07 October 2010

The Hooking Block

Most people think that the purpose of the hooking block is to grab your opponent's arm. For this reason they often do the block overly hard and fast as if to catch something in mid-air, like grabbing at a fly. This is a complete misunderstanding of the hooking block. The purpose of the hooking block is not to grab; however, it may precede a grab, which is then known as a grasping block. A hooking block and a grasping block are different, although the latter often follows the former. (In the previous post on the Standard Arm-Bar I discuss one instance of how the grasping block can follow the hooking block.)

So if the hooking block is not meant to grab, what is its purpose? I think a look at the Korean terminology may help us understand it better. The Korean for this technique is geolcho makgi 걸초 막기. The second word, makgi, means "block." The first word derives from the verb geolchida 걸치다.

Geolchida 걸치다 means to put a thing on or over something; to lay or place a thing over or across something; to extend or spread a thing over something; to cover or span something.

Examples of how this verb could be used might include:
  • Spread a table cloth over a table.
  • Cover a bed with sheets.
  • Throw a jacket over one's shoulders.
  • Span a net over fish.
The hooking block, therefore, is used to extend over an attack; basically wiping the punch out of the way by waving your arm or palm over the attacking arm. It is a soft technique used to deflect an attack by spreading the blocking tool over the attacking tool. The most recognizable method is the palm hooking blocks as seen in Yul-Gok, but also the forearm hooking block (Measure Techniques) in the beginning of the same pattern. (In my contribution "Poetry in Motion" in Totally Tae Kwon Do I explained why the first movements in Yul-Gok Teul could be understood as forearm hooking blocks.) Arguably, many different blocking tools could be used to perform this type of block, including palms, back hands, different parts of the forearms, legs and feet.

Left: Forearm Hooking Block; Right: Hooking Block-Kick

Taekwon-Do's palm hooking block is derived from Taekkyeon's hwagaedolligi 화개돌리기. Taekkyeon Master Do Ki Hyeon in his book 택견 compares the function of hwagaedolligi to a car's "wiper" 와이퍼. Notice in the video below the two Taekkyeon players using bakk (outward) hwagaedolligi and an (inward) hwagaedolligi . They do it almost without ceasing -- "wiping" potential assaults out of the way.

In Yul-Gok Teul it is hinted that the hooking block, like hwagaedolligi, is a flowing technique that often follows each other. Stuart Anslow, in his Chang Hon Taekwon-Do Hae Sul -- a book on pattern applications, gives an interesting interpretation for the two consecutive hooking blocks in Yul-Gok Teul. The first is used to block an arm; the second is used to wipe your opponent's head sideways and down, following the natural outward circular path of the hooking block. This interpretation is in line with how this technique, in its hwagaedolligi-grasping form (deolmijaebgi 덜미재비), is sometimes applied in Taekkyeon.

An important point to remember when doing the hooking block is that it is a soft block. Therefore it should not be done with tension. Also, it is performed in a circular or crescent motion and basically "wipes" an attack out of the way: Think of "wax-on, wax-off" in The Karate Kid (1984). In Taekwon-Do the circular motion should not be too big. In other words your arms should generally not pass your shoulder lines. While there are many circular motions in Taekwon-Do, they are usually conservative so as not to open too many vital spots during the execution of techniques.


See a great hooking block drill here. It is by Colin Wee on his Traditional Taekwondo Techniques-blog. Note that Mr Wee calls the technique by another name, ("open palm pressing block"), but it is still the same technique. The drill-video effectively illustrates the waving nature of the technique.


Colin Wee said...

That's a very thorough coverage of the hooking block. FYI - I've included a link from my post to yours.

We call it a pressing block because that's how my school teaches it. Our lineage is handed to us from GM Jhoon Rhee, who came to the US in 1955/6, and his version of this technique is slightly different from the current ITF version. In fact, our style requires you to do the technique with elbow up (negating the 'hooking' motion that you have indicated). For the reason it is applied in a 'pressing' manner encourages me to interpret the technique as a joint break or takedown.

Skryfblok said...

Thank you for the link.

That's quite interesting. What is the difference between this pushing and the one in the pattern HwaRang, which we (ITF) refer to as a "pushing" block?