Want to learn a powerful and versatile self-defense move but pressed for time? We have a solution, and a veteran black belt is here to teach it to you! Say hello to the "Georgia stomp."

Back on the farm, plow hitches were always getting stuck because they'd fill up with dirt. If you didn't have a sledgehammer handy, the only way to knock them loose was with a good, swift kick. But not just any kick would do. It had to be what we called the “Georgia stomp."


Turns out, it was one of the best tools on the farm because it could be used in so many situations — everything from busting up big dirt clods to straightening out your hoe. It's one of your best tools in self-defense and the martial arts for the same reasons — namely, it packs power and versatility.

BASIC STOMP: As the assailant (left) approaches, the martial artist assumes a defensive stance. He raises his knee as high as possible and thrusts his foot out and down, striking the man in the groin.

Once I began studying the martial arts, I recognized that the stomping kick — also called the push kick, the piston kick or just the front kick — was nothing more than a Georgia stomp applied to self-defense. At first, I preferred the stomp to other types of kicks, probably because of its familiarity. After many years of practice, I realized I preferred it not just for its ease of use but because experience had proved it superior to other leg techniques.

Based on that experience, I've placed the stomp at the top of my hierarchy of striking techniques. What were my criteria? First, it had to be powerful because without power, it won't be effective. Second, it had to be accurate. Third, it had to incur minimal risk — including risk of self-injury and risk of counterattack. To fully appreciate these points, you must understand how to do the stomp kick correctly.

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The basic movement of the Georgia stomp entails raising your foot as high as possible, then dropping the bottom of your boot as hard as possible while simultaneously dropping your body weight onto the target. It's that simple.

Almost everybody knows how to do this, which means you already have a good idea of how to do the stomp. You probably use the basic motion all the time — for example, to break up stuff that won't fit in the garbage can. Because you've got the basics down, you need only a little practice to perfect the technique.

One reason the stomp is so powerful is it's a natural movement. You don't need to learn new skills involving foot position, balance and hip rotation. You don't even need to be flexible. The power of the stomp comes from the fact that it utilizes your strongest muscles — thigh and buttocks — in conjunction with your bodyweight. When you stomp, they merge to become an unstoppable force.

FROM A HEAD LOCK: Mark A. Jordan is caught in a bad position. He raises his foot before driving it down onto the aggressor's instep.

Right now, you're probably wondering what's so useful about stomping the ground. Well, it has nothing to do with knocking your opponent down and stomping him in the head — although that's a possibility.

You see, most people forget how important it is to target the feet and ankles of an assailant. It should be one of your top priorities in self-defense. By damaging his feet, you'll hinder his stability and mobility, and he'll no longer pose a threat.

Even though the foot and ankle are designed to withstand a lot of pressure from the bottom, they're susceptible to even a light force from above. If you've ever dropped something on your foot, even something small, you know what I mean. Now imagine that the thing being dropped on your foot is a powerful stomp.

With that much force and bodyweight behind it, there's a good chance the small bones of the foot will fracture or be dislocated. A stomp directed at the side of the ankle will force the foot to roll, tearing the ligaments and spraining the joint — which is why the technique is illegal in many competitions.

Dirty little secret of the martial arts: Any technique that's illegal in competition should be the first thing you do in self-defense.

Truth is, a broken foot will drop a guy more quickly than your best judo throw. Although the stomp should be a central element in all self-defense classes, I rarely see it taught in the martial arts. I believe it's overlooked because most people don't understand how versatile it is.

You're probably familiar with the technique that's often recommended for use when you're grabbed from behind. A stomp to the foot or ankle not only will make your attacker release his hold but also will set him up for a variety of follow-ups — assuming he doesn't drop to the ground in agony.

However, you need not wait until you're grabbed from behind to unleash the stomp. It's effective against a variety of targets, not just those on the ground. Knees and bladders are excellent choices.

Stomping a target in front of you is no different from stomping one on the ground: Raise your knee high and thrust the bottom of your foot out. You know, it's what you do when the tailgate of your pickup truck doesn't close all the way and you have to give it some help with a good, swift kick.

Unlike the snap kick, the stomp is not an upward motion. The action allows you to utilize your most powerful muscles in a natural action that generates more force than any other kick. It also allows you to move in on your opponent so you can easily follow up with another technique.

TO THE ANKLE: The defender (right) responds to a punch by moving to the outside, parrying the attacking limb and slamming a palm strike into the man's chin. He immediately chambers his foot and unleashes a stomp to the assailant's ankle.

The best way to illustrate the power of the stomp is to ask a simple question: If you needed to bust open a door, what kind of kick would you use? A snap kick? Nope, not powerful enough. A roundhouse kick? Only if you want to break your foot. A jump spinning back kick? Sure.

If you've ever done it, you know the only kick powerful enough to break down a door is a stomp. When you see what the doorjamb looks like after a door is kicked in, imagine what an attacker's knee would look like. It can be a fight-ender.

Stomping the front of an assailant's knee will hyperextend the joint, injuring the ligaments, possibly dislocating the knee and crushing the kneecap. Even stomping the side of the knee will buckle the leg, taking your foe off-balance and leaving him susceptible to a follow-up. A stomp to the bladder area may not cause serious injury, but it will cause serious discomfort. It's like getting kicked in the gut by an ornery mule. It will make your opponent double over more quickly than the smell of a dead skunk.

The same basic movement works if the target is to the side or behind you. You may need to lean slightly to the opposite side as you deliver a sideways stomp (similar to a side kick), and you'll need to lean forward to deliver a backward stomp. Both, however, start the same way as the regular stomp.

You've undoubtedly noticed that the areas you should seek to strike with the stomp are all on the lower body. The nature of the technique doesn't lend itself to attacking higher targets because it's a downward action. But the stomp is so effective precisely because of this — it focuses on low targets. All those targets are difficult for your opponent to protect, giving the stomp a high probability of success. His hands and arms will guard his head and upper body but not his lower body. His only option for dealing with your stomp is to try to avoid it.

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When you really need a strike to work, stick with a simple movement that can be done quickly and easily. For most situations, that means paying attention to a bit of wisdom that every farm boy knows and using the stomp. It may be the only kick you'll ever need.

About the author: Mark A. Jordan is a sixth-degree black belt in budoshin jujitsu under Black Belt Hall of Famer George Kirby.

Technique photos by Thomas Sanders

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To Master the Supreme Philosophy of Enshin Karate, Look to Musashi's Book of Five Rings for Guidance!

In the martial arts, we voluntarily subject ourselves to conflict in a training environment so we can transcend conflict in the real world. After all, we wouldn't knowingly train in a style that makes us weaker or worsens our position. The irony of all this is that we don't want to fight our opponent. We prefer to work with what an opponent gives us to turn the tide in our favor, to resolve the situation effectively and efficiently.The Japanese have a word for this: sabaki. It means to work with energy efficiently. When we train with the sabaki mindset, we receive our opponent's attack, almost as a gift. Doing so requires less physical effort and frees up our mental operating system so it can determine the most efficient solution to the conflict.In this essay, I will present a brief history of sabaki, as well as break down the sabaki method using Miyamoto Musashi's five elements

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"Unlike karate training outside a combat zone," Cpt. Yoon explained, "it is important here that the troops be able to turn their techniques into devastating, bone-crushing blows. There is no place for mild strikes in combat when a VC is trying to push a bayonet into your stomach."

For that reason, the compound is peppered with makiwara punching boards, and the Korean Tigers spend much time conditioning the weapons of taekwondo. Also, throughout Vietnam there are plenty of sandbags, which are used to protect all kinds of constructions. They make excellent striking bags for a karateman.

The next unit in the schedule is to display free fighting. The commander again explains that this form of fighting is used to test the Tigers' skills against one another rather than to demonstrate the actual methods of close-quarters combat, as a fight on the battlefield is nearly always over in an instant.

The sparring matches are exhibitions of technique and control. Perhaps the only recognizable difference between these and matches held in tournaments is the consistent power the soldiers put behind their blows and their concentration on hard taekwondo techniques rather than elusive ones.

Against Weapons

At last, a final group prepares to show what happens when an unarmed Tiger meets a VC with a knife or a bayonet fixed to his AK-47 rifle. Two pairs of soldiers stride to the center of the hard-dirt arena, face the commander and render a snappy salute. Then they fall into a four-man square and await orders.

Sgt. Lee barks a command, and the best of the best explode into action. One gladiator leaps for a knife that has been thrown into the arena. He jams it, hard, at another, who violently kicks the striking hand and jumps shoulder height, scissoring the attacker's neck and tumbling him forward onto the unyielding ground with a crash. The knife spins away.

Meanwhile, another black belt catches a rifle with a fixed bayonet that is thrown to him from the sidelines. With a guttural shout, he lunges for his opponent. The defender spins to the left, brings his knee sharply inward against the weapon and rolls the attacker onto his own shoulder while tearing at his windpipe. It's over in seconds.

The couples repeat the performance again and again, smashing full tilt against each other. Every time, the attacker thrusts hard with his weapon. It's just less than miraculous that the practice doesn't turn into a blood bath.

Korean Budomen

Initiated as the Capital Infantry Division, the Tiger Division was activated on June 20, 1949, in Seoul with the mission of providing security for the capital. It was charged with additional security of the 38th parallel in Ongjin in September of the same year. When the Korean War began on June 25, 1950, the division began to prove itself in heavy fighting during battles at Ahn-kang and Kyung-joo along the defense line of the Nakdong River in the southeastern part of the country.

Following the successful Inchon landing by Gen. Douglas MacArthur's forces, the division penetrated deep into the North across the 38th parallel, overrunning enemy strongholds and advancing close to the Korea-Manchuria border. As their ability became recognized, the division was committed repeatedly and saw the armistice signed while fighting at the front in the spring of 1952. They captured more than 9,920 enemy, killed more than 91,000 and seized more than 31,000 weapons. As a result of their valor, the division was awarded five ROK Presidential Citations and a U.S. Presidential Citation, an ROK National Assembly award and 42 other plaudits.

After the armistice, the division had already been dubbed with the Tiger laurel and was deployed along the front line of the central part of the Korea DMZ. They remained under continued training and constant combat readiness.

Upon approval of the National Assembly, the division was directed to combat in the Republic of Vietnam on August 20, 1965. Three separate elements arrived at Qui Nhon on November 1 after four weeks of preliminary training. That month, it received its tactical area of responsibility, which consisted of 1,400 square kilometers in Binh Dinh Province in central Vietnam. The division's general mission objectives are to protect travel routes, military installations and facilities within its TAOR and to assist the Republic of Vietnam in its pacification plan by eliminating Viet Cong in the area and helping the people rebuild their destroyed homes.

Since 1965, the Tiger Division has stabilized security within their area to an impressive degree. The TAOR itself has expanded from 1,400 to 3,800 square kilometers. As of mid-June, the Tigers had killed more than 9,000 enemy, captured nearly 3,000 and counted 4,500 defectors, as well as seizing nearly 4,000 weapons.

All this leaves little room for doubt about whom historians will count as the true elite of Vietnam combat. In the ranks of the VC and the NVA, mention of these ferocious Koreans brings shudders to the comrades. Even as he fights those from North Vietnam and the Viet Cong, the Tigerman knows that he has full command of his body and his mind. When he's faced with hand-to-hand combat, he need not rely only on the ferocity of his rifle to equalize the score. He can hammer out punches with machine-gun rapidity or swing a full-flogging kick with sufficient force to gain the advantage. When a man is trained in karate, or to be more specific, taekwondo, he's ahead of the game and the Viet Cong, that crap-shooting armada of insurgent forces, and the crack North Vietnamese troops who come to do battle. They know full well that the Tigers with their taekwondo as well as armaments are tough to beat.

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The roots of taekwondo are in Korea, and for the ROK GIs who enter the Tiger ranks, the intensive routine of training in the martial art is strictly par for the course. No doubt every Tigerman hopes to use his martial arts training sometime in a tournament as well as he does in combat. That's the dream of every GI in the ROK division.

The Tigers, under Maj. Gen. Lew Pyong Hyon and with taekwondo's Capt. Yoon, have been making headlines throughout the world. They are the only troops, it's been said, who fight fire with fire, who use guerrilla techniques and ambush techniques in much the same manner as the Viet Cong. In a war such as this — where the boundary lines are questionable, where there is no front line and where your neighbor can turn into your enemy — such techniques are indispensable. Thanks to the hand-to-hand techniques and the combat-karate emphasis of this militia, the odds are clearly shaping up in the Tiger Division's ledger. Thanks to taekwondo, the Tigers are smashing the enemy with no holds barred and, if anyone doubts it, plenty of contact!

Read Part 1 of this article here.

text by Jack E. Swift

(This article first appeared in the November 1968 issue of Black Belt.)

Scene: A group of soldiers is gathered for a bull session. The subject under discussion is the Tiger Division of the Korean army. The soldiers are engrossed. One, a lean, tanned GI, pushes back his beret, squints into the darkness and looks out to see a mountain of burning embers.

"We were on recon operations in southern Binh Dinh Province," he explains. "One night, we caught the sounds of a skirmish. My squad leader held up his hand and when he smiled, we knew we were in for some action. As we approached the area, we were a little surprised that there was no small-arms fire, but we could hear a lot of guys yelling.

"When we got there, it was an unbelievable sight. Here were those Korean troops in close-quarters combat with what must have been superior forces, as there were [Viet Cong soldiers] all over the place. I've never seen so many broken necks and caved-in ribs in my life. We helped clean up what was left."

So goes the legend, and just in case you're casting a cynical eye as to the Tiger Division's aptitude in the use of martial arts, the record speaks for itself. If there was ever a primer on combat karate, these troops would write it. In two grueling periods daily, every troop in the Tiger Division trains in the taekwondo method, the official karate of Korea.

At one time, there were many factions, but in the past year or so, they've all been absorbed by the International Taekwon-Do Federation, with its headquarters in Seoul. In fact, with the Koreans, and even in many areas in Vietnam, taekwondo is synonymous with karate. Numerous Vietnamese do not even understand the word "karate" — but mention taekwondo and their faces light up with recognition.

Way of Life

At Qui Nhon, division headquarters, visitors are surprised to see sparkling white uniforms — and a sea of black belts — virtually in the middle of a combat zone. While on actual operations away from their base, the Tigers work out in field gear, but at the training center, everyone wears a gi and keeps it as immaculate as any other military uniform.

On the left side of the gi, each person wears the proud division emblem of a roaring tiger. On the other side, if he's an instructor, the soldier wears a black insignia of a fist with white dots above indicating how many degrees of black-belt rank he holds.

Commander of the massive taekwondo corps of the Tiger Division is Capt. Yoon Dong Ho, himself a third dan. But the rugged, intelligent captain is no armchair commander. He's on hand daily at the dirt arena, watching the troops go through their paces and often teaching a special class of officers.

Capt. Yoon is responsible for the official taekwondo training of more than 15,000 Tiger troops in Vietnam. Although popular belief holds otherwise, there are actually more than 200 black-belt holders in the Tiger ranks. Of them, three are fourth dan, 29 are third dan, 57 are second dan and 115 are first dan. There are roughly 600 red belts and 2,300 blue belts, as well as 9,000 troops holding degrees of white belt. Approximately 2,900 men recently began their training in Vietnam. Many of these, of course, already hold rank they won in Korea.

Deployment

Each element of the Tiger infantry arriving in Vietnam goes through intensive schooling at Qui Nhon. The 26th of these classes began in July, to run just over a month. The sessions lead off with classical techniques under the direct supervision of Sgt. Jun Jae Gun, head taekwondo instructor for the Meng Ho in Vietnam. Sgt. Jun, one of the division's tough trio of fourth degrees, displays a certificate signed by Gen. Choi Hong Hi, International Taekwon-Do Federation president.

When a trooper is promoted in Vietnam, however, he's awarded a military certificate of training by his supplement company commander, who acts as a representative of Lt. Col. Jai Chun Ko, division field commander. All promotions are recognized by the federation. In cases of promotion to the higher grades, however, special recognition is often meted out. For example, Sgt. Kim Duk Ki was recently awarded his third dan by Lt. Gen. Chae Myung Shin, field headquarters commander for all ROK Forces in Vietnam.

"The major objective of our formal taekwondo classes," asserted Cpt. Yoon, "is to take the minds of our troops and replace civilian thinking with military spirit and fierceness. 'Tiger' is the nickname the division has been tagged with because of the fierce nature we have demonstrated in combat. We intend to live up to it."

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Cpt. Yoon reinforced that statement with an impromptu demonstration of his own favorite techniques. Choosing a brawny trooper with a bayonet, the captain rushed him, parrying the weapon with an onslaught of power strikes with the elbow, palm, heel and fist. He ended with a forearm strike to the windpipe, which he explained is effective when one wants to silence the enemy quickly.

Key elements in hand-to-hand combat, the commander explained, are attacking the weapon directly or the hand that holds it while simultaneously attacking the most vulnerable spot within reach, then pressing the assault to keep the enemy off-balance while finishing him.

Field Testing

Stressing physical fitness in preparation for the application of these techniques, Cpt. Yoon said his troops rely heavily on powerful, smashing blows against the smaller Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Communists. He explained that the enemies are often undernourished because of their long treks from the North and therefore may fall easily under a strong attack.

"One particular situation where we encounter hand-to-hand fighting," Cpt. Yoon said, "is when the VC hide in bunkers and Tiger patrols do not have heavy weapons available to blow [the bunkers] apart. In such a case, the troops simply go in after them. The VC stand little chance against my men in close-quarters fighting."

In addition to the training of their own infantry, Tiger taekwondo instructors teach U.S. and Republic of Vietnam soldiers, as well as other Allied Forces infantry soldiers. Presently, some 1,250 Vietnamese and 150 U.S. soldiers are being taught by the Tigers at Qui Nhon alone. At other installations throughout South Vietnam, the Koreans teach their art to Allied Forces and Vietnamese civilians of both sexes and all ages.

There are scores of Korean black belts who are not members of the Tiger Division but who teach taekwondo to the local troopers and civilians. Many of these men belong to the larger White Horse Division. Especially in populated places such as the Tan Son Nhut Air Base–Saigon area, taekwondo has become as popular as baseball is to Americans. Today, self-defense is serious business to the Vietnamese, as no one knows when a VC terrorist squad will break into his home.

The Tiger Lair

Several miles away from the main training area on the Qui Nhon Air Base where the new arrivals hold classes, the Tiger instructors have their own compound, carved out of the verdant Vietnam countryside. Bordered on two sides by mountains and banked by the South China Sea, the encampment nestles into a serene and clean-smelling natural cradle, somehow out of place amidst the turmoil of war. The site has never been successfully attacked, and no one remembers the last time even a single mortar landed within the perimeter.

The perimeter itself is defined by roll upon roll of barbed wire, machine-gun posts and sandbag-reinforced bunkers. When not actually leading class, the instructors perform most of their military duties wearing their gi, often barebacked in the all-pervading heat. Somehow it doesn't seem quite right to see a fierce fighting man carting pails of water for the makeshift shower or spreading rolls of concertina wire — until you recall how budo masters of ancient times made their charges perform menial tasks before they would be accepted. Perhaps this accounts in part for their dedication and the respectful attitude the troops invariably display.

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Cpt. Yoon decides to review the instructors' training methods, so he has the select corps organize into a squadron to demonstrate their prowess. Sgt. Lee Jin Ho, whose official title is post instructor, leads the formation. They fall swiftly into ranks. The commander steps forward and receives the squadron's salute, then turns the command over to Sgt. Ho.

At a signal, the Tigers break ranks and rush into new formations with precision reminiscent of the Roman legions. The first squad is directed to show taekwondo forms. They snap through the kata in coordinated pairs, demonstrating the adroitness that can only come from military discipline. The forms are technically the same as classical Korean karate but are executed with the confident power of soldiers who have seen what their stuff can do to a man.

The next group forms behind a line of boards, bricks and tiles. Stacks of four and five bricks, up to 15 tiles and four 1-inch boards lie before them. The unit is called to attention, salutes again and assumes a ready posture. Sgt. Lee barks a command, and a dozen heads, hands and fists smash into the solid objects. Not a single one remains unbroken.

Read Part 2 here.

text by Jack E. Swift

(This article first appeared in the November 1968 issue of Black Belt.)

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