Tae Kwon Do For The Streets
Korean Sport Doubles As An Effective Method
Of Self Defense
by Jane Hallander
Since Tae Kwon Do became an Olympic Demonstration sport in 1988, little attention has been given in the print media to the style’s practical self-defense aspects. The so called "experts" keep telling us that tae kwon do’s high kicks are only good for sparring competition and don’t really work on the street. Granted, if you can only kick as high as someone’s knee, you probably shouldn’t aim for his head. However, there are plenty of tae kwon do stylists who have the ability to combine effective high kicks with common-sense self defense techniques—and make them work in a street fight. Some tae kwon do practitioners even make their living by teaching the art’s street fighting applications. One of these is San Jose, California’s Chucky Currie, who was trained for more then 15 years in tae kwon do, learning from such greats as Byung Yu and Ernie Reyes. Excelling in both forms and fighting competition, Currie has won championships at such prestigious tournaments as the Battle of Atlanta, and the West Coast Nationalists. His TKD skills have come into play in his work as a personal bodyguard for show business personalities such as Richard Pryor, Prince, and Taimak. The bodyguard business has helped Currie discover exactly what works and what doesn’t in an actual altercation. To the end, he has honored his tae kwon do skills to an efficient fighting edge. "Under ordinary fighting situations, I use basic, direct fighting techniques," Currie states.
"I like to use my tae kwon do training defensively, after an attack is made against me. Techniques like sidekicks, reverse punches, wheel kicks, sweeps and takedowns are among my favorite defenses." Contrary to critics, who claims TDK jump kicks don’t work in real situations, Currie has successfully used jump wheel kicks in actual street confrontations. "High kicks and jumping kicks work just fine, if you train enough for them," Currie asserts. Your timing is important for successful high kicks. Everything must be direct, fast and flow smoothly before you can surprise your opponent with a high kick." Surprise is one of the primary reasons to use a high kick. If you surprise your assailant enough to break the rhythm of his attack, you can take control of the situation. For instance, Currie uses kicks to his advantage in punching situation by first blocking the attackers punch with his hand, then leaping into a high jump side kick to the head. Currie is so quick and direct that his assailant never sees the kick coming. Currie, who claims that virtually any tae kwon do kick can be utilized for self defense, frequently employs defensive sidekicks in which the attacker charges directly into a mid-level kick while Currie retreats. Currie can then follow up by leaping into the air to deliver a head-level jump kick. One reason many people don’t trust tae kwon do kicks on the street is that some martial artists telegraph their kicking intentions by stepping into a back stance before the kick. Not Currie, who prefers to start his kicks form a relaxed position, often leading off with a hand technique.
One of Currie’s favorite tactics is to deliver one or two hand techniques to focus the opponents attention on the hands, then surprise the assailant with a kick. For instance, Currie might block a punch with one hand, while delivering a counter knife-hand strike to the face with his free hand. He would then follow up with a back fist to the kidneys and a high hook to the head. Another of Currie’s strategies is to retreat form an attacker as if running away, then suddenly turn and catch the oncoming opponent with a defensive side kick. "Self defense is all about strategy," Currie says and the defender should always do what the assailant doesn’t expect. Good Tae Kwon Do training teaches that the best offense is a good defense, including defensive kicks. Throwing techniques are also part of Currie’s tae kwon do arsenal. Once a man wielding a two by four attacked him. Using the opponent’s momentum against him, Currie threw him into the ground and finished him off with a stomping heel kick. There is no reason to ignore head kicks simply because other have told you that they are not practical for self-defense. However, If you intend to kick high, you must be quick. If you hesitate, you have failed. But if the opponent’s head is vulnerable to a kick and the distance is right, don’t be afraid to take the opportunity.
Successfully kicks to the head can abruptly end any confrontation. It’s wise, of course, to have a back-up counter technique in case your kick misses. Currie is always prepared to deliver a two-punch combination if he misses his opponent with a high kick. Currie doesn’t rely on head kicks alone. He can kick effectively to any level of the opponents body, and always focuses on the most vulnerable targets. The key to success of any kick, regardless of its height, is practice. A common complaint among critics of tae kwon do is that high kicks leave you unbalanced and vulnerable to a counter attack. This is true—if you don’t practice the high kick enough.
With proper training, any kick can be just as effective and natural as a hand technique. What happens when a tae kwon do stylist meets an attacker who also kicks? For Currie, defending against someone who likes to kick is similar to a game of chess. Currie tries to outsmart the opponent by grabbing his foes kick and countering with a backfist/takedown combination. If Currie can’t grab the kick, he may simply step inside the kicking leg and use his hands to defend himself. The most important thing to remember when fighting a skilled kicker is to stay out of kicking range. If you are in kicking distance, there is a 50-50 chance your opponent will connect with a kick before you do. Even odds are not good self-defense odds.
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