30 March 2015

Congratulations to Horangi Students

Back: Instructor Gerhard Louw and Stephani
Front: Hussain, Tlotlo, Katlego, Sena, and Andreas
The Soo Shim Kwan is proud of Instructor Gerhard Louw and the students from the Horangi Dojang in Groblerdal, who recently participated at the Northern Gauteng and Northern Provinces regional tournament in Pretoria, South Africa. The six Horangi participants won 10 medals in total. Well done to you all!

06 March 2015

Vacancies at Korean University for BJ/Muay Thai Instructors

Kyongbuk Science College < http://golfma.kbsc.ac.kr/ > is the first university in South Korea to offer a major in Mixed Martial Arts. Kyongbuk Science College has produced many famous athletes such as the Korean Zombie, Jeong Chan-Seong, Im Hyon Seong, and others. In 2015, for a more systematic education, the university is interested in recruiting two well rounder foreign (non-Korean) instructors with extensive experience in Brazilian Jiujitsu and Muay Thai respectively.


  • The candidate should have a four year university degree or higher qualification. (The field of study is not important, but needed for processing the visa in order to work at a university in Korea. A relevant degree, for example in Sport Science or Physical Education, may result in better pay and benefits.)
  • The candidate must be able to communicate and teach martial arts concepts in a clear, well structured way to young athletes that use English as a second language. 
BJJ Position Requirements:

  • A black belt in Brazilian Jiujitsu from a reputable affiliation, 
  • with proof of BJJ teaching experience. 
  • Previous exposure to an MMA environment may be useful. 
Muay Thai Position Requirements:

  • Affiliation with a reputable Muay Thai association such as the IFMA, 
  • and proof of Muay Thai coaching and competing experience. 
  • Previous exposure to an MMA environment may be useful. 
Responsibilities: The teacher will lecture and coach students in the Sports Department.

Remuneration: 2, 000 000 ~ 3, 000 000 Won (Roughly US$2000-US$3000) per month depending on degree and experience.

Housing: Dormitory housing on campus will be provided.

Duration: One year contract, with the possibility of renewal.

The contract is negotiable.

Please send your resume ASAP to itfkimhoon@hotmail.com

02 March 2015

The Value of Patterns (Part 2): Kinaesthetics (Part 3: Controlled Power)

This is the last post for the time being on the kinaesthetic value of the ITF patterns and was published in Issue #72 of Totally Tae Kwon Do Magazine.

In my previous discussion of the value of the ITF patterns I discussed the emphasis put on accelerating as much body mass as possible in order to achieve greater force. There is however a danger in over-zealously forceful techniques, which will be the discussion of this instalment.

ITF Taekwon-Do has an obsession with power generation. Fundamental Movements are often idealized techniques for generating tremendous amounts of force by accelerating as much body mass as possible in the direction of the technique, be it block, punch, strike or kick. Although generating force is the primary goal, it is trumped by keeping proper posture and maintaining balance. The ITF practitioner wants to generate as much force as possible, but without compromising posture and balance. Fundamental Movements, as practised in the patterns, are a way to practise powerful techniques; however, the power is curbed just enough to maintain good posture and balance.

A light-hearted video of a man zealously punching but missing the target,
leaving him in a potentially compromised position. 

Let’s look at some examples. Imagine punching a target, such as a punching bag, as hard as you possibly can. Now imagine doing the same, but just before your fist hits the punching bag, someone suddenly pulls the punching bag away. What is likely to happen? It is likely that the momentum of your punch will swing you off balance. Another example: consider doing a turning kick as hard as possible to kick “through” the target. Let’s say your target is again a punching bag and you kick it with all the force you can muster. And rather than snapping the leg out and back as you hit the target as is the common practise in Taekwon-Do, you instead drive through with all your body mass—in effect doing a Muay Thai style roundhouse kick. And again, just as you are about to land the kick, somebody moves the bag out of range; once more you are likely to be thrown off balance, the momentum of the kick probably pulling you around exposing your back.

A tutorial for the Muay Thai roundhouse kick.

The Fundamental Movements as practised in patterns teach us an important principle, that while power generation is very important, it should never happen at the expense of good posture and balance. The Muay Thai style turning is indeed more powerful than the Taekwon-Do turning kick because it has much more momentum and drive through than the snapped turning kick. However, the snapped turning kick with the reaction force of the arms that are pulled in the opposite direction maintains much better balance and posture, whereas the momentum of the Muay Thai roundhouse kick causes the practitioner to turn and expose his flank and back, resulting in compromised positioning.

Similarly, the over zealous punch also throws the practitioner off balance, whereas the traditional martial art punch that we practise in Taekwon-Do (and similar styles such as Karate) remains full facing, rather than over extend. Certainly doing a punch as a boxer that uses big rotational forces of both the hip and the shoulder would be much more powerful. Why then does Taekwon-Do and other traditional styles often only use hip rotation, rather than also full shoulder rotation, to punch? Why do we emphasize staying mostly full-facing during our punches, when pushing the shoulder forwardwould result in deeper penetration and more force? As I pointed out before, posture and balance trumps power.

Another example we notice in blocking techniques, which are generally in a half-facing posture. A further rotation of the hips into the full-facing position would usually make the block more powerful. Over-zealous blocking are nevertheless avoided, as the benefit of a slanted body angle which reveals less of the body’s surface area and vital points outweighs the possible benefit or more hip rotation that would increase the power of the block. The Fundamental Movements as practised in the patterns teach us that the benefit of more power does not surpass exposing more vital spots.

Instead of increasing the power through over-exaggerated rotational power that may expose vital points, we attempt to increase power through dropping the body weight into the technique in the form of the sine wave motion, where appropriate. (Not all techniques benefit from sine wave motion body-dropping, but a great number of techniques do.)

Why is it that a martial art like ITF Taekwon-Do that is so obsessed with powerful techniques would so often curb its Fundamental Movements in order to maintain good posture, positioning and balance; while other styles like modern western boxing and Muay Thai throw all they have into some of their techniques? The answer is most likely to be found in Taekwon-Do’s original purpose as a system aimed at self-defence, rather than a martial sport. An over-zealous swinging punch in boxing or a big Muay Thai roundhouse kick that spins you around exposing your back to your opponent is a risk worth taking in a sport context. If the technique lands it may knock out your competitor and cause you to be the victor. If the technique misses, you may expose your back to your opponent or lose your balance and fall; however, that is a risk a competitor may be willing to take. Tournament rules prohibit lethal attacks to the back of the head or spine or kicking a fallen opponent, and there is also a centre referee who will look out for your well-being. Even in UFC, known for its brutal and high intensity tournament fighting that is often touted as “no holds barred,” strikes to the spine and back of the head or attacking the head of a downed opponent is illegal. While there is a risk in using over-zealously powerful techniques that may compromise your posture and balance, it is a risk often worth taking by martial sport practitioners because in a sport context it is nearly never a lethal risk and such techniques have the potential to ensure a victory.

However, in a martial art concerned with self-defence such over-zealous techniques that compromise balance and posture are particularly avoided. In a self-defence (i.e. life-or-death) situation, the last thing you want to do is to allow your attacker access to your back, or find yourself on the floor if it could be avoided. Traditional martial arts are therefore often conservative with regards to their Fundamental Movements when it comes to posture and balance.

Taekwon-Do is known for many “flashy” techniques. While such techniques are often encouraged in sport settings, the Fundamental Movements as practised in the patterns are by contrast very conservative. The patterns contain almost no risky, flashy techniques. In the patterns the practitioner is encouraged to practise power generation, but always in a controlled way, so as not to compromise posture and balance.

Further reading:

See also my article "Taekwon-Do Kick versus Muay Thai Roundhouse Kick" and Dan Djurdjevic's article on why traditional martial arts tend to stop their techniques at predetermined points.