Thursday, December 29, 2016

Defense Against Roundhouse Punches in Dan-Gun

Much of this post is derived from my previous post Chon-Ji Addendum: More on Basic Blocks. You may check that out for additional information.

In my previous posts on Chon-Ji, I gave two defenses against straight punches using movements from the form. For a straight punch, deflecting inward is ideal. A roundhouse punch -- also called a haymaker or windmill punch -- is a different matter. Your options are either to back away, duck, or to block while stepping inward. As you might imagine, Dan-Gun deals with the latter type of defense. A person stronger than you will put a lot of power into this punch, so how we block deserves some analysis.

In this post I've going to detail four roundhouse punch defenses from the form Dan-Gun, using elements of it you may not have considered, such as chambers and the footwork.

Option 1

This defense uses:
  • Back stance knifehand guarding block
  • Front stance high punch
  • Turn 90-degrees into front stance low block
You might be thinking that the application is to block with your front forearm (guarding block) before stepping in and punching the jaw (high punch). In reality, this is a terrible way to defend against a roundhouse punch. Your front forearm alone is not strong enough, and since the punch is round it'll just curve around it and smack your head. Instead, as I previously noted, the chamber for the guarding block serves well as a roundhouse punch defense.

Application for taekwondo knifehand gaurding block (various examples)
The block proper is used to simultaneously push out on the opponent's neck (front forearm) while overhooking their arm (back arm), as shown in the right most image above. The pushing prevents them from hitting you with their other arm.

Inside trip with hip bump
There are several follow-ups you may do from this position. You can use your front arm to elbow strike the opponent or press into their neck. In the form, we're going to take advantage of the circular footwork again. Instead of circling behind an opponent's legs for an outside trip -- like we did in Chon-Ji -- as we move into the front stance high punch we're going to circle around the opponent's front leg from the inside, setting up what's called an "inside trip" in wrestling and "o uchi gari" (major inner reap) in Judo. 

What's the high punch? Well, if you're controlling the opponent with your front forearm, they're probably resisting you. You're going to let them up and then punch across their jaw after you circle around their leg.

High punch followed by 90-degree low block
Now for the takedown: with your punching arm in front of your opponent's neck, you're going to move your front leg back (reaping out their leg) as you turn 90-degrees and push their head downwards with the low block. This takes them to the ground.

So the whole defense is:
  1. Block with both arms (guarding block chamber)
  2. Wrap the attacking arm while pressing on opponent's neck with front forearm (guarding block)
  3. Circle around opponent's front leg for an inside trip, then punch across their jaw (high punch)
  4. Reap out their leg as you turn 90-degrees and force their head downwards (low block)
Option 2

This defense uses:
  • Front stance high punch
  • Front stance high punch 
  • Step out with back leg, rotate 270-degrees into back stance twin outer-forearm block
Sometime you should keep in mind regarding forms is that the "double blocks" are not actually blocking two attacks at once, but rather are grappling motions. The twin outer-forearm block, for example, works well as a head-and-arm trap, something that Krav Maga instructors seem to like. (fnt. 1)

Use the setup arm for the first high punch as a parry. Step in and raise your elbow over your opponent's shoulder (first high punch) as you trap their arm (reaction hand pull to hip). The next trap requires minimally two steps: step forward again and raise opponent's arm as you push down on their head (second high punch), then step out with your back leg and rotate, still lifting the arm and maintaining pressure on the head (rotate 270-degrees into twin outer-forearm block).

From here you may do a number of follow-ups; knee strikes tend to be a favorite of Krav Maga practitioners. An inward strike to the neck (from Won-Hyo) is another. If you wish to follow the form, follow up with the same high punch followed by turning 90-degrees into low block takedown as before. (fnt. 2)

You might be wondering why you don't just punch their jaw immediately after using the setup arm to parry. You could do that! However, be warned that a frontal punch to the head risks breaking your hand, especially if the opponent tucks their chin in and you hit their cranium by accident. A better option is a high palm strike rather than a high punch.

Non-gif example
Option 3

This defense uses:
Rising block, using the reaction hand to trap
  • Front stance rising block
  • Front stance rising block
  • Step out and pivot 270-degrees 
The fact that we chamber our rising block on the inside makes the application fairly simple. We're going to block, trap, then block the opponent's other arm (using blocks as blocks; how novel!) However, the way we're going to block may seem unorthodox.

For the first rising block, rather than using the forearm to defend the top of our head, we're going to use the upper arm to defend the side of our head. This is quite similar to a defense from bare-knuckle boxing called the "winged hook", and it uses the same principle as the helmet guard from modern boxing: raising the elbow to defend the side of the head. But since bare-knuckle boxing and traditional martial arts use a long guard, it's more economical to just raise the elbow than to bring your hand all the way behind your head. (fnt. 3) This application may explain why some karate schools keep the rising block so close to the head.

(Left) Rising block, using the elbow to defend (Middle) "winged hook" from bareknuckle boxing (Right) helmet guard from modern boxing
After blocking, trap the arm (chamber for second rising block). Step in and use your forearm to block your opponent's other arm at the elbow or higher (second rising block). The rule I use to remember this is to always match forearm to upper arm. Now that you are pulling down one of your opponent's arms and raising their other arm, you have them in an unbalanced position. Step out with your back leg and pivot while still pulling them, creating a rudimentary throw.

This defense (helmet guard followed by uppercut), while not
the same moves, follows the same principle as two sequential
high blocks
As an alternative, the second rising block can be a forearm strike to the jaw. The benefit of using your forearm to strike is: 1) large surface area; very difficult to miss, 2) No risk of breaking any small hand bones as you would with an uppercut, and 3) since you are in very close range, it works well as both a strike and a shove to knock your opponent backwards. (fnt. 4)
Shuto uke chamber

Option 4

This defense use:
  • Back stance knifehand strike
  • Front stance high punch
  • Bringing the front leg back in
We're going to use the knifehand strike as the block. Although this might seem odd, it actually goes back to the karate roots: remember that one of the applications for the shuto uke chamber for is a roundhouse punch defense, using the straight arm to forcefully push down the opponent's punch, while the other hand comes up to defend the face. Basically, it's using the strength of a straightened arm to push the punch down and away. This is sometimes referred to as an "intercepting block". The only difference from the shuto uke chamber is that now we're going to step in with the same-side leg that we block with.

An intercepting block
From here, we're going to use an outside trip throw. Circle around your opponent's legs, and hook their head with the high punch. Following the footwork in the form, move your front leg backwards -- sweeping out their leg -- as you push their upper body downwards. This completes the outside trip throw. The name of this type of throw (hooking the head with your arm) is "tenchi nage" in jujitsu and aikido.
Intercept block followed by head hook (tenchi nage). Source: Aikidoflow

So there you have it: four ways to defend against the roundhouse punch

1) Use both arms to block. This is a good emergency technique when you don't know what else to do.
2) Parry and enter as your opponent opens up
3) Raise your elbow to block
4) Use a strike to intercept the punch

Notice that we end with a takedown whenever possible. This is because it gives us an opportunity to run away, and very rarely is there any follow-up after a takedown in the forms.

  1. The karate version of this move is usually described as a simultaneous high block and uppercut. While this is an appealing move, it doesn't fit the taekwondo version due to the trajectory and placement of the front fist.
  2. You might be wondering "what about the third punch?" Whenever forms use three moves in a row, it's actually two moves that constitute the application. The third one is put in for symmetry, since it's like you are performing two moves on both sides.
  3. Modern boxers use a short guard because the large gloves provide a large surface area to defend their head. Bare-knuckle martial arts almost universally use a long guard because your arms have more surface area than your fists. 
  4. I've read that forearm strikes were a thing in bare-knuckle boxing, but I'm having difficulty finding a primary source. Quote from this article: "Bare knuckle fighters hit with the outside forearm and scrape the entire ulna bone along the opponent's face. The strike is a combination between a punch and a shove. It's also a good way to avoid a broken hand. Solid contact will get the other fighter to bend over or move backward, which sets him up for a knuckle punch, a second heel hand, a hook punch or an uppercut." Forearm strikes are definitely used as shoves in Chinese martial arts.

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