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

Pre-Emptive Strike: Modern Reality Based Training Or Traditional Karate

I am a big admirer of Geoff Thompson.  He has done a lot to promote the cause of reality training and is very much into keeping it real.  His training methods are often as much about how to avoid getting into a fight (not taught in many martial arts) as has how to actually conduct the fight itself.  Traditional martial arts generally teach you how to win in a fair fight.  But that’s the problem, most fights aren’t fair.  Sometimes you could be outnumbered, your assailant(s) could have a weapon and they often start from right up in your face without warning (rather than bowing first from a safe distance before gradually moving in).

So assuming that you’ve done all the avoidance techniques and the guy is still coming in and it is clear that the conflict is going to become physical, what is universally the best tactic to use? Continue reading “Pre-Emptive Strike: Modern Reality Based Training Or Traditional Karate”

How To Put The “Whip” Into A Linear Punch (Part 2)

In Part 1 of How To Put A “Whip” Into A Linear Punch, I looked at how to use the hips properly to generate a waveform motion through the body for basic punches.  Many people struggle with this because as beginners we tend to move the whole torso as one, rather than generating movement from the hips and simply relaxing the rest of the torso so as to let it flow naturally.  This puts tension into the body and takes away our power.

The method used in the first video is great for single basic techniques, especially Choku Zuki (straight punch in upright standing stance) and Gyaku Zuki (reverse punch), where we end with the hips square to front or just 10 to 15 degrees past square.  Well in this next video we take it a step further.  When you snap a towel (or your belt), you have a “pull back” just at the end of the forward movement.  We can incorporate this “pull back” to gain extra whip/snap when we perform a snap punch, or multiple techniques (e.g.  stepping punch, reverse punch or block then reverse punch).  That pull back at the end of the first techniques not only puts an extra whip/snap on the end, but also initiates the hip movement for the second technique.

Now I know that not everybody will have been taught this way, so before you watch my video, please have a quick look at this one by Master Kagawa, 8th Dan Shotokan Karate and Technical Director of the JKS.  As he performs Age Uke (rising block) you can clearly see his hips rotate fully, then just settle back slightly at the end of the movement.  This settling back (or pull back) gives that extra little “whip” on the end the rising block and can be used to initiate the next technique (which is usually a reverse punch).  So for anybody who has not seen this before (and there will be very many who haven’t), I’m not making it up.  This is nothing new, it’s always been there, its just always explained in detail.  I’ve been lucky with my teachers.

[Waveform punch Part 2]

How To Put The “Whip” Into A Linear Punch

I usually focus on the practical application of techniques on this website, but today I’m actually going to focus on technique itself.  I think this one is important, as it can greatly enhance the power of your punches and other strikes.

The Karate masters of old often taught that we should use our body like a “whip”, but this is not always easy to do, especially if you practice a predominantly linear style.  In practically all sports, power is generated from the hips, transferred to the shoulders, then to the arms/hands.  However, people often struggle to do this in linear styles.  I believe that this is because we are often taught that everything finishes together, whereas in most other activities they are taught to move in sequence.  I believe that this is partly brought about by the fact that we focus (kime) into one spot, whereas in most other disciplines (including other sports) they move through their target.  When a golfer hits the ball, he does not stop there, he moves right through it (as does anybody using any kind of racket or bat to hit something).  When somebody throws a ball, they do not stop at the instance of release, they move through that point.

Yet with a linear punch, we stop dead at the point of focus, especially in basic form.  Even in freestyle, at the point of focus we strike and retract rather than moving through, and I think this is what causes the problem for so many.  Many people end up moving the shoulder and hips together, rather than in sequence like everybody else.  The only way we can move shoulder and hip together is by tightening the muscles of our torso and locking them together.

Yet we are always told that we should be as relaxed as possible and that movement comes from the hips . . . . . . . or as some would say, the Hara (Japanese) or Dan Tien (Chinese).

If we are locking the shoulders and hips together, we cannot be completely relaxed.  Also, movement cannot be said to come from the hips (Hara/ Dan Tien) as the whole torso moves as one.

If we truly generate the power from the hips and we are truly relaxed in out torso, then the hips should move first, creating a small rotational stretch in our body as the shoulders are left fractionally behind.  When stretched, the body naturally wants to return to its original shape, so the shoulders will start to rotate as well, just fractionally behind the hips.  However, as we are not actually focusing on our shoulders and the torso is relaxed, there will be a feeling of the shoulder and arm being “thrown” by the hip, rather than having to focus on moving them and extending the arm.

Chinese circular styles seem to achieve this whip like feeling more easily as a circular techniques goes through its target and does not stop at the point of impact (unlike a basic linear punch).  Some of the modern day masters talk of a putting in a waveform motion.  The Russian martial art, Systema (The System) also talks of a waveform.  This is often compared to the standard Karate/TKD punch and advocated as being much more powerful.  However, I believe that this is because most people are not really aware of how to put the waveform into their linear technique.  Using the method described above and demonstrated in the video below, it is relatively easy to get this waveform (whip) into a linear punch.

I must put in one disclaimer however, and that is that many advanced Karateka/TKD practitioners do this naturally as they learn to relax.  However, I don’t think that most of them are actually aware of the mechanics of it, certainly very few will explain it in this manner.

When I’ve shown this before, I’ve had people say that they loved it, but had never seen anything like it in their own club.  I believe that I may have “re-framed” things a bit, but everybody should be training this way.  By re-framing it I hope to make it clearer; I am not introducing something new here.  If this concept is new to you, please give your feedback below on what you think of it.  If you have been taught this concept, but this video makes it clearer please tell me.  If you think I’m a mad Karate heretic, then say so 🙂

[Waveform punch]

Tae Kwon Do: Alternative Applications For Blocks

Most of our video applications on this blog are primarily from a Karate and Kung Fu perspective (as they are the styles that Keith and I do).  However, we thought we would do something a bit more geared to Tae Kwon Do as we did not want TKD practitioners to feel left out 🙂

But first a little background.  The applications to many Karate moves were “dumbed down” when Karate went public.  Firstly Karate was introduced into Okinawan schools to help physically prepare students for national service (and you don’t want school kids damaging each other).  Then when Karate went from Okinawa to Japan at a time when Japan was modernising very fast, traditional martial arts were seen as obsolete, except as a method for physical and character training (more dumbing down).  Then during the American occupation of Japan after WWII, martial arts were banned; so to be allowed to practice the Japanese had to claim it was more for self development and sport than for self defence and then had to practice accordingly (even more dumbing down).

Tae Kwon Do’s General Choi would no doubt have learnt this dumbed down version (as did the vast majority of Japanese masters).  However, the more it is investigated the more it is apparent that Karate’s basic “blocks” do not work well as blocks.  Yet these same “blocking” movements can be quite efficiently applied as close quarters strikes, arm locks and releases from grabs.  Although we don’t know for sure what the original intentions of the creators would have been, it is far more likely they would have been used as close quarter strikes/grappling then for actually blocking.  If they were used for blocking, then it is more likely that the block occurred at the chambered position and the completed position would have been a some kind of counter (strike/lock/etc).

To add to the confusion for Tae Kwon Do practitioners, in some versions of Tae Kwon Do these blocks were adapted to make them “more efficient blocks”.  In other words, to make them better at what they were not really meant to be used for.  In particular, the chambering position has been changed in some versions of Tae Kwon Do (other versions of Tae Kwon Do still chamber the Karate way).

However, I’m a believer that if you change a movement, you usually gain something and lose something.  Throughout the centuries, Okinawan and Chinese martial arts masters have changed their arts to suit their physiques, their environments and their own mental make up.  They gained an advantage for their personal circumstances but maybe lost something that could have favoured their masters circumstances.  So change is not necessarily a good or bad thing, as long as it can be used by the practitioner for their own personal circumstances.

Whilst the adapted chamberbing position used by some versions of Tae Kwon Do will have lost some of the original applications from its Karate roots, they will have gained some new applications.  Not better, now worse, just different.

In the video below, Keith and I look at how some the amended Tae Kwon Do chambering positions can be used for close quarters strikes and grappling applications.  We don’t claim that these would have been what the originators had in mind, we simply don’t know.  Nobody dose.  We simply believe that these are additional applications in your arsenal, for moves that you are already doing. For any Tae Kwon Do practitioners who have not seen these types of applications before, Keith and I are far from unique in our way of thinking. There are some very good books on the subjects, most notable are show below.

[Applied TaeKwonDo]

If you are interested in Tae Kwon Do specific applications, then the books below are leaders in the field:-

Amazon.co.uk Widgets

DVD Review: Mixed TaeKwon & Skills Of Hapkido

I’ve recently had a look at 2 videos from 9th Dan.com.  The first is a fusion of self defense skills from two masters one Tae Kwon Do and the other Hapkido, called “Mixed TaeKwon”.

The second one is an introduction to Hapkido, called “Skills of Hapkido”.

MIXED TAEKWON

I was particularly looking forward seeing this one as it was a fusion of the 2 styles.  Having made my own DVD, blending Karate and Kung Fu, I was keen to see somebody else doing a similar thing between different styles.  I wasn’t disappointed.  But first, their promotional trailer:-

Grandmaster Kim (Hapkido) and Master Bae (7th Dan TKD) introduce the DVD, explaining that it is aimed mainly at TKD students to emphasis the self defence aspects of the art.  The masters felt that with since TKD became an Olympic sport there is so much emphasis on sport that the original self defence aspects of the art are sometimes overlooked.  Master Kim explains that TKD has the speed and power, whereas Hapkido has the flexibility, pressure point and joint locking skills.

The DVD is well produced with step by step break down of movements.  It emphasises that the student should not just try to memorize the movements, but learn the principles behind them.  This I think is the best advice from the whole DVD as by learning the principles, these masters are giving the student the tools to go away and work things out for themselves.  It brings to mind the old saying, give a man fish and you feed him for a day, teach him to fish and you feed him for life.

I did feel however, that the DVD sold TKD a bit short.  Being a Karateka, I am aware that Karate was dumbed down when it went public.  The vast majority of Japanese masters learned the dumbed down version, which TKD was also based on.  However, many Karateka who also studied Kung Fu, Aikido, JuJutsu and others arts (or went back to Okinawa) soon recognised that the techniques in those other arts were the same as movements in their own Karate kata, but the applications were far more effective than the dumbed down applications they had been given in Karate.  Many of these Karateka have brought this knowledge back into Karate and accepted it as being the original meaning of the art (rather than being an imported part from another style).

I believe that TKD being largely based on Karate is in the same position.  The pressure point, joint locking applications are not missing from TKD, they have in many cases (though not all before anybody jumps on me) been lost or forgotten.

When General Choi took Karate back to Korea and started to formulate TKD, he would have influenced by the indigenous Korean martial arts such as Hapkido.  So for TKD exponents to look at a sister art such as Hapkido is an excellent idea for them to re-discover what should have been there from the very beginning.  Don’t look on Hapkido as something different, look on it as something that helps fill the gaps and completes your TKD knowledge.

I would recomend it, a good Christmas present if you know a TKD exponent.

SKILLS OF HAPKIDO

This DVD is just about Hapkido and compliments the Mixed TaeKwon DVD very well.  But first the trailer:-

This follows the same step by step format as the previous DVD, with break downs, close and wide angle views, parnter and solo practice drills.  It establishes the underlying principles of Hapkido first, then these principle are used over and over again during the self defence scenarios demonstrated.  A very good introduction to Hapkido for anybody interested in the style.  Also good for TKD and Karate people who would like to explore further some of the seemingly obscure parts of their own style.

You can find out more at www.9thDan.com.

Bunkai For Kihon Kata (Il Jang, Chon Ji, Ki Cho Hyung Il Bu)

Here we take a look at the opening sequence of the most basic kata of all, Kihon Kata (TKD/TSD: Il Jang, Chon Ji, Ki Cho Hyung Il Bu).  Normally explained as turn to your left and block a front kick followed by stepping and punching; then turn to your rear to block another front kick followed by a step and punch.   However, this only works if the kicker aims the kick to stop short.   If they actually try to kick you, then the only way you can block their kick with a lower block is to step back (not forward), otherwise the distance is all wrong.

So here we look at some different bunkai (applications) for this sequence.

Note: What I did forget to say in the video is that having taken the opponent off-balance with the first move, you should have the back of their head facing you, which means that you can take advantage of the prime target at the base of the skull on the back of the head. This is one of the prime points for knocking the opponent unconscious.  Use this point with caution as it is potentially dangerous.

Bunkai And Comparison Of Karate/TKD’s Age Uke (Rising Block) & Wing Chun’s Bong Sau (Wing Arm Block)

Here we take a look at 2 blocks which are very similar.  Wing Chun’s Bong Sau (Wing Arm Block) and the Age Uke (Rising Block) used in Karate, Teakwondo and Tang Soo Do.  The advantage of comparing techniques between different styles is that sometimes you get clues as to how they originated.  Wing Chun is based on Snake Kung Fu and Crane Kung Fu.  One of the main influences on Okinawan Karate was White Crane Kung Fu, so there would appear to be some common roots.

Furthermore, by looking at how another style uses its techniques can often give clues as to extra applications for which you can use your own techniques.  This is particularly advantageous to Karate, TaeKwonDo and Tang Soo Do practitioners as a lot of our original applications have been lost along the way.

I hope you enjoy this video.

Age Uke & Bong Sau Bunkai

Russell Stutely On Pressure Point Fighting

Following on from my last article on pressure point fighting, I would like to quote from Russell Stutely who is widely regarded as Europe’s number one pressure point expert.  He is also highly regarded by Geoff Thompson and Peter Consterdine of the British Combat Association, who are very much into reality martial arts.

The reason that I wanted to quote from Russell Stutely is that although he highly advocates pressure points and obviously makes a lot of money teaching them and selling DVDs etc; he still very much advocates that you must develop good basic technique first.  If he was to promote pressure points in a such a way as to suggest that it is a magic bullet so that you don’t have to bother learning anything else and beginners could use them to defeat experienced black belts, I would be very suspicious.  But he doesn’t.  He is very methodical in his Continue reading “Russell Stutely On Pressure Point Fighting”

Bunkai: Heian Nidan/Pinan Shodan (Won Hyo, Chum Kiu)

In the clip below, we look at some applications from the opening sequence of Heian Nidan/Pinan Shodan/Won Hyo.  We don’t say that this is necessarily the best or only interpretations for these moves, it just our take on it.  Although Heian Nidan and Pinan Shodan are in effect the same kata (just named differently in different styles) and Tae Kwon Do’s Won Hyo pattern is closely based on it; Chum Kiu is essentially quite different.  It is the second form from the Wing Chun Kung Fu system.

However, some of the moves in Chum Kiu quite closely resemble the opening sequence of Heian Nidan/Pinan Shodan, although is performed quite a  bit more tightly.

Is this surprising to find such similarities?

Not at all.  Tae Kwon Do is largely based on Karate and Karate is largely based on Kung Fu.  The nearest part of China to Okinawa (where Karate developed) is Fukien Provence and it is known that White Crane Kung Fu was particularly popular in that area.  Wing Chun Kung Fu is based mainly on the Snake and the Crane, so there is a common lineage.

Anyway, we hope you enjoy our short video: