Posts Tagged ‘olympic sparring’

I Passed My 4th Dan Test In Korea

        I am proud to announce that I passed my 4th dan test in Korea. It was a great experience and such a relief! Finally after nearly 21 years I am a 4th dan black belt, master level, in Taekwondo. Master Jeong helped me register for this and drove me to the location to test. I am so thankful for him!

        The test is split up into 4 sections; 5 if you count basic motions as separate from poomsae. The longest part of the test is waiting for your time to perform as you sit there. Once you start the actual test it is very fast and only lasts about 30 minutes. It is rapid pace and you end up doing everything immediately. How it works is they separate everyone into groups. About 10 people in each group. Once they call your group you line up and perform.

        First, we did some basic motions and kicks back and fourth. They call all of the words out in Korean and expect you to know what they want you to do. So we did various blocks and a few strikes. Then we did 3 kicks. Only front kick, round kick and side kick That was it. After the basics they command you to do poomsae and they have 2 forms chosen. Everyone the entire test does the exact same motions and poomsae. Nothing is different from anyone else. This time they had us perform Keumgang and Taebaek. Lower dan levels had to do Koryo instead of Taebaek. But for us higher dan grades we did those 2 forms. After forms you are told to move to the other side of the room. The room is set up kind of like a tournament, but with only 2 rings. The first ring is for basics and poomsae, and the other side of the room is for sparring. For sparring they will have about 4 matches at once going on. Right away you put on sparring gear. You wear the full gear including a groin cup and mouth piece. But you do not have to wear the WTF tournament feet pads and gloves. You simply have to wear the basic arm guards, shin guards, hogu, head gear, groin cup, and mouth guard. They provided the hogu and head gear. You had to provide the rest of the gear. We then sparred. It’s supposed to be 1 minute of sparring and that is it, but my match went on for maybe 40 seconds. I think they count the 1 minute when the referee calls out the command before you even start fighting. I had to fight a tall guy who was bigger. It was kind of intimidating, but it was ok and I just fought like I was in a tournament. Master Jeong told me not to try and hurt people and not to go all out but in the heat of battle I felt like I had to actually fight. It was okay and no one got hurt. It just feels like a tournament and you have those nerves before you fight. After we sparred and did our thing the other guy was nice and very respectful to me and bowed to me and shook my hand. It was cool. Finally after sparring we had to break a brick. The brick was plastic. About 5 people in a line had to either break a plastic brick or plastic boards. The bricks and boards are supposed to be made to be as strong as the actual things. It is not easy to break the plastic bricks as they are very hard. But of course even a teenager can break them. I broke my brick the first try. I believe you get 2 or 3 times to try and break them. I am not sure, but I heard that breaking is not mandatory and you can still pass without it. So if you cannot break the brick you can still pass if you did well on other parts of the test. After the breaking technique there was  written portion of the test which was a multiple choice paper to fill out with 1 essay question at the end. All of the questions had things to do with Taekwondo history, philosophy, Olympic rules, theoretical knowledge of techniques and such. It was all in Korean and Master Jeong had to read it for me and explain it all in English. After I filled it out I handed it in and I was done. Boom! Test completed!

        Whew! After I did the brick breaking I was awarded a certificate of excellence and a gold medal for performing with top quality, especially for poomsae. They did not give these out to everyone. Only a couple of people got them in each division. I received the award for the adults testing for high dan rank.

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They printed out the certificate right there because they added my name on it, and spelled my name wrong but it is ok and I am so grateful to be acknowledged as a great Taekwondoin. To be acknowledged by the Koreans is so wonderful! I am so proud of myself and Master Jeong really taught me well!

        The Kukkiwon promotion test is not usually held at the actual Kukkiwon anymore. The only people who are allowed to test in Korea are residence. Either you are Korean and a citizen, or you have lived in Korea legally for 6 months. I have lived here for 6 months so I was eligible to test here. You cannot just travel to Korea and test at the Kukkiwon. They expect you to test in your home country and apply by mail. Also, in Korea you can actually fail the test. Unlike in America where virtually nobody fails ever because they paid money. But even so, some of the quality of students testing I saw was very poor and in my opinion not deserving of a black belt. So they still let things slide and allow low quality people to pass the test apparently. Hopefully, this changes. But if you do really, really bad or cannot remember the form or something, you can fail. That is what I have heard. The test is run in a strict way like the military. They yell commands and have you line up and bow. You are then told to move to other areas fast. It is very serious and strict. Testing is usually held in various regions of Korea. For whatever province you live in, that is where you will test. Our test is in Gyeong Gi-do and the city was Hanam. So it was held by the Gyeong Gi-do Taekwondo Association (GTA). Kind of like how in America each state has it’s own Taekwondo association under the USAT. In Korea it is all under the authority of the KTA. But yes, they do still hold promotion tests in the actual Kukkiwon, but not as much as they used to. It is mainly an office place and a place for special events such as demos they do every night for the general public.

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Receiving my new belt for 4th dan from Master Jeong

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        The purpose of the Kukkiwon promotion test is to check that you know the motions of Taekwondo, that you understand how to perform Taekwondo and how to actually use it. The sparring is held just to prove you can fight and know foot work and understand the sport rules as well. They also want to check your power with the breaking to show you are strong with technique. The Kukkiwon test is not to prove you are some gold medal world champion fighter or some deadly killer, but to show you have a mastery of the basics and are worthy of your dan grade. With all of the people testing, time is limited so the test is very short and straight to the point. I am sure the exam your local dojang holds for your test may or may not be much harder and more difficult. All that matters for testing is the Kukkiwon’s requirements of knowledge. Your instructor may have you do other things for him but the Kukkiwon requires just a small amount of things. That is how it is in Korea.

        I had a wonderful experience testing in Korea! I am not 4th dan and worthy of a Taekwondo master! YES!

If Anderson Silva, The GOAT of MMA, Embraces Taekwondo Then That Means Taekwondo Does Not Suck And Is A Legitimate Fighting Art

        Anderson Silva has recently made it known that he has a desire to compete in the next Olympics in the sport of Taekwondo Sparring. The Brazilian Taekwondo Confederation (WTF member of Brazil) posted on their website (in Portuguese) that Silva desires to compete in the next Olympics in 2016. He says that he has a passion to represent Brazil and that the Olympics are the dream of every high performance athlete.

        The BTC in the past has given 5th degree black belt status to Anderson Silva already. I believe it is honorary rank. I am not sure if Silva is certified by the Kukkiwon as a black belt. He may be, but I could never find anything to confirm this. If he already is ranked in the Kukkiwon then he can compete in WTF tournaments and also in the Olympics. If he does not have rank yet then he has to test and perform every poomsae to pass. I would love to see Anderson Silva performing poomsae it would be interesting. He also has to wear a dobok and black belt with pads (chest gear and head gear as well).

        What he should do is compete in very high level tournaments like nationals or other world tournaments to get himself prepared to Taekwondo sport. I think that it is very interesting that a “no holds barred” MMA fighter wants to compete in a martial art that almost every single MMA/UFC fanboy and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu bandwagon jumper has repeatedly said sucks over and over for the last 20 years. That Taekwondo is a joke, that Taekwondo does not work in a real fight, that Taekwondo is a stupid sport. Well if the GOAT of the UFC and MMA says Taekwondo is a sport good enough for him to compete, that Taekwondo is a legitimate martial art then that means it is.

        Yes, Silva has recent performance enhancing drug issues, but I hope it gets resolved and he is allowed to compete in Taekwondo. It will be interesting to see how he moves, how he kicks, and how he will not punch the face and only the chest gear. I look forward to training videos and more. Will he be able to transition out of MMA, will he do well against lifelong sport Taekwondo sparring experts? This is exciting! There is a reason why Taekwondo is an Olympic level athletic endeavor.

The Fight Doctor Sensei Takuya Futaesaku

        Several years ago I randomly found a cool YouTube channel of a Karate master who is also a Physical Therapy doctor. I first saw a video of a Japanese female fighter doing a slow kicking exercise. His videos are full of various martial artists, most of them professional fighters of K-1 and MMA and other sports such as Kyokushin Karate, and even Olympic Taekwondo athletes; all of them are doing various martial arts style physical therapy. It is an interesting channel. His name is Dr. Takuya Fitaesaku and he is the founder of Society of Fighting Medicine. His channel name on YouTube is “sunliveorio.” So check it out.

I wanted to get an interview with him, and he agreed to do it, but had second thoughts because of English language issues, as well as he is a very, very busy doctor and Karate teacher traveling doing so many seminars and appointments that translation would take a long time. So he changed his mind and did not want to answer all of my questions. He was very polite and nice to talk to even so.

        Apparently he is famous in Japan for being the doctor at ringside for many fights such as K-1 Kickboxing and Japanese MMA promotions. He is not only a high ranking Karate black belt in 2 styles, but a real medical doctor with a degree from medical school. I think he has valuable information on injury prevention, healing of injuries and strengthening, and all around safety in practice of martial arts. He is big on Karate but he is a overal general martial arts and combat sports enthusiast and respects it all. He is a Karate master of Yoshukai and Kyokushin Karate styles. He also invented an awesome striking bag which is a thin cylinder on a chain that works great for fast kicking, punching, and avoiding simulated strikes toward you called the “KO Bag.” It allows you to move around more freely than a standard, large heavy bag. Dr. Futaesaku is a Karate genius!

There are other videos showing all kinds of punching drills and also connected 2 of these KO Bags together as well as tying on 2 striking pads on the bottom to simulate multiple legs kicking at you. It looks like an incredibly fun cardio workout.

It can get crazier and crazier depending on what you connect to it! You can order one and have it shipped to you. He also sells really cool shirts that he designed that say “No Karate, No Life” on them for diehard karateka to wear. He always is wearing one of these shirts as he never wears a gi top or black belt in any of his videos.

         “Dr. F” as he is known also uploads “pay for” video seminars. All of his videos on YouTube have pretty much been in Japanese, but he has since started to upload English language videos. His seminars are available by purchase online via instant video streaming/download at the following link: http://necfru.jp/video?id=3993. You can view a 3 minute sample there and if you want more you can pay for it and get the entire video.

He trains any martial arts style and there are videos of Kickboxers, Muay Thai fighters, Full Contact Karate fighters, and Olympic Taekwondo fighters who all had training and physical therapy teachings learned by Dr. F.

Another random thing is, I am not sure, but I believe that he also gives physical therapy to Japanese rock singers and pop artists. Since the videos are in Japanese I am not exactly sure what is going on except he is also famous with some musicians. Check out his channel.

WTF Olympic Sport Taekwondo Is Boring

        In this current age of Taekwondo sport competition, the WTF Olympic sport fighting has become extremely boring. Many criticize it as ballet and foot tag.

When Taekwondo sparring first started there was not many rules except striking and blocking. It included face strikes as well and they didn’t even wear any protective gear either. I am not sure how often leg kicks were used though, if at all for tournaments. Later, they took out face punching and limited hand strikes to punching only the chest. During my early years training in Taekwondo my instructor’s would tell me they took out face punching because people got hurt too bad and too fast to have a good match. This seems like a plausible reason, to make things safe and easier. They also told me punching the face is too easy and kicking takes more skill (this is a fallacious argument as anyone knows boxing is incredibly skillful and they only hit the face with no kicks). Taekwondo masters may actually have thought face punches did not take much skill, but I assume they also thought to train them back in the day. Now days many gyms never train face punching at all simply because all they care about is sport sparring. So whatever the reason, Koreans took out punches to the face.

The Jidokwan invented the hogu which is the chest gear/protector used by Taekwondo sport competitors. This shows they found out that people could last longer with chest protection as well as allow for less injuries which make tournaments safer and more people willing to compete. Even so, when the World Taekwondo Federation first started out the only protection they used was the hogu. They did not even have shin and in step guards or arm guards yet. They developed these later. Of course they did wear a groin cup and mouth piece. They also did not have head gear! Sparring was really dangerous even in the sport format where kicks limited to above the waist on the chest gear and head only. In the past Taekwondo sparring, even under Olympic rules (when it was a demonstration sport from the 80s-late 90’s)  actually looked like a fight. People literally threw kicks with serious intention at each other and used way more punches to the chest than they do now. Now days you barely see anyone punch. Back in the day people punches constantly after kicks and when people got in close. People kicked full contact to both the chest gear and the head (with no head gear on!) People got knocked out very fast and suffered injuries on the head. Later, they developed the head gear and made it mandatory for sport competition. Here is a 1980’s video showing early Taekwondo sport techniques as well as providing history and facts about Taekwond and the WTF. Watch the first few minutes for the sparring footage.

The beginning of that video shows actual tournament footage with no head gear worn and people getting kicked in the face as well as people punching the chest gear a lot. Back in the older days from 80’s-90’s all scoring was only worth 1 point exactly. No matter where you hit them with a kick or punch it was 1 point. Kicking the head was 1 point, spin kicks to the head was 1 point, flying and jump kicks were 1 point. This made competition way more realistic and combative where people only did wild moves when necessary to counter or to trick opponents. everything was rougher and looked like a fight and people won by either more damage or knockouts, or by full powered kicks that score more than the other guy.

Now days the point system is crazy with 1 point for chest gear kicks, 2 for turning kicks, 3 for any head kick (even a crescent/axe kick to the head from in close which takes little effort) and a turning kick to the head is 4 points. A flying or in the air jump kick I believe is 3 or 4 points but I am not sure. So now you’ve got Olympic athletes attacking each other with foot fencing strategy and twirling toward each other like ballet dancers. This has serious made WTF sparring so boring!

Apparently in South Korea some guys got together in 2012 and decided to spar without head gear, this is the result:

Notice how cautious the fighters are where instead of just twirling and sticking a front leg sidekick out to tag for a point they are slowly feeling each other out. This is because without the points and also no head gear it is very dangerous and you can get hurt, as seen with the knockouts in the video. Taking away the stupid WTF gear such as gloves (which are absolutely unnecessary since you can’t punch the face, and chest gear is padded anyway! No one ever needed gloves in the early days of Olympic sparring, neither did I when I competed as a teenager and early 20’s because punching a chest gear does not hurt and a bare fist on chest gear does no more damage than if wearing silly gloves), adding electronic hogu that register scores, and head gear then you will get a more serious fight and a lot more action that looks exciting.

Here is some 1980’s sparring footage without head gear, and then the very end shows some head gear worn. The fighting looks more realistic and combative:

I remember when Olympic sparring was really respected since it was full contact and knockouts are legal. People would call sport Karate foot fencing. That is point fighting where you can only lightly touch each other and they stop the match at every point so no one can counter. This is because people would stick out a lead leg to touch for a point before the other guy could touch them first. It is really a stupid sport and one a disdain and have absolutely not shred of respect for. Even Shotokan light contact sparring is somewhat combative with only crisp technique scoring and combative movements (even that is boring to me). Now days with the point system of large points scored for head and turn kicks, no emphasis on punches scoring, the gloves, the electronic hogu (I guess head gear is okay and does not take too fun away and in a way is necessary for young people) Taekwondo sparring has simply become continuous foot fencing and it sucks. I really hope they change the rules because Taekwondo is going out of style fast, is no longer the world’s most popular martial art, and Taekwondo sparring almost got kicked out of the Olympics (instead they kicked out Wrestling, which is another issue in itself). If Taekwondo wants to remain relevant it has to adapt to more combative formats of competition and make them available. Sport competition needs various rule formats for Taekwondo for different types of sparring events: Olympic sport, Kickboxing etc. and whether knees and elbows are included or not; as well as an emphasis on self defense over sport.

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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. 

 

ITF Sparring Is Just As Stupid Looking And Unrealistic As WTF Olympic Sparring

        There is an argument that has been going on for a very long time in Taekwondo circles about which is better, the ITF or WTF. The evidence suggested for this is how the ITF spars compared to the way the WTF spars. The problem is that so many ITF onlyists complain about the “WTF style” of Taekwondo. They constantly cannot grasp the fact that the WTF is not the style of Taekwondo, but a tournament organization with its own rules set for Taekwondo sanctioned by the IOC. Yes, the WTF ONLY recognizes the Kukkiwon as proper ranking for Taekwondo and only accepts black belts who are Kukkiwon certified to fight in the Olympics. And rightly so! But the WTF is not a style. At least the IOC recognizes that true Taekwondo is from Korea, in Korea, and is recognized by the KTA. The ITF branched off with its own agenda a long time ago and even began to spell Taekwondo as “Taekwon-Do” to differentiate itself. Anyway, despite all of this the evidence for ITF being better than WTF/Kukkiwon is most cases is the sparring.

Since many of the Kukkiwon recognized dojangs in the world seem to practice for WTF sparring I guess this accusation of “better than WTF” is legitimate, even if the Kukkiwon does have a full system of combat for self defense and individual instructors can spar anyway they want in their gyms. I teach Kickboxing with my Taekwondo in my program and focus on self defense and free range of striking to various targets which are illegal in WTF rules. I also do teach WTF rules sparring out of formality and in case people want to enter tournaments for fun.  Anyway, let’s compare ITF sparring with WTF sparring and see which style is better, or which is more realistic.

ITF World Championships 2013 Finals

Well what i see is foot fencing, both fighters keep their arms down exactly the same as a WTF athlete does. They may be allowed to punch the head which is cool, but how often was any of that done in this fight? It seemed more kicks were thrown, the typical front foot touching and some spinning type or jump kicks tapping the other person. It is nice they do not have to wear chest gear or head gear, but it looks as if ITF is light contact and not full contact fighting. This would be why they do not need head gear unlike the WTF sparring where knockouts are encouraged. The ITF fighters stand bladed out sideways and hop around. Is this realistic or serious fighting? I don’t think so. It looks almost identical to the WTF sparring.

WTF World Championships 2013 Finals

Well both fighters kept their arms down exactly like the ITF guys. They both used the front foot-fencing kicks. Yes, there are no head punches allowed but where was this important in the ITF fight? There are some jump spin type kicking in this fight as well. The fighters are both bladed out sideways. Even though the rules are really full contact the chest gear and the way the fighters are trying to get points keeps them from going all out like a kickboxer would. Is this realistic or serious fighting? I don’t think so either. It looks almost identical to the ITF sparring.

Which styles were more realistic? Answer, both were equally as stupid and unrealistic looking as each other. No real difference. ITF Onlyists claim that ITF is deadly and hard sparring is a joke when all of the evidence of various fights all look this way. There is no real difference, and the head punches do not change the way they fight much or make it better. At least WTF is full contact and knockouts are encouraged. Last time I was around ITF people the officaly rules were light contact and even “point break Karate” style of fighting. Only on YouTube years later did I see people doing continuous sparring, and this might be a thing in eastern Europe more so than the USA. Who knows, whether it is continuous or not the sparring looks dumb as any current WTF tournament looks dumb.

The key to which martial art of Taekwondo is true or better would be in the overall exploration of the plethora of techniques each teach, the theories behind their movement,  as well as historical linage. Unfortunately the sine-wave theory in ITF Taekwondo is bogus and their historical linage is also flawed. They are their own thing, and nowhere are they the true spirit of South Korean people and their sparring also is ineffective and proves nothing. The only way to settle it is to take both styles outside of tournament rules and have them fight. Not going to happen. But we can still see by observation the fallacious arguments the ITF onlyists promote. I find even more funny the ITF apologists who claim to have studied both WTF and ITF Taekwondo and think that gives them super credible arguments. That amuses me.

Taekwondo Looking More Like UFC A Possibility…Or Not

        World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) President Choue Chung-won in 2013 explains in an article about the loss of popularity that Taekwondo Olympic sport fighting has taken over the years. He said it is due to things such as spin kicks being given dominance and more points which causes fighters to spend more time on jump spin kicks making the sport look like a badly choreographed ballet. Also, punches are barely ever scored and taking away the punch emphasis is bad for Taekwondo. He suggested making the shape of the ring in an octagon with mesh fencing around it.

WTF President Choue Chung-won

Some traditionalists for Taekwondo WTF sport do not like this idea and claim it will make Taekwondo like the UFC, but President Chung-won says that is actually a good thing. The only bad idea I think he has is to change the uniform to look like a sports jersey. That would not help TKD but make it just like any average sport. The dobok is much like the gi in Judo. Changing the dobok would make most dojangs copy them only, and the self defense and grabbing techniques of Taekwondo could be lost since most schools would not worry about it by wearing basketball jersey type uniforms. Taekwondo is a martial art with wonderful traditions and it would be sad some of them got lost over a silly uniform change. Keeping a regular dobok would work fine. If they just allow the sleeves to be rolled up, or given shorter material on the arms it would solve the problem.

Imagine this shape with mesh fencing.

The changes the WTF president Chung-won is mentioning are actually good ideas, minus his uniform idea. But the whole wire mesh, octagon shape idea would be very hard for local tournament promoters to get since it would cost so much money. The electronic scoring itself is hard enough to come by and makes Taekwondo a sport for the rich. The problem with Olympic competitions and the USAT is they only allow the rich to compete in high profile tournaments with all of their money making schemes like buying a special uniform for that year, electronic scoring, and high tournament fees for example. I do wish the rules would change and allow face punches, leg kicks, and ever solid shot on certain areas should be only 1 point no matter what the technique. Making everything 1 point solves so many of the ugly and idiotic looking movements that WTF Taekwondo practitioners train for today, since all they worry about is how to work the point system in their favorite. So stupid technique that is not really something a martial artist would use in a fight is trained for in order to score points in tournaments. Making Taekwondo more combative and realistic will only make the entire world Taekwondo culture more martial in nature and Taekwondo can regain its focus on effective fighting techniques and self defense with a more combative sport on the side than the foot tag ballet they claim is full contact today. Hardly anyone is hitting full contact now since they don’t have to to score points. Just simply tag the censor and make the siren go off and that will help you win.

Taekwondo sport needs to be more combative with a larger range of target options with legs and face punching allowed. Even adding knees and elbows would be exciting but it is obvious that is pushing it. And to all of the people who claim “the real TKD is ITF sparring” you need to understand that ITF sparring is still point tag and officially it is not even full contact and ends up looking just as stupid as WTF competitions.

Finally, Taekwondo needs to have an option for post-amateur fighting. Where do Taekwondo fighters go after they win in the Olympics? Where do they go after they get through amateur competitions? Then what? There is no money in Taekwondo for professional competitions. if Taekwondo created a more serious and full contact fighting sport for paid professional fighters like they do for boxing then Taekwondo would stay more relevant. Boxing rules change a lot after amateur competitions with a lot more movements and punches allowed. Taekwondo needs to do the same thing only with kicks and knee strikes and more. Get rid of the silly scoring sensors and go to Taekwondo Kickboxing. MMA and Kickboxing as well as Boxing does not need electronic scoring to know who wins a fight. Turning Taekwondo into “Fencing” is one reason Taekwondo is boring. Watching Fencing is boring to me since it is not even like an actual sword fight. Taekwondo became that way when they made electronic scoring socks, gloves, head gear and chest gear mandatory.

With opinions such as WTF President Choue Chung-won it gives hope that some Koreans involved in Taekwondo are seeing the light and hopefully will stop commercializing Taekwondo as bad as it has been done the past couple of decades which made it nothing more than silly ballet foot tag and performance art and not a real combat system.  Hopefully more Grandmasters and officials involved in the organizations of Taekwondo will see the dominance of MMA as a reason to make Taekwondo more combative, which means more fun and more exciting, and more of a true Martial Art!