What’s On The Menu: An Analysis Of Your Typical McDojang Part 2

*Authored by White Dragon and Grey Wolf

Part 2.

Mcdojang Sparring “World Champions”

Below is a comparison of 2 of the largest McDojang chains at their “world tournaments.” Notice how big the audience is, possibly the ATA has a lot of people watching, but is it as if the ENTIRE world is competing and not only regional white guys? The ITA world tournament looks incredibly small:

ATA World Championship Sparring

ITA (Tiger Rock) World Championship Sparring

One does have to say ATA is slightly better, and has a slightly larger venue. but they are both nowhere looking like a giant world competition such as the WTF World Championships, and also pretty lacking in skill. These tournaments are in the point-break style of light touch contact. If you so much as touch the person with your foot they stop the match to call out some points. This leaves absolutely no room for realistic countering or even defense against being countered as all one has to worry about is if their foot or hand touches the other person’s body or head gear. And God forbid if you so much as move their head or body you could be deducted a point, and at worst disqualified for “excessive” contact. Now we don’t want to get hurt because we all know fighting is not about hurting people…right?

Now compare both of those fights to the World Taekwondo Federation style of fighting where you hit full contact and it is continuous. There is no point break, or light touching for points. You have to hit hard to score. And unlike the mcdojang organizations, legitimate Taekwondo tournaments actually are WORLD events with many countries competing. The venues for the tournaments aren’t simply held in the USA and are extremely large.

Match in Korea at the Kukkiwon 

Knockout at WTF World Championships

Small tournament, precisely timed, tornado kick knockout

See real Taekwondo sport actually can hurt you. Knockouts are perfectly legal! You are encouraged to hurt your opponent as long as you use proper attacks to the correct scoring areas. Notice the difference in skill from the ATA and ITA compared with typical World Championship quality WTF sparring. The techniques are precisely times and not flailing around by chance or random flying kicks for no reason. There is speed and high power and such sparring can honestly get quite scary if you are fighting at a tournament.

There have been more recent additions to mcdojang, light contact sparring. They have implicated a “continuous” rules format where they do not stop the match to call points, but the rules for scoring are exactly the same! Light contact touch only, and how do they call points? Using a clicker, and it is completely subjective. Whoever tags each other lightly 100’s of times more than the other person wins. So if you watch a tournament you will see machine gunning hand touching and foot touching and if you hurt the other person you get disqualified.

Comparison of Forms from ATA, ITA, and the WTF standard (analysis by Grey Wolf)

ATA 1st dan Black Belt Form

ATA Shim Jun (1st dan)

First of all, this poomsae is pretty long. There really isn’t a need for it to be so long other than the fact ATA increases their forms by 2 or more movements every belt rank — and the fact it has to fit one of the patterns on the Songahm star. A lot of the hand techniques don’t make sense. At least two points in this video there are uselessly difficult kicking combinations; considering there are three kicks in the combo, the two last kicks would have little to no power. The difficulty and frequency of these kicking techniques makes the form seem loose and sloppy aesthetically. The angles are weird and would never be used in a combat situation (except for point tag foot touch sparring against another uselessly kicking opponent). Most of the spatial progression is made during kicking combinations. Besides that, everything is constrained to one area: no shifts from stance to stance, or much traveling distance like proper poomsae teaches.

ITA (Tiger Rock) 1st dan Black Belt Form

ITA 1st dan Poomsae

The first problems in this form are the awkward front leg round kicks from the back stance. Nobody is every going to use or try that. The next is the use of flashy spin kicks. Other than a turning side kick, poomsae should not overuse spin kicks or use overly-flashy jump kicks. Toward the end of this form is a kicking sequence where you front kick forward and then side kick to the side 90 degrees without dropping your foot. This is absolutely illogical. For one thing, you should not keep your foot up in sparring. For another, you’re never going to front kick and then side kick 90 degrees in another directions on the same leg, much less without dropping your foot. Using double kicking on the same leg has a purpose in fighting, but not at those angles or in such a stance. This sort of nonsense makes Taekwondoin look ridiculous, like they could never fight in a real kickboxing or MMA fight. Poomsae is about teaching how to string together basics. While good poomsae sometimes do have jumping kicks or more advanced hand techniques, generally they are sandwiched between lots of basic techniques and also train people in covering stance with stepping with each technique. Good quality poomsae are sensitive to the teaching of movement principles rather than just stringing together progressively harder, flashier movements. This is what mcdojangers misunderstand about the nature of forms: forms do not have to get more difficult for each belt rank, and merely throwing in a bunch of difficult techniques is not the proper way to go about making a form more advanced. It’s just a way to artificially engage a student so they don’t worry about perfecting their fighting skills instead since most of their students lack a combative interest or mindset. This form is devoid of useful basic techniques such as straight punches, and instead has a lot of hand techniques whose relationship to one other is not readily discernible.

And finally the World Taekwondo Federation Standard For Black Belt Poomsae As Recognized by the Kukkiwon

KKW/WTF Koryo (1st dan)

Koryo is one of the more difficult forms from the Kukkiwon Taekwondo curriculum to perform correctly. That said, the flashiest movement in the whole form is just a double side kick. If you lower the height of both your sidekicks, this technique is actually easily applicable to real fighting situations, whether as a low fake to side kick, or double striking kicks from the knee to the body or head, or 2 slower kicks with power in both movements. This technique is actually used in full contact Olympic sparring a lot, and works. The form is tight and filled with plenty of immediately applicable basic hand techniques, most notably the throat strikes. Most of Koryo’s stance transitions are made from kicks, but the rest of the Kukkiwon forms have several stance to stance transitions, which teach proper weight transfer and are much more practical than predominantly kick transfers from each stance. It also looks sophisticated which is something mcdojang forms lack.

Comparing video evidence it is self evident that Kukki-Taekwondo is superior in all areas.


White Dragon is a 3rd dan Taekwondo Black Belt with over 19 years experience in the Martial Arts and head instructor of the White Dragon Dojang Martial Arts Training Program. 

Grey Wolf is a Martial Artist of 14 years and instructor with a 3rd degree Taekwondo Black Belt. 

  1. Daghdha_Redbeard says:

    I disagree with some aspects of this section. A couple of times, you used the “nobody would ever do that, that looks stupid” attack. But, in reality, that’s the nature of forms. Nobody gets into a fight and immediately goes to a front stance. Nobody waits in a back stance for their opponent to attack them. So regardless of whether or not the form is “needlessly complicated”, it’s automatically a bit foolish.

    I think that it’s a trap to think of forms as choreographed fight training. You won’t ever have time to do moves fully and beautifully if you’re in an actual fight. But that’s not to say that they’re pointless all together. The deep, silly looking, front stances (If you’re not doing the short narrow kukkiwon front stance) are good for developing leg strength and stamina. Practicing strikes and blocks, if you engage your core muscles adequately, is a good way to learn how to strike with force and speed. Complicated movements are ways to test your balance and skill. Forms can be a way to develop your body and mind to be able to handle more combative elements of training.

    • White Dragon says:

      I don’t think you understand forms very well. First you admit moves in forms are unrealistic but then you go into how they are important for “more combative training.” HOw does that make any sense?

      If you understood forms and their purpose and proper stances you would know why mcdojang forms are idiotic while forms in styles such as true TKD the Kukkiwon has they are more relaxed and on point. Each step in a form is a theoritical possibility and when you are fighting long front stances actually happy but you don’t understand that because you don’t understand fighting and transitions in a fight.

      • Daghdha_Redbeard says:

        “I don’t think you understand forms very well. First you admit moves in forms are unrealistic but then you go into how they are important for “more combative training.” HOw does that make any sense?”

        Okay, let’s make a basketball analogy. Imagine a basketball player who, for hours, practices their shots. This player isn’t running suicides after every shot or sprinting from one hoop to the other. They are only practicing their form and technique. Are they wasting their time? After all, that’s not how an actual game would be played. In an actual game, you have people competing against you. Therefore, I conclude that practicing your shooting is a waste of time. Is this correct? (Answer: of course not)

        Now, after a long day of shooting hoops, the basketball player goes to bed, wakes up in the morning, and heads to the exercise/weight room. There, this player pushes their body on the treadmill, on the squat rack, on the bench press; the player pushes their body all over the place. Is the player wasting their time? How does lifting weights or running on the treadmill prepare them for a fight? whoops. I think I meant to say basketball game. After all, a game doesn’t require them to squat three times their own weight? This person is wasting their time. It’s pointless to exercise your body, isn’t it? (Answer: not at all)

        Now you tell me, what don’t I understand about forms? I see what can be gotten out of them. They are great for teaching muscle memory and working on your body. But they aren’t fight training. How can you train to fight if you’re not training with someone that’s actually resisting? (Answer: not very well)

        I object to your assertion that “true TKD” is kukkiwon TKD. I think they spoon feed you propaganda, but that’s an issue for another time. What is an issue for now, however, is your assertion that front stances happen all the time and that all the taeguk movements are theoretically possible.

        Since you are a kukkiwon practitioner, I’m going to assume that you are equating WTF sparring with fighting. Are you? If so, I would very much appreciate it if you could send me some links on youtube to big WTF matches where the participants spend much time in an beautiful front stance.

        Finally, many things are “theoretically possible”. The execution just happens to be the problem. Doing individual moves and sets of moves from forms is theoretically possible, but you’re not going to have a good time of it if you attempt to do them precisely as they are done in the forms.

      • White Dragon says:

        WTF is not street fighting but only sport and only sport techniques work in that. Some WTF sport techniques translate into MMA and street fighting but one cannot rely 100% on WTF training for practical fighting.

        Poomsae is theory like shadow boxing in a way. Like you said it works the body and codnitions it, gives muscle memory, faster strikes over time, balance., focus and the techniques are theoritically possible. They will not look as dramatic or large but we practice large for conditioning purposes. The concepts in the poomsae will be tighter, quicker, smaller and often more sloppy. Long front stances, back stances, and tiger stances etc are all transitional stances and not something you start off with or hold the entire fight. Do you train Judo or practice grappling or standing armlocks? Long front stances, horse stances and more all happen. If you really understood combat you would see that.

        I never said one should only train poomsae to be able to fight. Only bad teachers believe that.

        Kukkiwon teaches what it does about Taekwondo but to assume it is only propaganda is silly since the ITF has 100 times more the propaganda than Kukkiwon. Kukkiwons pends less time only telling you who is the boss of Taekwondo and more on development as a martial artist and techniques and motivational learning. ITF spends more time trying to force you to believe in their prophet as the lord and savior of Taekwondo and the only boss and truth.

  2. Daghdha_Redbeard says:

    Sorry for the late response. I’ve been busy and demoralized with work. Getting to it:

    “Long front stances, horse stances and more all happen. If you really understood combat you would see that.”

    I would like to ask for proof or evidence that a long front stance really occurs, but I feel that it would be a tad unfair to ask you to sift through video after video to find one where a long front stance occurs. Sure, a tiger stance can be used as you get out of the way. But, fundamentally, it’s not all that different from, say, a boxing stance. You’re well-balanced and you’re not spread out. It’s easy to dismiss me, but can you honestly say you’ve ever used a front stance in an actual fight? Do you know anyone that can? have you seen many videos of it happening? I ask you to question yourself first.

    As for the propaganda issue, I’m actually deeply conflicted on this. I grew up on what was probably a mcdojang’s curriculum. I didn’t hear about ITF or WTF until i went to college. (Nor did I hear the words Tiger and Rock used together, in case you were wondering). Perhaps I should ask them for their lineage. All I can say is this: They taught me a decent foundation of martial thinking without involving politics. They never claimed to be the “one true” form of TKD, nor did they disparage other schools for the associations they belonged to. They focused on what they wanted to focus on, mainly self defense techniques using TKD as a frame work. Was what they did pure TKD? no. Was what they did worthless? absolutely not.

    Now I see Kukkiwon practitioners claiming that they are the “one true tkd” while claiming that other forms are automatically money making scams. You should be suspicious any time someone claims they are the “one true” anything; most of the time they’re trying to sell you something. But look at the black belt requirements for Kukkiwon black belts.

    ” 1. Practical Test shall be comprised of: Poomsae (Forms), Kyorugi (Sparring), Kyokpa (Breaking) and
    Special techniques.
    2. Theoretical Test shall include a written examination and submission of thesis.”

    The poomsae that are done are by THEIR standards. The sparring is done by THEIR rules. The theoretical test is about whether or not you know THEIR account of the history of tkd. Do you see why I’m suspicious of it? And, to reference another article on this site, Koreans don’t even respect TKD. Within Korea, who sets the standards for all of these dojangs? Do they qualify as mcdojangs?


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