The Tao of Taekwondo

Notes and reflections from a deeper practice of traditional taekwondo

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Tan jun in self-defense

We were training some of our black belt self-defense techniques today, trying to undertsand more of the mechanics of power. Three things stood out clearly, and they are obvious, but they clicked into a groove for me today.

First, the body is a lever and the tan jun is the fulcrum, controlling the angualr momentum of an encounter means occupying the centre. At the centre is stillness, away from the centre is motion. Staying in the centre means occupying the place of stillness so that small moves generate large motions in ne's opponent.

Second, the lock is obviously important because it puts you in a position of control. But another way to think about is the one who executes the lock is the one who establishes the centre The lock is what allows you to use your centre and immediately puts your opponent on the rim, No lock, no centre, no angular momentum, no control.

Third, the real encounter, once the lock is set, is between the tan juns of both fighters. Once I am in my centre, I want to position my tan jun in a way that moves you around. I might want to lower you in which case, I will force the centre down. If I want to turn you, I project my ki away from you. Once I have control and centre, my tan jun does the work. This is different from imagining that the work of turning and leading and redirecting an opponent's energy and force happens in the extremities. It is not about hands, arms and feet, but rather about retunring to centre.

So, start in your centre, join your opponent with control, lock on to them and return to your centre, making it the centre of both of you. Move your opponent as you move one body.

This was most evident in some of our shoulder grabs techniques where part of the technique is a redirection. In shoulder grab number 3, the oppoentn moves at you with arms outstretched and you lock under and over his or her arms and drop straight to the ground while turning. The opponent will come down with you and rll out. The only motion is the dropping of the tan jun to the ground, forcing the opponent to the ground and the rotation of the body which redirects the opponents energy. A loop ensues and the opponent ends up on his or her back. It's a very efficient move.

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