11 July 2010

Distance and Angle

The Shaolin monk is demonstrating a very important principle, what we in ITF Taekwon-Do refer to as "distance and angle."

There is a certain phase during the execution of a technique where the technique is at its strongest -- usually during the last third of the technique. The Shaolin practitioner is intercepting the punch long before it is at its most forceful. His abdominal muscles can then easily absorb the impact.

When defending against an attack it is often best to block it before its at full extension. Block the limb further up -- not close to the end of the limb. For a punch, don't try and block the wrist, for instance, rather move in closer and block closer to the elbow or bicep. Most force and momentum is at the end of the limb; so rather move in, or move away and avoid contact altogether. Another method, the one employed by the Shaolin practitioner, is to smother the technique before it is at its strongest. Moving in, or moving out of range, concerns distance.

Another way to diminish the power of an attack is to alter the angle at which the force approaches you. Each attack is most forceful at a certain angle. By changing your own angle relative to the attack -- making sure that you are not perpendicular to the incoming force -- will lesson the impact. Look again at the video and notice that the Shaolin monk is not merely closing the distance, he is also altering the angle at which the fists hit his body.

The Shaolin practitioner is not using Ki or some other esoteric "magic" to harden his body, he is merely employing physics to lesson the power of the blows.

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