How often have you heard the phrase “before you can overcome others, you must first overcome yourself”, or “your main opponent is yourself”. If you’ve never heard these phrases, then take a long look at who’s teaching you! You should have heard these phrases before as this really is one of the most central core philosophies of doing any traditional martial art. Continue reading “Striving For Perfection: Combat Effectiveness And Spiritual Development” »
This post looks at the differences and relative advantages/disadvantages of the a boxing punch compared with a traditional martial arts (Karate, Taekwondo, Kung Fu) punch. Continue reading “Differences Between Boxing Punch vs Traditional Martial Arts Punch” »
Any technique can be developed into a number of variations. However, when it comes to the front kick, I would say that there are main variations (and many sub-variations). These are hips side-on (FIG 1: hips facing about 90 degrees to opponent) and hips forward (FIG 2: hips facing toward the opponent). Continue reading “Front Kick Variations (Pros & Cons)” »
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.
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 🙂
Russ Martin, 5th Dan TKD is recognised within the Taekwondo Association of Great Britain as an expert on applied Taekwondo (the practical application of the basics and patterns). He should really be known further afield as he has a very extensive knowledge. Continue reading “Applied Taekwondo With Russ Martin (Applicable To Karateka Too)” »
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)” »
A lot is written these days about how the basic blocking techniques in Karate/Taekwondo are not really “blocks”, but close quarters strikes, releases from grabs/holds, joint locks etc. It is often pointed out that though we practice these “blocks” against straight punches, the creators of Karate would not have been facing that type of attack. So we have “blocks” that don’t really work, practiced against techniques that we are not likely to be attacked with. They only really work with a compliant partner with a pre-arranged attack. Continue reading “In Defence Of Basic Karate/Taekwondo “Blocks”” »
The “corkscrew” punch where we rotate the fist at the end of the punch is unique to Oriental martial arts.
Twisting the fist is something that we all know about and take for granted. And why shouldn’t we, we’ve been doing it since our very first class in Karate/Tae Kwon Do/most styles of Kung Fu . The reason that I write about it here, is because I believe that it is something that though deeply ingrained into us, is still not done quite right by a good many people.
It may sound a bit strange to question something so basic, but bare with me. Although many will be doing what I describe below, a good many others will not be.
Why not? Because people will rotate the fist to get it into it’s correct finishing position, but not think about how the rest of the arm is moving to get it there!
It would be more correct to say that you should “twist your forearm”. The fist is actually incapable of rotating on its own, it is only capable of moving up and down in a waving/hinged motion when isolated from any other arm movement.
Try this little exercise. Perform any linear punch, then just freeze for a second with the arm in the extended punch position (no snap back). Now keep check if the crease of your elbow joint (where it folds) is pointing upwards or inwards. If you are not sure, then being very careful not to move the upper arm at all, bend the elbow. It the fist rises up then the crease of the elbow joint is facing up. If the fist moves inward (parallel to the floor) then the crease of the elbow is pointing inwards.
So why should you care about that?
Like the fist, the elbow is incapable of rotating itself, it is a hinge joint rather than a ball joint. From the starting position with the fist at the hip, the crease of the elbow joint points forward. As the arm is extended forward (without rotating), the elbow crease should end up pointing upwards.
For the elbow to rotate (so that the elbow crease points inward), you actually have to rotate the arm in the shoulder socket. To be a bit more technical, you rotate the humerus bone in the ball socket at the shoulder.
This is something that you shouldn’t be doing. Firstly it is an unnecessary movement of the shoulder joint and as we progress, we should be looking to take out all unnecessary movements. Secondly, it creates a small jarring feeling at the elbow, so it is not good for the long term health of either shoulder or elbow joint.
Furthermore, it’s a less efficient punching technique, so it is less effective if you really need it.
Try standing in front of a mirror with you arm and shoulders exposed. Now extend your arm in front of you and towards the mirror. Don’t worry about making a fist or any technique, just relax. Now rotate the whole arm several times at the shoulder joint. You will notice when you look closely that upper arm actually moves very slightly away from the body when you rotate the arm so that the elbow crease points inwards rather than upwards. Linear techniques are based on having the body weight behind them, so anything that takes the strike sideways away from the body will weaken that technique.
Granted, this is a very slight outward movement, but as you get more advanced, so it become more about fine detail.
It also effects your muscular alignments too. The shoulder and lateral muscles (underneath the arm pits) act as shock absorbers and maintain the body structure when you strike a target and receive a reaction force from the impact. Rotating the humerus outward in the shoulder socket slightly stretches those muscles making them less efficient at absorbing that reaction force.
Furthermore, when you punch, you use your triceps to extend your arm. The triceps work more efficiently with the crease of the elbow facing upwards. Don’t believe me? Ask anyone who does weight training, or look up “triceps curls” on Youtube.
The bones of the forearm (the ulna and radius) are much smaller and they can rotate around each other. There is not a big ball in socket rotation required as with rotating the humerus in the shoulder socket.
If you are not used to doing it this way, it may feel awkward at first and you may not be able to fully rotate the fist all the way over. Stick with it, your forearm muscles will become more flexible and it will become easier. You’ll find when you get used to it that the whole punch is much smoother than when you rotate the shoulder joint.
There is an argument that the bone alignment is weaker when the ulna and radius are rotated about each other. However, the idea when punching is that you actually make contact with the target before rotating the forearm (when the fist is still palm up). So the point of impact is when these bones are still in a strong alignment. You only rotate the forearm after contact has been made so that the rotational energy is added to forward impact to the punch, giving it a very penetrating “corkscrew effect”.
This forearm rotation comes into many other techniques too, such as at the very end of Soto Uke (Outside Block), Uchi Uke (Inside Block) and others. With these blocks, the rotation of the fist at the end of the technique cannot be supported by the rotation of the shoulder joint because of the arm being bent and the elbow joint being lower than the fist. Practicing for maximum forearm rotation in the punches will help maximise the forearm rotation in these other techniques too, making them more powerful, even with smaller movements. It helps to give a small “whip” on the the end of these other techniques.
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.
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.
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.