Eager to learn the advanced components of your martial art? Taekwondo master Jhoon Rhee says you're better off focusing on doing the basics better.

It would be tough to come up with a bigger name in the taekwondo world than Jhoon Rhee. A pioneer in the Korean martial arts and a two-time Black Belt Hall of Fame inductee, the taekwondo master was one of the first to spread the kicking art in America, and he promoted it tirelessly until he died on April 30, 2018. All martial artists would do well to heed Jhoon Rhee’s advice, especially if they’re interested in developing power, speed and accuracy at the advanced levels of training. — Editor One of the most common mistakes all martial artists make — not just taekwondo students — is assuming that the positions and techniques they learn as a white belt are for beginners and the positions and techniques they will learn as a black belt are somehow more effective. So says taekwondo legend Jhoon Rhee. He claims there is little, if any, difference between the moves a newcomer learns during his first few months and the self-defense moves a 20-year veteran would use on the street.


Advanced Techniques in Taekwondo

“So-called advanced techniques are really just basic moves coupled with speed and accuracy,” Jhoon Rhee says. “Advanced training comes from one source: the performance of many, many repetitions. Each basic move must be repeated over and over again to become part of you.” Learning a striking art such as taekwondo is like learning how to drive a car, he explains. “First you learn the basics. You are nervous for a while, but pretty soon you become more used to doing everything. Later you don’t even think about it. You just drive because it becomes part of your body. “In other words, the only way to become a skilled martial artist is to learn how to perform automatically. Train so much that your arms and legs operate on their own. You should not even have to think about executing a specific technique. Your hands should be like heat-seeking missiles, guiding themselves to their target.”

Diligent Training for Better Taekwondo

To rise to such a level of proficiency, Jhoon Rhee recommends practicing taekwondo or your chosen martial art a minimum of one hour a day. “You must put your heart into it,” he says. “Train until your arms and legs become sore. That’s the only way you can be sure your muscles are developing.” To maintain good balance and form while you are striving to make your moves flow, pretend you have a glass of water on top of your head, he says. “If you learn how to kick and punch without letting it spill, you will become a well-balanced martial artist. And you will be able to isolate the motions involved in various techniques, which better develops the muscles needed to perform each movement.” Go here to read "10 Things You Didn't Know About Taekwondo Legend Jhoon Rhee." His argument that there are no advanced techniques includes his assertion that his Jhoon Rhee taekwondo system — and, to a certain extent, all striking arts — are composed of 12 basic stances:

  • high closed stance
  • high open stance
  • high back stance
  • high twist stance
  • low closed stance
  • low open stance
  • low back stance
  • low twist stance
  • front stance
  • front-kick stance
  • side-kick stance
  • round-kick stance

The earlier you master these stances, the better off you will be because they will crop up throughout your martial arts career, Jhoon Rhee says. They are not positions you learn as a yellow belt and never see again.

Essential Positions of Taekwondo

Progressing in taekwondo or another striking art also requires learning the 12 basic positions, Jhoon Rhee says:

  • attention
  • bowing
  • ready
  • folding
  • chopping
  • punching
  • front kick in
  • front kick out
  • side kick in
  • side kick out
  • round kick in
  • round kick out

Power in the execution of a technique from one of these basic positions emanates not from any sort of black-belt secrets, but from the use of the hips, Jhoon Rhee says. “Force equals mass times acceleration, so power comes from your body weight, your mass. When you multiply that by acceleration, the rate at which speed changes, you get force. It’s as simple as that.”

Click here to read Jhoon Rhee's "7 Qualities of a Martial Arts Champion."

Just as repetition boosts accuracy, it also boosts speed and, therefore, power. “Repetition will develop your muscles,” Jhoon Rhee says, “and muscles will enable you to move your body with power — just like a black belt.” Text by S.D. Seong • Color photos by Sara Fogan

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