|The movement in question|
The 8th Dan, to his credit, mentions that in some cases grabbing your own arm in forms can represent grasping the opponent's arm (This is an old kata interpretation principle from the kaisai no genri). But the 4th Dan seems dismissive of this idea. They point out that General Choi provided no application for the touching hands in the Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do, and the application provided for the low kick was kicking someone sitting in a chair.
In the end, the two hosts do not know why the hands touch in Choong-Jang. I imagine for the student who originally asked the question, this was a disappointment.
(By the way, I know an application for the touching hands in Choong-Jang. But this post isn't about Choong-Jang).
I also listened to an old episode of the Hello Taekwondo podcast titled "Why we still do traditional taekwondo forms". The guest, an 8th Degree Kukkiwon black belt, discusses the usual reasons (they improve kids' coordination, help with power, etc). Near the end though the interviewer seems to get excited about the "original meanings" of the movements and states he'd like to know what they are.
My takeaway from these two podcasts, as well as other media I've encountered is:
- There is still an interest among taekwondo students to know how to apply their patterns
- Instructors are largely unaware or uninterested in applications
Now, I no longer actively practice taekwondo. I'm currently learning Tai Chi (Yang style 37 postures). But I still know all these applications; they are just sitting in my head, and I'm wondering what to do about them.
The Weird Lack of Interest in Pattern Applications
- Most students and instructors believe there are no "hidden" applications, so they don't bother searching for them. At the same time, the punch/block/kick only interpretation of patterns clearly doesn't work.
- Taekwondo has been largely sportified. Even ITF, despite its claim to be a self-defense art, focuses on acrobatic displays against multiple opponents at competitions instead of practical self-defense
- Patterns are difficult to understand without grappling knowledge, which most taekwondo students lack (despite it "officially" being part of the art, it's rarely taught)
- Any student interested in practical fighting tends to leave taekwondo and go study another art
|Two throws from the Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do: an uchi-mata (top) and a shoulder throw (bottom). Early taekwondoin cross-trained in Judo, which was popular in the Korean peninsula, and included locks and throws from Judo into their self-defense routines.|
- Thy's Taekwondo: https://www.youtube.com/@thystaekwondo
- Practical Taekwondo Self Defense System: https://www.youtube.com/@practicaltaekwondoselfdefe3729/featured
- Charnwood Taekwondo: https://www.youtube.com/@charnwoodtaekwondo5784
- Old School Perspectives on Taekwon-Do: https://www.youtube.com/@oldschoolperspectivesontae8202/featured
- Colin Wee: https://www.youtube.com/@ColinWeeMartialArts/featured
And those are all ITF channels. For WT/Kukki-taekwondo I find... almost nothing. This is odd since this is by far the more popular style of taekwondo. Two channels I will mention are:
- Orjan Nilsen's channel and his blog Traditional Taekwondo Ramblings: https://www.youtube.com/@traditionaltaekwondoramblings (Check out his flow drill for Taeguek 4)
- ByungSeok Lee's channel: https://www.youtube.com/@bsl22464
It's been 14 years since Stuart Anslow released Ch'ang Hon Taekwon-Do Hae Sul and 15 years since Simon John O'Neill released The Taeguek Cipher. I have to conclude that while these books influenced many individual instructors, they didn't make a larger impact on the taekwondo world.
A much more recent book (2019) is Ciarin McDonald's Old School Perspectives on Taekwon-Do. Judging by the positive reviews, there is still an interest in this stuff.
How to Teach Applications?
- Striking days where we focus on hitting bags and pads, kicking technique, and live sparring
- Grappling days where we practice locks and throws, falling techniques, and free wrestling
- Traditional / self-defense days where we analyze and practice self-defense sets from the patterns, integrate striking and grappling, and discuss internal principles
division doesn't have to be one-third each way, e.g. we could focus on
striking more than grappling. But I think even understanding the basics
of grappling would go a long way. The goal here is not to turn taekwondo
into MMA, but (A) teach taekwondo's full curriculum, (B) be able to apply the
patterns, and (C) give students the confidence to defend themselves.
What to Do Next?
I guess I shouldn't bemoan the lack of video content when I myself don't produce any. The problem is finding partners, since I no longer actively practice taekwondo.
I'm also considering a book. Although I could draw another e-book (I've been working on some Original Koryo drawings), I'd ideally like to take live-action pictures for a longer book explaining multiple patterns, similar to Stuart Anslow's books.