Saturday, February 4, 2017

Tackle Defense in Ko-Dang, Part 2

View part 1 here.

The second half of Ko-Dang covers other common tackle defenses: step back and front kick, the guillotine choke, a sideways sprawl, and a sacrifice throw.

Moves 23-27
Front kick versus a tackle.
Source: GloriaPhaeton

At this point the form "resets" and we defend from a distance tackle again. Step back with your front leg and kick with your back (now front) leg. The step back is just to gain distance, but in a closer range you might be a knee strike instead. After the kick, land forward and execute a double inward strike to the opponent's neck.

Source: Andrew Lock
For the next defense, we're going to begin with the double knifehand strike -- using it more as a double forearm block to mitigate our opponent's charge (see left image).

But of course, they're going to keep charging, so we execute knifehand rising block to their throat -- lifting their head upwards  (we can use the outer hand of the chamber to first push their head to the side) -- and side step to the right while pushing them out to the left and downward (side step into low guarding block). From here, grab their head and execute downward punch with your back hand, either punching the back of their head or pushing their body to the ground.

Moves 27-29

Source: Fight Authority
Finally we get to the guillotine choke -- another common tackle defense that makes the whole tackle idea very risky to begin with. The back hand downward punch is actually the first part of the choke; look at the right gif if you don't believe me. (He actually says, "It's like you're trying to punch the ground" in the video). This downward punch both traps the opponent's head and strikes the side of their neck with your forearm. Lift your forearm up under the opponent's neck while pushing their shoulder down with your other hand. You can also link your arms by grabbing your right wrist, though this isn't in the form.

From here, slide backwards while lifting your arms back (guarding block chamber) to choke out your opponent. Some grappling arts will tell you to fall down on your back to choke, but we want to stay on our feet if we can so we slide backwards instead.

Source: Expert Village
Next we jump straight upwards; is that a choke out too? Nope. That's actually a neck break. In order to make this work, you have to crank the opponent's head (knifehand guarding block) while they are in the guillotine, as the Hapkidoin in the left gif show. From here you jump upwards to forcefully hyper-extend their neck. Needless to say, this technique is very dangerous to the opponent; stick to choking them out.

Moves 30-32

Source: KarateCulture
This next defense is sort of like a sideways sprawl. We first use the backfist chamber as a whizzer-crossface; that is, the primary hand gets an overhook while the reaction hand (which faces outward) pushes away the opponent's face. From here, we're going to hop forward with our back leg, and then slip our front leg out of our opponent's reach, creating the rear foot X-stance. The backfist is just lifting the opponent's shoulder (which we have overhooked). You can see a similar defense in the image from Karate Culture on the right, although the positioning is different. The result of this is that you end up leaning sideways on your opponent.

From here, we should naturally turn as our opponent keeps advancing. As we turn 180-degrees (like in the form), we use our free arm to press the opponent's head to the ground (outer-forearm block). The combined two gifs below convey the basic idea of the technique. It's essentially just side-stepping your opponent's tackle, turning 180-degrees, and then pressing them to the ground.

Source: FightTips (with Firas Zahabi) and Nick Drossos
Of course in the form we perform all this vertically, because there's nothing to lean on, but the movements for the technique are all there. The hand motions are high relative to your own body, but in reality they are lower since you are leaning on your opponent. I recommend watching the video with Firas Zahabi; he explains the turn as like knocking the opponent with your hips. What's interesting is that as he turns, his legs naturally fall into the X-stance position.
Leaning weight with overhook and x-stance. Source: FightTips
Moves 33-37

We're nearing the end of the form and there's only one class of tackle defenses left: sacrifice throws (fnt. 1). The following throw is sort of like Judo's tomoe nage (circle throw), but the opponent is thrown at an angle. The two examples below show the throw from a single leg position.

Source: BruiserTV
Source: Jared Jessup
1) The upset punch with the front hand coming in used as both an overhook (back hand) and a grab which pulls in our opponent (front hand).
2) The hooking kick (fnt. 2) is used to first hook the opponent's leg(s) and then kick it/them up as you sink your butt and roll. It's aimed at 90-degrees because that's how you turn when you fall and roll.
3) The outward cross-cut we use to help throw our opponent by pushing their torso. Alternatively, it could be a follow-up strike after we're on the ground.

"Ground cross-cut" from the Encyclopedia
I suspect this application won't be popular, because, "What, are you crazy? We don't do groundwork." There is groundwork in the Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do actually: both a section on hand techniques and foot techniques. (I also spotted tomoe nage in there once, though I've lost the location) So probably unlike the majority of taekwondoin, I don't think a sacrifice throw being in a form is crazy. It would also make sense to put the sacrifice throw at the end of the form, since it's both more advanced and a last resort. And besides, why not learn a sacrifice throw? It looks fun.

Why do a sacrifice throw at an angle, rather than going straight back like in tomoe nage? The most obvious reason is that it lets you roll on your shoulder, not the back of your head. But you also end up in a good side mount position, from which you can quickly strike and then disengage from your opponent.

Moves 38-39

Finally, we reiterate the last two moves of Hwa-Rang: two knifehand guarding blocks. Use your forearm to guard against the opponent's tackle. This is the preferred tackle defense of self-defense instructor Nick Drossos. If your opponent grabs your front leg anyway, grab their head with both palms (chamber for second guarding block), and crank it away from your leg (turn 180-degrees into second guarding block). Remember that for knifehand guarding block, your arms move in parallel, so if you bring your palms closer together it's like you are holding someone's head (we also used knifehand guarding block as a neck crank earlier for the jumping neck break).
Source: Code Red Defense

That concludes Ko-Dang. My intent with these two posts was to show that the form -- rather than being a random collection of movements -- is actually a collection of thematically related defenses. It's a nicely packed little form; it's a shame it was removed from the ITF set for political reasons (fnt. 3), but many schools still practice it. I haven't learned Juche yet, but from what I've seen it doesn't appear to be about tackle defense. As I stated previously, the ITF forms are meant to comprise a single fighting system, meaning that it makes sense that the higher forms would each be dedicated to a certain self-defense situation.

The "pattern" is thus a set sequence of movement of attack and defence in a logical order. Imaginary opponents are dealt with in sequence logically and systematically under the assumption of various situations. ~ General Choi, Taekwon-Do, The Art of Self Defense

A student’s sparring or fighting style becomes his adaptation of the principles he has acquired from hyungs [forms]. The hyungs, then, are the student’s line between Tae Kwon Do training and actual fighting ~ Jhoon-Rhee, Tan-Gun and To-San

The punch-block-kick applications do not reveal what these principles or logical ordering are, but the deeper applications do.


1) Well, there are also "reversals": where you counter a single leg with your own single leg takedown. However, these are techniques you would do in a competitive situation rather than self-defense.

2) To anyone who's never practiced Ko-Dang: a "hooking kick" is not the same as a "hook kick". It looks more like an outside crescent kick, but it's called a "hooking kick" because the shape you make with your foot is meant to hook something.

3) Ko-Dang, the pseudonym of Cho Man Sik, was a political opponent of the Kim dynasty in North Korea, for which he was eventually executed. He is considered a patriot in South Korea. When Gen. Choi sought funding from the North Korean government, he of course couldn't have a form named after Cho Man Sik, so all of a sudden he had a revelation that Ko-Dang was an inferior form and replaced it with a new form, Juche, named after the North Korean philosophy of self-reliance. Needless to say, this was an unpopular move; several of Choi's commanders left the ITF organization. Chang Keun Choi -- who helped create the form Gae-Baek -- claimed that Gen. Choi was now teaching a completely different style of taekwondo. The South Korean press branded Choi as a traitor, and the Kukkiwon excludes him from their version of Taekwondo history. Choi himself was born in North Korea, and was likely hoping that introducing taekwondo to the north would help unite the two Koreas.

The Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do Vol. 3

Friday, February 3, 2017

Tackle Defense in Ko-Dang, Part 1

Ko-Dang's ready position as a tackle defense.
Source: PsycheTruth
Besides Joong-Gun, the other form I have a schema for is Ko-Dang. Particularly, the whole form seems to be about tackle defense. E.g. single leg dives, double leg dives, or waist grabs. Why? It just explains the sets, and Ko-Dang has a few weird sets in it. Thanks to the popularity of MMA (where single leg and double leg shoots are commonly) there's no shortage of information on tackle defense out there, so I've compiled applications from various sources.

In this two-part post, I'm going to go through the whole form and explain the tackle defense applications.

Moves 0-22

The ready position (move 0) represents what is commonly referred to as "sprawling": pushing your opponent's head down and leaning your weight on top of them as they dive towards you. The form follows with stepping backwards at a 45-degree angle and pushing with the palm. This is simply redirecting your opponent away from you. This is shown in the gif below from Karate Culture's excellent video on takedown defense (which I'll be referencing a lot). In the form, we also follow up with a punch after the 45-degree push, presumably to the side or back of the opponent's head.
Source:  Karate Culture
The next set in the form begins with a closed-fist guarding block. We use this to guard a tackle with our forearm, stepping back at a 45-degree angle as we do so. This is a very common and practical shoot defense. The closed fists indicate that we grab our opponent's arm as we block. What's weird is the follow-up move where we re-position our hands into a back arm low block, front arm inner-forearm block. It's usually interpreted as some kind of arm break, but it looks similar to a tackle defense from Eskrima called "baliog pomali" (fnt. 1). If your opponent dives under your forearm, raise their arm while pushing down their head (transition), getting an underhook while still pushing the opponent's head down with your forearm (inner-forearm block). From here, pull out their arm (back hand low block) and drop your weight. This technique puts intense pressure on the soft tissue located in the back of the neck; be very careful when practicing it. You can watch a full clip explaining the technique here, which comes the TV series "The Human Weapon".

Left: Using guarding block against a tackle. Sources: Gun Carrier, Code Red Defense
Right: Baliog Pomali.  Sources: Jose Rodriguez and "The Human Weapon. 
Next up is the set beginning with bending ready stance B (a one-legged stance with a low wedging block). You side kick to the back and then perform knifehand block to the front while landing backwards. This has led some to believe you are facing two separate opponents at once -- one in the back and another in front -- but there's a better explanation.

Instead, assume an opponent has grabbed your leg. Sprawl your weight on top of your opponent (low wedging block) while lifting your leg -- further placing weight on them. (fnt. 2) From here, use your same-side arm to get an overhook ("whizzer") on your opponent's arm, and then kick free (side kick to the back). The gif below demonstrates this:
Source: Karate Culture
What about the knifehand block to the front? We use this as a head push or "crossface" to aid our escape. The image below shows a wrestler using both an overhook (reaction hand) and head push (knifehand block) used to escape a single leg grab.
Application for Ko-Dang moves 9-11/12-14: overhook, head push/crossface, and kick to escape a leg grab.
 Source: modestograppling
Now we get to the line work. These four hand techniques are performed individually on both sides before moving to the next, as opposed to being preformed together as a single set. This is because each is a stand-alone waist grab defense.
Downward elbow strike (top)
Whizzer + head stuff (bottom).
Source: JiuJitsuMag
  • The downward elbow strike while moving backwards is just striking down on your opponent's back or head. This application is shown in the Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do; it is currently illegal in MMA but used to be used.
  • The palm pressing block we will use as a whizzer, head stuff combo. "Head stuff" is just pushing your opponent's head to the ground. You move forward because you are pressing your weight on top of your opponent. The palm moving upwards overhooks your opponent's arm whereas the palm moving downwards presses your opponent's head. This is also a common single leg defense in wrestling.
  • For the next technique my school does a low block, but the canonical move seems to be a "downward block". The difference is that low block is an in-to-out motion whereas downward block is an out-to-in motion. Either way, the application is the same: striking the back of the opponent's head with a hammerfist. This defense is potentially lethal (fnt. 3), and is also banned in MMA. In Ko-Dang, this technique is performed once moving forwards and once moving backwards, indicating that the direction isn't important to the technique.
  • Upward palm block as a head crank.
    Source: CodeRedDefense and  Karate Culture 
  • Finally, the cat stance upward palm block we use as a head crank. The right gif shows this motion. This is also often called a "crossface", and is another common single or double leg defense, intended for when your opponent's head is outside your leg.
The palm pressing block, oddly, is not performed in low stance like it is in Joong-Gun, but rather in a normal front stance. This could be because Joong-Gun assumes your front leg is being lifted (your kick has been caught) and you are trying to drop kick free, hence you put extra weight on your front leg.

Whew. That's half the form. The second half is a bit more complex, but already we've been introduced to several tackle defense tools: sprawling, guarding with the forearm, overhooks, striking the back of the head, and crossfaces.


1) The consensus of the internet seems to be that baliog pomali is a poor shoot defense, but I leave it here because it's tackle defense related and uses the movements in the form. The most important part of the defense is guarding with your forearm; after this you can apply a number of follow-ups based on what your opponent is doing. An alternate application for this set would be using the back hand of the guarding block to grab the opponent's wrist and then attempting to sprain their arm by supinating it (low block) and striking up at the back of their elbow (inner-forearm block).
Push down and knee strike, a possible application for
bending ready stance B. Source: Aikidoflow

2) Other interpretations of the motion are that the opponent is lifting your leg, or that you are performing a knee strike to your opponent's face while pushing them downwards. See right image.

3)  In 2014 a soccer referee, John Bieniewicz, was killed when a disgruntled player punched him in the back of the head. A hard enough hit to the back of the head may damage the cervical vertebrae or spinal cord. Source: wikipedia.

View Part 2 here


The Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do Vol. 5