Sunday, January 1, 2017

Even more throwing. From Po-Eun!

Po-Eun seems to be a favorite for many taekwondoin to perform. There's something aesthetically pleasing about it. It's completely symmetric, there is a long set of continuous movements in the middle of each half, and your torso faces one direction the entire time. Due to the frequent use of riding stance, many believe Po-Eun is a grappling form, but still struggle to find the applications.

So here you go: I'm going to talk about four throws dervied from the form in this post. Once again, I'll be using the more commonly known Judo names -- except for the last throw which is more of a wrestling takedown.

Seio Nage (Shoulder Throw): moves 5-7/23-25

This is one of those fortunate instances where you can find an application in another part of the Encyclopedia. It goes as follows:
  1. Opponent grabs you from behind
  2. Grab opponent's arm (angle punch)
  3. Pull down arm (forefist pressing block) while reaching up and grabbing their shoulder (side block)
  4. Throw opponent over your shoulder (2nd pressing block), while pulling out their arm (2nd side block)
Some schools incorrectly perform the latter two moves as scissor blocks. The pressing block motion is meant to go more-or-less straight downwards, so your arms don't necessarily cross.

There's also a misconception out there that Po-Eun is only for attacks from the front. I've found no evidence to support this, and if this were true it wouldn't make Po-Eun unique: in most forms your opponent is assumed to be in front of you. When you change direction in forms, it's not because a new opponent is approaching from the side, but because you are changing position relative to your opponent. The shoulder throw can be performed against a frontal opponent, but you'll need to turn 180-degrees as you step in. This throw is also included in the Encyclopedia, but its considered disadvantageous by General Choi because it's too easy for the opponent to strike you as you enter.

General Choi considered the shoulder throw against a frontal opponent disadvantageous
Te Guruma (Hand Wheel): moves 14-16/32-34

Not only does the Hand Wheel throw fit the movements well, it also explains why the twin horizontal thrust is performed in slow motion. Slow motion movements in forms usually indicate resistance, as lifting up your opponent obviously would provide. The artist even bothered to draw the judoka straining their hips and calves to lift their opponent.

The use of the U-shaped grasp is similar to the U-shaped block in Choong-Moo, but this time you grasp leg and head rather than leg and arm. The reason the upper hand is inverted is so that you can twist as you press down your opponent's head.

Iain Abernethy performing the Half Wheel throw
Obviously this throw requires a decent amount of strength. There is a version of it which doesn't require lifting the opponent -- from karate -- called the "half wheel" or "cripple wheel" throw. In this version, rather than lifting your opponent, you try to raise their leg while pressing down their head as you circle backwards. In fact, the orientation of the hands in the first step of Half Wheel look more like our U-shaped grasp, although the rest of our throw looks like the Judo version.

Variant from Steve Snyder
Another variant I have seen is picking up the opponent from a much lower body position. In the left image (taken from Taekwondo Grappling Techniques by Tony Kemerly and Steve Snyder), the U-shaped grasp is used to bar the back of the legs and front of the torso before lifting. He even inverts his upper hand to help with the push.

Whichever variant you work with, the principle is the same: lift the lower body, force down the upper body, throwing the opponent.

Ko uchi gake (minor inner hook): moves 12-13/30-31

Although the details are different, I believe that the throw represented here is some version of the small inside trip. Although the horizontal punch is the last move in the continuous set, I think it's been co-opted here as the first move in the throw.

If you are grappling with your opponent, use the horizontal punch to shift them off-balance. This distributes their weight onto one leg. You then step in with the cross step, sweeping that leg. This version is known as ko uchi gari, or "minor inner reap".

Ko uchi gari. Notice the closed fist is used to pull and the open palm to push.
Rather than sweeping the leg, you can hook it with the cross step, and then take the opponent down. The key to how this works is in the hand motions. The front block in this case is linear -- going straight down -- while your other palm comes down until the fingertips reach your pulse. To me, this represents a push-pull motion. Perhaps the previous horizontal punch represents reaching to grab the back of the opponent's shirt. You then hook their leg and simultaneously pull down the back of their shirt while pressing their chest down with your palm. The placement of the two hands in the form is an approximation of where your hands would end up if there were no opponent.

Body lock takedown: moves 17-18/35-36

Edit 5-10-17: This application is depreciated, as I found out that my club teaches Po-Eun slightly differently than the canonical version. You can find an application for the canonical version in this more recent post, but I am keeping this as an alternate application.

Some have suggested -- correctly I think -- that the last move of Po-Eun is a throw. The way the palms are oriented suggest that you are holding something between your arms. If this is the case, then the previous move must be a body lock; also called a body clinch, double underhooks, or underarm bear hug.

This isn't as far-fetched as it might seem. Remember that while the previous low front block was performed in a linear motion, this low front block is (in some clubs) performed in a circular motion, and your hands clasp at the end. Although this is usually explained as delivering a hammerfist strike to a downed opponent, it could also be wrapping your arms around an opponent's torso. The previous two moves can be used as a "duck under", lifting up your opponent's arms (twin horizontal thrust), so you can duck under to your opponent's side (movement into riding stance low block, backfist combination), before getting the body lock (low front block with fist meeting palm).

Duck under to body lock
I've also seen a low block being used to slip through a head clinch, though this seems harder to pull off than a duck under.

Possible uses of a cross step during a body lock
What about the cross step? There are a few uses for it. It could be some kind of hook or trip -- similar to the ko uchi gake application above -- or it could just be a transitory position as you move to the side or behind your opponent to perform the takedown. I've included a few images of the cross step being used with the body lock on the left. I've read that a body lock combined with a minor outside trip (ko soto gake) is a common takedown in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

So which one are we doing in the form? If you want to follow the footwork literally, probably the transitory step. If you look back at the duck under image above, the cross step would clearly go behind the opponent from that position. This can be used as a trip from behind. You then step out with your other leg into riding stance and drive with your shoulder, as shown in the gif below:

Body lock with a cross step behind to trip
Application for moves 17-18/35-36 of Po-Eun
So one version of this takedown would be as follows:
  1. Opponent grabs you
  2. Raise their arms (twin horizontal thrust) and duck under
  3. Get a body lock (low front block with fist meeting palm). Squeeze tightly
  4. Cross step behind them, then step out with other leg and take your opponent to the ground. (low ridgehand guarding block), ideally tripping them over your back leg.
There is one important alteration I'd make: the cup-and-saucer grip (fist in palm) isn't a particularly strong one. You may want to try grabbing your wrist, or using a gable grip (see right image).


Po-Eun is a personal favorite of mine, and I'm glad whenever I discover applications for it. There's a lot of interesting applications to be found within the forms if you approach them with an open mind about what constitutes "Taekwondo".

You might be wondering why there are Judo throws in the forms in the first place. There is a whole section in the Encyclopedia on throwing, but they clearly look more like Judo throws than karate throws, contradicting the common notion that taekwondo is purely based on karate. This is because most karate throws were not known at the time -- only recently being rediscovered by Iain Abernethy and others -- but Judo was being practiced in Korea (as well as a Korean off-shoot called "Yudo"). The occupying Japanese did not ban it because they considered Judo to be more of a sport than a martial art. This is likely the art that the early taekwondo masters learned their throws from, and this explains why there are Judo throws in both the Encyclopedia and the Ch-ang-Hon forms.

Taekwondo Grappling Techniques: Hone Your Competitive Edge for Mixed Martial Arts by Tony Kemerly and Scott Snyder. 

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