Hwa Rang Do

Korean Martial Arts Video: Behind the Scenes of Hwa Rang Do Grandmaster Taejoon Lee’s Cover Shoot for Black Belt Magazine

Hwa rang do grandmaster Taejoon Lee in action at Black Belt magazine. In Korean martial arts video footage recently shot at the Black Belt studios, hwa rang do grandmaster Taejoon Lee — co-author of the Korean martial arts book Hwa Rang Do: Defend, Take Down, Submit — demonstrates what’s known as yongtoogi.

According to Fernando Ceballos, the author of the cover story for Black Belt’s August/September 2014 issue, yongtoogi is stand-up and submission fighting. It’s one of 10 categories of competition — including grappling, sword fighting, stick fighting, empty-hand forms, weapon forms and so on — that take place at the Hwa Rang Do World Championships.

KOREAN MARTIAL ARTS VIDEO
Behind the Scenes of Hwa Rang Do Grandmaster Taejoon Lee’s Cover Shoot for Black Belt Magazine



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“This is the world’s only decathlon of martial arts,” says Taejoon Lee, eighth-degree black belt and president of the World Hwa Rang Do Association. “Most martial artists spend months training for one fight or at most one tournament. Yet over 40 percent of our competitors will compete in 10 tournaments over the course of the two days, testing not only their skill in each category but also their endurance. Our advanced students compete in one additional tournament — yongtoogi, our submission-fighting category, which is designed to condition fighters to master hwa rang do’s self-defense formula of defend, take down, quick submit.

“My goal is not really to create champion fighters, although that certainly is fun to watch and is an excellent test of skill. My goal is to help my students develop self-defense skills, which could one day save their lives, without the ego-driven culture of full-contact fighting gyms and, most important, while preserving our martial way.”

For more information on hwa rang do grandmaster Taejoon Lee’s latest project, be sure to pick up the August/September 2014 issue of Black Belt, available digitally and at newsstands July 29, 2014.

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Taekwondo: Advanced Sparring Techniques — Volume 1

Hwa Rang Do: Defend, Take Down, Submit

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Hwa Rang Do Weapons: Taejoon Lee and the Korean Martial Art’s New Spin on Traditional Sword and Stick Fighting (Part 2)

Hwa rang do grandmaster Taejoon Lee demonstrates Korean martial arts weapons in Black Belt magazine.

Editor’s Note: This article is continued from Hwa Rang Do Weapons: Taejoon Lee and the Korean Martial Art’s New Spin on Traditional Sword and Stick Fighting (Part 1).

Circular Attack

Taejoon Lee then launches into an offensive application of the spin, upping the tempo of his footwork and movements. As the first few strikes are executed, it’s obvious he’s headhunting, unleashing heavy blows at his opponent, who can barely block in time. After each charge, Taejoon Lee backs off a bit more. Finally, he darts in with speed and ferocity, his weapon held high for a head attack. His opponent lifts his sword in hopes of blocking, but Taejoon Lee is one step ahead. Having drawn the man’s weapon upward, Taejoon Lee spins underneath, effecting a beautiful belly strike.

“A lot of martial artists say that any spinning technique is turning a blind eye to the opponent — they say that as soon as you turn your back, a straight- line technique will dominate you,” Taejoon Lee says. “That’s true — up to a point.”

To illustrate, he spins, and his opponent strikes him easily each time he does so. Point made: Using a blind spin without setting up the technique is a Hail Mary play in combat.

Taejoon Lee then shows how the hoi-jeon principle should be used: He deflects his opponent’s sword to the side, and by the time the man regains his composure and centerline control, he’s already been cut. Mentally and physically, Taejoon Lee breaks his balance, drawing him into a specific reaction and capitalizing on the opening that’s created.


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Essential Gear

With the modifications Taejoon Lee made to the safety gear, weapons training enters a whole new realm. Angles of attack and defense become less predictable — and more exciting to watch. Best of all, the improvement doesn’t apply just to bamboo swords.

Taejoon Lee walks to the side of the ring, lays down his training weapon, picks up two shorter swords and goes to work. Then he switches to a rattan stick, a pair of sticks and a rattan staff. He and his opponent go sword against sword, double short swords against sword, double sticks against staff, and staff against staff, and the flavor of each weapon remains visible throughout.

“When I first implemented sword fighting, we used the standard kumdo format and I referred to it as kumdo,” Taejoon Lee says. “But with the new safety armor and the emphasis on wider technique, we now call it gumtoogi (sword combat) or bongtoogi (stick combat).”

Hwa rang do grandmaster Taejoon Lee demonstrates Korean martial arts sword-fighting techniques.

Hwa rang do expert Taejoon Lee (left) and his opponent take up double short swords (1). Lee initiates with a left-sword strike aimed at the adversary's lead weapon (2), then follows up with an overhead strike, which the man blocks (3). Lee spins counterclockwise (4) and effects another left-sword strike to keep the opponent occupied with defending his upper body (5). To score, Lee drops to one knee and unleashes a cut to the thigh (6).

Like Against Like

In hwa rang do, impact weapons vie against impact weapons, and bladed weapons vie against bladed weapons because there are major differences in the associated strategies. With a stick or staff, students are allowed to make contact with any part of the shaft. With a sword, however, a cut must use the simulated edge and a thrust must use the tip and target the opponent’s throat guard.

“It’d be easy to allow whatever contact to score, but that wouldn’t honor the principles of each weapon’s strong points,” Taejoon Lee says. “Training should honor technique and revolve around principle. Scoring whatever just reinforces sloppy technique and dishonesty.”

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To that end, the spinning leg attacks effected with a simulated sword must be done with one knee touching the floor, and cuts that target the belly must be delivered from a standing position. Although, in reality, an edged weapon could certainly attack a leg from the standing position or the midsection from the kneeling position, the rule forces students to execute deliberate technique with a greater degree of precision. It also makes each move easier for officials to judge at tournaments, where more points are awarded for high-difficulty techniques such as spins.

Ready for Launch

To maximize the propagation of gumtoogi and bongtoogi, the World Hwa Rang Do Association has made the new weapons-sparring format open access. …

Hwa Rang Do Weapons: Taejoon Lee and the Korean Martial Art’s New Spin on Traditional Sword and Stick Fighting (Part 1)

Hwa rang do grandmaster Taejoon Lee demonstrates Korean martial arts weapons in Black Belt magazine.The two competitors kneel at opposite sides of the ring, a bamboo sword at each person’s side. They slowly don their armor. As they stand, two additional plates — called hache hogu in Korean — reveal themselves, hanging down from their belts and covering their thighs.

The referee brings them to the center, after which they bow, draw their swords and begin the bout.

So far, it looks like a standard kendo or kumdo match, but as they clash, the flavor of the fight changes — with lightning-fast spins, low-level maneuvers and attacks aimed at more than just the head and shoulders.

While numerous forms of weapons sparring are practiced around the world, none is better-known than kendo. It’s the frontman of competitive sword fighting and boasts more practitioners than any other art. However, in the eyes of many, it’s badly in need of an update, especially with respect to the variety of techniques permitted. Enter hwa rang do master Taejoon Lee.

Taejoon Lee, vice president of the World Hwa Rang Do Association and son of the art’s founder, Dr. Joo Bang Lee — as well as co-author of the landmark book Hwa Rang Do: Defend, Take Down, Submit — had his work cut out for him. The eighth-degree black sash knew that his art categorized its plethora of weapons according to how they’re used in battle — slicing, striking, thrusting, throwing and so on. He also knew that much of that versatility was prohibited by kendo’s rule structure.


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Billy Jack Flashback: How Tom Laughlin and Hapkido Techniques Master
Bong Soo Han Made a Martial Arts Cult Classic


Taejoon Lee tasked himself with modernizing his art’s method of conducting sword fights to make it more appealing to modern practitioners. He wanted a solution that would permit the greatest possible expression of technique with both bladed and impact weapons, thus preserving the Korean art’s uniqueness. And he knew that the solution would have to maintain the safety factor for which kendo is renowned.

To give a glimpse into the thought processes that went into the endeavor, he recalls an allegory from his homeland.

A Tale of Three Nations

“Three martial arts masters — one from China, one from Japan and one from Korea — came up to a massive stone wall,” Taejoon says. “The Chinese master walked up to it, touched it, gave it a little push and then, realizing the wall was solid, went to look for a way around. The Japanese master walked up to the wall and stared at it, then took a stance and proceeded to punch it repeatedly. His fists were reduced to bloody stumps, but he eventually broke through. The Korean master looked at the wall, threw his favorite jump-spinning back kick and bounced off. He shrugged his shoulders, then went to search for a way around.”

While it may sound like a cultural joke, the sociological implications of the story are spot on. The martial arts of each nation have been influenced not only by the personalities of their masters but also by the geography of the land.

Japan is a collection of islands. When attackers invaded, the locals had precious little room to retreat before ending up in the sea. Thus, it’s not surprising that their combat mindset evolved to favor powerful and direct killing techniques. Systems such as kyokushin karate and kendo exemplify this idea with their hard-charging, one-punch-one-kill mentality.

China, on the other hand, is a vast land mass. If an invader came from one direction, retreat was almost always an option. Military strategies took into account the availability of maneuvering room and thus emphasized avoidance. That gave the Chinese the chance to develop martial arts that focused on yielding before delivering a finishing blow.

Situated between China and Japan, both geographically and ideologically, Korea is a peninsular nation. Historically, that afforded Koreans the ability to retreat toward the mainland if attacked from the ocean yet forced them to develop hard-core fight-or-die skills if backed up to the seaboard. Thus, their combative tendencies exhibit both linear and circular approaches.

Hwa rang do weapon techniques demonstrated by Korean martial arts master Taejoon Lee.

Taejoon Lee (left) faces his opponent with his sword held high (1). He strikes down the man's weapon (2) before initating a hoi-jeon technique, which entails turning clockwise (3) and attacking the opponent's armored thigh (4).


Back to the Present

While striving to accomplish his task, Taejoon Lee appreciated that kumdo gave his students a chance to develop their linear sword skills in a sparring format, but he thought the standard rules prevented too many of the circular, spinning techniques that have always proved invaluable in combat.

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Korean Martial Arts Videos: Hwa Rang Do Grandmaster Taejoon Lee Demonstrates Two Visually Impressive Takedowns!

In Korean martial arts video footage pulled from the Black Belt archive, hwa rang do grandmaster Taejoon Lee, author of the Korean martial arts book Hwa Rang Do: Defend, Take Down, Submit, demonstrates two visually impressive takedowns: a spinning leg-scissor takedown and submission technique and a powerful leg-grab counter.

Born out of the martial and medical wisdom of Korea’s ancient Hwarang knighthood and organized into a modern system by Black Belt Hall of Fame member Dr. Joo Bang Lee in the mid-20th century, hwa rang do encompasses the full gamut of combat techniques.

NEW KOREAN MARTIAL ARTS VIDEO
Grandmaster Taejoon Lee Demonstrates a Powerful Leg-Grab Counter!


KOREAN MARTIAL ARTS VIDEO
Grandmaster Taejoon Lee Demonstrates the Spinning Leg-Scissor Takedown and Submission!

While other arts showcase their power primarily with punches and kicks, HRD practitioners soar through the air with whirlwind hand and foot strikes, as well as grounded locks, throws and grappling moves that demonstrate the utmost finesse.


See how another Korean martial art uses strikes for self-defense in this FREE Guide — Taekwondo Forms: Uncovering the Self-Defense Moves Within Traditional Taekwondo Patterns.


A Brief History of the Art’s Evolution as Told by Taejoon Lee

Taejoon Lee, the eldest of Joo Bang Lee’s children and heir apparent to the system, sheds light on the historical evolution of the art: “When hwa rang do first came to the United States, everyone wanted to learn how to punch and kick. The flashier moves brought in more students, so my father adjusted the curriculum and ranking system from his original Korean teaching structure to fit our new home.”

“Back then, grappling wasn’t very popular,” he continues. “People who were interested in martial arts wanted effective techniques that looked good, too. With a kick, you can generally get an idea of its power without having to feel it, but a submission technique requires experience for you to appreciate it.

“Ground grappling, by and large, isn’t as visually exciting as percussive techniques are. Just look at the way the rules have changed in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Because spectators demanded more visual excitement, the promoters restart the fights [in a] standing position if there’s too little action on the ground.”

How Dr. Joo Bang Lee’s Art Brought Flair to Its Demonstrations

Viewing footage of HRD training and demonstrations held in Korea during the 1960s, it’s easy to see that Joo Bang Lee was right on the money. Between demonstrations of their breaking and weapons prowess, practitioners can be seen performing a plethora of joint manipulations, throws, takedowns, ground-grappling moves and submission techniques.

Taking Korean Martial Arts Into the Future

Continuing with his father’s mission to make HRD a viable and well-rounded system that meets the needs of its environment, Taejoon Lee has developed a new system for training students to survive nonlethal encounters — which, no matter what some might argue, make up the majority of self-defense situations.

The three-step process combines the joint manipulations, takedowns and throws of HRD into a defend–take-down–submit format that’s an effective alternative to knockdown–and–drag-out combat.

To read more about this Korean martial art, check out Hwa Rang Do: Defend, Take Down, Submit by Taejoon Lee with Mark Cheng, available in our online store!


For more information regarding Dr. Joo Bang Lee and Taejoon Lee’s organization, visit the World Hwa Rang Do Association home page at hwarangdo.com. “Hwa rang do” is a registered trademark of the World Hwa Rang Do Association.

For more information about Dr. Mark Cheng, visit Dr. Mark Cheng’s Facebook page! …

Dr. Mark Cheng’s Top 10 Martial Arts for Self-Defense

Almost every day at Black Belt, we’re asked the same question: “What’s the best martial art for self-defense?” To find out the answer, we asked Dr. Mark Cheng, an expert in Chinese medicine and martial arts.

“I chose the following arts because of my personal experience with them,” Dr. Mark Cheng says. “While I’m sure there are plenty of other arts, systems and schools that teach outstanding self-defense, I can’t recommend them on reputation alone. It’s the actual physical experience that makes styles recommendable in my eyes.”

Muay Boran

“It’s 100-percent application from the get-go. As Col. Nattapong Buayam taught me, its simple, brutal responses make it an outstanding choice in ‘shortcut’ streetwise self-defense. It’s the forefather of the ring sport of muay Thai.

Combat Shuai Chiao

“Nothing hits harder than the ground, and combat shuai chiao capitalizes on that debilitating impact. Unlike many systems that teach throws only from a pre-established grip, it uses high-amplitude throws against the full range of unarmed and armed attacks.”

Wing Chun

“Developed as a streamlined system of self-defense for smaller, weaker practitioners, it’s one of the best-known Chinese systems, and it was the basis of Bruce Lee’s jeet kune do. Wing chun earned its reputation as a street-fighting art in the mid- to late 20th century in Hong Kong.”

Sil Lum Fut Ga

“An archetypal system of southern kung fu, it’s part beauty and part brutality. Using open-hand strikes that can break the skin, along with deft kicks delivered to unlikely targets, it’s the perfect blend of artistry, culture and fearsome fighting techniques.”

Inosanto Kali

“The Filipino system taught by Black Belt Hall of Famer Dan Inosanto is far more than just the sticks and knives that the casual observer sees. Including every possible weapon and range of combat, Inosanto’s system is one of the most sought-after and imitated arts in the world when it comes to practical self-defense.”

Jeet Kune Do

“Made famous by its founder, Bruce Lee, it places heavy emphasis on streetwise dirty fighting that employs any and every means to achieve victory. Biting, eye gouging and all sorts of techniques and tactics go beyond the usual fare taught in most traditional arts.”

Krabi Krabong

“While some would argue that this ancient Thai weapons art has no place in a discussion of modern self-defense, I beg to differ. By training the practitioner to respond reflexively to a variety of weapons in countless ranges with both armed and unarmed defenses and counterattacks, it ranks toward the top for battlefield self-defense.”

Hwa Rang Do

“This comprehensive Korean art encompasses more techniques in just its joint-manipulation section than some systems have in toto. While that breadth makes the learning process rather arduous, it also develops superb combative attributes in all ranges.”

Savate

“The French kickboxing art makes it a point to use the tip of the shoe in street and ring combat. Not just another form of sportive kickboxing, it’s superb at developing a mastery of the standing range.”

Target Focus Training

“Former Navy SEAL candidate Tim Larkin created a system that ignores stylistic boundaries and focuses on a three-part goal: penetrate, rotate, injure. Its unique training methods allow everyone from the hardened combat vet to the stay-at-home mom access to its benefits.”

Disagree with our picks? Let us know your choices in the comments field.

(For more insights on the top martial arts for self-defense, check out the complete series in the August and September issues of Black Belt magazine. To contact Dr. Mark Cheng, go to www.facebook.com/DrMarkCheng.)