Posts Tagged ‘tkd’

White Dragon Dojang Blog Ranked #13 On The Top 50 Taekwondo Blogs List

        There was a recent calculation on Feedspot that used search and social metrics to rank the top 50 Taekwondo blogs. This blog ranked #13 on the list as of January 4th 2018. I had no clue this was going on until someone informed me. I am very proud and encouraged that people read this blog and it makes me want to post more.

You can view the ranking here: Feedspot’s Top 50 Taekwondo Blogs List. I want to thank all of my readers for helping this blog produce content around the world for Taekwondoin to read, be encouraged, to get mad at and complain, develop their Taekowndo for fighting, talk trash about this blog, and more!

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I Don’t Believe In The Kwan System

        The kwan system was done away with in 1955 when Taekwondo formed as one martial art. There were a few political fights, but overall a unified Taekwondo style from the 5 original kwans were formed and eventually absorbed 5 more and thus the system was defunct. Still kwan groups and leaders had their smaller fraternities and clubs which as okay for awhile, but there really is no purpose for them anymore. The Kukkiwon unified Taekwondo into one organization and ranking structure. This was a good thing and now we have a unified system of techniques and ways of doing things to make sure everyone is doing the same martial art. With kwans there is no point to call it Taekwondo only. It would be completely separate styles much like all of the systems of Karate Japan has. Would this be a good thing? That is up for debate. But what is the intensive to recognized belt ranks of other kwan members and claim them the same if they are all different? How wold tournaments work? People would want different rules and have different standards for proper technique. The kwans were a mess and nobody agreed on things originally. The Kukkiwon brought order.

Unfortunately, even the Kukkiwon has it’s serious problems. There is a lot of corruption in the employees and officials that run it. Lots of money laundering schemes, selling of ranks, losing focus on martial arts and allowing Taekwondo to turn into performance art and dancing as well as a beauty contest. Allowing the WTF tournament organization also influence Taekwondo negatively. Taekwondoin who are serious about martial arts and believe in Taekwondo as a holistic martial art that teaches more than discipline, but actual fighting techniques are very annoyed right now. If you have been informed of the happening over the years with the Kukkiwon you would see a lot of anger is burning.

One option is to bring back the kwan system. This would not really even be a system, but systems plural. It would go back to seperated martial arts styles based off of Japanese Karate. What would they do? Keep doing Olympic sparring? Keep doing WTF approved poomsae? Or would they try to bring back the poomsae/hyung of old? Does anybody even remember them all? I doubt it. It would just become Japanese Karate again run by Korean masters which would not really serve a purpose. Otherwise, if all kwans continue to do Kukkiwon poomsae and WTF Olympic sparring what would be the point in being separate kwans?

Honestly from my personal experience the kwan system is not the way to go and the people pushing it are based on facebook groups and internet forums. Most of them act like elitists and entitled people. It is my opinion that kwans group pushers are just a giant circle jerk of people who give each other accolades like gold lapel pins, special patches, special rank certificates and other certificates. Most of them talk trash about the Kukkiwon while still participating in the official Kukkiwon certification courses like the International Master Instructors course or Hanmadang referee courses. If they hate the Kukkiwon so much why do they participate? If the Kukkiwon knows about the desire of the “rise of the kwans” they want so much why even let these people certify in something they hate? It is self defeating. Maybe it is to gain legitimacy with special certificates that make them look important an then they will turn on the Kukkiwon and say, “See? I am a Kukkiwon master and even I hate the Kukkiwon!” The Kukkiwon does not screen people for intentions unfortunately.

Many kwan pushers have turned their kwans into old men’s drinking clubs where they meet in Korea annually or wherever and drink a ton and boast about their alcohol tolerance levels and give each other certificates. A lot of these people, a big amount actually, cannot even fight. How serious are they training? many are very fat as well. I really do not want Taekwondo to go in this direction. If anyone complains, asks specific questions, or makes light hearted jokes they are deemed “disrespectful and unbecoming of a master!” So how DARE you question them!!! Then rumors spread and people try to black list you from the groups. Thankfully the Kukkiwon does not give a damn abut personal opinions and still recognizes ranks of people despite a group who tries to start negative rumors about someone.

Really what needs to be done is a Kukkiwon reformation. Taekwondo has always been plagues with political infighting. I wish it would end. I wish Taekwondo could be one thing and focus on actual martial arts and have less government intervention. It is cool the government of Korea recognizes Taekwondo and the Kukkiwon as special, but they need less South Korean politicians who are overwhelmingly liberal, politically correct and weak who allowed Taekwondo to be watered down and diluted for money. There is no warrior spirit anymore. There hasn’t been for a long time. WHat needs to happen is ONLY 8th-9th dan grandmasters should be allowed to run the Kukkiwon and be in control. No honorary ranks allowed! The president should step down and be replaced with someone of actual martial arts skill who will promote the true spirit of the martial arts. Stop claiming Taekwondo is some world peace nonsense, and just focus on it as a fighting art that honors it’s Korean cultural roots. I am sorry but Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq are using Taekwondo to kill people as seen in some of the ISIS propaganda videos. Taekwondo will not create world peace and North Korea will never become our friends. Goodwill games are political nonsense and do not do anything worthwhile. Stop the nonsense!

Taekwondo needs its’ own Martin Luther. Much like Martin Luther on October 31st 1517, who started the reformation of the Roman Catholic Church to promote Protestantism, Taekwondo (The Kukkiwon) needs someone who will step out and nail their Taekwondo 95 thesis on the front door of the Kukkiwon building. Even though there was a split with Protestantism, Luther did not intend to separate from the Catholic Church but reform it. The political leaders of the Church would not allow it, thus we have separate churches now and rightfully so. Hopefully whoever this Korean Grandmaster Martin Luther will be will be able to keep the Kukkiwon unified, but simply reformed with a reclaimed focus on actual fighting skills, the martial arts, and a holistic style that gives freedom for people. Money from WTF tournaments, Taekwondo dancing demo teams, sexuality exploitation through sexy beauty pageant girls, embezzlement, and dishonesty like selling ranks and more have extremely negatively affected Taekwondo. Nobody takes our art seriously much outside of our circles. Taewondo is always given a bad name all over the world and with the rise of MMA how can Taekwondo stay relevant with the Kukkiwon’s current focus?

I think the kwan system is not going to work and is a bad idea. I think the main people online pushing it act like elitist jerks and pretentious and seem more interested in a social club and less on training serious for martial arts skills, but if the Kukkiwon loses it’s power and everybody goes rogue Taekwondo is going to cease being important. Especially when almost anyone can pass an exam and be labeled a master even if their skill is seriously lacking.

And I know this post is going to give me tons of negative criticism and hate, but I do not live my life to impress people and try my best to spread the truth of things. I am a martial artist and I train for Mudo, not accolades and affirmation from popular elitist snobs who hate me anyway. I know I earned my rank and status and no matter what, that is what matters. Not how man certificates I can collect and gold lapel pins, and special trinkets and how much beer I can drink if I go to Korea.

 

 

When Will The MMA Community Get It? It Is Time To Start Hiring Taekwondo Striking Coaches At Your Gyms!

        The last UFC Fight Night showed a one sided beatdown of MMA legend BJ Penn who is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu prodigy. In this case, Taekwondo actually defeated Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Hard to believe I know! Many probably won’t admit it. BJ Penn could not keep on him or do anything but get hit and evaded.

Rodriguez threw a variety of kicks including a tornado round kick that bashed BJ pretty hard even though he had his arm blocking his face you could tell it still hurt. The video doe snot show the full fight, but even a hopping side kick was thrown that connected.

It is about time that the MMA community stops being biased towards Taekwondo and stops the nonsense claims that it doesn’t work when it clearly does. It is time to start giving jobs to Taekwondo masters and coaches who know the Taekwondo striking game very well and ca benefit your gyms. It is ridiculous not to. A Taekwondo striking coach deserves full respect and should be teaching fighters along side Muay Thai coaches and Boxing coaches. There is no excuse not to. Taekwondo should be equally respected as a serious skillset to teach fighters for MMA and self defense. There are going to be more beat downs like this over time and have been in the past. Taekwondo is dynamic and offers so many angles and ranges of kicking that Muay Thai does not. Taekwondo people have a new mind and idea to teach your fighters new techniques.

Stop the biased hatred of Taekwondo and start being open minded. MMA has progressed beyond telegraphed heavy kicks and boxing.

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!

I Randomly Found The Kukkiwon While Walking In Gangam

Yes I went to Gangnam and realized that the Kukkiwon is also in Gangnam. So after getting off the subway I decided to walk around in hopes of finding the Kukkiwon and before I knew it I walked right into it. WOW! Enjoy the video!

Taebaek Poomsae Application (Bunhae) (Part 1)

        Just for fun I am going to make a few simple, short, not in depth at all but just showing the techniques, videos on TaeBaek and how you could use the movements in a real fight, or self defense encounter. TaeBaek is the second black belt form and it has a few interesting movements. To the untrained eye, the overly imaginative, the martial ballet dancer, mcdojanger, and the combat ignorant these moves look like performance. They sure are, but they are a performance of martial arts techniques that can actually work in a very simplistic way. Forms are a training tool to develop the basic way a fighter moves, his balance, motor skills, and various techniques. You would not fight in a poomsae fashion, but would modify them to a quicker more accurate defense and attack.

        One day I hope to make more serious and in depth videos on such topics, but the lack of people willing to do things with me, lack of skilled people to be in such a video, and and time limit me. But nonetheless here is one short video showing a portion of Taebaek. This shows how to defense against a grab and haymaker that is often used in street attacks. It shows how to block, punch them hard, crack their knee and smash their face with your elbow. It is really strong. I came up with this idea on my own just using logical reasoning on how to actually use techniques in a realistic and simple way. All actual uses of poomsae applications will be done in a very basic and simple way. Not dramatic movements as when performing the poomsae exercise.

Diamond block to punch counter, side kick and elbow strike on the second half of Taebaek:

 

        I hope you got something out of that video. It is my interpretation of the movements on the second half of the form.

        It is a shame that sport poomsae competition does not include actual combat application training. It instead simple focuses on aesthetically pleasing movements which I believe has weakened Taekwondo and made it too soft. The WTF really should emphasize fighting applications for forms training. Also, I do not limit myself to the standard self defense ideas the Kukkiwon says, but include them as well as create my own or find my own that already existed. A lot of ideas can be found in Karate as well because they have most of the same moves.

        Poomsae is also not the full extend of moves in Taekwondo, but a small portion. The forms are just a collection of important basic movements, but there are many other moves and technique soutside of poomsae that Taekwondo has in its arsenal. Many more.

        I will try and make a few more videos on this form and show more self defense concepts from it. Just keep checking over time.

        I must say, Happy New Year people!! May 2016 give you many blessings and good Taekwondo training! May you reach your goals! Thank you for reading my small blog!

My Experience At The KTA 2015 Education Fair At The Taekwondowon

As a foreigner, being allowed to attend the official KTA 2015 Education Fair was a serious privilege. I was the only non-Korean there. It was a weekend of seminars on various topics of Taekwondo. It had the standard lectures of how to run a school, teach better, and some other less exciting topics, but the reason I went was to attend the technique classes and learn new combat concepts. I am extremely refreshed and encouraged to have seen high level Kukkiwon masters teach classes I was in about how to actually fight with Taekwondo. That is right, the Korean masters are teaching younger instructors about actually fighting and not doing performance and not only doing Olympic sparring. This was basically Korean street fighting.

My instructor, Master Jeong, from Bucheon who is a 6th dan, Kukkiwon Education Committee member, and official KTA instructor had connections to get me into the fair and take some seminars. I paid 30,000 won to attend the weekend events. That is about $30 US. AMAZING! It included food and a room with a shower and nice floor heater. It was top notch like a luxury hotel. I am so thankful to my instructor for getting me in to this. The Taekwondowon is a center for Taekwondo culture with many acres of land and several large buildings. There is the famous “Taekwondo Park” as well, but this event was in the winter so the park was not open. They were busy renovating it and repairing things. A lot of landscapers were doing work all over. The museum was not open either. I will have to go back and check all of this out. The Taekwondowon is very popular and has commercial aspects to it that may be annoying to me, but there is still enough traditional martial arts and serious things about it. It will be full of tourists when it is open. But the event I went to sponsored by the KTA was so great!

During this entire weekend event I did not understand a lot of what was spoken or written. I do not speak Korean yet and I cannot read it yet. So all of the seminars I just copied the way the master moved and positioned himself and a couple of nice Koreans helped me understand what was going on.

The first seminar I took was Sparring Coaching topics. It was taught by a Master Lee who is known for sparring and self defense. He taught various conditioning drills and footwork with kicking techniques that coaches can use for their students. It was pretty good stuff. I remember these kinds of drills back in my Olympic sparring days as a teenager.

The next seminar afterward was on the subject of Poomsae Applications. This was poomsae fighting technique. To use the techniques in poomsae for actual fighting. This class was taught by a Master Um who also wrote a book on the topic. He had us do blocking drills and using concepts from poomsae with partners. He emphasized modifying techniques to make them tighter and faster instead of doing them only the “poomsae way and speed.” I could tell he had some boxing or Muay Thai skills as well in how he would throw punches and kicks. But all of the techniques were official from WTF poomsae. He talked about targeting and adapting the strikes to whatever position the enemy is in and he was super fast! His class was a breath of fresh air to finally get poomsae techniques confirmed as for so many decades foreigners did not learn and were unable to teach applications to forms in Taekwondo. It has been lost. But like Karate teaching Bunkai it is great to know the Kukkiwon and KTA are teaching such things for Taekwondo. There were even boxing style slips and perries. This seminar was awesome and on par with the seminar I took the next day.

The next day I attended 2 more seminars. The first seminar was on Hoshinsool, straight up self defense. This session was taught by a Master Kim. Master Kang  was basically teaching us Korean street fighting and kixckboxing with Taekwondo for actual fighting. He had perries mixed with the traditional blocks and boxing style punches, bops, ducks and some kicks. He taught us various striking and blocking drills, and kikboxing types of arranged sparring drills for developing hand eye coordination. I thought this seminar was amazing. It was very action packed and he was emphasizing fighting and not sport sparring. He also wrote a book on self defense with Taekwondo that will be out in English next year.

The last seminar was right after the previous. It was a Poomsae seminar on white belt basics teaching taught by the #1 poomsae champion of Yongin University (a Taekwondo university). I never learned his name because I could not understand Korea. But he is quite famous like the others. The seminar teacing was about where feet should be held correctly, fist distance from body and other arm, and how to drills white belts to learn them. It was interesting enough, but of course I did not speak Korean and the entire seminar was basically a lecture and not an exercise class. I basically sat there clueless until he showed a couple of hand positions and stances. He even surprised I was there and said that he does not speak English, only Korean. Then he wanted to know my name. It was kind of funny.

I had a great time and it was very wonderful to learn that Taekwondo is a fighting art, not a sport and not a dance. There is a sport using Taekwondo called Olympic Sparring, but Taekwondo itself is a fighting art. That is why I train and that is what the KTA was teaching during the KTA seminar at the Taekwondowon in Muju, Korea.

Korea, The Land Of Taekwondo

        I moved to Korea and live and work here now. I will be here for as long as I feel led. I am now living in the land of Taekwondo. I will be writing more articles as time goes by about my martial arts experience in this country and give cultural insights about Korea and Taekwondo based on my experiences. I have been able to train with Master Jeong from Youtube in real life and it has been an great experience. I am excited to train in true Taekwondo and will be reporting many things in the near future. Stay tuned!

The Danger Of Oldschool Olympic Sparring

        Olympic Taekwondo sparring of the World Taekwondo Federation used to be very dangerous and scary. It took a lot of guts to get in the ring and fight someone. Yes, FIGHT your opponent, because that is what it was, a fight. Just as the sport of boxing is a fight, the sport of Taekwondo sparring was a fight. Oldschool Olympic Taekwondo sparring was dangerous. By oldschool I mean the 80’s and 90’s. Here is a clip showing how it was dangerous and how often people actually got hurt in matches. The point of sparring was to show Taekwondo superiority by beating up your opponent as much as you could and scoring hard contact points; and hopefully knocking your opponent out. This is the same as how boxing is about scoring points and also hopefully knocking your opponent out.  Check this out:

I have to apologize for the extremely idiotic music choice for this video. Not everyone has good tastes in music and I did not make this video. So just mute it.

I remember Taekwondo sparring in the 90’s and how it was actually scary and took a lot of courage, and confidence instilled in me by my instructor to be brave enough to fight, especially in the black belt division. Olympic fighters were taught to have a serious fighting spirit and lots of aggression in the ring. You let loose, and went off on your opponent with all of your techniques, trying to cause him damage through the padding. As a teenager my training was so hard that every time I had to go to class I hated it. I never wanted to do the training because it was so stressful and so painful. I did it anyway! Besides regular Taekwondo class, I was in what we called “Champions Class” which was our dojangs competition team. As a color belt I was able to eventually be trained enough to go to the Junior Olympics in 1996 and represent Oregon Taekwondo.

Training was hard, we started off stretching of course (in full padding), then we did extreme plyometrics and a load of kicking and footwork drills. It was 100% cardio and endurance. Foot work and kicking drills could be anything from shadowing it and kicking in the air against nobody just to get the move down, kicking paddles and kicking shields held by a partner, and the majority which was kicking each others chest gear. We would kick each others chest gear hard doing certain kicks over and over, and the person receiving the kick just tried to stick his chest gear out to offer some more space between his body and the kick. It did not help much. So the partner receiving he kicks got beat up going down the length of the gym and the guy kicking would do a bit of foot work then a hard kick over and over until you got to the end. There were various drills and various kicks used with full contact. Then we switched and now the other guy would then be kicking and the previous kicking guy would then be getting kicked.  Also, if we were doing defensive drills we would have to block a kick with out arms and counter. So not only is the chest gear getting kicked hard which hurts your body, but your arm is taking kicks as well and bruising up. We often had bruised arms and legs and sore torsos after every class. Hopefully we recovered the next day before the next Champions Class. We did this for 1 hour with no breaks. There was no “Hey take 2 mins to rest.” It was non-stop. Also, in our class we were taught to keep our hands up the ENTIRE class, even when the instructor was talking to us and we were standing there listening to instructions for the next drill. If we for one second put our arms down we were forced to do 10 pushups. You did not want to do any pushups after all of the crazy workouts we had to do. An entire hour of keeping your hands up made our arms stronger, but extremely sore. It was hard just to keep them up and often students would then be forced to do pushups because they were too tired to keep their hands up. You did not want to have to do pushups when being that tired. It was not a relief to do pushups at all.  The floor was wet with sweat from everyone of us. We wore our sparring gear the entire time. Full gear. This made us extremely hot with drenched doboks underneath that added to the sweat on the floor. Our head gear caused our entire heads to be dripping. All of the hard workouts while wearing sparring gear took a huge tole on your endurance. Working out when you are burning up from the heat makes you even more fatigued. After 1 hour of training we spent 30 solid minutes with full contact sparring. So an entire Champions Class was 1 hour and 30 minutes long, if not more. Class was of course the last class in the evening and was done after standard class of basic Taekwondo training such as poomsae, basics, self defense, curriculum class.

When we did full contact sparring we actually did full contact sparring. No one said, “Hey be light and easy on each other.” We just actually fought in class. Once in awhile a person would take a very hard blow and get hurt and have to sit out the rest of class. But often, our pads and our technique helped us to simply take a huge beating on our bodies and arms just short of shutting us down. It may have been better to get knocked hard so you could quit class, but the gear protected you from that and forced you to keep taking hard beatings. The padding does not exist to make sure nothing hurts, it simply exists to make sure you do not receive a serious injury (which you would if there was no padding worn). So padding still allows you to feel pain and get bruised up.

In tournaments we were told to just fight and go off and win. Just to try your best even if you lost was what made our instructor proud. Not to quit. One of the scariest tournaments I had to fight in was when my instructor forced me as a blue belt (5th gup) to fight in the advanced division of red/brown/black belt. 9th-10th gup and 1st dan and above. I was 15 years old and in the 15-17 year old division. I beat a brown belt and actually beat on him pretty hard and scored the points to win. It was a battle of endurance. I even gave him a 10 count. After that I had to fight a Korean American 1st dan who was pretty solid. I went off on him and did total aggression and did so many body punches he was literally hurt. The problem was, body punches did not “score” if they were hooked upward, or too close. A punch that scored was a straight punch of a full extended arm that created a trembling shock on the opponents body. That means it would have to move him back or cause his torso to be displaced for a moment. Close in punches may hurt your opponent and cause him pain, but they do not cause the kind of “off balance” shock the judges looked for. Also, this was the start of rule changes that awarded jump kicks a lot more points. A jump kick occurred if both feet left the ground even if it was 1 inch high. The Korean American kid worked the system by slightly hopping at moments and scoring chest gear points. I may have kicked him more and harder, but his few hopping kicks scored higher. I would say I lost this match by a point or 2, but I literally beat him up and he was hurt at the end and also very resentful. He was pretty pissed off at me after the match and did not even want to shake my hand when I went up to him afterward. It is because he knew he got his butt kicked even if he got the win. After this I realized the tournament rules were changing. The reason I went so crazy was because I was scared! I am a blue belt fighting advanced levels! I was fighting a black belt! I was proud that I was a true fighter in this tournament even if I lost and I made my instructor proud.

In the 80’s and 90’s Olympic Sparring was about fighting. You beat each other up through the pads. Now days with rule changes of various scoring values and electronic scoring gear, it has now become a game of working a system to register a point with the electronics in the chest gear and other parts of the padding. The chest gear is much thicker now and more like armor than padding. It is also very expensive now to buy such gear and only wealthy people can afford to compete at the high tournament levels. Olympic Sparring while having its rules for very limited techniques such as no face punches, was still a fight and still scary to do.

Olympic Taekwondo Sparring instilled in me a fighting spirit and the will to win. It was an important part of my martial arts training and was very valuable. Black belt division was when tournaments got really serious and more dangerous. Knockouts were legal and expected. I learned many lessons about combat through it all. Over time I began to be disenfranchised with it as the rules were changing to make it less combative, and I realized that I started martial arts training to learn how to save my life in a real life situation. I began more to focus on self defense without rules limiting how I could win a fight. This was also the very beginning stages of Mixed Martial Arts development in America. I began to see the possibilities of fighting and how Taekwondo should develop and progress through watching early UFC fighting and also experiencing my own problems with bullies and gang behavior in my own town. I also got hit by a car which caused sever injuries on my body which took away any athletic pursuits I might have had. I now focus on Taekwondo as a self defense art above sport, and prefer using Taekwondo for Kickboxing and MMA sport over Olympic Sport. Taekwondo has so many techniques that can be utilized and it is being explored because of the popularity of MMA and I find this great.

Even so, I believe Olympic Taekwondo sparring is still important to study as a student, it is part of our martial art style’s culture. A decent amount of the footwork, endurance training, fighting spirit that is developed, and tactical maneuvers can be transferred into other types of fighting with effectiveness. Olympic Taekwondo sport is a noble pursuit even with the rule changes that I disagree with, and my hate for the electronic scoring gear. I still support WTF sparring and enjoy watching it during the Summer Olympics (but not much else). It is an avenue to develop skills and life lessons in students and should not be completely ignored. Supporting WTF sparring, even as a fan, still keeps Taekwondo relevant to society and might cause people to explore Taekwondo training which is good for Taekwondo. It hopefully will cause people to see the full martial art and all that it offers beyond sport. I may not like everything the WTF does, but still can appreciate the sport for what it is. I could never see how one can be a true Taekwondo black belt and never have once competed in a WTF affiliated tournament (such as your local state tournament every year). I personally believe WTF affiliated tournaments are a rite of passage for the Taekwondo student and should be mandatory to earn a black belt. It is an experience that cannot be taught in the dojang. It is okay to focus less on it than other things, but should not simply be forgotten. There is value in it.

Hand Shapes Of Taekwondo

        There are various hand shapes one can make for Taekwondo hand striking and other upper body techniques. Here is a video showing some hand shapes you can learn and experiment with. These techniques are in most traditional striking martial arts as Karate, Kung Fu, and Taekwondo all use them for self defense. These techniques are not in any Taekwondo forms, but that does not mean they do not exist, or that somehow these hand shapes are not Taekwondo techniques, they are. The Kukkiwon also teaches multiple hand positions to use for striking. There are more hand shapes one can make that are not in this video as well, these are just most of them.

The more you move your hand into such positions with your fingers the more dexterity you will have because of joint flexibility and muscle strength in the wrist and fingers developing.