Saturday, April 29, 2017

Kwang-Gae: The Knifehand Low Front Block

This post will be a couple applications for a move that's baffled me for some time: the closed-stance knifehand low front block (Moa So Sonkal Najunde Ap Makgi) at move 12 in Kwang-Gae. The movement is performed in a circular manner -- from head to groin -- with the knifehand hitting your opposite palm. Similar movements appear in kung-fu forms, taekkyeon , kukki-taekwondo (with a hammerfist), and of course karate.

The first application uses the set:
  • Cat stance high guarding block
  • Double step and turn 180-degrees into front stance upward palm block
  • Closed stance knifehand low front block
After defending against an attack, employ the primary grappling application of the guarding block: back arm wrapped around the opponent's arm and front forearm striking the opponent's neck. From here you can pull their arm (reaction hand) while cranking their head back and downwards (upward palm block) as you double step behind them and turn 180-degrees. Your palm continues upwards, cranking the opponent's head further and exposing the back of their neck. You then strike with the knifehand low front "block".
Source for leftmost image: mannymelgoza
In the form you practice the upward palm block on the other side before striking, so you strike with the right knifehand. But if you are holding the opponent's head with your right hand, then you would strike with the left.

The second set is:
  • Closed stance knifehand low front block
  • Combination low side kick (pressing kick), middle side kick to the side, keeping both hands low
Source: Karate Culture
I'm going to steal Karate Culture's application for the low circling hands: catching the opponent's head and pushing it downwards, perhaps using the other hand to press on the small of their back. Although they use this from outside the opponent's arms, I don't see why it can't be used from inside as well. From this position, simply kick out the back of both opponent's legs (the double side kick).

Application for Kwang-Gae 12-14. The two side kicks are aimed at the back of the opponent's legs.
Although these two applications may seem obvious in retrospect, it took me a long time to find something I was satisfied with. To me this is evidence that even if a section of a pattern seems mysterious or confusing, don't dismiss it outright: there might be something you're missing.

Putting it all together

One way to interpret the first four sets of Kwang-Gae is as various follow-ups from the Heaven Hand defensive position. After blocking a swinging attack, strike their neck (hands splitting). From here you can attempt a headlock (opening move); a bent elbow crank (circular upset punch), or one of the two sets described above.
Sources: Practical Kata Bunkai, Darren Selley,  Catch Jutsu, mannymelgoza, karate culture 
So rather than being a disparate set of techniques, the first third of Kwang-Gae can be viewed as an analysis of the Heaven Hand as a defensive tool.

Read more Kwang-Gae applications here.



  1. That Karate Culture application is a bit of a stretch. Not saying that it's not good value, but I think it's not as nice an application for that move as

  2. Interesting video. Thank you for sharing.

    I think the problematic part of the Karate Culture application is getting outside your opponent's arm like that. From inside the opponent's arm, I'm imagining the application as functioning like an o soto gari, where you quickly try to force the opponent's upper body downwards as you step through behind them, and then kick out one of their legs (low side kick).