Sometime during the haze that was college, I lived down the hall from a South Korean exchange student. We met several times a week to exchange some Judo throws for WTF-style Tae Kwon do. All in all it was a great educational experience, and I gained a healthy respect for his kicking abilities after he snapped two of my ribs like dry twigs with a side kick (right through a chest protector- so much for those). He was fast, fast, fast and his kicks were sniper-rifle accurate from any angle. However, one thing I could never get my head around was his habit of letting both hands hang down around his waist in sparring. Every time I asked him about the wisdom of this, his reply was the same: punches are not scored as highly as kicks in competition and he had never thrown a punch in competitive sparring, nor had one thrown at him, so his hands were more useful to guard against kicks. Fair enough- WTF TKD is a sport, and sports operate under rules, which in turn drive competition trends, which in turn drive training for competition. But what do you do when someone tries to punch you in a real fight? According to my friend, punches were easy to defend against: show them your back, which is less vulnerable, then move away to kick them. I immediately filed this particular piece of advice in the trash bin of my mind and enjoyed the rest of our training exchanges.
Later experiences in cross-training with TKD people and the offshoot “Freestyle” franchises that anchor most strip malls here in the States were not very different. Hand techniques were mentioned, but sparring tended to turn into foot-tag matches with the occasional leaping bop on the headgear (known as “blitzing”) to score without actually throwing a punch- it was explained to me that punches were far too dangerous in competition, so just touching the headgear with the glove was enough to count. A Freestyle place in my hometown actually penalized for contact. Half-assed round kicks from a foot away were regarded as more martially valuable than hooks or uppercuts. The more I questioned this practice, a certain rationale became evident- a)the legs are stronger than the arms, so kicking is better than punching; b)the legs are longer than the arms, so kicking is a better defense than punching. That may work fine for sport rules, but anyone who follows this rationale for self defense training will get their clock royally cleaned in a scuffle. Perhaps unfairly, I tend to lump most of the TKD/Freestyle stuff I see into that category and ignore it.
But today I came across a gem among the rubble fields of YouTube. A poster over at bodyweightculture.com shared this clip of veteran TKD and MMA fighter Ramsey Dewey demonstrating the utilities of a very powerful and fast hand technique that appears to be unknown in the sport TKD world: the shovel hook. As Dewey explains, the lower point value is no reason to eschew punching in WTF-style TKD competition. As he very capably demonstrates, inside hooks can be used to cause all sorts of trouble for kicking-fiends and set up follow-up kicks. He’s preaching to the choir here, but I would love to see this rationale find it’s way into Kick Jockey schools.
Dewey’s clip is here