higher. Similarly, using a downward palm to stop a front kick hurts your hand and doesn't benefit you beyond stopping the kick; the low stance makes you vulnerable to a counter-attack.

Conclusion & Thoughts on Applications

In these three posts I've detailed kick catching applications for the whole of Joong-Gun. These applications are organized in a logical way, and contain several design features common to the ITF forms including theme, counters, contingency moves, and overlapping applications.

Although the ITF forms are often said to not contain any deeper applications, I have found a logical internal structure to a few of them. Unlike the karate forms -- many of which were constructed independently -- the 24 ITF taekwondo forms were meant to be a part of a single fighting system and thus may represent a self-defense curriculum. As a result, other forms may be built around a certain type of scenario the same way that Joong-Gun is built around kick catching.

Are these really anything close to the original applications of Joong-Gun, or am I just retrofitting the form? Of course I can't know for certain, but I think that me retrofitting all of these applications is very unlikely. Discovering applications that A) work and B) fit the form is not an easy process. I was very careful to explain all of the form: stances, hands, footwork, and ready position; something not easy to do. I didn't come in expecting it to be about kick catching, but as I kept coming across applications to the movements the internal logic gradually appeared. At the very least, I'm confident that I've provided applications far superior to the punch-block-kick ones usually offered.

High augmented block (Wing Chun)

1) There are some that claim the double forearm block (morote uke in karate) doesn't work as a block, due to the placement of the back fist. I disagree; this type of augmented block occurs in multiple martial arts: as your front forearm collapses, the back fist presses in support. But the move admittedly has other applications. The back fist could be striking the opponent's leg or torso as you block. Or it could represent grabbing under the opponent's leg before you get the overhook. It's a template move, so the movement always changes slightly depending on what application you are using.


Kick Catching in Joong-Gun, Part 2

Read part 1 here

To recap from my previous post: Joong-Gun may be designed in a logical, application-counter-application format based around the theme of kick catching. The organization is like so:

Ready position & moves 1-3/4-6: Front kick catch and takedown, ver.1
Moves 7-8/9-10: Front kick catch and takedown, ver. 2
Moves 11-13: Front kick catch counter, ver. 1
Moves 14-16/17-19(+20): Front kick catch counter, ver. 2
Moves 20-22/23-25: Roundhouse kick catch and takedown
Moves 26-27/28-29: Roundhouse kick catch counter
Moves 29-31: Side kick catch and takedown
Move 32 & return to ready position: Side kick catch counter

The ones in bold were covered in the previous post. This post I'm going to cover the remaining front kick scenarios, and in the third and final entry I'll discuss the roundhouse kick scenarios. Because I already covered the first takedown in my last post, I'll cover the counter first before getting to the second takedown.

Front kick catch counter, version 1

There's a theory out there that when Taekwondo left the military and became a civilian art, several of the more "thuggish" applications of the movements were downplayed. The twin vertical high punch, for example, became a "double punch to the face", something rather awkward to pull off. The military applications of the move -- grabbing your opponent's ears or thumbing in their eyes -- better explains the orientation of the hands.

The first front kick takedown uses both arms to catch the leg, which leaves the opponent's head exposed. So the form tells you to sprawl your weight forward (front stance) and grab your opponent's ears (twin vertical high punch). This way if your opponent takes you to the ground, you get an extra pair of ears out of it.

Pull the opponent's head down (twin upset punch) while moving forward so that you are on top of them. You should hopefully be able to drop kick your leg out of your opponent's grip; but if you can't, turn and crank the opponent's head by their ears (half steps into high X-block), possibly damaging their neck.
Application for Joong-Gun 11-13
Edit 1-30-2017: I finally found an example of a similar defense, although in this case the defender puts the attacker in a clinch rather than grabbing their ears. While pulling your opponent's head down, drive your knee into their face or clavicle, pressuring them and allowing you to drop kick free. The example below shows this. When you drop kick free, try to slide down the opponent's shin. Follow up with the head crank if they are still holding on to your leg.
Source: Sifu Oliver
Another important point is to lean towards your opponent while bending your leg. Trying to pull your opponent in while bending it allows them to take your off-balance.

Of course, grabbing an opponent's ears isn't legal in any kind of sparring. So what can you do if someone grab your front kick in a sparring match? Rather than grabbing your opponent's ears, shoot your arms under their armpits as they move towards you. The motion is more like a double spearhand thrust rather than a double face punch. As you hug your opponent, drop kick free. The technique is shown in the video below.

Front kick catch takedown, version 2

The previous catch assumed both your arms were underneath. This one assumes one arm is underneath (back arm of guarding block) and the other is on top.

The usual application I see for guarding block followed by upward elbow strike is breaking an arm. I'm sorry to be a contrarian about this, but I don't see how weak upward motions like rising block, upward palm block, upward elbow strike, etc. can break the arm of a strong opponent. Joints are fragile, but they're not that fragile. Actual breaks involve strong jumping or stamping motions in forms.

Instead, imagine that you've overhooked a front kick with the back arm of your guarding block, and your front hand goes on the opponent's head (preferably the back of the neck). Use the upward elbow strike to simultaneously raise the opponent's leg while pulling down their head with the reaction hand. Then turn your body while stepping forward with your back leg (movement into move 9). This effectively throws your opponent. The two gifs below show the principle behind the takedown.

App. for moves 7-8 and setup for move 9
The version in Joong-Gun is closer to the second gif, where he steps forward to trip as he pulls the opponent downwards (front leg of our front stance). I've included an image comparing the gif to the form on the right. In the form, the takedown is also performed on the other side (moves 9-10) for symmetry. Although you don't turn your body after move 10, you do step forward; the rest of the takedown is probably implied.

You can watch a third example of the takedown, which catches the kick with an underhook, here by a Hapkidoin.

Front kick catch counter, version 2

This is based in large part on Russ Martin's application, although obviously the situation I'm applying it to is different.

The second takedown relies on the opponent placing their hand on the back of your head, so we'll begin by preventing your opponent from doing that. The defense goes like so:
  1. Parry opponent's hand outward and grab it (backfist chamber).
  2. Pull their arm in (reaction hand to hip) while you backfist the side of their head (backfist)
  3. Use the "release motion" to hammer down on the inside elbow of the arm you are holding. This forces your opponent's head towards you.
  4. The previous move didn't just force your opponent's head towards you, it also lowered it. Reach over your opponent's head (back hand high punch), grabbing either their hair or cupping around their jaw.
  5. Crank their head outward (turn 90-degrees into double forearm block). Strike them with your free hand until they leg go of you.
Normally I wouldn't recommend hammering on the opponent's inner elbow, since it leaves your head exposed. But in this case, their other hand is occupied holding your leg, so you're good to go.

Although the set appears rather long on paper (5 steps), the movements may be performed very quickly. In fact, the form directions tell us to perform the movements quickly. You could just use the back hand high punch as a punch, but personally I wouldn't risk breaking my hand on my opponent's cranium. The next move (double forearm block) makes a pretty good head crank anyway: the front arm, which is just an inner-forearm block, physically pulls the head, while you can use the back arm to strike or further control the opponent (I prefer hammering the torso).
Just pretend the right guy is holding the left guy's leg while all this is happening.
What if you fail to parry in time and you opponent succeeds in posting their hand on your head? Believe it or not, you can use the same movements, albeit a little differently. This time we'll use the backfist itself as the parry: sweeping the opponent's arm inward. From here, we'll grab the opponent's head, pull it in ("release motion"), and then also grab it with our back hand as we pull it in (back hand high punch). Pull your opponent in and force your knee into their chest, painfully pressuring them until they let go of you. This technique comes from a Muay Thai youtuber; and is shown in the images below.

Kick catch and head grab counter, version 2

Next post I'll cover the final kick-catching applications of the form: the roundhouse kick catch takedown, and its counter.

Read part 3 here


Friday, January 13, 2017

Locking in Do-San, Part 2

View part 1 here


The 45-degree wedging block is commonly invoked as a defense against a roundhouse punch. And that's fine: it works well as one. But considering that the previous form contained at least five roundhouse punch defenses, it seems kind of redundant. Believe it or, the movement also has a locking application.

Commonly referred to as nikkyo thanks to Aikido, the S-lock is a potent wrist lock that is easy to create. You see it used several times in the Self-defense section of the Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do.

The S-lock (nikkyo)
The lock works by twisting the opponent's wrist in the same direction as with the standing armbar, and then trying to push the opponent's hand in their arm. This bends their arm and forces their elbow to rise. So to complete the lock, all you need to do is prevent that elbow from rising with your other hand.

Follow up with the front kick to the face (as in the end of the gif) and, if necessary, the two punches.

Now, I doubt this is the intended application for the wedging block set, because the two punches at the end seem incidental. I'm a fan of Russ Martin's interpretation, which uses the front kick as an o soto gari after blocking a roundhouse punch. The one thing I would add is that after using the front hand punch as a head hook, the back hand punch can be used to crank the opponent's head.

Rear shoulder lock, version 2

You can create a similar rear shoulder lock with the backfist followed by 270-degree turn into outer-forearm block. One way to do this is to lift your opponent's arm over your head (backfist), while turning and using the outer-forearm block to push on the back of the opponent's shoulder as before, and then completing the lock by pulling their elbow in towards your hip and pushing their wrist towards the back of their neck (back hand punch).

Here's a version as a single lapel grab defense that's more fun.

Circle over and press down on opponent's arm (backfist chamber), then come up behind opponent's shoulder (backfist). Step out and pivot 270-degrees while pulling out opponent's arm (outer-forearm block; not shown in the gif), and throw opponent downwards (reverse punch). The opponent shoulder rolls for safety in the gif, but in a real situation they may simple fall flat on the ground.

You then perform the outer-forearm block followed by reverse punch on the other side. Personally I like to view this as practicing the same application on the other side, but it's also a repeat of the opening set.