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Beyond the obvious in search of excellence

Bill Burgar is not someone most Tae Kwon Do practitioners will have heard of. This is mainly because he’s a Karate guy. Bill has done what very few people in modern martial arts do today. He spent 5 years looking at one pattern and seeing how he could apply the moves in a street self-defence sitution. When he found a technique he then scored it using an excellent measuring system to see if it actually was practical for use on the street. The criteria he used to score the techniques are listed below are pretty much self explanatory.

– Proactive
– Keeps Initiative
– Keeps Initiative
– Maximises Safety
– Maximises Redundancy
– Workable with adrenaline
– Works with instinct
– Maximises Predictable Response
– Unbalances the opponent
– Leads the mind of the opponent
– Low Maintenance
– Range
– Simple
– Transferable Skills
– Overall Balance of Pattern

I was so impressed by the his book ‘Five Years, One Kata’ that I decided I would interview him for ‘Combat’ and ‘Traditional Karate’ and after doing so I decided that I would look at my applications (as well as the applications that I taught to students) and rate them using this.

So why did I choose the above title? Because hopefully you’ve been reading this series of articles and by now you can understand the message I’m trying to put across. For those that are truly interested Tae Kwon Do is a martial art, not a sport that looks like a martial art. It contains pretty much everything you need to defend yourself both unarmed and armed (put a knife or short stick (kubotan perhaps) into your right hand and try the application below, it works just as well) within the patterns taught every day, you just need to look for them. In previous articles we’ve looked at how Wedging Block can be used to choke people, and to bring them in and strike points on their chin. Both defences were against grabs, the very technique that wedging block was designed to defend again. We haven’t rated them using Bill’s theory however and so I thought I’d introduce another way of looking past the obvious whilst seeing how well the technique rates.

My student Ray and I are currently working our way through the Tae Kwon Do syllabus. As well as a 3rd Dan in Taekwondo, I hold a black belt in a self-defence based system called Aikoushin Jitsu under Dave Baker and Ray just got his Brown belt (1st Kup) in it as well. Because of the latter fact I decided that whilst we would keep going through the Tae Kwon Do syllabus in order to get him to black belt in the system that we would dedicate an entire night every week to training on pure street applications (Practical Self-Defence) using the techniques from the Tae Kwon Do patterns.

Part of the training involved Ray coming at me with an attack and me doing whatever my body decided to do in order to defend myself.

The attack was a swinging in punch and my defence? Wedging block straight from Do San. This is something that I’ve never done before but decided to keep and drill due to the effectiveness. Let’s look at the technique first and then rate it second.

1. Ray swings his right-handed punch at me
2. I step in and use my forearms to block him mid-forearm with my left hand and right hand going into his bicep.
3. I wedge my hands out my left hand slips to his wrist and my right hand shoots along him arm and into his neck points.
4. I kick forward with right leg into his right leg whilst pushing with my right hand.
5. Ray is now either completely face down on the ground or in a spread-eagled and uncomfortable position.

So now we move on to rating the actual technique. For the sake of the article I’ll use the following. Very Bad – Bad – Good – Very Good – Excellent. It’s up to you whether you use this or not or just go with pro’s and con’s. Before writing this article I hadn’t actually sat down and gone the various steps set out by Bill in order to rate it in such depth so let’s hope it scores well!

This is not a proactive appliation. I’m actually allowing my opponent to attack me in order to apply it and so scores the lowest possible. The immediate grab and followup however allow me to not only gain control of the opponent but to strike into a vulnerable area.
Rating: Good to Very Good

Keeps initiative
As with above this scores lowly to start with but then reaches the higher end of the scale as you continue to strike and control the opponent before taking them to the ground.
Rating: Good to Very Good

Maximises Safety
Protection of the head is good as both hands are up and in front. My forearms are cutting in and I’m pressing towards his attacking arm whilst stepping in so I’m unlikely to take a hit from my own hands bouncing back. My stance is rooted and my weight distribution is even. I’m not on the outside but I’m covered, rooted and well-balanced.
Rating: Excellent

Maximises Redundancy
The technique can still work even if one hand doesn’t do the work properly. I can still block the technique and it really doesn’t matter that much if I miss either the grab, strike or knee because the other two will allow me to keep going. If they’re swinging with their other arm as well then my right hand can be used to block that and I flow into right outer forearm block followed by left cross/palm/elbow.
Rating: Excellent

Workable with adrenaline
Nothing here is technically difficult. The right hand strike and left hand grabs are also pure nature and there’s no fine motor skill required to do either. The kick is kept nice and low and both the kick and punch could effectively be flailing techniques, they’re still going to work to some extent. Aspects of the opponent are kept in view all the time with my head moving in accordance to the active hand/foot. Initially though I am slightly to the left side rather than straight on.
Rating: Excellent

Works with instinct
I’m instinctively ‘covering’ my head/face with both my hands and doing so with a natural flinch repsonse, e.g., if something comes towards your face your hands come up.
Rating: Excellent

Maximises Predictable Response
I know that if I put this application in hard his arm is going to be dead and drop to the side. The strike into the neck is going to hopefully stun him and weaken his legs whilst making sure that his head keeps turned away from me.
Rating: Excellent

Unbalances the opponent
Both the initial response and the kick can unbalance the opponent. The inital technique may well cause him to bounce off of your arms with his arm going down and causing him to stumble backwards. The kick requires very little strength in order to completely floor the guy.
Rating: Excellent

Leads the mind of the opponent
The initial response can stop him dead through pain and inability to use his arm. The strike to the neck can stun him and takes his eyes away from his target and will start him thinking about defence. The kick to the leg sends him crashing face first into the pavement. He’s not going to be thinking about attacking you once you get started.
Rating: Excellent

Low Maintenance
This is simple to do it. The initial response is a flinch, followed by what can be reduced to a flailing strike into the neck and a front kick. Complete novices can do this perfectly well.
Rating: Excellent

This starts from outside of the fence so hopefully gives you decent warning of the attack coming in and works well within the range of the swinging punch. The step in closes the distance greatly.
Rating: Excellent

There is nothing advanced or complex about this technique. It’s easy and fast to perform.
Rating: Excellent

Transferable Skills
You’re practicing a flinch covering of the head, outer forearm, grab and a front kick. All of which are found throughout the pattern Do San.
Rating: Excellent

Overall Balance of Pattern
If I was solely studying Do San this is not the only technique that can be applied to a right swinging punch as the starting movements of the pattern have a good response to this attack as well.
Rating: Good

So, after looking at the technique in-depth I’m relieved to see that it’s basically ‘excellent’ and one that I should continue to train in and drill rather than discard. If it had scored lower then I would have willingly discarded it for another technique that scored higher as discarding a technique should be looked at in a positive light. If I only have a few techniques to use against a higher number of attacks then I’m less likely to freeze whilst my brain searches through a myriad of techniques in order to respond and I’m therefore becoming a better self-defence exponent.

Interestingly enough this is similar to a technique (mnemonic 3, page 148 ‘Five Years, One Kata’) in Bill’s book. I’m not sure whether this influenced the way I responded to that attack or if it’s down to the fact that Bill’s studies are so in-depth and accurate that they rightly judged the natural instinct to block one’s head coupled with the fact that Do San is my favourite pattern and so I have drilled that technique far more than others. Either way I still owe Bill a lot for writing this book and enabling me to make my Tae Kwon Do even more effective.

It’s important to bear in mind however that this is my technique in that it works for me and my body threw it out without thinking. Ray on the other hand performed a left lazy rising elbow block to my arm (completely covering his head as he did so followed by what was basically a left lower outer forearm, a slight step in and straight right cross to throat. This is straight out of Sajo Jirugi and Chon Ji, something that he has drilled in a lot more than other techniques. That is his technique. You may well find something completely different and if you do, please let the magazine know what you find!

About mattsylvester

Father of two beautiful daughters and married to the beautiful Karen, Matthew has been reading and writing fantasy and science fiction since he first read the Hobbit at the age of 7.


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