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

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