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Sparring Take-Downs: Timing, Not Speed
Dr. Jerry P. Galloway, Ed.D.
I was a student and teacher of Chayon-Ryu (founded by Grandmaster Kim Soo in Houston, Texas) for many years. I founded Chun Tong Moo Do, Traditional Martial Arts, in 1983, now located in Northwest Indiana. I and my whole family earned our Black Belts from Grandmaster Kim Soo. I now have a 4th degree Black Belt from the World TaeKwonDo Federation and work with Master K. Y. Chai in Indiana. While I have been away from the Chayon-Ryu World Headquarters in Houston for several years, we remain devoted to the traditional style of martial arts training.
Chun Tong is an eclectic style with a background of TaeKwondo, Shudokan Karate, Hapkido and Chuan-Fa Kung-Fu. Our sparring style, which has always emphasized safe and controlled, yet realistic technique, has also included take-downs. A take-down is basically taking one's opponent to the ground. The technique might involve a trip, a sweep of a leg or a full body grab. In any event, the maneuver should be free from awkward wrestling and should, instead, be a direct and focused execution of technique.
Chun Tong has a rich and traditional background. Students learn through a wide variety of experiences influenced from all of the martial arts mentioned above and is influenced most directly by the Chayon-Ryu style. In particular, Hapkido employs a smooth elegance of joint trapping and limb manipulation for disarming and disabling the opponent - often taking the opponent to the floor.
Obviously, there are many techniques for self-defense when confronted while standing or walking. This article will focus on take-downs which can be employed during the full action of free sparring. Issues of the practicality of sparring take-downs is left to the reader to debate. There are certainly many opportunities in any fight to execute take-downs and this series will hopefully help martial artists add such techniques to their repertoire. It should be noted that such take-downs are typically not allowed in tournament competition. Also, serious injury can occur if students are not well trained in how to fall safely (covered extensively at all levels of training in Chun Tong). Thick safety mats should always be employed for practice. Exceptional care should be applied when executing any such technique in sparring - and probably avoid hard floor surfaces completely.
In the full speed motion of sparring, opportunities arise for taking advantage of an opponent's weaknesses, usually requiring one to be ready and quick. Timing is critical in the execution of any defensive maneuver, especially take-downs. Timing is often a matter of anticipation rather than sheer speed. Recognizing one's intentions, observing and being aware of subtle clues of movement, can provide the advantage needed to get the jump on one's opponent.
As I get older, and consequently slower, the younger generation can often beat me to the punch, so to speak. However, their signals become my clues; their errors become my successes. Often I can seduce an opponent of greater speed and agility by misrepresenting my intentions, maneuvers and vulnerability. The mere threat of a take-down can help to dampen or subdue the attacker. Experience is obviously a vital factor in such strategy.
The four maneuvers detailed below are intended to be applied in the full heat of sparring activity. Each maneuver is introduced with the attack situation. The take-down is then described only to the extent of taking the opponent to the floor. Further follow up activity is left to the reader's imagination but is assumed to be either escape from the battle or a final strike to an exposed target. (Original published article included photo series.)
I. A Running Front Kick... is directed to the midsection of the body.
1: Attacker charges with a running front kick to the midsection or higher.
2: Avoid the kick with a down block moving to the inside of the attacker which guides the kick to miss along side. The block hooks upward and captures the kicking leg.
3: Raise the kick upward flipping the attacker over backwards.
4: Simultaneously strike forward through the neck to drive attacker down onto back.
5: Finish with stomp or downward strike as necessary.
Note: Do not retreat from the initial charge.
Instead, move sideways to the opponent's inside avoiding the front kick.
This maneuver cannot be executed from a stationary position. It may be
necessary to move violently forward through the opponent. Follow with a
stomp to the head or neck.
II. A Roundhouse Kick... is directed high to the head area.
1: Opponent moves to execute a roundhouse kick with rear foot. Anticipation is critical. In response, move forward guiding front foot forward and behind opponent's supporting foot.
2: Block high & low (X-block) while facing opponent's midsection and placing front foot past and behind opponent's supporting foot. The low block hooks upward to trap the kick.
3: Pivot backwards (in direction of opponent's kick) with a strong rotation guiding opponent around your forward foot. Use forward leg to block & trip opponent.
4: Actually rotate and adjust stance further dropping opponent onto back. Follow with a knee drop to groin.
Note: Skip deep into opponent's stance
- turn as necessary to face opponent's midsection - and begin rotation
early. Be sure to block both high and low as the kick may be toward the
head or body. Grab and guide opponent completely through a 180 to 270 degree
turn. Your forward leg will be used for leverage. After falling, the opponent's
groin is exposed as easy target.
III. A Spinning Wheel Kick... is directed high possibly targeting the head area.
1: Opponent turns to execute a spinning wheel kick with rear foot. Anticipation is critical.
2: Drop low and begin a roundhouse kick (sweep) through the supporting foot (ankle) of the opponent.
3: Use a strong follow-through, guiding and lifting the opponent's leg dropping opponent to the floor.
4: Continue your flow of movement to raise and stand over your opponent.
Note: Spinning wheel kicks are usually
high and allow movement underneath. Beware of the opponent's option to
execute a straight back kick which may be confused as a wheel kick. Beware
not to strike too high in the sweep. A low contact point will yield best
IV. A Deep Skipping Side Kick... with a large skipping action targets the midsection.
1: As the attacker begins to move forward, timing is critical. Do not retreat and, instead, move forward.
2: Skip forward to catch the moment where attacker is off the ground or lightest in the stance. Execute a sweep by guiding your forward leg behind opponent catching both legs of opponent.
3: Simultaneously, execute an inside ridgehand strike (or grab) to opponent's neck area.
4: Continue your leg sweep under opponent and use striking movement to control and dump opponent to the floor.
Note: This approach, as compared to sweeping only a single leg, requires better timing to first "invite" the charge but quickly skip in to catch both legs when the attacher is lightest or off the ground. It is important to guide the attacker across in front of your body and not jamb hips thus stopping all motion.
Obviously, the strategy of using take-downs as compared to focusing on more damaging kicks and strikes can be controversial. However, such vulnerabilities can become a significant tactical advantage if not actual applied superiority. The mere threat of a take-down can deter one's opponent from a variety of dangerous and threatening techniques.
There are of course many techniques. Applying the right technique against a particular attack not only requires an analysis of the techniques involved but also an awareness of the opponent. Is the opponent a very large and heavy person? Is the opponent light weight and slim? For example, trying to sweep the leg of a large and heavy opponent may not work, while catching and lifting their kicking leg may easily topple them to the floor. Don't forget that such physical attributes can be misleading and the opponent's speed, while a factor in take-downs, may not correlate with body size.
Remember of course the earlier points about take-downs in competition and the appropriate safety concerns. Additionally, take-downs include an inherent risk of injury to joints and ligaments. So, training should only be done under the supervision of a qualified instructor.
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