Limited to Unlimited
I was hungry for knowledge as a child and always interested in martial arts, but did not know exactly what path to follow. At the age of 7 I enrolled in a Mixed Martial Art School (not what MMA is today), then studied at Kim’s Tae Kwon Do and continued my training at Pak’s Tae Kwon Do until my early teens (mainly focusing on sparring and tournaments). I competed in a tournament in Long Beach and got disqualified for throwing hooks to the body and a straight to the face of my opponent that made him a bloody mess. After that experience I got discouraged and quit Tae Kwon Do (hard style) and training completely. I felt limited. I did not even completely follow how I was taught because I felt there were more effective ways, so I followed my instincts. Little did I know what precious gift my future had in store for me. Many years later at the age of 29 I was lucky enough to finally find the missing puzzle piece in my life, stepping into a new world training at our school. I am truly honored. There are multiple ways to approach a conflict when engaged. I came to the realization that our “Soft Style” proves to be extremely effective, efficient, and versatile. All the knowledge passed down holds great value, a gift that should not be taken lightly or for granted. Sparring is one of the best ways to practice and bring our teachings to life (I have a long way to go).
Using the "Pak Sao" for example, is a basic way for us to gauge our opponents speed and distancing allowing us to react and adjust accordingly depending on the individual we encounter. if the opponent has a reach and speed advantage, we have the option to use the Pak Sao while closing the gap and stepping in to better even out the odds, allowing us to exchange and make contact quicker due to the nature of its short range. It also allows us to safely move into trapping range "sticking" to our opponent limiting their striking possibilities also providing us the opportunity to sense our opponent’s energy taking what we learn from when we practice Dan Chi Sao/Chi Sao and bring it to reality flowing continuously "soft style". The human body seems to only be strong when going one direction so being able to remain relaxed without over committing allows us to transfer our energy in a variety of ways while maintaining sensitivity, speed, precision, and power without wasted energy. The 7 wrist attack in our Siu Lim Tao shows us how to engage in a variety of ways also when we use the Pak Sao, using the energy from our wrist rather than our entire arm in order to redirect and transfer our energy in the direction intended. Big difference compared to the hard style that I learned as a child that had stiffer limited movements and not as continuous and free flowing. If initiating the attack for example, the Pak Sao can be used to clear the path of an opponents lead hand, trapping as we strike in one continuous motion, especially more useful and effective when attacking the outer perimeter. The Pak Sao used with well judged distancing and footwork makes the technique even that much more effective.
Foot work is another tool that is crucial to a free fight. First of all, we generate power from the ground up, so when we are not positioned and grounded correctly, we limit the potential of our striking precision and power. When sparring for example I found it very useful to circle my opponent which provides us with other striking angle possibilities, while at the same time making us a moving target which is a little trickier to hit. Circling or side stepping gives us a safer opportunity to engage giving us a slight edge over our opponent, limiting them to effectively use one arm or one leg while making the other half of the body less effective due to its distance, allowing us to use both hands to freely manipulate and engage. Compared to my training in Tae Kwon Do where the foot work was mostly linear moving back and forth, we now have more options in our angle of attack by circling or side stepping with the addition of stepping forward in offense and defense. Side stepping was also used in Tae Kwon Do, but mainly for countering with head or body kicks if not retreating defensively. A lot of hopping was also used for tricky kick combinations and maneuvering, relying more on the legs, which can be potentially dangerous due to over commitment which can leave the fighter vulnerable, at the same time making the hands less useful offensively because of the lack of power from the ground up. When using a side step in combination with a pak sao/strike, it allows us to make contact at a point in time most fighters do not expect. Judging distance is important to execute effectively. We can make the side step/ pak sao work by timing it correctly and setting up our opponents in many ways. For example, if we are mirroring our opponent we can set them up by jabbing to the face forcing our opponent to go into defense mode, then pak sao/side step to the weak side quickly striking exposing more contact points opening up a better angle of attack. The side step is also useful for cutting off an opponent’s angle say if like a boxer circles, we could side step to constantly shadow and stick to our opponent pressuring while keeping our arsenal in their face. If both fighters are south paw and in trapping range for example, we can also have the option to pak sao with our left hand while side stepping to the weak side striking with the right all at the same time. Possibilities are almost endless.
When I was a Tae Kwon Do fighter I was trained mostly on counter fighting or the stick and move. Most combinations were mainly executed with kicks, but the effectiveness is no longer there at close range. Our “Soft Style” opened up new doors and showed me that there are actually more possibilities than I realized. A free fight is ever changing so we should adapt to all things we encounter free flowing. If we use all of these tools in combination wisely, then it can be one big recipe of danger for our opponents. All we could do is train hard and keep on practicing. Thanks!