Saturday, June 24, 2017

Kwang-Gae & The Heaven Hand, Part 4

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Guillotine Choke
Sources: Darren Selley, Fitness Videos

The first move in the form is to switch into closed ready stance B after splitting your hands. If the ready positions had no applications, this would be nonsensical, but lucky for us they do. Closed ready stance B can make a guillotine choke, for instance. We use this application after blocking a haymaker with the heaven hand, as shown in the right gif (two examples).

The form doesn't give you any follow up. You can continue to choke out your opponent or, if you are throw savvy, attempt to throw them.

Bent elbow crank

The upset punches in Kwang-Gae are also in slow motion, indicating body manipulation. After defending with the heaven hand, overhook your opponent's haymaker as they retract, getting the bent elbow and cranking it upwards with the upset punch. This nasty shoulder lock is called maki hiji in jujitsu. It was used a couple years back in the UFC by Jon Jones. You can use the second upset punch as a strike, as shown in the below image.
Application for heaven hand followed by two upset punches. Source: imineo, catch jutsu
Notice how the elbow crank forces the opponent to bend over backwards. To take them to the ground, perform a sweep or push back on their face with your palm.

Grasp head, guide back

The next set is:
  • Double step forward into palm hooking block
  • Step and slide backwards into low section knifehand guarding block
Suppose you attempt the elbow crank but your opponent straightens their arm, or they pull you in, or you overhook their shoulder instead. Use the double step forward to force them to bend over, and then strike/grasp the back of their head with the palm hooking block. Finally, use the step and slide backwards into low section guarding block as a quick throw, guiding their head backwards. See the footnote for another interpretation of this set. (ftn. 1)

Pass arm, two handed push
Source: anthrodan

Something else I thought of: if you don't wish to harm your opponent, you can use stepping back into low guarding block to pass the opponent's arm after defending with the heaven hand. Then use stepping forwards into cat stance guarding block as a two handed push (see right gif) to disengage.

Side kicks, shoulder lock takedown

The second time you perform the two side kicks, your hands are oriented differently. This suggests there may be an application that begins, rather than ends, with them.

After blocking with the heaven hand, use the low side kick (pressing kick) to kick in the opponent's knee. If they defend by turning in their leg, follow with the middle side kick to their ribs while grasping their arm. You then use the inward strike with front hand coming into chest to fold the opponent's arm back, granting you a shoulder lock. From here, pull your opponent to the ground. Note that the Hapkidoin in the example below doesn't need to kick before doing the takedown, although he does strike the opponent's side with his elbow.
Sources: imineo, expert village
Final Thoughts

That concludes Kwang-Gae. This isn't the only way to interpret the pattern, but it is a way to link all the applications together. Although the sets are all against the same attack, the locks and takedowns provided can be used in a number of situations. What a form does is teach you various ways you can control an opponent. It's unlikely you will ever use a set as literally provided in a form, due to an opponent's unpredictable reactions, but the more techniques you know the more versatile your fighting style becomes.

Po-Eun also begins with the heaven hand, but not the splitting hands. Furthermore, from my analysis Po-Eun seems to be more of a grappling form. The heaven hand can also be used as a head push, so that might be what's going on.

Footnotes

1) There is another application for this set I rather like: against a single lapel grab, you can grab under the opponent's sleeve (upset punch), pull it in while striking their jaw (palm hooking block), and then guide them down to the ground (step back into low guarding block). The double step can be used to get off the opponent's line of fire and strengthen the force of the hooking block. You can also use the shape of the palm to dig into the opponent's throat, although this isn't strictly necessary. Taekwondoin Colin Wee applies the same application against a wrist grab.
Source: One minute bunkai
Sources
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oC8X2T0smo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pL1D72Fueu4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sE2nafaPCZI
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fy4hrfnaUqE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l11drAi51HA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVG0FWe6RjI
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYRy4AXQci0

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Kwang-Gae & The Heaven Hand, Part 3

Previous Posts:
Part 1
Part 2

Spearhand to face, smash onto knee


Sources: imineo, one minute bunkai
The high spearhand thrust (what my club calls an "unsupported spearfinger") has three odd features in Kwang-Gae:
  • It's performed in slow motion
  • The footwork is the slipping of the front foot (i.e. pull it in before stepping back out again)
  • It's performed in low stance rather than a normal front stance
Slow motion movements in forms indicate body manipulation. As shown in the combined gif on the left, we can use the spearhand after the heaven hand sort of like a slap: pressing out on our opponent's face while pulling in their arm with our reaction hand. We may also use the slipping footwork to get behind the opponent's leg, and then use the low stance to press out on the back of your opponent's knee. From here, you can pull the opponent downward for a takedown.

However, in both cases the next movement in the form is lifting our back leg. So if we want to get nasty, we can smash the back of our opponent's head on our knee as we take them down.
Sources: imineoone minute bunkai
Grab ears, pull down

Grabbing the ears and thumbing in the eyes are two favored alternate applications for the twin vertical face punch. We're going to use the former, but a little differently than you might think.

Source: Krav Maga Training
If you use the heaven hand against a right haymaker (your opponent's right) and then split your hands, your right hand will be next to your opponent's right ear. You can grab their ear -- or perhaps their hair -- and pull it down as you do a knee strike (lifting the leg). Now reach around and grab their left ear with your left hand. As you push your opponent's head up with the double face punch, you force their body to turn around, meaning that you are grabbing their ears from behind!

Use the next move, twin upset punch, to pull your opponent to the ground via the ears. You can use the leg lift beforehand to knee strike their back or kick out their leg to aid the takedown, but I think that the "stomp" is there to emphasize the downward motion.

Kick out leg, turn and lift

Turning 180-degrees into a knifehand guarding block usually indicates a head crank. But I don't think that's what's going on here, because we step back into the guarding block after turning around. Furthermore, the set ends with a high punch. Why?

To resolve this, first apply the double upset punch to grab and control your opponent. Front kick the opponent's cross-side leg, aiming for their inner thigh, with the goal of knocking back their leg.

Land, turn, and step back into knifehand guarding block per the form. Your front forearm presses out on the opponent's neck, but your back hand goes for the leg you just kicked back. Grab the leg (by the opponent's pants if they are wearing away) and lift it upwards as you walk forward into the high punch, grabbing and pulling your opponent's head down with the reaction hand. This makes a crude but simple takedown.
Sources: Practical Kata Bunkai, One Minute Bunkai
In part 4 I will backtrack to the beginning of the form and post some final thoughts.

View Part 4 here

Sources

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sE2nafaPCZI
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynE0eX2jpXc
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qptCOuL0IEQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWJlooO_4jQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdAAB2QXEsI
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfwBR7g0c6E

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Kwang-Gae & The Heaven Hand, Part 2

In my previous post, I suggested you could interpret the first third or so of Kwang-Gae as four different follow ups from the heaven hand defense. (fnt. 1) By "heaven hand defense", I mean using the tool to block a haymaker, and then splitting your hands to strike the opponent's neck.


It turns out you can do this for the whole form. So for the next three posts I will be covering these follow up techniques. Even if you don't agree with this interpretation of Kwang-Gae, it may get you to see some of the sets in a new light.

Additional strikes, puter kepala takedown

After striking the opponent's neck with the hands splitting, you can follow through with an inward strike followed by a downward hammerfist, for three strikes in total. As you strike, you want to get the opponent's head to lean downwards, so it's important to utilize the pulling hand in both cases.
Sources: Courtney White, Yin Style Bagua

Puter kepala takedown
Source: Courtney White
If smashing the back of their head with a hammerfist wasn't enough, we then use the next two moves -- the two palm pressing blocks -- as a takedown. This is shown on the gif on the right: it involves twisting up the opponent's arm while pushing their head down and in. You then continue moving your arms in a circular motion, forcing your opponent's body is to twist and tumble. In Silat this is called puter kepala.

Note that you are rotating your opponent's head and arm in a circle, so for this application the two palm pressing blocks should be performed continuously and with arms crossing in between the blocks, similar to how the Bagua-ist performs the motions below.
Sequential palm pressing blocks in Bagua. Notice how the arms cross in between blocks. 
Source: Yin Style Bagua.
Arm Pass and Head Twist

Now we'll begin with the second palm pressing block. After blocking with the heaven hand, overhook your opponent's head (upward moving palm) and push down their arm (downward moving palm). Grab their jaw and twist out their head while passing their arm as you step backwards into backfist side strike, twisting your opponent's whole body and forcing them to fall over. Hapkidoin Alain Burrese demonstrates this technique in this video.
Source: Your Warrior's Edge
Strike Head, Shoulder Lock

Next we start with the backfist side strike after the heaven hand. After striking the neck, knee strike your opponent (lifting the leg) while pulling them downwards, then follow with the backfist side strike to their head. Depending on positioning, you might strike with your forearm or even downward with your elbow; the stomp emphasizes putting your body weight into the strike.

Next, twist their arm behind their back with your back hand as you shift into the double forearm block, creating a shoulder lock. Your front arm maintains pressure on the back of their head. From this position you can safely escort your opponent, strike the back of their head, or do a takedown.
(Bottom right image): Taekwondo Grappling Techniques
What if your opponent grabs your leg with their free arm before you apply the lock? We can grab their arm and use the next move in the form -- double stepping backwards into reverse low block -- to pull out their arm while lifting their other arm with your front arm. Doing this may end up flipping your opponent.

Continue to Part 3

Footnotes
1) The origin of this idea was that I noticed Kushanku, the kata that Kwang-Gae is partly based on, uses the low knifehand front block and the cat stance guarding blocks at the start of the form, directly after the heaven hand.

Sources
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIhNucVI4C0
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hk3WipJCwHQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAKQ8KpcazA
http://bmsi.ru/doc/d5acaab9-0b14-4826-ad00-de89c34d135a/print
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OddNosOP-T8
 Taekwondo Grappling Techniques by Tony Kemerly and Scott Synder

Friday, June 2, 2017

Sam-Il: The Seipai Throw and Back Leg Sweep

The higher ITF forms don't get talked about very often; understandably since the majority of taekwondoin never advance far enough to learn them. This is a shame though, because these forms have a greater variety of hand and foot techniques to work with, which result in some interesting applications.

Sam-Il is noteworthy because it has a set from the kata Seipai, which is not a Shotokan kata (fnt. 1). In this post I'll cover the throw this set represents, as well as a modern variant of the throw that appears later in the form.

The Seipai Throw (Moves 9-10)

The motions used for this throw are:
  • Step forward into riding stance knifehand reverse wedging block
  • Shift into back stance double low punch, pulling the right foot
The reverse wedging block is used to simultaneously scoop up a leg while pushing out the opponent's torso. You then grab, lift, and dump them (double low punch).
The Seipai throw against a kick (top) compared with a performance of Sam-Il (bottom).
Sources: Radek Scuri, Chris Baehr
This application from Seipai is fairly well known; it appears in Masutatsu Oyama's 1970 manual Advanced Karate, as well as in earlier manuals. The above image shows it against a kick, but you can in theory defend against a hand attack first with move 8 and then scoop up the leg. The gif below shows this variant.
Source: FightLand
Notice that in this case the leg is scooped from the inside rather than the outside. You can find more detailed discussions of the Seipai throw in this Fightland article or Iain Abernethy's video on the subject.

The Back Leg Sweep (Moves 15-16)

A few moves later we see a set that I can only imagine represents a similar takedown. It is a sweeping kick sandwiched by two U-shaped blocks.
Source: TkdTeam
The effect of doing two U-shaped blocks in a row is to wheel your arms. The application for this can be seen in the Muay Thai fight below.
Source: Fightland
After reaching under the opponent's leg with your lower arm, you then bar your upper arm across your their torso. You then sweep out your opponent's standing leg with the sweeping kick while rotating your arms: lifting their leg and pushing down their torso.

It's interesting that we use an actual sweeping kick (Shuro Chagi) in this pattern, as usually sweeps are "hidden" in either the footwork or a middle kick.

Why bother including two similar applications in the same form? Okinawan kata are very compact: they have to be since each kata (or set of katas) is supposed to be a self-contained self-defense style. But in the case of the ITF forms, it seems that Choi's commanders felt more room to play around with variations of older ideas. Sam-Il also repeats two single leg takedowns from Choong-Moo: the one hand drop and the shoulder wheel throw.

Footnotes

1) It is, however, a Shito-ryu kata, and so this is evidence for Simon O'Neill's belief that Shito-Ryu was one of the styles that influenced early Taekwondo, as stated in The Taegeuk Cipher. The spreading of the arms in the Shito-ryu version of Seipai looks like our reverse wedging block.
On the other hand, Seipai is not one of the katas listed in Gen Choi's 1965 Taekwondo book. It's possible that this set was not taken directly from the kata, but rather from a Karate applications manual. A Study of Seipai Kata was published in 1934 by Kenwa Mabuni.

Sources

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EM4pF-k9d90
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lm14cCFzsBc
http://fightland.vice.com/blog/seipai-karate-in-the-modern-world
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGmxkLnlsK8
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEAZR7-EN5U

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Technique Focus: Upward Palm Block


Since my previous posts on the guarding block and W-block/mountain block turned out pretty well, I thought I'd do another technique focus, this time on the upward palm block. Why this technique? Because I think it draws a lot of confusion from taekwondoin, and because its "standard" application -- lifting up a punch -- is nonsensical. Some have tried modifying the motion to lift a face punch over the head, but this is not the motion we practice in the forms, which only goes up to chest level. It makes even less sense for the palm scooping block variant in Gae-Baek, which is never supposed to reach your centerline. (fnt. 1)

Fear not, for it is not a useless technique. In this post I will provide five applications for the cat stance movement, plus four additional applications for its variants (front stance upward palm block, riding stance palm scooping block, and front stance twin palm upward block)

1) Same-side wrist grab defense (Sam-Il)
Two applications for Sam-Il 25-26
Sources: (Middle Row) EliteMartialArtOC, MannyMelgoza
(Bottom Row) OneMinuteBunkai

In the pattern Sam-Il we perform cat stance upward palm block followed by cat stance twin palm pressing block. These two movements provide a simple wrist grab defense.

Open your hand to relieve pressure. In Hapkido they call this "live hand". Then perform upward palm block. This twists your opponent's arm. Peel them off you by grabbing the meat of their thumb with your opposite hand. From here, you can perform a kotegaeshi (outer-wrist) throw, using both hands to bend the opponent's wrist downwards (twin palm pressing block).

This is my favorite same-side wrist grab defense: it's simple and can be pulled off quickly.

2) Front kick defense (also Sam-Il)

Although lifting a punch with the palm upward block is ridiculous, it works a bit better as a kick defense. We can use the same set in Sam-Il as a front kick catch and takedown. After lifting the opponent's heel, grab their foot with both hands and twist their ankle, pushing their foot downwards with twin palm pressing block.

3) Tackle defense (Ko-Dang)

Sources: Code Red Defense,
Karate Culture
The technique works as a crossface against an opponent who tackles you with their head outside your body. As shown in the left gif, you use the circular trajectory of the upward palm block to get around their head and then crank it upwards. This was my application for the upward palm blocks in Ko-Dang. We then follow with a step-back and front kick in Ko-Dang, which may represent breaking our front leg free of the opponent's grip (the step back) before kicking them.

4) Trip and takedown (Joong-Gun)

The cat stance may be used to trip an opponent's standing leg while you lift their heel for a takedown. This was my application for the opening set of Joong-Gun. Catch an opponent's front kick (ready position). As they retract to try to get away from you, lift their knee up towards their body to unbalance them (move 1). You then kick their groin or standing leg (move 2), before moving in for a trip and takedown, raising their heel with the upward palm block.
Sources: TakingItToTheMMAT, Dan Djurdjevic, Five5Six
5) Arm lock/break (Joong-Gun)
Source: StuartA

Finally, the upward palm block can be used as a rudimentary arm lock. If you grab and pull your opponent's wrist from inside with your reaction hand, you supinate their arm, exposing the back of their elbow to your "block". Stuart Anslow (right image) uses this application for the opening of Joong-Gun, after using the knifehand inner forearm block to reverse a wrist grab.

6) Head crank (Kwang-Gae)

This is for the front stance upward palm block found in Kwang-Gae. Unlike the cat stance upward palm block, this is performed with the back hand. When you analyze the movement in context, with the double step and turn we perform in the form, it makes a head crank takedown. It is shown in the image below. See my post on Kwang-Gae for a more detailed description.
Source for left image: manny melgoza

7) Leg scoop



Source: NASDI01
The palm scooping block in Gae-Baek -- like its name suggests -- can be used to literally scoop up the opponent's leg. In the Silat application for Gae-Baek 28-29(and 30-31?) in the left gif, the instructor hooks the opponent's ankle with the leap into rear-foot X-stance, then scoops up the opponent's other with the palm scooping block while sitting down at a 45-degree angle. He then submits his opponent with an ankle lock.

8) Overhook/Whizzer

Another application for the palm scooping block -- if you take the "scooping" part less literally -- is just overhooking an opponent's arm. Russ Martin has an application for Gae-Baek 9-11 which is just overhooking an opponent's arm, punching them, and then striking down on their inner elbow (supporting arm for backfist) while striking them again with the front backfist.

9) Double leg takedown (Choong-Moo)

Finally, performing two upward palm blocks can be used to scoop up both opponent's legs for a double leg takedown (specifically, Judo's morote gari throw). I covered this in my post on Choong-Moo. The reason I think the movement represents a double leg takedown here is:

1) The previous move can be used either to put the opponent in a snap clinch, as a grip break, or to lift their arms, all common ways to set up a double leg takedown.

2) The following two moves can be used as a contingency single leg takedown if your opponent defends by stepping back with one leg.

3) There are several other throws in the form, suggesting that Nam Tae Hi designed Choong-Moo with this strategy in mind.

4) In my club we were taught to do the motion as a wide scoop, which is consistent with scooping up an opponent's legs. (fnt. 2)

Sources: Mercuryu Judo, Practical Kata Bunkai, NIKandSi
Conclusion

Not only do odd techniques like the upward palm block have practical uses, you can find equivalents of them in modern arts. If an idea is a good one, then we should expect it to be rediscovered by others.

Happy searching.

Footnotes

1) This brings up the inevitable question of "okay, so if the standard application is useless, why did General Choi teach it?" A lot of the standard applications should be regarded as mnemonic tools for teaching rather than practical self-defense applications. General Choi shows the double arc hand block as catching a throw pillow, for instance, when in reality it has more practical uses.

2) I come from a pre-sine wave school. It's common for us to go down during the chamber and up during the block-proper for certain movements, although for the most part we stay level during patterns.

Sources

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1DNRPxH5IM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nS2v9S2f6HY
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsS3fqdbhV4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSo1w3zvgf4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqwsGqOkaBA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qtbRxFnutQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvi98iClCNA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8nCgNTByiE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMmnvtQsDlI
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWRDRXAJD0g
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1lpmhGEyn0
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cd1FJKT3ewI&feature=youtu.be&t=1m19s
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gp6NAnFPF7s
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6Kpbs1OLwA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMpyK2fvg4c

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Yul-Gok: Some Applications

Palm Hooking Block
Yul-Gok is a peculiar form. I was once told it was based on Heian Yondan, but the similarity is only superficial: Yul-Gok borrows some movements from the kata, but the sets are all different. Yul-Gok also introduces the "palm hooking block", which according to Stuart Anslow is not a shotokan karate technique. Instead, this post by Sanko Lewis claims it's based on a Taekkyeon block. (fnt. 1)

In this post I'll discuss four sets from the pattern and my preferred applications.

Irimi nage (moves 28-29/30-31)

Irimi nage vs a jab-cross. Source: AikiBushi
This set (knifehand twin outer-forearm block followed by supported spearfinger) does not appear in any karate kata that I've seen. But it does appear in another martial art: aikido. (fnt. 2) Unlike karate, we perform our twin outer-forearm block with a cross-arm chamber. This can be used either as a defense against a jab-cross (as in the left gif), or as a parry-pass against a single attack (see image below).

For the jab-cross version, the front hand deflects an opponent's jab outwards, and then the rising block (back hand) comes up and deflects their cross inwards. The effect of this is to turn your opponent's body slightly sideways, which allows you to place your front hand on the small of their back (supporting hand) as you move forward and hook their head with the spearhand "strike". This throw is known as irimi nage ("entering throw") in Aikido. It helps if you come from a club that performs the spearhand at a downward angle, as my club does, but apparently this isn't the official version.

The other use of the cross-arm chamber is as a parry-pass against a single attack. This is shown in the image below. The ultimate effect should be the same: turn the opponent slightly and get access to their back.
Sources: Rogue Warriors and Southern Minnesota Martial Arts
The Opening Set

An intercepting block.
Source: Fitness, Workout, & Exercise Videos
I was originally taught that the opening move of Yul-Gok was a slow punch. It turns out it's not a punch at all: it's "extending your fist horizontally". Furthermore, it isn't even centered like a punch is. What's going on?

One interpretation (from Sanko Lewis) is that it's an intercepting block in disguise, based on the logic that sets should begin with defensive techniques. The off-center location of the movement makes this feasible. Follow up with the two punches as strikes.

A second interpretation I like is that it represents your arm being grabbed and pulled. After having your arm pulled, you quickly pull back and strike the inside of the opponent's elbow (first middle punch). This lowers their head, allowing you to punch their jaw (second middle punch). The exact motions you use can be altered for practicality: you might hammerfist down on their inner elbow and uppercut their jaw, for example.

Elbow Roll Throw (Ending Set)
Turning into double forearm block as a throw.
Source: Dan Djurdjevic

Speaking of striking the elbow, one application for pivoting 270-degrees into double front block is a throw via rolling into the opponent's inner elbow. You can see Dan Djurdjevic show this in the right gif. In some arts this throw is called sumi otoshi (corner drop), although this is different than the Judo throw of the same name.

The front arm pulls the opponent's arm. The back arm rolls down into the opponent's elbow as you pull. We can use the previous move (rear foot X-stance backfist) as a strike. As you grab their arm (reaction hand), use the leap forward to ram into your opponent as you hit them with your forearm -- a backfist can be used if you have great accuracy, but as a ramming move, your forearm has a much higher likelihood of connecting. After you strike your opponent, quickly step out and rotate, performing the throw.

Mind you, this is just the interpretation that I prefer. The leap forward into the backfist could represent some kind of pull if you grab your opponent from behind, or a forceful takedown if you have them in a lock. There is also a locking application -- present in both the Encyclopedia and in Hapkido -- that vaguely follows the movements. If you look at the images below, the "leap" into the backfist is stepping behind your opponent. You then turn and put them into a lock with the double front block motion.
Alternate application to Yul-Gok 36-37 (bottom row flipped horizontally). Source: RussMorr
I doubt this is the intended application, but it might be a good alternative application to teach.

Palm Hooking Blocks

Finally we get to the palm hooking blocks. As stated above, the block is supposedly derived from taekkyeon. The motions are also reminiscent of "cloud hands" found in taijiquan (in fact, most taekkyeon hand motions may be based in taijiquan or a similar art). If you perform multiple palm hooking blocks continuously (rather than finishing one before starting the other), they do look like outward cloud hands, so a simple application for this set would be just deflecting a jab-cross outward before striking.

One application is use the first hooking block as a strike. The movement has a cross-arm chamber (although it usually isn't emphasized) similar to karate's shuto uke chamber, and Stuart Anslow in Ch'ang Hon Taekwon-do Hae Sul notes that the cupping shape of the palm makes it an ideal tool for striking the head. So we can use the reaction hand to parry an attack (chamber), before striking the opponent's head.
Source: Practical Kata Bunkai

What if your opponent blocks you? Use the second hooking block to grab and drag the opponent's hand, pulling it as you punch them. In the pattern's official instructions, the second hooking block and the punch are meant to be performed as one motion. This application is very similar to Iain Abernethy's knifehand block drill shown in the right gif. (Fun fact: in the 1965 version of Yul-Gok, the movement is a "knifehand hooking block".)

The form follows with a second lunge punch the second time you perform this set. You could grab the back of the opponent's shirt, then step behind them for a throw (reaction hand pulls, punching hand pushes). Another interpretation is to use the first "punch" to press onto the opponent's elbow after you grab their arm, putting them into an armbar. You then move forward into the second lunge punch to strike their head.
Application for Yul-Gok 18-21. Source for top row: Orjan Nilsen
Since this set has many other applications, I will post an addendum later with a more detailed discussion.

Footnotes

1) A couple other "blocks" that might not have a Shotokan basis are the nine-block and double arc hand block in Gae-Baek. I don't know all 26 Shotokan kata so I could be wrong, but these two blocks are usually associated with taekwondo. The nine-block is used in jujitsu as an arm break. The double arc hand is reminiscent of the body pushing in taijiquan.

2) Aiki-jujitsu was being taught in Korea at the time Yul-Gok was developed (it's what Hapkido is based on), and we know that early taekwondoin studied jujitsu, as locks appear in both The Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do and General Choi's 1965 book Tae Kwon Do: The Art of Self-Defense. There is more evidence of an aiki-jujitsu influence in the 1st Dan pattern Gae-Baek.

Sources

http://sooshimkwan.blogspot.com/2010/10/hooking-block.html
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvTl79CUzA4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQHLSV3sIgw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IS7tizMm8Fg
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pL1D72Fueu4
http://sooshimkwan.blogspot.com/2012/04/poetry-in-motion-poetic-interpretation.html
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0rD4LXKo4w
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iY9kv_fclrE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6s-cUKdDeuU
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4MeTwPPKfQ
http://jungdokwan-taekwondo.blogspot.com/2017/04/basic-taekwondo-limb-control-drill.html

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Kwang-Gae: The Knifehand Low Front Block

This post will be a couple applications for a move that's baffled me for some time: the closed-stance knifehand low front block (Moa So Sonkal Najunde Ap Makgi) at move 12 in Kwang-Gae. The movement is performed in a circular manner -- from head to groin -- with the knifehand hitting your opposite palm. Similar movements appear in kung-fu forms, taekkyeon , kukki-taekwondo (with a hammerfist), and of course karate.

The first application uses the set:
  • Cat stance high guarding block
  • Double step and turn 180-degrees into front stance upward palm block
  • Closed stance knifehand low front block
After defending against an attack, employ the primary grappling application of the guarding block: back arm wrapped around the opponent's arm and front forearm striking the opponent's neck. From here you can pull their arm (reaction hand) while cranking their head back and downwards (upward palm block) as you double step behind them and turn 180-degrees. Your palm continues upwards, cranking the opponent's head further and exposing the back of their neck. You then strike with the knifehand low front "block".
Source for leftmost image: mannymelgoza
In the form you practice the upward palm block on the other side before striking, so you strike with the right knifehand. But if you are holding the opponent's head with your right hand, then you would strike with the left.

The second set is:
  • Closed stance knifehand low front block
  • Combination low side kick (pressing kick), middle side kick to the side, keeping both hands low
Source: Karate Culture
I'm going to steal Karate Culture's application for the low circling hands: catching the opponent's head and pushing it downwards, perhaps using the other hand to press on the small of their back. Although they use this from outside the opponent's arms, I don't see why it can't be used from inside as well. From this position, simply kick out the back of both opponent's legs (the double side kick).


Application for Kwang-Gae 12-14. The two side kicks are aimed at the back of the opponent's legs.
Although these two applications may seem obvious in retrospect, it took me a long time to find something I was satisfied with. To me this is evidence that even if a section of a pattern seems mysterious or confusing, don't dismiss it outright: there might be something you're missing.

Putting it all together

One way to interpret the first four sets of Kwang-Gae is as various follow-ups from the Heaven Hand defensive position. After blocking a swinging attack, strike their neck (hands splitting). From here you can attempt a headlock (opening move); a bent elbow crank (circular upset punch), or one of the two sets described above.
Sources: Practical Kata Bunkai, Darren Selley,  Catch Jutsu, mannymelgoza, karate culture 
So rather than being a disparate set of techniques, the first third of Kwang-Gae can be viewed as an analysis of the Heaven Hand as a defensive tool.

Read more Kwang-Gae applications here.

Sources