koryo’s hidden “side kick” throw

September 1st, 2013

By Richard Conceicao, 6thDan

In Koryo there is a pair of extended arm sidekicks followed immediately by a turn and a low strike.These are commonly viewed as two separate techniques to be directed at adversaries approaching from two different directions


I have never been fond of the  “multiple opponent”  description of the poomse, as I believe it creates more confusion than it clarifies, and feel that it has little historical accuracy. In addition it obscures the grappling and throwing applications that were part of the fighting art, as opposed to the sporting one.So lets take a fresh look at the sequence. We realize from the first picture that the extended arm can’t be used as a simultaneous strike as it is too short. If the kick is hitting its intended target, the arm can’t be anywhere near it. Looking at the second picture, one is struck by the seemingly odd choice of an opening attack or defense. In an attempt to get so low, he risks blocking the next punch with his face!I would like to suggest instead that this is a representation of an inner reaping thigh throw known as an  “Uchi Mata”



In the first picture  we see the initiation of the throw. What we would normally consider the sidekick is actually placed between the opponents’ legs, and past them. This allows the extended arm to hook on the upper body in any number of places.In the second picture (at the apex of the throw) the leg is fully extended and the throwers body is beginning to turn to the rear. At the completion of the throw he will be facing the rear in exactly the low stance that we see in the form.Not only does this interpretation make sense within the movements of the poomse, it also makes sense combatively.

No longer are we faced with a difficult explanation as to why someone would behave in that manner.I believe the serious practitioner should take a hard look at the various spins and turns found in many forms, and begin to think of them in other ways.

here is video presentation of the technique:

Richard would like to thank Master Mike Barnard and his instructors  D.  Macri,  D.  Post, and  H.  Stehlik of Han Ho Martial Arts for their kind participation. Also Bob Adams of RADesigns for the photography


February 23rd, 2013



By Richard Conceicao


A movement pattern can encompass many uses—“a middle block is not only a middle block”.

Once you get away from limiting term “block” and just concern yourself with the movement interesting stuff begins to show up.  

There is an Aiki-jitsu throw where when your same side wrist is grabbed you step behind your opponent, bend your elbow, bringing the hand towards your centerline and then back out. The opponent is off balanced and falls to his rear.  If you were to pantomime this action without the opponent physically there, the entire karate/tkd world would say you were simply demonstrating a forward stepping inside-to-out middle block.

A few other examples:

  1. a.     Hair pull: very often grabbing your opponents hair, pulling his head down and back, is a very effective way of opening him up to your attack. One can imagine that the Samurai of old, with everyone’s hair in a topknot, loved this technique! 
  1. b.     Reverse Supinating Wristlock (Kotegaeshi) Once again perform this on your partner, and then do it again solo, the movement mirrors that of a middle block. 
  1. c.     Uppercut: if you were to intercept an incoming straight punch by throwing an uppercut at opponents head you would not only appear to but would in effect be doing an out-to-in middle block. Of course, this is a more advanced motion as it demands timing and a bit of courage on your part, but is easier to pull off than you think. 
  2. d.     White crane nods its head: as the name implies this is a finger chin-na from White Crane kung fu. It is done by grabbing and then hyperextending your opponents finger in a downward motion, forcing him to the floor. 

Now, one may argue that the human body can only move in certain ways, therefore it is unfair to imply that all of these techniques can be found within the karate/tkd syllabus, or that the founders were even aware of them. Perhaps, but honestly, I don’t care. As long as I can look at anything that widens the perspective I have on these arts, I am a happier man. 

The Motion of a Middle Block

February 12th, 2013


 by Richard Conceicao

Part I

               “The purpose of blocking is to maneuver your opponent into a disadvantageous position”

                                                                                                            G. Funakoshi

No form of attack ends in a block.

One of the problems with our use of terminology that always creeps up is when we define things in only one way. Even after years of practice, when we of course “know better”, we still use the same terms as a shorthand description. This closes our minds to all the possibilities that can be developed out of the motion that we describe as a middle block.

Here is a brief list of the basics:

Scooping Block (sukui-uke)                              Striking Block (uchi-te uke)

Pulling in Block (hiki-te uke)                            Sweeping Block (harai-te uke)

Trapping Block (kakae-te uke)                           Hooking Block (kake-te uke)

Opening Block (kakiwake-te uke)                      Circular Block (mawashi uke)

Single-Double Knife Hand

I have cheated a little by taking this list from Gichin Funakoshi’s “Karate-Do Kyohan”. I did this for two reasons, one-Shotokan is a primary influence on most TKD styles, and two, to show how much can get lost in translation. All of these (with the exception of the Circular) fall into what we would call middle section body blocks, with, perhaps, a further descriptive “inside to out” or “outside to in”. At this point we are pretty much done as far as common TKD vocabulary goes.

But take a closer look at the above list. Notice that they all delineate the function of the movement. Each type is used for different reasons and, as such, have different applications. In addition, each of these variants also has both a defensive mode, and an offensive mode. They are not completely identical motions changed solely by intent. Once again this shows the problems that come with a limited descriptive vocabulary, it limits our realization of possibilities.

I am not suggesting that these concepts are unknown to some TKD practitioners, or are not demonstrated in many of our forms. What I am suggesting is that the multiple variations are never really thought of as we remain fixated on the most common type—the focused striking block.

In the following sections I would like to cover some of the mechanical fundamentals, basic structural testing, alternative applications, and lastly some theoretical ones.

I suppose it is important to start at the very beginning and recognize the most elemental concept, i.e.  “How you get there is more important than where you get to.” All of the important action occurs before the final position. This applies to all of our practice, not just the subject this particular discussion. We tend to look at our movements (including those in our forms) as a series of end points. “I kicked here, I blocked here, and then I turned this way, and then punched high.” Once again, the movements that lead up to those positions, such as the initial chamber, the arcs of the hand and elbow, center line covering, and so on, are the critical components that make everything work. In fact, very often the final position can be written off as mere follow through.


You must observe the function of each component of the movement. Each motion in any form comprises a unique system in its totality.

 When you first went through learning the movements that comprised a “low block” or a “high block”, you started by separating the action and function of each arm. Where did the upper arm start and end up, where did the bottom one go. You then put both motions together and developed the ability to perform them in a smooth integrated way. You may not consider it the same but, in my opinion, these were your first forms (or kata, poomse, hyungs– however you wish to describe them), albeit much shorter than the more official ones.

Each of these white belt/simple/beginner techniques is packed with applications that are not immediately obvious, especially when you are focused on just the end position.



April 29th, 2012

by Richard Conceicao

This particular hand formation has become, in the western mind, as representative of all Asian martial arts in general; from the “judo chop” on. It is ubiquitous in all of our forms, and taught in all dojangs at some level. Obviously the founders regarded it as important. Yet, other than the forms, it is essentially absent from much of our practice, and when used, it is usually in very limited and elementary ways.

In the following discussion I would like to review some of the basics, some variations, and some common errors in the application of this technique. Some of you may feel that I am wasting your time with white belt stuff, others that I am being overly pedantic, or that I am saying my way is better. While there may be some truth to all of this, I ask that you bear with me. I have seen many injuries occur due to error, and am just expressing what has worked out best for me. Take whatever is useful.


Just in passing to mention the basics before skipping to the variants; the knuckles (pip joints) are extended backwards, distal tips (dip joints) are flexed inwards in order to properly tense the muscles of the hand. The base of the thumb is fully extended and back, the tip flexed inward.

Striking surface variations:

  1. By rotating the wrist to the thumb side (radial deviation) we expose a small bone at the base of the wrist—the pisiform. This striking surface is utilized for two basic reasons. First, it is relatively insensitive to pain. Even novices with no hand conditioning can strike a hard surface comfortably. Second, it concentrates the force in a relatively small area, making it an excellent choice for attacking acupuncture points and other vital targets. Some have argued that this curved hand forearm shape was the original Bubishi “sword hand” as it more closely resembles the shape of a samurai sword. The modern use was straightened for esthetic reasons. You can see remnants of this in the tegatana of aikido.


  1. Side of hand. This uses the fleshy musculature on the side of hand and represents the most common formation. Care must be taken because it does not use the exact side of the hand! The small bone that lies there is especially vulnerable to breakage when striking hard targets. It is the muscles that lie closer to the palm side that form the striking surface. As a result the hand must be oriented with around a 20 degree tilt off the vertical or horizontal axis to strike safely.  Those of you who look like waiters carrying a pizza will regret it sooner or later. For a quick visualization of this—place the palm of your hand on the side of your partners jaw (fingers pointing to back of their head). When you remove your hand the orientation will be almost perfect for a horizontally directed strike.



While this may seem obvious—hit what you aim at, there is more to it. Most practitioners conceive of the motion as going from side to side in a largely horizontal (albeit slightly downward arc) or straight ahead. Unfortunately, because these angles use the smaller muscles of the shoulder they tend to be very weak, and, there is no really good way to add the body weight to the blow.

Much more preferable to me is to move the hands forward in a downward arc. This applies to attacks that are straight down, sideways, or even forward. This recruits the stronger latissimus dorsi (lats) of the shoulder and enables the body weight to be put behind it, provided of course, that you remember to drop your weight. Strangely enough, when this weight shift is done properly, it will feel as if your body is slightly rising as your arm presses down.

The one essential element: The elbow must always face down!!!! As soon as you raise your elbow you lose what will feel like more than half your power. One way of visualizing this is to imagine that your arm is a hollow trough filled with water. The water represents your energy. If you raise your elbow to the side the water spills out, and your energy is lost.  This is almost a universal concept. It applies to punching, joint locks, and many throws. Always keep it in mind.



While this is an accurate rendering of the Korean, I prefer to keep in mind the Japanese word ‘uke”. This is usually translated the same in English as a block. A more accurate rendering would be “reception”. To receive an incoming attack does not denote how you will do it. You can deflect, parry, strike, press, trap, lock, or even throw. All of these are reflected in the motion of the knife hand block. I consider this multitude of applications one of the reasons it is found in so many of our forms.


The essential consideration: The chambering motion is the block; the forward motion is the attack.

This may seem strange to some, but think it through. We know from experience that in a fight there is no time to retract in order to go forward. You would end up blocking with your face. The upper hand moving from the opposite side of the body sweeps up and strikes with the knife hand by your ear. This motion both protects you from missing, and attacks the nerve points on the opponents arm or wrist. This can be areas such as Lung 6, 7 (pronated fist) or Lung 8, Pericardium 6 (vertical fist). All of these tend to numb and weaken the arm and open the hand. It also reverses the normal energy flow of the arm.  At this point the hand moves forward to attack the opponent.

There are a number of stylistic variants of this, but they all retain this essential characteristic.

Variant 1. Single knife hand: the upper hand moves back over the outstretched lower arm, deflects and then moves forward again. In this case while the upper knife hand is doing this, the bottom is actually attacking the opponents’ body. As the lower arm recedes it pulls the opponent into the upper arms forward knife hand strike. More common in Japanese/Okinawan systems but still found in many traditional TKD schools.

Variant 2. Double knife hand, rear hand chambers at waist level. The upper arm function remains the same. In this case the lower arm is used to press, deflect, and lock up the opponents’ arm to allow the upper arm a clear path to the target. This can be done from the inside or outside. The lower arm can even be used to strike nerve points on the other arm to amplify the effect of the attack. Common to many WTF schools.

Variant 3. Both arms sweep back as a cross body deflection and unbalancing. This was discussed by me in a past issue (totally TKD #?).   The forward motion can be used as a strike or throw or both. Common to ITF schools.



I am demonstrating some non blocking/striking uses for the motion of the knife hand block. As stated before there are many, and to attempt a comprehensive list would be far beyond the scope of this discussion. These are provided as a starting point to expand your thought process when practicing.

As your prior experience no doubt has shown you, the knife hand block motion is very difficult to manage effectively when directly on line with your opponent. They work optimally on a 45 degree angle. Keep that in mind as you attempt the examples below.

  1. Two middle knife hand blocks in succession. No, you are not blocking two retreating punches. As you step forward, your lead hand presses his arm downward and away. As you step forward again, maintaining the grip on his arm, raise your other arm above it (the second knife hand block) striking downward and pulling the trapped arm, throw him to the ground. The double sequence sets him up and throws him.


  1. Middle knife hand sweep down to lower knife hand block. As opponent throws outside haymaker, step in and strike arm targets (e.g. L5, PC 2, 3 etc) and neck. No chamber! Forward hand grabs arm, rear hand scoops back of neck. Move weight into back stance sweep arms around to turn him and cause him to fall. The discerning among you may have already recognized that puzzling sequence from Pyongwon.
  2. Arm bar. As punch comes in, pass it with forward hand, rear hand rolls over forearm, forward forearm presses down on elbow or upper arm (TW 11, 12). It may sound difficult but it is a simple rolling motion that is very quick. Remove the opponents arm and it looks for all the world like a double middle knife hand block!

I hope that this long presentation has something that is useful to you immediately, and that it further stimulates discussion, experimentation, and trial.


Reality and Ritual

February 2nd, 2010

Sun, 12 Aug 2007 21:35:37

by Richard Conceicao

Hello Everyone