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: Rolling backfist
Source: Tao of Peace Martial Arts

Karateka sometimes argue about whether the inner-forearm block makes a good strike or not. I don't think it works as a strike to the neck -- as some use it -- but it can make a good rolling backfist to the face. Use the reaction hand to push down an opponent's guard during the chamber, then roll up your backfist to strike the opponent.

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.

Source: Dan Djurdjevic

There is a similar defense against a cross-side wrist grab in the same 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

Twin outer-forearm block as parry-pass
and shoulder grab. Source:
Dan Djurdjevic 
The only issue is that this better suits the karate version of the twin block, which uppercuts with the front arm. However, in the Encyclopedia sometimes the move is performed with a half-turned front fist, as if doing a backfist (see above image), so I believe that a parry-pass followed by a backfist strike is an appropriate use of this technique.

Another option is to grab their shoulder, as shown in the right gif, we can then pull them down while stepping forward and striking upwards on their jaw (high punch).

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.
Leg Raise

One final application for the high punch (and also a rising block): grabbing a leg and lifting it upwards. It may seem simple, but sometimes that's all you need. If you utilize the back arm of the guarding block to overhook a front kick, then you can attempt a takedown simply by walking forward and lifting the opponent's leg.


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Do-San Applications, Part 1

Now that I've discussed straight punch defenses from Chon-Ji, and roundhouse punch defenses from Dan-Gun, I'm going to detail some basic arm and shoulder locks you can get from the third form, Do-San. Locks are technically a part of Taekwondo but, like the throws, they are rarely taught. You can find several in the Self Defense (Ho Sin Sul) section of the Encyclopedia. Of them, the locks I recognize are:

Standing armbar (ikkyo)
The S-lock against a same-side wrist grab.
From the Self-defense section of the
Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do.
S-lock (nikkyo)
Wrist twist (sankyo)
Outer-wrist throw (kotegaeshi)
Rear shoulder lock
Gooseneck lock

The latter two are common come-along locks from police, but the first four seem to indicate a Jujitsu influence. It should be pointed out that Gen. Choi said there were three responses one can do to a grab: a strike, a release motion, or a joint lock/break; and of these, striking was the fastest and most likely to work. This is probably why the locks never gained much recognition as practical self-defense, but rather something you should do if you don't really want to hurt your opponent.

So are locks in the forms? I would argue yes; or at least you can make locks out of the motions. Here are some simple locks you can get out of Do-San, in case you're tired of the usual punch-block-kick applications.

Rear shoulder lock

You may have been taught that for the first four moves of Do-San, you block an attack and follow up with a reverse punch on one side, and then turn around and do the same to a different opponent.

But wait a minute. We still haven't dealt with our first opponent. He's not going to go down with one hit.

Two-handed hammerlock. 
Use the first outer-forearm block not just to block but to grab your opponent's arm. After punching, use the chamber for the next move to clasp your right arm around your opponent's right arm (middle image above). As you turn around (half steps) and perform the outer-forearm block, you are actually pushing out on your opponent's shoulder. Grab and pull their shoulder into towards your hip while you push their wrist towards the back of their head (second reverse punch). This creates a two-handed hammerlock. The pulling of the elbow can be done from the inside (the most literal way to do the form) or you can switch to the outside (see right image).

From this position, you may step into the back of their knee as you bring your back leg forward as in the form.

If you want something more advanced: you can transfer to a one arm hammerlock, or "chicken wing" lock. If you have the practice, you can actually get into the chicken wing lock right away, as in the example below.

1) Circle away an opponent's attempt to grab
2) Reach under opponent's arm and grab their elbow.
3) Drag opponent's elbow forward while also blocking their wrist
4) Keep dragging their elbow forward as you half-step to turn around, then slip your other hand up and through: so that the arm is below their forearm and above their shoulder

Advanced application for Do-San 1-4
Although I call it "advanced", it's actually a simple come-along lock used by police and bouncers. One detail you want to remember is to make sure you're pressing down on your opponent's elbow, not triceps, with your hand, as this will give you more control. And, of course, you can add in the first punch.
Block, punch, rear shoulder lock

Standing arm bar
So fun fact: it seems like every school does the release motion in Do-San differently.

I guess it didn't help that General Choi himself changed the official version at least once.

To keep things simple I'm going to stick to two versions: Choi's revised version (upper right), in which you twist the palm but never actually pull the arm downward, and the version I practice (lower left) where you pull the hand down as you shift your weight back, which is fairly close to the original version (upper left).

One version of the application would go as so
1) Opponent grabs your same-side wrist
2) Grab their wrist with your other hand (supporting hand), and use spearhand thrust to release.
2) Put opponent into an armbar by pressing down on the back of their elbow ("release motion")
3) Pull the opponent's arm out while pivoting, maintaining pressure on the arm. (turning 360-degrees into backfist), possibly causing your opponent to fall over.

Spearhand thrust as release. Source.
Dropping into release motion as an armbar
Spinning into backfist to aid the armbar. Gifs from Dan Djurdjevic.
The spin version is a good way to control an otherwise strong opponent. In the original version of Do-San, it appears that the release motion (which was pulling the arm down) and the spin were done together rather than as two separate steps.

What about Choi's version where the arm doesn't drop? I know that Choi stated the application of this was to escape a grab, but to me it looks reminiscent of using the palm to control the opponent's elbow.

Using the palm to pressure the elbow.
A less literal interpretation of the spearhand thrust is that it's used to straighten the opponent's arm before the armbar. Your arm will never go completely straight, but the form might be having you practice generating enough force to straighten the opponent's arm before putting them into the lock.
Spearhand thrust to straighten opponent's arm
Finally, the spearhand thrust can be used as a strike in response to a grab, which will also straighten an opponent's arm by forcing them backwards: spearhands are good for putting pressure on the solar plexus or the neck.

Overhead shoulder lock

Here's an old-school application to the two rising blocks. After blocking an attack, come forward and wrap your other arm around the opponent's elbow (chamber for 2nd rising block). Circle behind their legs, raising their elbow while pulling down their wrist (2nd rising block). To take them to the ground, just keep walking forward and pull them down. This is sometimes called a figure-4 lock.

Now, there's a big debate as to whether the rising block actually works as a block or whether the attack in that image above is realistic. The lock technique, however, can be used in other situations. In the video below, the overhead shoulder lock is used in response to a choke.


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 another application I was surprised to find was locking an opponent's wrist.

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. The two punches could also be used to grab a weapon that the opponent is holding.

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.


In case you can't tell, I prefer applications that end with incapacitating your opponent in some way, usually with a takedown, but sometimes through a lock or vital strike. Hence why ending a set with a simple reverse punch doesn't appeal to me.

Find more applications for Do-San here.