Monday, April 3, 2017

Toi-Gye: What's with the W Blocks?

In the middle of the 7th ITF form, Toi-Gye, there's a baffling bit where you perform six W blocks (also called "Mountain Blocks") in a row. You perform two moving forward, then turn around and perform three, then turn around again and perform the sixth. The way the movements are performed -- lifting your leg and stamping -- is also unusual. You then return to the rest of the form as if nothing happened, but this strange performance of the same move multiple times in a row has left many pattern analyzers scratching their heads about Toi-Gye.

Blocking applications for the W blocks in Toi-Gye
One proposal is that the six W blocks are meant to be a strength exercise. Personally I don't buy this; Gen. Choi provides applications for the movement just like every other move in Toi-Gye (see right image), even if they are the boring block-strike ones. There's no indication that the moves are merely a strength exercise. Instead, I think that the meaning of the blocks become clearer once you break them down into sets.

Set 1: Pull in fists to hip while turning 90-degrees, followed by a W block. A second W block is performed for symmetry
Set 2: Two W blocks, the same set from the karate kata "Jitte". A third W block is performed for symmetry.
Set 3: W block followed by "low pushing block" with left double forearm. This set has no symmetry.

In this post I'll provide applications to each of these three sets, as well as some other uses for the W blocks.

Set 1

Move 12 is performed in slow motion. In patterns a slow motion movement indicates manipulating an opponent's body or resistance, not that you would actually perform the move in slow motion. In this case, pulling both fists to your hips indicates that you are pulling in your opponent -- specifically with your left arm from the reverse punch position in move 11. You turn 90-degrees as you pull, which in a grappling situation will shift your opponent's weight sideways onto one of their legs. This also positions your elbows in line with your hips, like in the form. You then follow by using the W block as a throw, blocking their leg as you pull-push them sideways. Even the stamp is used -- albeit not straight downwards -- to push back the opponent's leg. In Judo this is called a "cross-body o soto gari", a common throw that is difficult to defend against since people have weak lateral balance. An example is shown in the gif below:
Source: Freestyle Judo
So to reiterate:
  • Pulling both fists to your hips represents pulling or "sucking in" your opponent while grappling them
  • Turning 90-degrees as you pull shifts their weight sideways
  • Use the stamping motion to knock back their heavy leg as you throw them with the push-pull motion of the W block
Set 2

This set comes from Jitte. The interpretation I prefer is against a grab and punch. The first W block represents controlling the opponent's grabbing arm while blocking their punch. You then knee strike (lifting the leg), step behind them, and use the second W block to push and pull them over your leg to throw. An example by Craig Gray (Krav Maga) is shown below; you can find another example by Colin Wee (ITF Taekwondo) here.
Source: Craig Gray
Another use I commonly see for the first W block is to deflect a punch inward. You may then use the second W block as a throw.
Source: Didier Lupo
Another option for the stamping motion is to literally stamp in the side or back of the opponent's knee. Your front forearm may be used to either create an armbar or hammerfist the back of your opponent's head.
Source: Beebhatsu R.G.
Set 3

Finally, we turn around again and perform the sixth W block, and then follow with what the Encyclopedia calls a "low pushing block" (najunde miro makgi). I know of two options for this. The first is that after performing the W block as a simultaneous block and strike to the opponent's face, use your front hand to dig into your opponent's throat, and then forcefully push them to the ground.

The second option is a contingency throw in case our W block throw isn't working. We want to pull our opponent clockwise over our left leg, so to aid this we first step in with our right leg and pull-push them clockwise (setup for low pushing block). We then finish the throw by pushing their torso downward with the low pushing block, although you can feasible dig into their throat instead. Both options are shown in the image below.
Two applications for Toi-Gye 18-19. (Note that row 2 is mirrored).
Source for row 2: monsterprone
There is a third application from Scott Synder (Taekwondo Grappling Techniques) using the low pushing block as a strike to the back of the opponent's head, perhaps after using the W block as a standing armbar.

Other Applications for W block

There are two other common applications I see for the W block. The first is a kick defense. You use the back forearm to underhook and the lift your opponent's leg, while stepping behind their standing leg and then pushing them over with your front forearm. One example is shown below:
Source: curranskarate's channel

Source: Fight Fast
The other common application is an arm break or armbar. This is, in fact, one of the first "alternate applications" I ever learned, taught to me by a taekwondoin who cross-trained in American Kenpo. After scouring the internet I finally found a video explaining the technique here. The short of it is that you use the motions of your back and front forearms to forcefully hyperextend your opponent's arm, detaching their bicep. You can find more info by Richard Conceicao (Kukkiwon Taekwondo) here. There is a Kukkiwon form "Keumgang" where you follow this move by turning 180-degrees into an inverted wedging block. This works well as a simple shoulder lock throw, as shown in the two gifs below:


Source: centralmichigantkd
Sources

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