Keumgang Poomsae

Discussion in 'Tae-Kwon-Do' started by dvcochran, Nov 15, 2019.

  1. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    Keumgang has always been an intriguing form to me. As the typical student works up to 1st Gup and then to 1st Dan they are at or near the peak of their physical abilities. Tae Kwon Do, regardless of style, typically is thought to use a lot of kicks. A persons journey to 1st Dan will literally require performing thousands of kicks to become proficient. Simply put, kicking is as strong an emphasis in TKD as punching is in boxing. Being a very out fighting style, kicking skills are a main focus.
    Of course there are many more techniques and skills a person will learn. Strikes, stances, and footwork are just a few. It takes the average student about 2 1/2 to 3 years to get to 1st Dan.
    Most people "peak" at 1st Dan. Some have made getting a black belt the goal. Some people respond to the incremental progression of moving through the color belts and the excitement of reaching black belt. It is the pinnacle; the where point many people truly start their MA life as a journeyman. Experienced, but knowing there is much more to learn. This is highlighted in the progressive nature of most form sets.
    TKD as a whole uses several different form sets. ITF, WT/Kukkiwon, MDK, and the many other offshoots use various tools to train. The two most common 1st Dan black belt forms are Batsai, and Koryo. Koryo in particular highlights classic side kicks, front kicks and crescent kicks. So again, kicking is an emphasis.
    Then out of the blue come Keumgang.
    No kicks, primarily only one stance, and no new techniques. What the heck??? Boring? Yes, to many. It seems so out of place in the progressive nature of forms. On the surface, it is more akin to a Kicho or basic form. So what is the thinking of the TKD Masters who created it and placed it as the 2nd Dan form? What is the intent of this seemingly easy form at the 2nd Dan stage?
    There is quite a lot of historical perspective regarding the forms name and the pattern is associated with Chinese term for mountain.
    So, not in historical terms (which we can get into if anyone wishes) what do you feel it the logic behind Keumgang?
     
  2. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    I haven't seen @skribs post in a while. It would be great to hear form him/her.
     
  3. Dirty Dog

    Dirty Dog MT Senior Moderator Staff Member

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    Not AS much as punching is in boxing, or it would be the only striking taught.

    More like 8, in our system.

    Keumgang is also the least "offensive" form, with only three palmheel strikes at the beginning. The rest of the movements are all taught as blocks (though they certainly have offensive uses as well).
    But I must disagree with other things you say.
    Keumgang uses front, back, horse, and crane stances.
    The double mountain block is new. As is the diamond low block. A single mountain block and diamond middle block are taught earlier, and I'll agree that the student should be able to extrapolate the double and low versions from that. But they are not explicitly taught.
    Keumgang does mean mountain, and it evokes Mt Keumgang, which plays an important role in Korean mythology. But it also means diamond, unmoveable, unbreakable.
    A proper horse stance is extremely solid and immobile, while a crane stance is far more unstable.
    At this point, the student needs to learn to become the mountain, as it were. Spending a large portion of the form in crane stance is a balance drill.
    As for why it's in the order it's in, I think that is, in part, arbitrary. But there is a LOT more to Keumgang than meets the eye. It is deceptively simple. Virtually every student I've ever taught it to has said it's a lot harder than it looks.
     
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  4. paitingman

    paitingman Purple Belt

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    I'm pretty certain there is a relationship between Sip Soo/Jitte kata and Keumgang.

    As to the logic of the placement of the form, I have no idea.
    I've always loved Keumgang, but many students find it boring and can't wait to get to the next lol.

    I agree with DD that balance and solid stance are obvious key points in this form.
     
  5. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    Interesting. Is Jitte (Jitae in Kukkiwon) also a TSD form? Is Keumgang also done in TSD? We practice Sip Soo but do it with slight differences. I do see the connection with Sip Soo and Keumgang being predominately hand/stance movements.
     
  6. paitingman

    paitingman Purple Belt

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    I was referring to Jitte in Shotokan, which definitely is connected to Sip Soo in TSD.

    I just like finding connections between he arts

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  7. paitingman

    paitingman Purple Belt

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    @dvcochran
    I'm curious what applications and drills you may have been taught or worked out from Keumgang.

    Any insights on the pivot steps and turning punches? If you even see them as punches

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  8. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    Good questions. I think it makes sense to think of each move individually. That way it can be broken down into basic punches and palm heel strikes, low, middle and high blocks. Which is how the form flows with few exceptions; the mountain block/low block combo for example.
    I can see the punch but it is a stretch in application; it's advanced application at the very least. You have to back up a move to see the whole picture, especially on the 2nd punch on the right side of the long line. After the mountain block and punch, you rotate Around the person you just punched and into another person.
    Did that answer your questions?
     
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  9. paitingman

    paitingman Purple Belt

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    Yes. Similar to what I've experienced.
    I was also taught perhaps spinning around and individual after punch. Or even stepping behind and spinning them.

    I have drilled keumgang makki to stepping down side punch as sleeve controlling sweep defense into a side punch or sweep of your own. Difficult for me to clearly type out.
    Sort of raising that leg to avoid a sweep and using the arm position as grabbing the opponents arms for balance and control.
    You can step down into a punch. Or if you have good footwork and jacket wrestling skill, a sweep of your own rather than it being a punch.

    Either way a very fun and challenging way to drill Keumgang! I wish more students could try and enjoy learning from Keumgang. So many techniques to explore and movements that are not seen in other forms under kukkiwon

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  10. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    It is a very underappreciated form. As you said, the opportunities are almost endless. I have always felt that is part of the reason it is a lower BB form. As a persons "ages" and expands their horizon and understand a wider variety of options, they see much more in Keumgang than what is typically seen on the surface.

    I hope more people jump in with their views.

    I plan to continue the discussion with the other Yudanja poomsae.
     
  11. skribs

    skribs Grandmaster

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    I've brought up a lot of this before. I don't think the Taekwondo forms do a lick of good for teaching Taekwondo kicks the way they're to be used in Taekwondo. I also think the Taekwondo forms are like Rorschach ink blots - you can derive from them what you want. As I'm sure you're well aware, @dvcochran , I've spent the better part of 5 years trying to analyze the TKD poomsae and figure out what the various moves are supposed to mean. And this is the conclusion I've come to.

    As to the kicks, I believe that in the 8 Taegeuks and the 4 Yudanja forms I've learned, there are a total of 2 roundhouse kicks, 2 back kicks, 0 axe kicks or crescent kicks, 0 tornado kicks, and 0 hook kicks. There is 0 use of the WT-style sparring stance, and 0 use of footwork you would see in a competition environment. Even if you add in the extra forms we do at my school (our 5 Kibon forms, my school's unique version of the 8 Palgwe forms, and variants of 3 of the Yudanja forms), we have a total of 4 roundhouse kicks, 5 back kicks, 0 axe kicks, 4 crescent kicks, 1 tornado kick, and 1 spinning hook kick. Our footwork is further from the WT-sparring style in these forms than the Taegeuks and Yudanja. The disconnect between the forms and the sparring style has been one of my criticisms of both.

    As to the forms being like a Rorschach test, I've scoured the forms looking for meaning. To summarize what I've found, the techniques in the Karate forms were diluted to teach to children, diluted again for the Japanese to teach to the Koreans, and then chopped up and re-ordered into the TKD forms. They are designed based on aesthetics, and the primary method of training the forms in KKW TKD is to copy what your Master teaches you. As far as all of my research has gotten me, I have not been able to find official applications of the forms from KKW. If there is an official application, it is not publicly available.

    What I have found is a lot of interpretations. "This move could be X, Y or Z" is a common thing I hear. But this isn't official. This is an interpretation. If that's what they get out of it, that's fine for them. I don't mean that in a passive-aggressive way. I mean that genuinely. And I mean both parts. It's great that they're getting something out of it. But that also is for them. It doesn't mean that's what everyone gets out of it.

    The final piece that led me down this road is the book "The Taegeuk Cipher", of which someone had done similar research to me (trying to find the application of the TKD poomsae) and his search led him to some Master in the Philippines (not even Korea), and how he was taught applications that were "lost". It read to me like these applications were created by the Master in the Philippines, and were marketed as being ancient wisdom lost to time. It was specifically stated that these weren't official.

    The forms are designed for athletic and aesthetic purposes. I can't find an official application of the poomsae as it relates to either WT sparring or self-defense. Any which I do find (i.e. "blocking attacks from two different attackers) would be much better if you're training footwork to simply avoid one person, instead of trying to fight like a movie star.

    Now on to Keumgang itself. This form is deceptively simple. There's a lot more balance involved in this form compared to the previous forms, especially with how long you're supposed to hold the crane stance. I had a lot of trouble when learning this form, especially wearing the TKD shoes (which have a narrower sole and are harder to balance on). The double block (with both arms in L-shape) takes quite a bit of practice to make look sharp and polished as well. It's a form that you can really tell the difference between someone who just learned it a few months ago, and someone who's been training the form for years.

    I think these are the primary applications of Keumgang - balance and dedication. It's not as flashy as Koryo, but it has a lot more going on under the surface.

    Taebaek Hyung (the 3rd Dan form) is the same way. It looks fairly simple. A lot of the stuff is similar to what we have in Palgwe #4 and #5, our blue belt forms. But doing that form properly, with the correct amount of speed and power in my techniques and combinations, left me winded. That one form tired me out more than any of the other forms I'd learned yet. It looks easy, but there's just something about the way it works you that isn't.
     
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  12. pdg

    pdg Senior Master

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    I have asked this sort of thing before when you've made this statement, but I'll try another way...

    When taught your forms, are you not told what each move is?

    As in - are you told something like "turn left into walking stance and perform a low block" or is it more along the lines of "watch me and do what I do"?

    If the former, is there no literature or teaching (through set sparring or the like) on what a low block is for?

    To my mind, that would constitute your official application - whether it meets your specification or not is a different matter.

    As for relationship with wt sparring, that would be difficult. From my research that form of sparring is a very specific set of rules that are apparently only very loosely based on a small subset of the fundamentals of the art.
     
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  13. skribs

    skribs Grandmaster

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    The former. And the literature is absolutely sparse on using the advanced techniques in the forms.

    It's kind of like a tree. At the basic level, the trunk, everything fits together. For example, a yellow belt will drill punches and kicks with the same stance and style that are used in the forms, and a lot of the techniques translate over into our self defense as well.

    At the basic level, the front stance and back stance are featured heavily in our forms, drills, and one-steps. We'll practice our blocks moving forward and backward in front stance. We'll do our forms, which are mostly punches, blocks, and front kicks, all with front stance. Our one-steps are a simple block-and-counter, such as a knife-hand block and then a palm strike in back stance. Most sparring at the basic level is non-contact, and a lot of time follows similar to our drills. At this level, everything meshes pretty well with each other, and it fits what you're talking about.

    At the advanced level, everything starts to branch off away from each other.
    • The forms start to use more complicated techniques, of questionable applicability. The basic name of the technique is used (i.e. "double low block), but the application is never drilled. I've seen most of these techniques described (for example "blocking two kicks from different attackers), but not officially demonstrated. I've seen a lot of interpretations, but it's very clear that these are personal opinions of the demonstrator, and not the official application from KKW.
    • Our self-defense drills start to deviate from what is done in the forms. At the advanced level, we really start to incorporate grabs, traps, joint locks, and take-downs. Most of our one-steps end with us kneeling over our opponent and punching them, or standing over them and breaking their arm. We don't use the complicated double-blocking techniques of the poomsae, and the techniques we do use are found nowhere in the forms.
    • Sparring starts to deviate towards WT-style sparring, which has nothing to do with the forms.
    If I were to take all three sets of disciplines, and open up three different classes, a "Martial Arts class" which just teaches the forms, a "Self Defense class" which just teaches our one-steps, and a "Competition Sparring class" which focuses on WT sparring, you would assume these were 3 completely different martial arts.

    Depends on who you talk to. Some people think WT sparring is the art, the forms are just patterns you do to get a belt, and anything else is fluff that takes away from kicking training.
     
  14. paitingman

    paitingman Purple Belt

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    @skribs nice to see you posting.

    I may have missed it somewhere but what do you personally do with the movements you cannot find an official application for? How do you end up training them?

    I've never liked the mostly blocking interpretation for a lot of movements, such as blocking two kicks at once or whatever. I learned a lot of movements more grappling interpretation, but my first teacher had background in many combat sports like Judo and Ssireum during school years.




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  15. skribs

    skribs Grandmaster

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    Train the form, reap the physical and mental benefits of the exercise and memorization, and stop wasting time trying to find the application.
     
  16. skribs

    skribs Grandmaster

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    I did just see an interesting take on the crane stance block as a setup for a rear-naked choke. The down block is holding an arm (following a block and grab), the high block is reaching around the neck and pushing up on the chin, and the knee is into the back of their knee to collapse their structure for the choke to set.

    Makes a hell of a lot better explanation than "blocking a kick from one attacker and a punch from another attacker", which is (paraphrased) the description I've seen. And it does fit the movements of the technique pretty well.

    I kind of wonder how much better these forms would be if we could actually see the technique instead of it being purely about the performance. If learning the techniques was about more than just learning a name to give you enough context to demonstrate the technique, instead of enough context to learn the technique.
     
  17. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    I have said this often; if you take Any form and break it down into individual movements, you will find tons of application. A low/high/middle block is a low/high/middle block, no matter what "tweak" may be put on it.
    I do not feel a need to have a Single interpretation of every movement in every form. This mentality is often seen in a beginner who is grasping just to understand even a single movement. But for anyone seasoned, it is with a sense awareness that we see more in every movement/skill. One of the most fun parts of the journey.

    As far as Geumgang; I do agree there is a good bit of representation in some moves, such as the Mountain blocks; however, I do think they are functional. Needing to two at the same time? Yes, a stretch, but one makes the other stronger within the motion of the block. Crane stance, mostly a balance and leg check movement to me. I often think more about what a movement/skill can NOT do.
    I often say you will know from the first time a person does Geumgang whether they are practiced in their stances. To me, this is a big, big part of the form. Someone moving through the belts too fast can be really humbled by this form. It is 'easy' as far as having no kicks, but there is sooo much more to the form than what is seen on the surface.
     
  18. skribs

    skribs Grandmaster

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    There is a difference between having a primary application and having a single application. When I'm judging a technique in a form, I'm judging it based on that primary application - what is the exact movement we're doing, and what is it we are being told we are doing? The reason I judge them this way is because if the motion fits something else better, then we should call it that. And if the motion could be done better, we should do that.

    Using the motion in Keumgang of that double mountain block as an example, there are a few situations I could see doing something similar:
    1. A double inside block to an arm, followed by grabbing their arm with one hand and striking their neck with the other. However, that follow-up isn't in the form, and the hands are way too far apart for that application.
    2. A Figure-4 throw. My right arm would be in the same position, and I'd be digging my elbow into their shoulder. But my left hand would be wrapped around my right arm, and the footwork is all wrong. So basically 1 out of 4 limbs fits.
    3. A roundhouse kick followed by a hook punch. Okay, I'm really stretching here (but this is the kind of thing I see). Instead of a stomp and a double block, I could be doing a kick and a punch. Except now I've got 2 limbs that are doing some motion that vaguely is in the same direction as the form, and my left arm is just kinda there.
    If I wanted to make a form to teach any of those applications, I would include techniques that actually resemble those applications. If the goal is to teach people, I'd want to give them something they could learn. In fact, the only reason I know those applications is because I've learned those techniques (and not from the forms).

    So I go back to: train the form, reap the physical and mental benefits, and stop wasting my time trying to find the application.

    I'll learn the applications when I learn the applications. I'll just use the forms to get my muscles used to moving somewhat in that direction.
     
  19. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    The three listed possibilities are done off/after the specific movement in the form, so that too could be near endless.
    I am saying there are variants within the specific move. An example, the Mountain block could be two inside blocks, two outside blocks, one in one out, two high blocks, a forearm strike, and more. It is one of the representative movements I was talking about, supporting the forms name and history. Is there application in that? I am not certain but it does have value.

    To your last statements; yes, forms practice done effectively is a great aerobic exercise. So is strenuous dancing but it noting in regards to learning self defense. My point being that if a person takes the mindset that a form is just a bunch of moves put together in a Pattern, that is all it will ever be. Naturally, there is added value in strength, balance, and coordination from poomsae practice which improves individual movements/skills and muscle memory. Great benefits. But the sound of your mindset is worrisome. There IS more, much more.
     
  20. pdg

    pdg Senior Master

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    It's much more of an issue imo if an instructor takes that mindset.

    Disinterest shows, and if you're trying to show someone else something that you have absolutely no interest in, or understanding of, then what are the chances they're going to get anything else out of it either?123
     
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