15 July 2013

Taekwon-Do Grappling: Letter & Reply

Someone recently send me the following email. I decided to post it here, with me reply beneath.


I have a question regarding taekwondo, I will really appreciate your answer on this one :)
My question is whether there is a full and complete grappling curriculum for taekwondo.
By grappling I mean clinch, ground techniques, locks, pins, takedowns etc. Would that be comparable as judo or jujitsu?
Is there any book or encyclopedia that completely and fully demonstrates these techniques?
Thank you in advance.
Looking forward to hearing from you
My best regards


Good day,

Thank you for your question.

I can only speak for ITF (Chang-Hon) style Taekwon-Do, and not for WTF Taekwondo. But WTF Taekwondo, as far as I know, do not have a grappling arsenal.

Regarding ITF, grappling style techniques are covered in two parts in ITF Taekwon-Do: First, the general stand-up grappling techniques such as the clinch, wrist locks and so on. These are generally covered under self-defence (hoshinsul) sections of the ITF Encyclopaedia. And second, ground grappling techniques which are known in ITF as ground-techniques (nuwo gisul), with a particular emphasis on specific striking and kicking techniques from the ground and can be found in Volumes 3 and 4 of the ITF Encyclopaedia.

As I understand it, General Choi did not want to standardize self-defence in Taekwon-Do because he believed that self-defence is contextual and so instructors ought to provide the type of self-defence teaching that his or her students are most likely going to need and which are most fitted for their personalities and body types. As such, the ITF Taekwon-Do Encyclopaedia does not provide any set self-defence (including grappling) syllabus. However, based on principles from the ITF Encyclopaedia, National Governing Bodies and instructors compose their own syllabi. This means that in some countries ground techniques and grappling may not be covered, while it is part and parcel of the technical requirements of other countries; similarly the self-defence curriculum may be quite diverse from one school to another -- with some that do teach grappling, and some that don't.

Regarding ITF Taekwon-Do's grapping arsenal, first their is the sweeping and toppling techniques derived from Taekkyeon. Judo had an early influence on ITF Taekwon-Do as some of the original masters had a Judo background; hence many basic break falling, throws and so on are very similar to that of Judo. (The basic principles for throwing and falling techniques with some examples can be found in Vol. 5 of the ITF Encyclopaedia.) Later, Hapkido techniques were incorporated into Taekwon-Do's self-defense arsenal, so joint-locks, pins and so on are quite similar to that of Hapkido. However, the ITF Encyclopaedia does not refer to joint-locking, only joint-breaking, keeping in mind that originally Taekwon-Do was a military combat system, not a civilian self-defense system.

Later still, the sine wave motion was introduced which follows wave and circle principles found particularly in the Chinese internal martial arts like Tai Chi and Xingyi, so some instructors -- like myself -- emulate the Chinese "chin na" type techniques to reflect ITF Taekwon-Do's current evolution. "Chin na" [逮捕] is known as "chepo sulgi" [체포술기] in Korean and translates as "arresting techniques"; i.e. these are the types of techniques used by law enforcement to control a criminal and arrest them.

Regarding a book, Tony Kemerly and Steve Snyder's "Taekwondo Grappling Techniques: Hone Your Competitive Edge for Mixed Martial Arts" is probably the only book I know of that specifically focus on ITF Taekwon-Do grappling techniques. The book follows the ITF patterns and derive specific grappling style skills from each of the patterns. The book therefore provides a systematic way of learning such techniques and could therefore work very well as a grappling syllabus, but since it follows the patterns the techniques all commence from a standing position and therefore does not really cover ground fighting, but it includes various joint locks, throws and some pins. I hope this helps.