Saturday, November 4, 2017

11: Koryo low section hammerfist

Sources: Majest, Ebrahim Saadati
Before I take another break from the blog, I wanted to look at a set from the kukki-taekwondo form Koryo. Near the end of the form is a circular, low section hammerfist strike, performed in slow motion. It seems there is no consensus -- or even many ideas -- on what the movement is for. After playing around with it though, I found something which might be close to the original intent of the set.

We can apply the movement against some sort of double grab (like an attempted front bear hug), beginning with the preceding move, the elbow strike.
  • Turn 90-degrees as you step forward and elbow strike your opponent, creating space. 
  • Push off the opponent's left arm with both of your palms (arms shooting upwards).
  • Circle your left arm around your opponent's right elbow, trapping their arm and bending it inwards.
  • Lift up your left arm (chamber for knifehand strike) to wind back your opponent's body. You can pop their elbow by extending your arm (knifehand strike) and attempt to throw them by turning 180-degrees as you do in the form.
Left: App for movements 25b-26.
Middle: The lock from the Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do
Right: Jon Jones using the lock in UFC 172.
The left hand is closed because it is the active hand, and the movement is performed in slow motion to represent that it is manipulating the opponent's body (not that you would actually perform the movement in slow motion), as opposed to being a hard block or strike.

This lock is known as maki hiji in jujitsu, and is present in Gen. Choi's Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do. It gained some notoriety a few years back when Jon Jones used it in the UFC. You can see a Jujitsu player demonstrating the lock in the gif below, as well as using the turn as a takedown. The difference is that the Jujitsu player uses a two-step tenkan turn, whereas in Koryo it seems that you only move one leg before turning.

Source: Submissions 101
The defense to this lock is basically to pull in the opponent before they can get a solid crank, as explained by Stephen Kestling here.

Credit to Orjan Nilsen for suggesting a front bear hug defense for the set, and to Peter Jones for the idea that a circular low section block could be used to make a maki hiji lock.

Friday, October 27, 2017

10: Hwa-Rang chicken wing lock


Hwa-Rang is the oldest ITF form, which just might make it the first Taekwondo form ever created. It is also one of two forms created by Nam Tae Hi [1], the other being Choong-Moo. Based on my analysis, Hwa-Rang is mostly about limb control, whereas Choong-Moo is mostly about throws.

One simple example of limb control is moves 15-17, which we can use to create a chicken wing lock (also called a hammerlock [2]). This lock is commonly used by security and law enforcement. The set is:
  • Knifehand guarding block
  • Supported spearhand thrust
  • Turn 180-degrees into knifehand guarding block
  • (Optional) back leg roundhouse kick
The Technique

Let's start with something manageable: an attempted lapel grab.
Source: Springfield BJJ Network
Details:
  • Raise your back arm to ward off the attack (guarding block chamber)
  • Circle low so that your back hand is blocking your opponent's wrist, and grip under their tricep with your front palm (knifehand guarding block). This is the set up for an arm drag.
  • Pull the opponent's tricep towards your body (supporting hand) while you force their forearm back with the back of your right forearm (spearhand thrust). This both bends your opponent's elbow and creates the initial shoulder lock. Another example by Jeremy Pollack is below
Supported spearhand thrust application. Source: Gun Carrier
  • Turn 180-degrees and use your right hand (the back hand of the second guarding block) to press down on your opponent's elbow, putting them into a chicken wing lock.
  • (Optional) kick in the back of their legs with the roundhouse kick, taking them to the ground.
The most important tip for maintaining this lock is to put pressure on their elbow, not their triceps or shoulder, as the opponent can resist the latter fairly easily. Although kicking in the back of the legs is a suitable finish, another takedown you can do is just circle counter-clockwise while pressing downwards on the opponent's shoulder.

Instead of using the supporting hand to grip the inside of the opponent's triceps, you might grip the outside of their elbow or perhaps their shoulder, though the latter requires more brute strength.
Alternate entries to the chicken wing lock.
Sources: AikiProductionsROGUE WARRIORS 
The roundhouse kick can also be used as a contigency leg sweep in case you fail to apply the lock properly and the opponent slips free.

Entering with the guarding block

On application of the knifehand block I often see is striking the side of the opponent's neck in close range. Personally I find this difficult to perform with power (why not just punch or do a normal knifehand strike?), but if you step forward into the movement it can work as a "push", using your forearm and body weight to press the opponent backwards. This is especially useful if your opponent is already leaning back, perhaps in response to a punch you've thrown.

Most of the sets in Hwa-Rang can be interpreted as a response to your right hand punch being parried or grabbed, so let's use that interpretation here as well. Open with the first move of the form -- palm pushing block -- to push down an opponent's guard (or perhaps parry their right) and follow up with the punch. If the opponent parries while leaning back, then we step in and execute the guarding block to their neck. Although this is a "strike" because we are hitting the neck, the main purpose is to keep up pressure on the opponent and create an opportunity to perform the lock. The back hand of the guarding block circles up and then down, as in the chamber, going over the opponent's arm. We may then attempt the chicken wing lock.
Sources: Samir Seif, PracticalKataBunkai, AikiProductions
You may need to clear the opponent's parrying arm before moving in. The three-step application of the guarding block shown below can be used for this. Knock away the opponent's arm with your front hand (chamber), then hold it down with your back hand while you strike the side of their neck (block-proper). I find this three-step approach slow to use, but knocking the opponent's arm down in this way does place you in a better position to attempt the lock.
Source: Richard Conceicao
In this case I'd recommend using the back hand to grab and pull -- turning the movement into a single knifehand block -- as this increases the power of the strike.


[1] Nam Tae Hi's student Han Cha Kyo made Ul-Ji, so sometimes Ul-Ji is credited to him as well. These three forms were made almost a decade before the majority of the ITF forms; they may have been meant to be a stand-alone self-defense system.

[2] "Hammerlock" can also refer to a similar, two-handed lock where you pull the opponent's elbow in towards your hip while forcing their wrist up towards the back of their neck.


Thursday, October 19, 2017

9: Po-Eun leg lift

Source (right image): MEMAG
The final two moves of Po-Eun are
  • Cross step into X-stance low front block, with the opposite palm hitting the the side of the fist
  • Step out in the same direction into riding stance low ridgehand guarding block
Unlike the knifehand low front block in Kwang-Gae, there are no instructions for the movement to be circular. Personally I prefer grappling interpretations for Po-Eun; the preceding set works well as a headlock defense, for example. However, the low front block is usually explained as blocking a front kick, so I think it's worth first exploring that application.

Front kick defense

First question: can the movement be practically applied against a front kick? Yes, actually, but not in the way you might think.

You never want to block a front kick straight on. Rather, you want to get off the line of fire and deflect the kick. One simple way to do this is by twisting your body. Take a look at the gif from one of Dan Djurdjevic's older videos.
Source: Dan Djurdjevic
Notice how after twisting, he takes a cross step in towards his opponent. He uses his front arm not as a hard block but rather as a deflection. So the X-stance low front block does work against a front kick, but the trick is that you should be facing sideways from your opponent. We can use the opposite hand (the palm hitting the side of the fist) to catch the leg after deflecting.

What's neat about this defense is that it works no matter what leg the opponent kicks with, and we can still utilize the ending move of Po-Eun as a takedown. If you catch the leg from outside, then you just use your forearm to press down your opponent's torso while lifting their leg.


But what if you catch the leg from inside? This is where the grappling interpretation comes in.

Leg lift with inside trip

Suppose we are not facing a front kick but are rather in a grappling situation. The low front block can be used as a two-handed leg pick, using the cross step to get close. You then step through the opponent's legs into the riding stance, setting up an inside trip, and lift their leg. The chamber for the guarding block -- raising both arms back -- comprises the actual throw, but as the opponent falls your arms naturally go into the low ridgehand guarding block position.
Source: MEMAG
If you catch an opponent's front kick from the inside, you can use this throw as well.

It's worth noting that the source video shows two counters to this throw, one of which is just a strike to the thrower's head. Using both hands to grab a leg leaves your head exposed, so think carefully about when it's proper to apply this technique. You might apply the previous two moves in the form as strikes: an elbow strike to the throat followed by a low hammerfist to the groin. This will distract your opponent and allow you to go for the leg lift. As before, you should be facing your opponent more-or-less sideways.
Striking applications for the preceding two moves (15-16/33-34).
Sources: DTDTRyan Parker

Friday, October 13, 2017

8: Joong-Gun and Ko-Dang revisited

In this blog I've provided a comprehensive analysis of three ITF forms: Joong-Gun, Ko-Dang, and Kwang-Gae. Since then, I've gone back through the sets and made little changes based on a better general understanding of applications. In this post I want to revisit two sets: the roundhouse kick defense in Joong-Gun (moves 20-22/23-25) and the guarding block followed by double block in Ko-Dang (moves 3-4/7-8).

Joong-Gun roundhouse kick defense

Rather than use the double forearm block itself as the kick defense, we use the set-up as the defense, stepping forward and away from the kick while we prepare to use our back arm to either under or overhook the opponent's leg[1]. We use the front arm as a strike, such as a backfist or uppercut to the face, or simply just a ram with our forearm, knocking the opponent off-balance.

The footwork for the set is to semi-circle forward into front stance for the double forearm block, pull the front foot back in, then step forward into back stance as we punch with our front hand. Use this footwork to circle around and sweep the opponent's standing leg. If they don't fall, we then use the "punch" as a push, knocking them to the ground.
Sources: Southern Minnesota Martial ArtsCurransKarate, Arirang Culture
So if the double forearm block (with chamber) and the punch comprise the defense, then what is the point of the third move in the set, the side kick? It could be an alternative takedown: kicking in the opponent's standing knee in case we catch the roundhouse too far to sweep. Another possibility is that it's to help escape an opponent who attempts to pull you to the ground with them. Side kick the groin or torso of the downed opponent until they let go of you.

Ko-Dang tackle guard and arm break

Front leg grab after a tackle block.
Source: Code Red Defense
Stepping backwards 45-degrees into guarding block is a good, basic tackle defense. But I was mystified by the following move, where we transition into a simultaneous front hand inner-forearm block, back hand low block while maintaining our stance. In retrospect, the application is pretty simple. Your opponent may still be able to grab your front leg or waist as you guard, but because you are pushing their head back their arms will have to be extended. Thus, you simply use the inner-forearm block to hyper-extend one of their arms, as shown by kukki-taekwondo master Dong-Hee Lee[2] below.
Source: Dong-Hee Lee
The simultaneous back hand low block may be used to break the opponent's other grip, traveling in between their two arms.

Another option is to simply break the arm you already have a hold of after the guard (the fact that you use closed fists in the form indicates that you are grabbing). Use the low block to pronate the opponent's arm, so that their elbow faces outward, and the inner-forearm block to strike the outside of the elbow. The positioning is a little more awkward, but a quick hit could end the fight.
Sources: TKDdragon, MEMAG
Conclusion

As I've stated before, there are other ways to interpret these forms, but I think it's neat that you can find a thematic framework to them. I'm considering writing a comprehensive analysis of the Original Koryo; it's not an ITF form but I was impressed with it enough to learn the movements, and it's easy proof that the Kukkiwon forms (at least the older ones) have applications as well.


[1] The subsequent counter given in the form assumes an overhook. I've noticed that a lot of traditional martial artists teach to underhook a roundhouse kick, but Muay Thai fighters overhook. This may be because an underhooked roundhouse is easier to escape via spinning out, i.e. continuing to turn in the direction of the kick.

[2] I have to thank White Dragon Dojo for the introduction to Dong-Hee Lee, who has various youtube videos showing applications (mostly striking) to kukki-taekwondo poomsae.


Thursday, October 5, 2017

7: Chon-Ji sparring combinations

One unfortunate thing taekwondoin find about their forms is that most of the sets can't be used in sparring. ITF taekwondo sparring is kickboxing-lite, and you are not allowed to grab your opponent, but most forms are designed for grappling situations.

However, you can sometimes rework sets into combinations usable in sparring. Two examples of this are the sets from our white belt form, Chon-Ji.

  • Front stance low block
  • Front stance middle punch
And 
  • Back stance inner-forearm block
  • Front stance middle punch
Instead of treating these movements as one block followed by one strike, you can rework them into three strikes each.
Source: Advanced Karate Techniques
In the above image, the karateka uses the low block chamber (the karate version) as a simultaneous side parry and punch. He then follows with the hammerfist strike, and then steps forward with a jab.

Below, Ryan Parker applies the inner-forearm block in a similar fashion. He uses the chamber as a down parry and punch, and then follows with the block-proper as a strike to the side of the neck. Personally I find that in sparring the motion works better as a rolling backfist to the face. Just like with the low block, after the two strikes you follow with a step forward and jab.
(Left) Inner-forearm block as two strikes. Source: Ryan Parker.
 (Right) A rolling backfist. Source: Tao of Peace Martial Arts
So to recap, the two striking sets are:
  1. Simultaneous side parry with front hand and punch with back hand
  2. Low hammerfist
  3. Step forward and jab
And
  1. Simultaneous down parry with front hand and punch with back hand
  2. Rolling backfist to face
  3. Step forward and jab
You can work this into a simple shadow boxing drill. Practice the first combination. Then, since you stepped forward for the jab, repeat on the other side. (This way you're also practicing a jab-cross). Now the do the second combination, and then repeat it on the other side. Practice switching between these two combinations so that you can pull them off quickly with muscle memory alone.

Defending a jab-cross

Another reason we chamber basic blocks to block two punches, not one. If your opponent throws a high jab-cross, for example, we can use the inner-forearm block against both punches. So the set would be as follows:
  1. Down parry jab while counter-punching (chamber)
  2. Deflect cross outward (inner-forearm block)
  3. Step forward with your own jab-cross
Jab-crosses are commonly thrown as different levels, so if your opponent throws a high jab-low cross, then you may perform the low block as the second defense instead.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

6: Choong-Jang arm drag to rear naked choke


Here's an application straight out of a jujitsu class. It uses the set from Choong-Jang:
  • Back stance low ridgehand guarding block (move 37/39)
  • Stance shift into front stance nine-shape block (move 38/40)
  • Chamber for move 41, i.e. crossing both arms across chest while moving backwards
The use of the first two movements are shown in the gif below.
Source: Relson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy
Details:
  • Use the guarding block chamber as a "wax off" motion against a push or attempted grab.
  • Circle downwards, gripping the opponents wrist and triceps with the back and front palm of the guarding block respectively. (For the ridgehand guarding block, both palms face upwards)
  • Pull to the side while stepping forward behind the opponent, getting to their back. 
  • Use the upper arm of the nine-shape block to get a choke, while you use the lower arm to press on the opponent's lower back, breaking their structure. 
  • You can then use both arms to do the choke as you drag your opponent backwards.
Using the lower arm of the nine-block to break the opponent's structure is not a trivial step. The rear naked choke is difficult to escape once balance is lost. Other tutorials recommend you use your knee to break the opponent's balance instead, such as this one by Stephan Kestling.

I admit that I am adding extra footwork to the form (stepping forward while you pull) and changing the nature of the nine-block somewhat. But I believe this is a good self-defense technique for any taekwondoin to know: arm drags and rear naked chokes are both grappling staples. The fact that the next movement in the form is to literally move backwards while crossing your arms leads me to think I'm on the right track; this is how Stephan Kestling mimes the movement.
In Stephan Kestling's version of the rear naked choke, the knee is used to break the opponent's structure.
Source: Self Defense Tutorials
I also believe this to have a higher chance of working than the usual "joint break" application given for the nine-block, where the lower arm pulls down the opponent's wrist while the upper arm rises under their elbow. This may seem like a good application for this set on first glance, but it's unlikely to work against a resisting opponent because it relies on weak shoulder muscles. A better way to break with the nine-block is to overhook the opponent's arm and get a figure-four lock, shown in the bottom half of the below image. This is more stable and lets you use stronger muscles to break. I believe this is the use of the nine-block in Gae-Baek, but it does not fit the movements in Choong-Jang.
Top: "Joint break" application for the nine-block from the Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do. I have doubts about this application. Bottom: A different way to break with the nine-block.
  Sources: Total Self Defense, Radek Scuri

Monday, October 2, 2017

5: Choong-Jang head crank with thigh kick throw

Source: David Veiras
Traditional forms are often confusing at first glance. But when I first saw Choong-Jang I thought, "This form I get. This looks like a self-defense form." The form has eye pokes, throat strikes, low kicks, strikes with the elbow, strikes with the palm heel, and downward throwing motions. Choong-Jang borrows heavily from the retired form Woo-Nam[1]. Studying differences in the sets might reveal things about the form's design.

In this post I'll provide an application for the set
  • Back stance knifehand guarding block
  • Step and slide forward into back stance side elbow strike
  • Shift into back stance knifehand guarding block
  • Front leg side kick
  • Land turning 180-degrees into cat stance twin palm pressing block
Use the first move as a block (using blocks as blocks; how novel), deflecting an opponent's attack inward. Grab their arm and pull it towards your hip (reaction hand) while striking their ribs with your elbow. The slide is used to increase the strength of the strike and bring you closer to your target. From here we'll add a small hidden move: a shoulder bump, which will force our opponent to lower their head.

Source: One Minute Bunkai
Inner-thigh lift throw from the
Encyclopedia of Taekwon-do
So far so good? Next, use the second knifehand guarding block as a head crank. Grab the opponent's head with the chamber (right hand under, left hand on top), and use the "block" to crank the opponent's head counter-clockwise, from your perspective. (Aside: if you haven't been following, this is a common alternate application for the knifehand guarding block. If you bring your palms in parallel, it's like you are holding a head in between them). To complete the throw, kick out their left thigh with the front leg side kick. Turn 180-degrees and continue to crank their head, eventually pushing it to the floor (twin palm pressing block).

The throw is mechanically similar to Judo's uchi mata (inner-thigh lift throw), which appears in the throwing section of the Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do (right image). In an uchi mata, the kick is used between the opponent's legs in order to lift up their inner thigh. Also, in modern Judo a skipping side kick, rather than a simply front leg side kick, is used to get more leverage. In Choong-Jang I think the intent is more to kick back the opponent's leg, but if you miss the front thigh then you can turn the technique into an inner-thigh lift throw instead.

Please note that this application can potentially hurt someone's neck. Grabbing your partner's clothes while practicing the throw is safer.

Bonus: Woo-Nam version

This set has changed from its original version in Woo-Nam. In this version, the movements after the side elbow strike[2] are:
  • Bring both fists to the right hip ("cup and saucer" or "small hinge" block), while raising the left leg
  • Left leg side kick to the side
  • Land forward into back stance twin palm pressing block
In this case the throw is just an o soto gari with a head push.[3]
Left: The set from Woo-Nam, performed by C.K. Choi. Source: Byresha Boraiah
Right: An o soto gari throw
O soto gari throws are common in the forms. Perhaps that's why when Choong-Jang was made the set was reworked into a different kind of throw.


[1] The reason Choong-Jang is part asymmetric and part symmetric is that the asymmetric sections are based on Woo-Nam, whereas the symmetric sections are new material added by Kim Bok Man and Woo Jae Lim, who made symmetric forms. Woo-Nam is often referred to as "U-Nam", but according to C.K. Choi this is not the proper pronunciation.

[2] In some performances of Woo-Nam, a front stance upward elbow strike (with the front arm) is used instead. It's hard to say which is the original version, but the intended application seems to be a strike.

[3] The opening set of the original Koryo (a Kukki-taekwondo form) has the same application, except a low X-fist block is used to push down the head.