Over the past couple months, and for the past several summers, I have been working with my karate instructor either individually or in small groups to decode some of our karate forms in order to find their hidden applications. Our katas, he says, are our libraries of knowledge. Only recently has it dawned on me how much information one form contains. Not only are katas valid blocking and striking and kicking patterns, but they’re immensely valuable for the grappling applications that must be teased out.
For Christmas this year, he handed me Taekwondo Grappling Techniques: Hone Your Competitive Edge for Mixed Martial Arts [DVD Included]. I should say up front that I was a bit puzzled at what I figured was an oxymoron. I practiced taekwondo for a year, and never once did my instructors admit to knowing any grappling techniques that went along with it. Even if they saved them for advanced students, I figured they would have at least mentioned the knowledge stitched into the forms. Though it’s entirely possible they didn’t know them.
Dr. Tony Kemerly and Steve Snyder’s tome on TKD grappling is an excellent read. Despite the fact that I concentrate my efforts in different martial arts, I was able to recognize on my pages movements and postures similar to those that I practice.
The book begins with a brief history of taekwondo and its effectiveness in traditional martial arts and sport competition. I was surprised to see that taekwondo has such a strong connection to Shotokan karate, as well as other martial arts. For example, the authors note that “until the year 1909, all Korean boys learned the Japanese arts of judo and kendo while in school.”
Throughout the next two chapters, Kemerly and Snyder point out where grappling can be found in blocking techniques, as well as kicking and striking techniques. The rest of the book sees the authors pick out specific sequences from taekwondo forms and explain how they can be used for grappling purposes. Keep in mind, in these contexts, grappling can mean joint locks, throws, chokes, controlling techniques and the like.
Despite not being familiar with any of the TKD forms in the book, I found a number of sequences that I could apply to my karate forms. I also enjoyed learning about the history of each form. For example, the last two forms in the book (Po-Eun and Ge-Baek) follow a linear movement that represents loyalty to the king.
Also included is a DVD. It’s not incredibly detailed with a running time of around 45 minutes (if that), and doesn’t provide footage of every move in the book, but does enough to show interested watchers what is possible with a number of these techniques.
Taekwondo Grappling Techniques is highly recommended reading for taekwondo practitioners, karateka looking to enhance their katas, or any martial artists wanting to enhance their libraries of movement.