25 March 2012

Sine Wave Motion in ITF Taekwon-Do (An Exposition)

On this page you can find the main "sine wave motion" posts I have written in a more systematic order. If you truly want to understand the principles behind ITF Taekwon-Do's sine wave motion, then read through this page and its related links.

Note that this page is not attempting to defend the "sine wave motion" from disbelievers; I'm merely explaining what it is, what its origins are, and what physio-kinetic principles it is based on. In other words, I am not trying to be the Defender of the Sine Wave Motion, but rather an Expositor of the Sine Wave Motion--an "explainer". I don't see myself busy with ITF apologetics, but with ITF exposition; not with persuading, but explaining. Hopefully with understanding will come appreciation.

The Sine Wave Motion's Contextual Origins

ITF Taekwon-Do has roots in both Japan and Korea. One can think of this in relation to Shotokan Karate and Taekkyeon. The impetus for the "unique" sine wave motion has to be understood from a Korean root. Even though Taekwon-Do is largely based on Karate, what makes it a uniquely different martial art, is its Korean kinaesthetics . Part of this kineasthetics is the traditional Korean three-beat rhythm that is prominent in Taeykkyeon and also discernable in Taekwon-Do. Any discussion about the evolution and inclusion of sine wave motion in ITF Taekwon-Do that does not Korean body culture into account is incomplete. This implies that evaluating the validity of the sine wave motion from a purely hard style, Karatesque paradigm is inherently flawed. It can be argued that the Korean kinaesthetics as seen in the sine wave motion is a manifestation of the greater traditional Korean philosophy and cosmology; in other words, the sine wave motion is congruent with traditional Korean philosophy.

Also, it is worth while to remember that Taekwon-Do was one of the first mixed martial arts of the 20th century and had several influences in its early development. 

The Basics: Sine Wave and Motion

In this post I explain the iconic "down-up-down" motion used in ITF Taekwon-Do and how it is applied in basic fundamental movements. This is the basics you will learn in a typical ITF Taekwon-Do school and also the rudimentary explanation of what the "sine wave motion" is all about if you were to ask an ITF Taekwon-Do instructor. It is important, however, to note that the sine wave motion is not ever present; it is not the only way of moving in ITF Taekwon-Do. Nonetheless, as a learning tool, the sine wave motion teaches the practitioner much about shifting one's body weight with near effortless efficiency; see for instance the post on "motion without movement".

Sine Wave's Function to Direct Body Mass in the Direction of the Technique

In this post I give a short explanation of the main principle of power generation in ITF Taekwon-Do, which is to "accelerate as much body mass as possible in the direction of the technique, with emphasis on strong exhalation, and without compromising your balance and posture." This post argues that the sine wave motion is not just used for dropping the body weight, but at a more advanced level is about accelerating the body mass in the direction of the technique, which could also be at an upward angle! A good "Taekwon-Doin knows how to 'ride the wave' and will fall and push alternately, getting lots of body mass behind each technique." In a related post I explain that the wave can occur both vertically and horizontally. The sine wave motion also works effectively as a mnemonic for teaching joint-locks and throws.

The Sine Wave Motion's Relationship with the Wave Principle and the Circle Principle

The sine wave motion is merely a manifestation of a greater principle, namely the Wave Principle. In physics, the Sine-waveform (and it's derivative, the Cosine-waveform), were derived from plotting a circle's path over the time it makes one revolution; therefore, the sine wave has a fundamental relationship to the circle. Or to put it differently: the sine wave motion is derived from the Wave Principle which is inseparably linked to the Circle Principle. These are all manifestations of the Taegeuk (Yin-Yang symbol).

If you truly grasp the implications of the animation below, then you will understand everything there is to know about how this Wave / Circle Principle applies to any / every technique in ITF Taekwon-Do.


"[Sine] Wave Motion" in Other Martial Arts / Sports

The Wave / Circle Principle is hardly unique to ITF Taekwon-Do and can be found in many other martial arts as well, most noticeably in the so-called "soft styles". One can also observe it in non-martial art physical activities. 

Important Outside Sources 

    • "ITF Taekwon-Do and Sine Wave as 'Sequential Motion'" [PDF]  by International Instructor Manuel Adrogué is a MUST READ article on the topic.


Brett Kraiger said...

Hi Sanko

What an awesome collection of articles and comments on Sine Wave. As I've said to you before, I am incredibly impressed by your indepth discussions of the topic. I've put a post on The Virtual Dojang to point out your awesome work to my readers over there.

Wow... keep up the amazing content.


SooShimKwan said...

Glad you like it Brett and I hope others find it useful as well.

Chris Rae said...

Great article. However, what's missing is that the inspiration for the sine wave was when Gen Choi was on a boat and started thinking about how he was moving down-up-down.
This is according to Grand Master Phap LU, who trained and travelled with Gen Choi for many years.
Some cynics have suggested he created it just to differentiate ITF karate and WTF, but I like GM LU's story better.

SooShimKwan said...

Hi Chris Rae,

Thank you. I haven't heard this connection before. Very interesting!

Daniel Schaer said...

Hello SooShimKwan;

I am following your blog tryaing to understand all the ways we use sine wave motion in Taekwondo. As you say, "Sine Wave's Function to Direct Body Mass in the Direction of the Technique". But in some cases I seems to me we "overact" it and it produces opposite result, for example on the video when in the seconds 27 and 28 (punch).


In this case it seems to me that when punching, our corporal mass goes back, instead of goin in the direction of the technique.

What do you thing about that?.

Best regards, Daniel.

Daniel Schaer said...

Hi again,

Please, let me add another video to show you exactly what I mean (in this case well explained by Gral Choi Hong Hi).


It is clearly visible that, in the punch moment, the body mass is going backwards. I tryied to find out why this is good, but couldn´t.

Do you know?.

Thank you!