Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Throwing in Choong-Moo, Part 1

Instructions for an inner-thigh
throw (uchi mata)
One funny thing about most traditional martial arts is that most of them started out as comprehensive fighting systems, but eventually became more and more specialized. Grappling arts like Judo and Aikido used to contain strikes (atemi), for example. And conversely, karate and taekwondo used to contain locks and throwing. “Used to” may not be the best choice of words, since they are still officially part of the art.  There are sections on throwing in both the Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do (ITF) and Kukkiwon Textbook (WTF). However, as sport taekwondo became popular -- in which grappling is illegal and the use of strong kicks is paramount -- clubs gradually shifted more towards kicking and actually stopped teaching most of the art.

But the throws aren’t just in the Encyclopedia, they are also contained in the forms. One form in particular that contains many throws is Choong-Moo. In this two-part post, I will be detailing six of the throws you can find in Choong-Moo, as well as a contingency single leg takedown at the end of the form. I'll refer to the throws by their more commonly known Judo names. The throws are:

Kuchiki Taoshi (One hand drop)
Koshi Guruma (Hip wheel throw)
Morote Gari (Both arms reap)

Kuchiki Taoshi (One hand drop)

Application for moves 20-21
This throw is pretty simple to perform, so much so that variants of it appear in other forms. Reach and grab opponent’s leg from the inside (low upset spearfinger), and then pull it upwards while pushing their body downwards with your front forearm (backfist-low block combination).

There are two variants to this throw worth mentioning. Instead of picking the inside of the opponent's leg, you can pick outside of it. However, in this case you want to turn 90-degrees as you pull back to increase the chance of takedown, as is done in the opening moves of Toi-Gye (moves 2-3/5-6).

If you pick the ankle instead of the knee, then this throw is called kibisu gaeshi ("heel reversal"). This is the version shown in the Encyclopedia, performed from a kneeling position. Although considered a different throw in Judo, the principle of the throw is still the same.
Ankle pick from the Encyclopedia
Koshi Guruma (Hip Wheel Throw)

The hip wheel throw is performed by wrapping one of your arms around your opponent’s head, thrusting your back hip deep into your opponent’s body, and then wheeling them over you as you pull their arm and neck. In other arts it's called an "arm and neck throw" or a "cross-buttocks throw."
Hip wheel throw
The throw itself is moves 22-23, but can be set up with move 21. If an opponent grabs you, you can use move 21 to pull your opponent towards you (backfist to back) while striking their core region with a hammerfist (front hand low block). The intent of this combination is to force your opponent to bend over, lowering their head.

To move into move 22, raise your left arm over your opponent’s arm and push downwards (supporting hand), while you shoot the spearfinger thrust to the side of their head with your right arm. You may now grab their arm with your left hand and wrap around their head with your right arm.

The reason I think this represents hip wheel is because of the very deep pivot you do for move 23. You do a three-quarter turn into front stance. The reason this throw is called the Hip Wheel is because you thrust your hip in deep and pivot as far as possible. Also, you end up in double front block, which pulls your opponent laterally over your hip rather than straight downwards. The front arm of double front block pulls your opponent’s arm, whereas the back arm is still wrapped around and pulls your opponent’s head.

Application for moves 21-23
Morote Gari (Both arms reap) aka Double Leg Takedown, and contingency throw

The twin palm upward block is one of those motions that draws a lot of blanks from Taekwondoin. I've seen suggestions that it represents some secret Hapkido arm lock. However there is an application for it -- and the preceding x-knifehand checking block -- that is actually pretty simple. But to lengthen my word count, let’s talk about the difference between a Judo double leg takedown and a wrestling double leg takedown.

Wrestler's entry (left) vs Judo entry (right)
Wrestlers usually enter with their head on the same side of their opponent's torso as their lead leg, whereas for morote gari, you place your head on the opposite side that you step forward with.

What this affects is the approach and the finish. In wrestling you usually do the double leg takedown with a dive onto one knee, under your opponent’s arms. This is a high-risk, high-reward move. It’s high reward because if you succeed in scooping your opponent’s legs, you will almost invariably bring them to the ground. Diving in with your head to the same side as your lead leg allows you to “cut the corner”: raise your opponent’s leg while driving sideways with your head, throwing your opponent downwards while also protecting you from a guillotine choke. It’s high-risk because there’s a simple counter to it: the sprawl. And if any opponent sprawls on top of you, then can pin you to the ground.

For the Judo double leg you approach more upright, driving forward with your shoulder. You can either scoop directly back and up (like in the form and the gif above), or out to the side in a shoveling motion. Olympian judoka Matt D'Aquino demonstrates these two options in the video below.

What about the x-knifehand checking block? Well, using the same application from the gif above, it’s just a setup to raise or push apart your opponent's arms before you come under to do the leg scoop. Ideally you will break your opponent's grip, though I think this is unlikely for a strong opponent.

Snapping an opponent's head down to set up a double leg,
demonstrated by Olympian Jordan Burroughs.
As a variant, the x-knifehand checking block could represent putting your opponent into a clinch. This, in fact, is how some wrestlers set up the double leg takedown: if you snap down your opponent's head, they will naturally want to rise back upwards; you take advantage of this by diving in and scooping up the back of their knees.

The weakness of morote gari is that it has a pretty simple counter: stepping backwards with the leg opposite-side to your head. Luckily, the form takes this into account and follows up with a single leg takedown. Specifically, you turn 180-degrees (half steps) while raising the leg you do have a hold of (high block) and finish the throw by pushing your opponent outward (back hand punch). This completes the form. This is actually quite similar to (though not completely the same as) a contingency throw that Iain Abernethy performs in the pics below. Both involve lifting the leg, however Abernethy does not do a 180-degree turn. Instead he trips his opponent and then keeps driving forward.

Abernethy's contingency throw for a failed morote gari. Whole video here.
With that, we can define the last four moves of Choong-Moo to be as follows:

1) Opponent grabs you with both arms. Raise up your arms through their grip (x-knifehand checking block)
2) Spread and push up opponent's arms (set up for twin upward palm block)
3) Step in and grasp the back of opponent's knees, and pull upwards to throw (twin upward palm block)
3b) Opponent defends by stepping one leg back
4) Raise up the leg you do have while half-stepping to turn 180-degrees (high block)
5) Finish throwing opponent by pushing out their body (back hand punch)

Application for moves 27-30 of Choong-Moo

Although it's commonly believed that Taekwondo contains no throws or locks, there is evidence of both in the Encyclopedia and in the forms. They are not primary to the art, and are really only used if an opponent grapples you. However, I don't believe you can have comprehensive self-defense knowledge without knowing something about throwing, and clearly those who put the forms together thought the same.

Want more throws from Choong-Moo? Check out part 2.

"Traditional Taekwondo Forms, vol. 1" (DVD) by Grandmaster Tae Sun Kang

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