It’s a common belief: Taekwondo is a useless combat sport. It’s too limited to work in a real fight. The reasoning behind it: it does not allow face punches, knees, elbows, vital strikes, grapples, or kick checking techniques.

Unfortunately, the taekwondo taught by the majority of Kukkiwon-affiliated (“WTF-style”) schools reflects this stigma. Why don’t they teach these moves?

But this isn’t exactly true. The uselessness part, that is–and the part about taekwondo not having elbows, knees, et al.

No matter your background, you might be surprised at what you find in the Taekwondo Textbook by the Kukkiwon (World Taekwondo Headquarters). In this authoritative tome, you will find a much more rounded and powerful stand up striking style, complete with below-the-waist-kicks, dirty hand strikes, face punches, joint locks, and even takedowns.

In light of this, I would like to examine three interesting groups of techniques found in the official Kukkiwon Taekwondo Textbook. I think that these techniques prove that taekwondo was meant to be a serious and (relatively) complete fighting system for self-defense, not just for Olympic sparring. So if you’ve put tons of blood, sweat, and tears into taekwondo but feel like you’ve wasted the effort…don’t give up just yet.

1. Brutal Hand Techniques. The Kukkiwon textbook includes several “dirty” hand strikes. Among these are ridge hand strikes (sonnal-deung), knuckle strikes (sosum-jumeok), and claws. One of particular interest is known as jipke-jumeok, or, “pincers fist.” The index finger and the thumb make a C-shape and grip the gullet. According to the Kukkiwon Textbook, “the jipke-jumeok functions in a [sic] punch technique, but at the same time the two pincer fingers grasp and tear off the target.” Brutal.


2. Leg Checks. Taekwondo actually has both leg kicks and leg checks. The shin (jeonggangyi) is listed as a blocking surface (although strangely it is not mentioned as a striking surface). Sadly, few dojangs practice them. The Textbook lists at least three leg checks, although they look different than your average muay thai technique. First is the area-bada-makki, which is essentially a low sidekick meant to jam a foot as it rises to kick. The second is ahuro-kodeonaegi, which is an inward sweep of the shin, and looks more like something you would see from kickboxers. The third is jeonggangyi-bada-makki, a more forward check with the shin which thwarts front kicks and round kicks. All three are pictured below.

leg-checks shin-check

3. Grapples. In the Kyorugi (sparring) section of the Textbook, there are several arm bar, wrist lock, and takedown techniques. The first is the combination of an inside wrist lock and standing arm bar. Once under control, the defender gives him a nice hard knee. The second picture is a sort of an outer-reap takedown reminiscent of Judo’s o-soto-gari. Yet instead of thrusting the opponent backward and downward at the shoulder, a throat strike is rammed into the throat area, forcing them down. This is a brutal takedown which demonstrates the military heritage of taekwondo.

reap-takedown1 armbar-to-knee-strike

My conclusion is that taekwondo was meant to be well-equipped to deal with typical attacks, and its formal curriculum seems to include all the necessary skills. Taught and trained this way, TKD could make a powerful addition to your Personal Combatives. However, just because you saw these techniques in a taekwondo book does not mean you are now qualified to teach or safely practice them. You should seek out someone who is qualified to teach these types of skills — whether it be from an old taekwondo master or a muay thai instructor. (The place does not matter, just the integrity of the training.)

And don’t forget to pick up a copy of the Taekwondo Textbook!

So what do you think about this? Tell me in the comments below!