The Tao of Taekwondo

Notes and reflections from a deeper practice of traditional taekwondo

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Form falls apart

On the subject of for some reason, my form was falling apart. Left leg roundhouse kicks were weak, and my self-defense sparring was also not too strong. I need to work on this stuff, throw more kicks at the bag and find a way to train one steps without a partner.

I'm working on a creative poomsae, or a revision of my creative poosmsae that I designed for my black belt test for a demonstration on Saturday. More soft forms in it, to contrast with some hard strikes.

Perhaps more um. More um.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

The benefit of struggle

Photo by fuksija

Taekwondo is about personal awakening as well as physical development. There is no learning in plush comfort. There is no one who can do your conditioning for you. When you don't want to work out, become aware of why. When you lose your form and you become frustrated, become aware of your frustration.

Struggle contributes to our awakening.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Training in traditional stances

Last night we were training with traditional stances. We were working with the traditional fighting stance, which is a light back stance with the fists held as if you are in a double knife hand block. We were also working with a traditional front stance, which is a front stance with the arms extended in a double down block. From there we worked basic kicks.

Working in the traditional stances is interesting becasue it brings me more mindfully to exectuting techniques. One must be more concentrated to execute techniques from the traditional stnces, and this is a good thing. In contrast, we spent the second half of our class training from modern kyorugi stances, more freestyle.

In traditional stances there is accountability to the form, in modern stances there is only accountability to oneself. I like the balance of both.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Leg conditioning

There is much to learn from those starting in any art. My friend and teacher Doug Gauld sent me this video of a five year old kid beginning his bagua training. Good leg conditioning drills.


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Developmental sequence

regular human --> martial philosopher --> martial scientist -> martial artist --> regular human


Endurance drills

Variations on the plank:

  • Straight plank, resting on elbows
  • Side planks, hips off the floor, resting on one elbow.
  • T plank, on a hand...too hard on the wrists for me.
I found a great list of dozens more strengthening and endurance exercises at Fighting Arts Forums

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Grappling training

Trained many grappling techniques today with my partner. We went pretty hard at each other, and I got rung a couple of times. Noticing how good it feels to experience real pain when training, to give sense of the power of techniques.

The basic technique we trained in today was courage. It is safer to move towards the opponent than away. If you can move in, your opponent cannot strike you. Moving away gives him distance. Moving in allows you to grapple and control the situation.

We also trained in open hand techniques today, including back hand slaps to pressure points. Opponent throws a punch and you step out of the way, blocking the punch and slapping the floating ribs with your left hand, then slapping the back of the neck with the right hand and follow up with a knee either turned to the outside of the leg, or delivered into the groin as a roundhouse knee. It was as we were doing this that I saw the benefit in dropping the kicking side arm for a round house kick. It allows you to pull the opponent down so you can deliver a powerful leg technique.

I'm sore. Great day.

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Thursday, August 9, 2007

Conditioning drills

In our training today, some intensive physical drills:

  • Front leg and roundhouse knee lifts, on the spot and moving.
  • Some crawling exercise where we started in a push up position, walked out legs up to our hands and then walked our hands out to a push up position.
  • A standard walking swinging leg exercise, leg extended in front and then behind.
  • Repeated roundhouse kicks, including multiple front leg and sequences of switching rear leg kicks.
  • Several sets of push ups, sit ups and crunches.
  • We also worked out roundhouse kicks, very slowly to focus on form.
All of these drills are good solo training drills as well.


Weight transfer on the roundhouse kick

The last little while I have been noticing that my execution of the roundhouse kick had something big in it that could be shaved off. I have been really sensing into the transfer of weight to get into a fast rear leg roundhouse kick. What I have been noticing is a feeling of moving up a hill before anchoring my weight and then kicking. I've been frustrated a little at this sensation, and I have noticed that it makes it hard to recover from a kick. Holding back a little doesn't seem to help either.

So today, I brought it up with my master and we worked on my thinking a little. We tried different ways of conceiving of the kick, and then we hit on something. He asked me to imagine a rod extending from my head down through my leg, and that all of the movement in the kick happens around this axis. I tried this for while and it made a marked difference to my speed. I had much more control and I was able to execute a double kick with more precision. In addition to working on this new way of dealing my weight, he also reminded me that the way I have been kicking (for the past four years...!) is a resourceful way to kick; it's the basis of a very aggressive attack.

So I have something new to work on now, which is cool. It comes from that ability to break techniques down into minute pieces, in order to find the places where I can find efficiency.

Smoothing out the hills.


Saturday, August 4, 2007


Photo by Gary*

Rooting in the ground. I am working these days on developing a strong root, to balance my stances and to develop more power. Drills include:

  • Stomping. Before I run through my poomsae, stomping on the ground for a minute or two, to lower my centre of gravity.
  • Moving along the ground with "mud feet" cultivating the sensations that my feet are stuck to the ground.
  • Practicng blocks by executing techniques from the hips, trying not to worry about anything about the tan jun, especially for upper body techniques. Bringing my awareness lower.
In taoism, the earth is pure yin (or um) energy. It is receptive. A surface that is being struck is receptive too. We use these um energetics to create yang energy which is what is delivered in the strike.

See these old tress above? Rooted.

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Thursday, August 2, 2007

Training in beautiful places

Photo of the Inner Harbour at Victoria by quaelin

I love training outdoors. Tonight I am in Victoria, BC., and as the sun set over the Inner Harbour I found myself with a large soft patch of grass and a commanding view. I stahsed my things under a tree, kicked off my sandles and stood on the grass, my feet sinking into the lush lawn. "Alright I thought, a little workout to notice my feet." I focused on where my body was contacting the ground and then I proceeded through a little improvised half hour workout by the rays of the fading twilight. It went like this:

  • Poomsae: Kibbon, Taeguek 1-8, Koryo and Kumgaeng
  • two reps of squat front kicks kicks (ten each side)
  • An exercise I call "throwing ki" where I stand in a horse stance and quickly throw my hands loosly infront of my face. But I focus on my feet and hips to turn it out. my hands and fingers are loose, flapping all over the place, but everything else is tight.
  • Some bent over side kicks against a tree.
  • Some push ups and stretches
Taoism is about being at one with the natural world. There is no substitution for training outside from a taoist perspective.