Interview With Colin Wee, 6th Dan TKD Master, Blogger, Youtuber And Soon To Be Author

I’ve had the privilege of doing this interview with Master Colin Wee, 6th Dan, who has his own unique and practical approach to Taekwondo. He first come to my attention as a fellow blogger and has organised some blogging carnivals that I’ve taken part in. As well as being a great martial artist, he’s a natural leader and communicator; co-ordinating projects and organisations around the world.

He’s also opened minded to other styles and like the best martial artists is happy to learn from anybody who has something to teach, not just Continue reading “Interview With Colin Wee, 6th Dan TKD Master, Blogger, Youtuber And Soon To Be Author” »

Question: Why Are Korean Martial Arts Held In Low Regard?

Before anybody jumps on me, this is NOT my statement, this is a question I received on the Bunkai Jutsu Facebook page, from Seth Boggs:

“I’ve practiced Tang Soo So and TKD in the past and am confused and dismayed by the lack of respect given to Korean martial arts especially when you consider that TKD was developed for the military besides Olympic TKD why are they held in such low regard”?

Continue reading “Question: Why Are Korean Martial Arts Held In Low Regard?” »

Interview With Master Ray Gayle, 8th Dan Tae Kwon Do

Taekwondo Master Ray Gayle, 8th Dan is a former British and European champion, Chairman of the Professional Unification of Martial Arts (PUMA), inspiration to many and general all round nice guy  🙂

As well as achieving great success in the sporting side of his art, he also has a very strong leaning towards the spiritual and self development side of martial arts as a whole.  This was one of the main reasons for Continue reading “Interview With Master Ray Gayle, 8th Dan Tae Kwon Do” »

Teenage Martial Artist Fights Off Would-Be Mugger

I was surprised to see in one of my regional papers today a story about a slightly-built unassuming 15 year old Taekwondo exponent who got the better of a would be mugger.  So I thought I’d share it with you:-

 

WHEN a would-be mugger approached slightly-built teenager Henry Watts determined to steal his wallet and phone, he got much more than he bargained for.

The criminal, who grabbed the Staple Hill teenager on the Bristol to Bath cycle path and aggressively demanded his possessions, had no idea his potential victim was an expert in the martial art taekwondo.

Henry Watts demonstrates kick

Instead of handing over his valuables, Henry, 15, put his self-defence skills to good use. And in a scene straight out of the movie The Karate Kid, he freed himself from the mugger’s grasp and punched him in the face.

But rather than bragging about what he had done, Henry carried straight on to school, where he did not tell anyone about his unusual start to the day.

It was only that evening when he told his dad, Paul, what had happened. Mr Watts then contacted the police. Henry told The Post: “I usually walk to school with my younger brother Josh but was running a little bit late, so was on my own.

“I saw a man walking towards me with his head down, but suddenly he had hold of my jacket and was asking for my phone and wallet.

“I used an arm lock move to get his hand off my jacket – it basically involves getting his arm and twisting it around – and then I punched him in the face so that I could get away.

“I got off the track and ran up some stairs onto the common before carrying on to school.

“I didn’t really think much of it until later in the day, and then I felt quite shocked.

“I didn’t really want my dad to tell the police at first but he said what if it had been my brother, who is only 11?

“That made me realise that what had happened was quite serious.”

Henry wholly credits his twice-weekly taekwondo lessons for his quick-thinking reaction.

“The whole thing didn’t take longer than 15 seconds,” he said.

“It never crossed my mind to hand over my things.

“My first reaction was to defend myself, and I think that’s because of my taekwondo lessons.”

His mum Alice Watts, 41, a finance officer, told The Post: “Henry is quite slight for his age and was wearing headphones.

“I think the man might have thought he was an easy target, but didn’t realise that he knew how to defend himself. He’s been doing taekwondo on and off for about five years and obviously used some of those moves to defend himself.”

Andy Davies, chief instructor at Black Belt Academy in Staple Hill, has been Henry’s taekwondo teacher for around 18 months.

Henry, who is in Year 10 at Mangotsfield School, is graded a green belt, which means he knows around half the skills needed to be awarded the elite black belt.

“We teach a mix of taekwondo and kick boxing using a range of oriental weapons,” said Mr Davies. “The biggest thing that we try to do is to keep things simple and practical.

“Henry is a very diligent and quiet person – he’s the last person I would have expected to do what he did.

“But it shows that he had the confidence to use the moves he’d learned in a real setting to defend himself.

“It’s that confidence that we really try to instil in people.

“That takes time and training – the moves have to be practised and repeated over a period of time.

“We try to teach martial arts as a way of life and I am very proud of Henry and what he did to defend himself.

“I would like more children to learn the skills that martial arts teaches so that more can learn how to defend themselves in these sorts of situations.”

A police spokeswoman told The Post that no arrests had yet been made but an investigation continues into the incident.

It happened between 8.30am and 8.40am on November 6, on the Bristol to Bath cycle track near Rodway Common in Mangotsfield.

Police are looking for a man aged 20 to 30, with a pale complexion, who is about 5ft 7in tall and skinny, with green eyes, a goatee beard and light brown scruffy hair. He was wearing a grey or blue hooded jumper at the time of the incident.

Anyone with information about the attacker should contact the police on 101.

 

Well done Henry Watts, huge respect to you  🙂

Do Our Training Methods Damage Our Bodies? (Part 2)

This post is following on from another posting that I wrote back in October 2011 about how some training methods introduced by the Japanese into Karate can be damaging to our bodies.

Going back further in Okinawan Karate history before Karate was introduced to Japan, they had the interesting concept of Shu-Ha-Ri, which I have discussed before.  However, to recap: Continue reading “Do Our Training Methods Damage Our Bodies? (Part 2)” »

True Martial Arts Spirit . . . . And He’s Only 11!

I came across this story by chance in a local paper.  It was just so awesome that it had to be shared.  Next time you feel too tired to train, or think you’d rather watch the telly instead, think of this young lad from the Bath TKD club.  This is where the grown ups can really learn from the kids.

The following is copied from the Bath Chronicle On-Line paper:

 

A boy who had to learn to walk and talk again after a brain tumour is now heading for a black belt in tae kwon do.

Daniel Kimmins, 11, from Odd Down was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2006.

Martial art spirit

 

 

 

 

 

After a battle to walk and talk again, he returned to school and tae kwon do in 2009, and has won his red belt and is now working towards his black one.

Bath Tae Kwon Do Club Instructor Rob Morris said: “I truly never thought I’d see the day Daniel would return, let alone reach such a high level.

“He continues to be an inspiration to all members at the club.

“In the 20 years I have been teaching I have never seen anyone with as much fighting spirit – it is truly humbling.”

Daniel was six years old when he started suffering from constant headaches and vomiting, causing his worried mum Heidi to take him to the Royal United Hospital.

She was told he had a virus and they were sent home, but when his health started to deteriorate, the health problems returned.

Daniel was then diagnosed with a brain tumour, and was transferred to Frenchay Hospital near Bristol for two operations.

Five weeks later, he was moved to Bristol Children’s Hospital for chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Daniel faced another challenge to learn to walk and talk again, after one operation to remove the tumour left him mute and unable to move the left side of his body.

The cancer had also spread to his spine, confining him to a wheelchair for two years.

Now, five years on, Daniel still has six monthly MRI scans at the RUH, and check-ups at Bristol Children’s Hospital. Although he is not yet in remission, he is improving all the time, but still has problems with balance and walking up stairs.

Heidi said she was very proud of his courage and determination.

She said: “Everything Daniel does amazes me.

“He is so determined to have a normal life and carry on with all the things he loves, like tae kwon do.

“I am just so proud of him. He is a very brave and determined boy.”

As a mark of his courage Daniel was awarded an award from his club for his “indomitable spirit”.

He has also been given a Cancer Research UK Little Star Award in recognition of his achievements.

Respect  🙂

Review: A Killing Art – The Untold History of Tae Kwon Do

I have to confess that I haven’t read this book, though I would like to when I get the chance.  My brother-in-law, Martin who is a 2nd Dan TKD has read it and has highly recommended it.  Then I saw a review on my friend Bob Patterson’s Striking Thoughts blog, so I thought I would copy it here for my TKD readers.

It is along similar lines to (Shotokan’s Secrets, by Dr Bruce Clayton, which is the only book that I’ve ever finished and then read again almost straight away.  Both books explore the history behind the arts in question and expose many of the so called “truths” behind the “official history” of these arts.  I do believe that it is helpful to get behind the myths of the art and get to the truth.  It helps give a bit more of an all round understanding and appreciation of the art(s) that we practice.

As with Karate (which at one stage deliberately sought to hide it’s Chinese influences) so some in TaeKwonDo have hidden some its history.  In particular, that it was mainly based on Shotokan Karate with hardly any influence from ancient Korean martial arts as is often claimed.  It’s all in the marketing and there is an element of this in every style.  Whereas Shotokan’s Secret revealed how Funakoshi and other Okinawan masters had been economical with the truth of Karate, so General Choi and other Korean masters have been economical with the truth of TaeKwonDo’s past.

The way I look at it is that our arts today are what they are.  Whether they come from Japan, Okinawa, ancient China, ancient Korea or Disneyland, the arts are still what they are.  They will not be any different just because you discover that they had different influences to what you have been told.  Besides, understanding the actual influences go a good way to understanding the full potential of the art.

Anyway, here below is Bob Patterson’s review from his Striking Thoughts blog:
(Note:  The Striking Thoughts blog has since closed).

Alex Gillis is a university instructor, journalist and author of A Killing Art: The Untold History of Tae Kwon Do. He has studied the art for 25 years in both ITF and WTF styles. Much like many of us who have studied Tae Kwon Do, he has heard fantastic stories of Tae Kwon Do from his instructors and other Taekwondoists. In this book Gillis grants us access to interviews and information from the early pioneers of the art. Along the way he also debunks a lot of the fantastic claims and dubious history that surrounds Tae Kwon Do.

Simple fact: Tae Kwon Do is not thousands of years old nor did it spring from the Hwrang warriors. Rather, it’s a derivative of Shotokan Karate that Choi originally learned while in Japan during the 1940′s. Nor, for that matter, is Choi the sole inventor of Tae Kwon Do.  We have the art of Tae Kwon Do because of a poker game. The young and hot-tempered Choi Hong-Hi lost all his money on a game of poker and enraged a local wrestler by throwing a bottle of ink at him.  This loss forced Choi to flee his village and later learn karate.

The books starts before the Second World War when Korea was occupied by the Japanese and Choi was a young man ready to set off to Japan to complete his education. From there we follow the story of Tae Kwon Do from Choi’s experiences of WW II, to the Korean civil war to the war waged between the ITF and WTF Taekwondo organizations. No political detail is spared as we learn how far Choi would go to keep control of his beloved ITF.  Along the way we also learn how pioneers like Jhoon Rhee and others helped to develop the art.

Alex Gillis has written a biography of Tae Kwon Do and a gripping thriller that’s as worthy of a movie as the story of Ip Man! Included are Choi’s brushes with death and his involvement with the Korean CIA. What is also quite disappointing is the shear corruption and greed associated with Tae Kwon Do. As Gillis notes: “I am stuck on the path of Courtesy, which instructors in small gyms around the world know well but which is largely ignored by Tae Kwon Do’s leaders.”

The history of Tae Kwon Do is rightly titled ‘A Killing Art’ because it was created at a time when the martial art was used on the battle fields of Korea and Vietnam by the U.S. and South Korean military. This book is essential reading for karate players and taekwondoists and should be mandatory reading for both ITF and WTF styles.

Natural Breathing In Karate (And Other Martial Arts)

One of biggest assets in a real fight is to be able to move naturally.  And there is no more natural bodily function then breathing.

Yet in Karate, I believe that one of the biggest problems over the years has been an over emphasis on the exhalation at the end of the technique.  In fairness to other styles, I should point out that most of my experience is with Shotokan Karate so it may not apply to other styles quite so much.  But if everybody is honest, I don’t think that Shotokan is completely alone with this fault.

An over-emphasis on exhalation at the end of a technique, especially if the exhilation continues after the technique is competeled will unnecessarily waste energy, create pauses between techniques (where your opponent could counter) and create stiffness and tension in the movements.  Not only is this counter productive for self defence, but it not the healthiest way for the body to move either.

I would guess that a lot of this come about because many of Funakoshi’s early students where lost during the War.  After the war, Funakoshi was quite old and not able to steer the teaching quite so much.  Also Karate was dumbed down a lot for political and social reasons (see my 5 part video course for more info) so more emphasis was placed on the physical development.

Over the decades Shotokan Karate (and probably most other styles) has progressed and become much more fluid and relaxed (hence more effective).  Some of the very senior Karate masters like Kanazawa, Kase and Abe have also studied Tai Chi (as does my Sensei) and have brought some of that knowledge back into their Karate.  There are still many who do it the old way tense way, but it’s changing.

However, I think that for the majority, the details of breathing are seldom broken down in the way I’ve been taught.  So I’ve put together a couple of videos to help anybody who is not quite sure of how it should be done.

Ironically, the way it performed in the more modern versions of Shotokan is quite similar to how it is done in the more modern versions of Tae Kwon Do where they use the sine-wave movement.  Although Shotokan does not rise up and down like the sine-wave, both breath in during the first half of the step to get relaxation and fluidity and exhale in the second half of the technique.  It is explained a bit more in the following video’s which I hope you enjoy.

What’s The Difference Between Karate & Tae Kwon Do? (Part 2)

Well my last post on the differences between Karate and Tae Kwon Do certainly got a quite a lot of discussion going (especially on the Facebook page).  So I thought that I would look at the subject a bit further.

First of all though, after my last post it was commented by some Tae Kwon Do guys that I had mainly described Tae Kwon Do from a sports perspective.  I totally accept that comment.  But I will repeat what I said in the last posting:-

“Tae Kwon Do has been through a number of incarnations starting with a form that was quite close to Karate, through to a much more Olympic sport oriented version.   Therefore we have to accept that not all of my observations will apply to every Karate/Tae Kwon Do style.  These observation are intended to be of a general nature”.

I think it is fair to say that those who practice applied practical Tae Kwon Do will generally learn two approaches.  For competition, they will use a stance and techniques as broadly described in my earlier posting, yet for practical applications they use more traditional stances as used in the patterns (which after all contain the more “street-wise” self defense moves).

There is also another quite pronounced difference in approach in some (but not all) versions of Tae Kwon Do and that is the inclusion of a sine-wave movement.  This where the practitioner will raise their centre of gravity up as they approach the half way mark of the technique (usually seen as a chambering position) then sink down as the technique is executed.  When executed with a step, the practitioner will move up and down in a sine-wave motion.  The theory behind this is that the on impact the striking surface (lets say the fist) will have both a forward vector  (from the step) and and downward vector (from lowering the body) applied to it, thereby increasing its impact.

Karate and older versions of Tae Kwon Do will remain at the same height throughout the step.  This removes the downward vector of dropping the body weight, but makes more use of compressing the supporting leg half way through which is then released like a spring to increase the drive forward.  I would like to emphasise that I’m not saying either method is better than the other, just that they are different.

You can clearly see the difference in these two video clips.

The first is Ed Newcomer, 6th Dan Internation Tae Kwon Do Federation and the second is Kanazawa, 10th Dan Shotokan Karate.

Sometimes in the Tae Kwon Do (with sine-wave) version, there appears to be a little pause half way through, or the first part of the movement seems to be slow then accelerate during the second half of the movement.  In contrast, Karate and older versions of Tae Kwon Do accelerate from the very beginning of the movement.

I am going to take a guess here and suggest that for those that practice the sine-wave version, that this is seen as a training method rather than a practical way to step.  After all, how often do you need to take a full step like that when sparring/fighting (and if you did, you wouldn’t start slowly).

If I’m wrong, then I’m quite happy to be corrected, it is just a guess!

The older version of Tae Kwon Do which is still very widely practiced does actually look a bit more like Karate than it does Tae Kwon Do with sine-wave (just my opinion).  You can see and example below with former World Patterns Champion, Ray Smeathers.

Another difference between the more modern version of Tae Kwon Do and Karate is that the Tae Kwon Do exponents usually make a “ch” sound as they exhale with each technique.  You will notice that this is missing from the Kanazawa’s kata and Smeather’s pattern.  I have seen/heard this so many times that I know it is intentionally put in, though I don’t really know why.

As exhaling on completion of technique is practiced in Karate, Kung Fu and older versions of Tae Kwon Do, without the “ch” sound, it is clearly not required make exhalation happen.  Again I can only guess, but it seems to be a way to let the instructor know that the student is exhaling at the right places. Maybe it is felt that the “ch” sound makes the exhalation happen more quickly (again a guess . . . . I don’t know).

I would appreciate any Tae Kwon Do exponents who practice with the “ch” sound, to please leave a comment below to let us know the true purpose of it.

Again I emphasise that this posting (as with the last one) is simply to look at the  differences between Karate and Tae Kwon Do so as to help practitioners gain a better understanding and hopefully a better appreciation of the other style.  It is not intended to be a one-up-manship for either style.

It was commented last time that I was “brave” as comparisons between styles often end up as a big slagging match.  I would love for people to comment and fill in any gaps that I’ve let out, but I will delete any derogatory comments about any style or organisation.  Keep it friendly.

What’s The Difference Between Karate & Tae Kwon Do? (Part 1)

Karate and Tae Kwon Do are related styles.  Tae Kwon Do is largely based on Shotokan Karate.  When Karate was first introduced to Japan by Funakoshi, it had very few high kicks.  As high kicks became more prevalent in Karate decades later, some Karateka turned to Tae Kwon Do to perfect these kicks.

So both styles have been influenced each other to some degree, yet they have a very different flavour and (sadly) often a lot of rivalry.  So I thought I would have an unbiased look at what the differences are, and what has influenced them to become so different.

This is not intended to be an attack on either system.  Instead, I hope it will give people of either style a better appreciation of where the other style is coming from.  I have to confess though that whereas I have a in depth knowledge of Karate, I am basing my opinions on Tae Kwon Do on my observations; so I don’t claim that I am necessarily 100% correct.

I also have to point out that as there are many styles of Karate and Tae Kwon Do and that my Karate observations will be mainly from a Shotokan (and the older traditional Karate styles) perspective.  Tae Kwon Do has been through a number of incarnations starting with a form that was quite close to Karate, through to a much more Olympic sport oriented version.   Therefore we have to accept that not all of my observations will apply to every Karate/Tae Kwon Do style.  These observation are intended to be of a general nature.

So having established that, what actually drives the differences?  I would say that the main driving factor is that Karate is primarily focuses on hand techniques with legs as backup, whereas Tae Kwon Do is primarily a kicking style with hands as backup.  This leads to a number of other changes as the styles gear themselves up for their favoured techniques.

The first thing is the stance.  The Karate stance is generally lower.  As Karateka focus on hands, the legs are often more “coiled”, ready to drive the body forward.  The body weight is lower, knees relaxed but more bent and the legs often have a feeling of being “sprung-loaded” ready to drive forward.  This is very sensible for a puncher.

However, if you are primarily a kicker, you may not want your legs “spring loaded”.  Tae Kwon Do fighters often like to kick of the front leg.  To do that, you want your legs to be “looser”, with the stance generally higher and legs straighter.

One of Karate’s most favoured techniques is the reverse punch.  To do this properly you need a full hip rotation.  This in turn means that you feet (when viewed from the front) are about shoulder width apart and the weight distributed fairly evenly between the feet.

If however, your favoured technique is a leading leg kick, you are more likely to fight with your feet in line and most of weight on your back leg, allowing that front leg to come up very easily.

The first time I sparred with my brother in law who is a 2nd Tae Kwon Do, we took up our fighting stances and squared up to each other.  With a bit of a smile on his face he looked at me and said, “big target”.  My first thought was, “is he trying to say I’m fat”?  However, it got me thinking.  He had been taught that standing side on makes you a smaller target.  With respect to Tae Kwon Do people who are taught that, I think that’s a flawed argument for several reason.

  • Many Tae Kwon Do techniques are aimed high at the head and if you train for hitting the head, then the torso is a much bigger target (side on or front on).
  • With circular techniques like roundhouse kick/turning kick, which come in from the side, a side on profile obviously offers the larger target.
  • Many of us (unfortunately) have a side profile as wide as our front profile 🙂

Respectfully I would suggest to Tae Kwon Do fighters that your side on fighting stance has nothing to do with being a smaller target, it is to do with your front leg kicking being much easier.

Punching is also effected.  In Karate, the punch is powered by the hips with the shoulders relaxed and low.  The “spring loaded” legs also drive the hips round very fast.  In Tae Kwon Do, the punch is also primarily powered by the hips.  However, when feet are in line (for front leg kicking), it is not so easy to get the hip round.  Also with the legs almost straight (not spring loaded) the hip rotation is not so easy to drive forward.  Therefore Tae Kwon Do compensates by committing the shoulders slightly more than a Karateka does.  Being a newer art than Karate, Tae Kwon Do has some boxing/kickboxing influences which the older traditional Karate styles do not have.  Boxing/kickboxing also commits the shoulder that little bit more than Karate.

The arms are also held differently in the fighting stance.  Being Karate’s main weapons, a Karateka will tend to be hold the arms more forward (a Karateka will usually expect to engage with his hands/arms first).  The arms provide a defensive barrier keeping the opponent at bay and allowing time for the hands to cover the both the head and body.  The leading hand usually points towards the opponents head, ready to extend the moment the opponent come to close and also guards his own head.  The rear hand is usually about stomach height ready to take a powerful finishing blow and also covers the lower torso.

Tae Kwon Do fighters on the other hand expect to engage with their legs first.  Kicks to their body are often intercepted with their own leg coming up looking for an opening to counter kick.  There hand therefore tend to be kept further back and higher to guard to head (as the legs already guard the body).

So that to my mind is the main differences between Karate & Tae Kwon Do.  Both can kick and punch.  However, Karateka will not kick as efficiently, especially of the front leg as half of their weight is on that leg.

Tae Kwon Do people will not punch as efficiently as their legs are not sprung loaded to drive forward and the feet being in line makes the hip rotation that little bit more restricted.

I hope this will give a better understanding on the differences and with that understanding, hopefully a bit more tolerance.  I hope people will comment and leave their views, just keep it respectful or comments will be deleted.