Friday, June 2, 2017

Sam-Il: The Seipai Throw and Back Leg Sweep

The higher ITF forms don't get talked about very often; understandably since the majority of taekwondoin never advance far enough to learn them. This is a shame though, because these forms have a greater variety of hand and foot techniques to work with, which result in some interesting applications.

Sam-Il is noteworthy because it has a set from the kata Seipai, which is not a Shotokan kata (fnt. 1). In this post I'll cover the throw this set represents, as well as a modern variant of the throw that appears later in the form.

The Seipai Throw (Moves 9-10)

The motions used for this throw are:
  • Step forward into riding stance knifehand reverse wedging block
  • Shift into back stance double low punch, pulling the right foot
The reverse wedging block is used to simultaneously scoop up a leg while pushing out the opponent's torso. You then grab, lift, and dump them (double low punch).
The Seipai throw against a kick (top) compared with a performance of Sam-Il (bottom).
Sources: Radek Scuri, Chris Baehr
This application from Seipai is fairly well known; it appears in Masutatsu Oyama's 1970 manual Advanced Karate, as well as in earlier manuals. The above image shows it against a kick, but you can in theory defend against a hand attack first with move 8 and then scoop up the leg. The gif below shows this variant.
Source: FightLand
Notice that in this case the leg is scooped from the inside rather than the outside. You can find more detailed discussions of the Seipai throw in this Fightland article or Iain Abernethy's video on the subject.

The Back Leg Sweep (Moves 15-16)

A few moves later we see a set that I can only imagine represents a similar takedown. It is a sweeping kick sandwiched by two U-shaped blocks.
Source: TkdTeam
The effect of doing two U-shaped blocks in a row is to wheel your arms. The application for this can be seen in the Muay Thai fight below.
Source: Fightland
After reaching under the opponent's leg with your lower arm, you then bar your upper arm across your their torso. You then sweep out your opponent's standing leg with the sweeping kick while rotating your arms: lifting their leg and pushing down their torso.

It's interesting that we use an actual sweeping kick (Shuro Chagi) in this pattern, as usually sweeps are "hidden" in either the footwork or a middle kick.

Why bother including two similar applications in the same form? Okinawan kata are very compact: they have to be since each kata (or set of katas) is supposed to be a self-contained self-defense style. But in the case of the ITF forms, it seems that Choi's commanders felt more room to play around with variations of older ideas. Sam-Il also repeats two single leg takedowns from Choong-Moo: the one hand drop and the shoulder wheel throw.


1) It is, however, a Shito-ryu kata, and so this is evidence for Simon O'Neill's belief that Shito-Ryu was one of the styles that influenced early Taekwondo, as stated in The Taegeuk Cipher. The spreading of the arms in the Shito-ryu version of Seipai looks like our reverse wedging block.
On the other hand, Seipai is not one of the katas listed in Gen Choi's 1965 Taekwondo book. It's possible that this set was not taken directly from the kata, but rather from a Karate applications manual. A Study of Seipai Kata was published in 1934 by Kenwa Mabuni.


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