How to Fake a Strike


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Now why would I want to fake a strike?

Sun Tzu said all war is deception. Meaning, if you keep firing without the brain engaged, your opponent is going to adapt and counter where it hurts. You want to fake a strike so that the opponent drops his guard. You want to fake it so the opponent expends resources dealing with your feint. You want to fake it so that you can create openings you are really targeting. You want to fake it so that you occupy his defences to the point where other areas are undefended.

Doesn't that knee strike look like a headbutt?

Doesn’t that knee strike look like a headbutt?

  1. Do an actual kick but halfway through modify it’s flight path: for all you posers out there, the kick is only good right at the end, when it hits the person. Not for it’s fancy-nancy path through the air nor that kodak moment where you’re holding your leg still. Simply put, fire off a front kick and when the opponent reacts to that front kick, relax the leg, spin the body and land a roundhouse kick. The trick to doing this is to understand how you look as you start off that initial kick. It’s no point trying to fake a kick when you don’t have control over your body, have to reset and then try for the next kick. Magic isn’t for beginners.
  2. Use your hocus pocus: ever seen anyone move their hands before swinging a lethal Muay Thai thigh kick? If they’re firing a kick from the right side, their left foot first twitches to the left, the left hand is pull back and down, the right hand swings forward, and just as the kick is launched, the right hand pulls back. Well, if that’s the setup for a brutal thigh kick, that is a great bit of hocus pocus to use for anything else, don’t you reckon. Just practice that setup in front of a mirror, and if you’re stumped for what to do … maybe just do a jab???
  3. Conditioning the opponent: I fought against some good black belts, and this one thing I did really freaked them out. I would fire an instep kick with my back leg, and then do a jumping roundhouse kick whilst that foot was still in the air. I was able to twitch those muscles fast enough that I could do that without my body looking like it made the jump. The ol’ opponents didn’t like it because it was hard to identify. But when they started to figure it out, what I did to really cause panic was to start with the instep kick, but rather than follow up with the roundhouse, I would fire a hook kick – which came from the other direction! Nice to give a little cardiac trip to seasoned veterans every now and then. The lesson here is you can train your opponent to misjudge you. They just need to think you’re totally committed. Totally invested in what seems to be a ‘signature’ move before you abandon it.
  4. Land the feint: so the opponent knows you’re now faking it. What to do? Go ahead and sink those strikes in. It’s always nice to get the opponent to recommit to defences if he thinks you’re powering up each and every time you twitch. Look at that photo above. That knee strike looks like a headbutt in progress, doesn’t it? LOL.
  5. Breath control: the last winner tip I will share with you in faking your opponent out. Breathe out hard every time you strike. Breathe out every time you defend. Breathe out when you move. Then when you fake it, breathe out as you are faking it. The breath out makes the fake or feint look more real. If you remain relaxed, you can modify the weapon and fire it with less breath than you usually use without much power loss. So when he’s conditioned to hear your breaths, and the one time he doesn’t hear it is when the strike rings in his ears. LOL.

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Five Tips on How Not to Get Punched in the Nose


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The first tip could very well be not to stand there and invite your friend to punch you in the nose. Isn’t that the silliest thing you’ve ever seen? You get bopped in the nose, your eyes water, your nose bleeds or breaks, and of course there’s pain in your snout. Get hit often enough – as I did early in my black belt career, and your nose gets swollen up on the inside so much you’ll have trouble breathing right. Anyway, for those of us who pride ourselves with better instinct for self preservation, here’re my top five tips on how not to get punched in the nose.

Top Five Tips on How Not to Get Punched in the Nose

#5 Why use only your hands when you can also use forearms for coverage

Most people who have little experience with unarmed fighting bring their hands up only in visual range. If you wear gloves, that’s great … but it doesn’t offer you much cover. Instead move the rest of your arm up a little more so you’ve covering yourself with your forearms. There’s more mass and more stability, and your attacker will find it harder punching through them. Wave them like windshield wipers in front of your face. That helps make things a little more difficult for your attacker to land a strike on your snout.

#4 Don’t just stand there, gap close or pull out

Why would you stand there so someone can punch you in the nose? Take a step backward. Take a step forward. If you can’t reach him, he can’t reach you. The reverse logic is true too … if you can hug and touch him, it’ll be more difficult for him to punch you in the nose. Of course there are other things that can happen. But your nose gets to stay on your face a little while longer.

#3 Crunch those abs and scrunch up

See Junior stand ramrod straight? That presents a nice non-moving target for Luke. So why not crunch those abs and make your body a smaller target. Bob up and down so that your head isn’t still. Breathe out and squeeze your abs. The rise up a little. Then breathe out and drop again. Keep moving like this and flailing your arms, pretty soon your attacker might give up because you’re moving so much they can’t be bothered expending the energy. You also end up looking so comical they might not rearrange your face because you’re distracting them so well. JK.

#2 Drop your chin so your forehead is forward

Drop your chin and tuck it into your neck. This means you’re sticking your forehead forward and tucking your nose back into in place. Got a big snout? Pull your chin back more. Let your eyes float around your opponent’s chest so you get to see ‘everything’ using your peripheral vision. This is the way boxers do it. The best thing about this? If you do get hit in the face, the force dissipates evenly into your spine and body, rather than being absorbed in your neck which then rocks your head and knocks you out.

#1 Strike first strike hard

And the number one tip? It’s hard for the opponent to punch you if his own lights are out. Of course, the need for responsible self defence means you’ve got to warn the attacker, deescalate the situation, and attempt to reduce the threat first. Only when you think you’re not going to get out of trouble should you start using force.



Shuhari (Kanji:…


Shuhari (Kanji: 守破離 Hiragana: しゅはり)

Shuhari is a Japanese martial art concept, and describes the journey towards mastery. ‘Shu’ means to follow or protect the form. ‘Ha’ means to explore variations on form. ‘Ri’ is to let go of the form in order to fully grasp the lessons they contain. Shuhari can be thought of as a cyclical path towards mastery; one may return from a higher level of experience down to lower levels in order to clarify one’s knowledge. While it is a Japanese concept, there are many related concepts of skill acquisition. Korean practitioners may benefit from reflecting on the shuhari concept whilst consolidating knowledge around the forms we practice. At the same time, please enjoy my recommended reading list for any serious martial art practitioner:

Gaebaek. What You See is What You Get.


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Gaebaek. What You See is What You Get. is my performance of Gae Baek after a long time of not practicing it. There are of course excuses; which no one needs to hear. What you need to know however is that I’m getting a snapshot of this form to see if I can improve on it. Yes, I filmed myself doing a form pretty much in one take – without much of a warmup and using my phone camera so I could see in all honesty how good or bad Gaebaek was. Or how in actuality, I was.

What would I like to improve?

  • The camera angle and filming is all wrong. I can only see half of the form, and have to guess what the other half is doing. I should attempt to improve on filming, not necessarily using a better camera, but by using better angles so you can see the form from all sides. I’ve got an idea to spin the camera around the practitioner for a 360 degree view – we’ll see if we can organise that.
  • Forward stance. After 30 years you’d think that that would be sharp and the back leg should be straight. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that way. Or is it because the uniform was unironed? Please, let it be the uniform! LOL.
  • Execute a ‘scooping block’ in step 9 and step 29. The vagaries of formwork often betray a lack of personal reflection about what this open palm upward pressing motion is all about. I think the double pressing block from Joong-gun step 27 and step 29 allows me to push an upper arm grab or a neck control over my head so I can duck under the arm; and it would be my guess that this upper pressing motion from Gaebaek would do the same except that the reverse hand allows me to either block an incoming strike or perform and handlock whilst manipulating opponent’s arm. Whatever it is I need to make both consistent.
  • The W-shape block coming out from the low knife hand guarding block in step 39 was not done sharply enough. I think for it’s purpose it’s got to snap up, a reflection of how it’s going to be used in a realistic situation. (See Toigye W Block). Adding to that, the leg lift and stamping motion should torque the W block more before the arms are swung around.

Gotta keep practicing!


Troubleshoot Your Pattern Performance


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Do you fight like you train? Do you train like you fight?

Chon-ji Hyung

Chon-ji Hyung … a bit of Heaven and Earth happening 

Many traditional stylists who use kata or hyung practice at the core of their training would have problems with that question.  The main issue is that kata or hyung does not reflect much of what you do when you spar. And the reason why is that sparring encourages you to ‘transact’ with your opponent. Many of the encounters happen at the medium to long range. And mostly both parties get to touch gloves and walk off.

The ‘self defence’ drills however could be seen more in line with what you do through the patterns. Short and sharp movements break you free, stun the opponent, and take him down. If you cater for changes in the axis of your centre of gravity, loads of ‘self defence’ moves reflect what you do within traditional patterns.

I’d like to make a general observation that in sparring, many ‘modern’ practitioners use shoulder rotation and reach to hit the opponent from further away, whereas in self defence there are more strikes done at medium to close range. I will also generalise to say that in the short range, people tend to need to do more hip rotation to generate the requisite power to put an opponent down.

So if you’re attempting to use the same dynamics of reach and distance into your kata or hyung performance, and find yourself falling over … well, this is the reason why. Patterns encourage you to look at the world from the viewpoint of a ‘self defence’ drill. If you try to mix your ideas of combat – meaning sparring, into this structure, it doesn’t work. The practitioner goes through his paces within the form and is creating power through a very different paradigm. Much of the acceleration and deceleration has to be done by the legs. Your holding your trunk vertical doesn’t mean you’re not getting into it. It just means that the power you’re generating is pulsed through the body differently from when you’re working on the bag.

People who tend to focus only on sportive fighting, irrespective of how vicious it may be, won’t understand this exercise. For instance, an old post Kata: Falling for You (I’ve since changed the title) incurred the wrath of the weekend warriors from Bullshido in Kata: Falling for You???. Rudeness aside, what they are saying reflects all those sentiments of kata or hyung being a useless unrealistic form of exercise.

Good luck with your training! 🙂


Done and Dusted by Dosan


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Don’t be misled by sophistry! Not everything is a lock and a throw! We practice a hard style! Hard stylists hit! And we like to hit! ’nuff said.

In this application from Dosan Hyung, we use the wedging block close up, stopping an oncoming swing from the inside. The wedging block intercepts the swinging limb or one forearm intercepts the swinging limb, and the other strikes the opponent in the neck or face. You are well placed then to use a front kick to the inside of the opponent’s thigh or knee. Not shown is the double punch used to strip away the opponent’s right arm and counter with a strike to opponent’s ribs.

I started by saying don’t be misled by sophistry, a reference to a species of instructor who would teach a multitude of ‘applications’ from the one sequence. Oh, this move could be a lock. Or it could be a throw. It could be you holding him in this way then punching him. I have seen the most esoteric applications shown even for the first pattern in Taekwondo ‘Chon-ji’ and taught to beginners. Why? People don’t learn like that, and it can’t be trained like that into something that comes second nature in a conflict situation.

So in this particular video, I am showing simple strikes that make sense, and which can be used without much further training. Yes, I can lift both of my hands up and collide with anything coming my way. Yes, I now know I can connect with the inside of the opponent’s leg quite nicely. And yes, I can move the opponent’s hand and then level a solid punch to his ribs. Now that that’s sorted and  you know you can knock the wind out of the opponent, let’s talk about controlling him and and maybe immobilizing him until further help comes along.

How to Improve Your Taekwondo


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Devastating kicks. Good breaks. Great demos. But when you have ‘look ma, no hands’ sparring and predominantly sport-based schools, Taekwondo doesn’t help itself as a martial art. Personally, I think sport Taekwondo is great for participants – look at the health benefits. Look at the pluses when you get into its competitive spirit. But does all of that improve Taekwondo’s hard hitting credibility it earned in the 50s, 60s, and 70s? You know when you close your eyes and those ‘Taekwondo’ moves in yet another K-pop music video, you’d be hard pressed to say yes.

Of course, I’m not going to apologise for any of what you think Taekwondo is. The weight of the martial art world does not fall in my providence. All I can showcase is what we do, how we are improving on ourselves bit by bit, and attempt to bring Traditional Taekwondo into the 21st Century.

The following is an unchoreographed and unscripted video (apologies, the audio is NSFW) of a regular training session featuring a type of sparring training. The objective of the exercise was to change the student practitioner’s mindset which equated sparring to kickboxing. By kickboxing I mean the idea that ‘I kick and punch, and then expect my opponent to return kicks and punches’. Staying in the melee range is a practice from the sportive arena, from Hollywood, also definitely from Bollywood. I believe if you want ‘realness’ in your training, you need to compartmentalise melee skills away from most of your training; by this I specifically mean to address sportive melee skills vis a vis practical tactics that help you self defend in the melee range.

Students were told to go light, create good cover with the use of the elbows and forearms, use open hand strikes and avoid punching, gap close and allow the hands to flow. As we progressed, students were encouraged not to just stay exchanging blows, but to gap close tactically, do what they had to do, then move away. Students who were new to this type of training showed good progress.

The snippet of video you see above was taken early on. When I got into the ring, I sought to increase forward pressure – to literally really get into my opponent’s face. While I kept the strikes light, I was close enough to headbutt and engage with both hands. You know the game is afoot when I pull out elbows and hands, headbutts, knees and feet. I went for shoulder grabs and locks, neck grabs and locks, and groin shots.

Best of all? No one got injured. Each person worked on their close quarter game. Their flow improved over that half an hour. And we got some lovely video to share!

Next sessions we work on incorporating some application training within this practice. Meaning I will name a few ‘types’ of attack that each need to deliver, and we will offer some prescriptive solutions to those attacks. I’m thinking maybe shoulder grab, cross punch defence and perhaps what to do against thigh kicks. Lastly, there’s a really good article on Tactical Taekwondo regarding Sparring Drills describing different drills which may be plugged in with our above approach and which I might use in later sessions.

For some non-martial arts inspiration, see Fast Shooting Compilation and INSANE Russian Counter Terror Drills.

Keep well.



Relaxedness and Rigidity


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I’m looking through some of my older posts in the Traditional Taekwondo Blog, tweaking them a little to sound less like a newb, when I arrived at this one ‘Chon-ji: Relaxedness and Rigidity.’ After the fluffy preamble, the gist I was trying to get at is that “a pliable, relaxed and responsive body” performs the block “dropping my enter body weight like a pile driver.”

Beginning student practitioners don’t seem to get it. Many people think to gain power, they must FEEL power. The power they feel indicates that what they are doing is powerful. In truth, the power they are feeling is the tension in their shoulder and neck muscles, and if they’re not careful they’re going to pop something. Real power doesn’t come from the end of the striking limb, it comes from the entire body working in unison. If you get that balance right and pulse the right tension throughout the body correctly, the body should feel ‘balanced.’ Meaning you can achieve a new upper limit of striking power by working the entire body harder.

The advice from the post is that you cannot be “tensed and relaxed at the same time.” In truth, when you start it is to your advantage to be as relaxed as possible. You learn proper application of tension as you gain in your understanding of what you are trying to do. It is always better to work on distancing, calibration, targeting, and of course the dynamics of the movements you are shown. Increasing tension and relative power into the technique slowly helps you learn faster!

How would you increase tension in your practice? Let’s start with your form. Most of the beginning moves require you to move your legs and then stop with a hand technique. I would say the best way to get the tension right is to start squeezing your breath out first with a low ‘ah,’ and continue this sound as your legs move. It gets louder and correspondingly the abdominal muscles get tighter toward the end. Then at the point of impact you exhale with a ‘ha,’ fully tensing your core and body at the same time. Hold and then relax to an ‘optimal’ tension for the next move.

Much of what I’ve just said flies in the face of many hyung performances on youtube, which seem to feature a very relaxed initial movement, a jerky end move timed with a ‘ch’ should that seems aspirated from the chest or from the mouth. This does not seem in line with the kind of breathing you need when you are under duress, and is certainly not something which I’ve seen practiced in any sparring, cage, or other type of fight.

Keep training.


‘Actual Taekwondo Hand Fighting Skills’ A Random Review


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I typed in ‘Taekwondo Hand Skills’ in youtube and found this resource. It seems to be a World Taekwondo Federation inspired book or video – I’m not entirely sure which, Nor am I sure of what the term ‘Actual’ actually refers to. Are they ‘actual’ or real skills already in their curriculum? Or are they making the point that these are the few they’ve managed to scrounge up? And then what kind of skills are they actually for?

Saying that, I am pleasantly surprised. Some of what I saw off the video is not bad. There are tons of what seems to be ‘traditionally’ inspired techniques used for sport-oriented striking. Meaning long range striking techniques that can be used in the kind of arena a World Taekwondo Federation practitioner might fight in.

When you minus away the thigh kicks, the kicks landing with the top of the foot, the slamming axe kicks, and the suspenseful music, the blocking drills and the coverage are spot on. The blocks done at 0.23sec for instance remind me of Jackie Chan’s ‘take off your jacket’ move in the Karate Kid reboot. Excellent, though I’d love to see additional attacks and an opponent that would use less linear strikes.

Check out the coverage/blocking flow drill at 0.37sec – it looks like a bong sau or ‘wing block’ plus close quarter coverage of the head. If they want to show something ‘actual’ this is where they should have relegated more than 2 seconds to it. It was exciting and fresh, I hope not a wasted opportunity!

Makiwara/striking post training … unfortunately these guys just lost it for me here. I didn’t see any evidence that they knew how to hit the makiwara. If you want an example of some fine makiwara practice, see for what I’m on about.

Another great blocking drill in 0.49sec but against a lame ‘I’m trying to punch you from the other side of the room’ opponent. Again they should take this segment and given it more than the grayed out whisper it received.

Not a bad Taekwondo resource. What do you all think about the preview? Worth a peek?



Locks and Throws in Taekwondo


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Let me just drop my weight on the crook of your arm because I can’t be stuffed twisting your wrist.

My journey began in a martial practice very different to how we train nowadays. It was a simpler time when a kick was a kick, and a block … well, was supposed to block those kicks. Not much thought was put into the martial art beyond just memorising a new pattern, getting through the aerobically challenging class, and stretching our leg muscles out. 

A lot changed when I got to the US. I studied American Karate, which was actually Traditional Taekwondo. Since black belts trained for free I also embarked (read ‘freeload’) on my school’s Aikido training. And of course, in the meanwhile, I got the stuffing beaten out of me until I figured out how to block better and counter. LOL. Honestly though, the Aikido offering was hugely confusing to me. As a hard stylist, probably only knowing how to twist the wrist in about 3-4 ways and doing the most basic of throws, the ‘soft style’ approach was a huge departure and took me for a spin. But I stuck with it and eventually grew to love it. 

Cover, gap close, forearm to the neck, destroy the forearm and scoop under, over the shoulder, and there you have it.

Cover, gap close, forearm to the neck, destroy the forearm and scoop under, over the shoulder, and there you have it.

In the last 15 years, I have modified my hard style curriculum extensively to take into consideration the fact that hard stylists are not soft stylists. 🙂 Hard stylists are taught to strike, cover, block, and counter. By hard I mean ‘linear’ but sometimes hard stylists are know for their staccato one-two moves that are drilled into practitioners from an early stage. So when the practitioner starts to ‘flow’ … meaning they’re figuring out that there is more to the martial arts than the ‘end point’ of striking, this ability to use the rest of the flight path of our techniques helps the practitioner deal equally well in both longer and shorter ranges.

In my exposure to Aikido, it seems the study is focusing on the relation you have between your centre of gravity to your opponent’s centre of gravity. The aikidoka attempts to disrupt the opponent’s body, throwing him out of the base or collapsing him onto his base. The hard stylist does not have this focus. The hard stylist just wants to smack the person around and take him as a shield.

Where the overlap occurs is when the hard stylist ‘flows’ and comes in close. Strikes and blocks tend to meld with each other, and this is where unlocking the secrets of kata or hyung is at. As I said previously, I don’t think hard stylists are soft stylists. We don’t chase the lock, we don’t prefer twisting the wrist. If it presents itself, we might apply it … probably with not much finesse but it might happen.

While not the most perfect example for this post, look at the application in Toi-gye W Block. Nothing there is from any aikido class I’ve taken. Sure, concepts marry well with aikido concepts, but that is straight out of the pattern Toi-gye, the sequence of which was in turn inspired by Karate kata Jitte.

I'm not above using an aiki technique. But as locks and throws go, they're no longer in the nature of how we did them in those aiki classes I attended so many years ago.

I’m not above using an aiki technique. But as locks and throws go, they’re no longer in the nature of how we did them in those aiki classes I attended so many years ago.

Where I think grabs, falls, and takedowns is at for hard stylists is when we get close and go for the body itself. Neck control and manipulation (like a neck throw forward, tenchinage, etc), shoulder grabs and takedown (takiotoshi, kaitenage, ude garami, etc), leg grab and sweep/takedowns, etc. All these work surprisingly well when combined with close quarter strikes inspired by the very ‘blocks’ we have in our patterns. 

Where the challenge remains is to ‘feed’ the practitioner these concepts and skills bit by bit throughout their progression – I think this is a poor way to teach locks and throws. It is far better to teach them a few locks and throws based on a theme. For instance, here we have us tilting the neck backwards. Let’s do it from the front. Let’s do it from the back. Let’s do it from the side. Let’s do it from the other side. There you go – 6 takedowns under your belt. The next time we do it, we can put our elbow on the neck and do the same, instead of putting our whole arm in front of the neck from the back, we grab the hair. There you go, another handful of variations but along the same concept. Hard stylists being ‘linear’ need this type of training ‘diet’. LOL. No disrespect intended of course, but hard stylists are very very one track … and it is up to the instructor to understand this and hopefully impart the necessary skills.