Spinning techniques are frequently performed with the back kick, the roundhouse kick, the crescent kick and the hook kick. But think-what the feet can do with a powerful spin, the hands can do also! Both hand and foot spinning techniques can be hard to defend against because of their power, momentum and unpredictable angles of delivery. Practitioners that develop them will have dynamic techniques for their arsenal that are also a lot of fun to perform!
Spinning basics are practiced in many Tae Kwon Do forms but those who cultivate the art might not have considered using them in all of their practical applications. For example, the power of a technique can be enhanced with a spin because more ground can be covered in the approach. Also, the applications vary greatly. Almost any technique can be performed with a spin. Stances that can be used include horse stance and X-stance, cat stance and others: These stances are used occasionally although the back stance and X-stance are probably used most. Position of stance combines with the body twist for dynamic spinning hand techniques.
Physicists frequently speak of the "laws of conservation." The general concept is that the total amount of energy in a system remains constant or is conserved. If you develop force with a dynamic punch and deliver it to a standing opponent, that force will be translated into his own body force that will move him or his block back. The force of the strike may penetrate his muscles and bones. A larger, massive person may deliver or resist with the total mass of his body. This simple concept works for linear techniques. However, the spinning technique adds another variable, angular momentum, which supplements the total force generated. Spinning force will be difficult to stop, and the power of this is affected by how far from the center of rotation (called the axis), the expression of force takes place, as well as the abilities of the practitioner.
Spinning techniques are usually thought of as the end result, such as the knife-edge, or back-fist. But a spinning technique cannot be performed well without excellent footwork. Execution of any spinning hand technique requires specific footwork patterns. These patterns can and should be practiced repeatedly to make the spin fast and effective. There are several different ways to spin, each with its inherent advantages.
The most common method for spinning is to pivot on one foot. The technique begins with an advancing or retreating step. Weight is placed on the forward foot, the back foot is raised and the practitioner spins on the ball of the front foot. (Some people prefer to spin on the heel.) This step is quick and versatile since the spin can be performed in either clockwise or counterclockwise direction. There are many ways to vary this: experiment with the movements and ask others for feedback helps to perfect the technique.
The cross-step can also be used for a spin. The practitioner steps toward the opponent and places his foot behind the lead leg in a deep X-stance. By spinning backwards 180 degrees, the legs will untwist, leaving the practitioner in a balanced backstance. This move requires practice with different size steps to find the optimum step for the best landing after the spin.
A third type of spin includes a jump. A jumping spinning 180 degree turn can be sudden and unexpected. Start in a horse stance or back stance. Then jump and spin toward your back. This puts you in a perfect position for a spinning knife-edge strike.
Distance adjustments can be made with these types of spins depending on how far the practitioner steps; and in the jumping spin, by how far he jumps. Leap in deep for a close range technique. Jump in place or back for a middle or long distance technique.
Spinning Knife-Hand Techniques
A popular spinning hand technique in Tae Kwon Do is the
spinning knife-hand. Many Tae Kwon Doists train with makiwaras and hardwood
boards to gain greater strength for their knife-edge strike The spin adds
momentum and power to its application. Another distinctive advantage is
that the practitioner is defensively covered during most of the technique
(if performed correctly with the hands crossed close to the body until
the last part of the spin.) The strike will not be as forceful when delivered
striking hand is extended too soon. The focused attack must come exactly as the spin completes. If the hands are extended before beginning the spin, bring them in quickly to an xposition, then extend again as the spin is completed. The final, focused blow will have all the usual straight line power of the knife-edge combined with angular momentum from the spinning body movement.
Most Tae Kwon Doists practice a knife-edge strike in basics-stepping forward with each strike. For a variation, add a 180 degree spin. Begin in a back stance. Before you start to move forward, shift your weight to the front foot. Lift the back foot and spin toward your back. Pull your hand in across your body and then, just as your foot touches the ground, execute a strong knife-edge strike in a backstance. There are many variations to this move: experiment with other possibilities such as a forward turn.
In perfecting the spinning knife-edge; timing is important. Remember to focus at point of contact. This requires extra practice: beginners may be thrown off~ balance by the turn and lose power and precision in the execution. Practice repeatedly to learn to estimate the distance, timing, balance and angles of delivery. Shift your weight and sink into a proper stance as you come out of the spin. This will add strength for a focused strike. Practitioners can check this against a heavy bag and a target pad. Be creative. If you end-up too close; experiment with a spinning elbow strike, which is an effective close-range maneuver.
Spinning Techniques Variations
The spinning bottom-fist is another variation of the spinning knife-edge. Keep the fist tight and focused at the final point of execution. The same principles for the spinning knife-edge apply unless distance from the opponent is slightly altered to account for the lesser extension of the closed fist. The bottom-fist is an extremely sturdy striking area and can be trained to handle the power of this technique. A spinning back-fist is another natural extension of Tae Kwon Do. Spinning hook punches are also part of the art and are even more difficult to defend against with their different angles of entry and added element of surprise.
The spin can assist in offensive as well as defensive moves. A spinning block can add power to the defense and it also brings the blocking motion in at a tangent to the incoming force. The opponent's punch or kick is deflected at an angle rather than being met head on. This also allows the defender to evade further attacks while setting up a counter. For example, as the practitioner blocks, he steps back or at an angle into an X-stance, then spins to deliver a counterattacking knife-hand. The opponent will be caught by surprise.
Spinning techniques can become blocking maneuvers by moving back sideways instead of forward. As the punch comes in, the practitioner pivots 180 degrees back with the incoming force as he blocks. This technique appears in several Tae Kwon Do forms.
Spinning Techniques In Forms
Techniques can be discovered through forms. Every Tae Kwon Doist from the beginning white belt through black belt, has practiced spinning techniques without realizing it. Even the first white belt pattern contains the preliminary for spinning motions. Sometimes the moves are obvious, such as pivots to punches, kicks and blocks. Often; however, techniques may be hidden between movements or as implied movements. These patterns, which might have been unthinkingly practiced over and over for years, can be extracted and put into use. Most forms `and especially Tae Kwon Do forms contain pivoting motions, even in the most elementary, forms. These pivots will train reflexes and accustom practitioners to spins.
The first white belt form, Keon, from the Taegeuk series contains an introduction to spinning, with a 180 degree pivot. The practitioner, performs a downward block, punches to the left, and then turns 180 degrees to repeat the pattern to the right. This turning downward block introduces the learning process for the spinning technique. The practitioner steps and shifts the body 180 degrees while executing a block. Another white belt form, Kuk Mu I includes a 270 degree turn. The student moves from a forward punch in a front, stance, and spins 270 degrees in a clockwise direction to perform an outward block. Most white belts do not think about the implications of such moves since they are very busy just trying to properly coordinate hands and feet! However, these basic turns build foundational skills which later translate easily into strong spinning maneuvers.
Examples of many types of spinning hand techniques can be found throughout the Tae Kwon Do forms. Variations are not only in the spinning technique, but also the amount of spin, from 90 degree pivots to full 360 degree jumping turns. These variations in the amount of spin places the practitioner in different positions for follow-up techniques after the spin.
Several middle-level forms contain a quick 90 degree pivot and a simultaneous knife-edge strike to the neck along with an upper knife-edge block. In Taegeuk Four, Jang, the practitioner pivots from a spear-hand strike in a left front stance (facing to the right) into a forward-facing left front stance for the knife-edge. Pyong An Four contains the same move, only this form includes a pivot from a right front stance into a left front stance facing forward. The legs do not move; they merely pivot with the body twist and shift into a strong stance facing the new direction. The short, quick pivot in both forms teach the student to generate force even in small turns which is an advanced use of the spin. Spin's can also lead to holds for the creative martial artist.
Black belts practice strong, 180 degree spinning double outward blocks in their forms: These blocks are extremely forceful because the practitioner not only moves forward but also spins simultaneously: The move is performed in a horse stance in the second degree black belt form, Keumgang, which means hardness. In the traditional form, Ship Su, practitioners perform a series of three 180 degree pivots with double blocks. A creative application of this could be to draw the opponent into an arm lock position or perform a takedown.
In Pyong An Three, the practitioner extends a spearhand thrust, then spins counterclockwise to perform a bottom-fist strike in aback stance. Do San, an intermediate level form from the Chon-Ji series, has a similar rotational move which results in a back fist strike rather a bottom-fist.
Full circle spins are part of Tae Kwon Do forms. Keumgang contains a full 360 degree spinning hook-punch. The practitioner spins on the ball of the right foot. The left foot is drawn in close during the spin, but should not touch , and then steps out into a horse stance as the practitioner executes a left hook punch.
These and other forms teach the student how to coordinate footwork with the turning motion. Practitioners learn to execute their technique with focus, power, and balance.
It is useful to have a quick and non-telegraphed spin so that the opponent does not recognize the technique and counter it. The Tae Kwon Doist should spin occasionally during sparring without attacking as a feint. This will make it unclear to your opponent when ate level form from the Chon-ji an actual spinning attack will be series, has a similar rotational performed.
Spinning techniques are limitless and can be offensive, defensive and counterattacking. The practitioner can vary the amount of spin anywhere from 90 degrees to a full 360 which places him in new positions for attack. He can vary his footwork which makes the spin less predictable. A spinning block against a strong punch or kick can also be an elusive response. Strategically performed, the spinning technique will keep your opponent guessing.
It is useful to practice shifting and turning which is the basis for the spin. The heavy bag and speed bag will assist in practice. Begin by swinging the bag forward and back and as the bag approaches, experiment with a spinning block as you step back with the force. You can also try a spin-out to the side with a counterattack, such as the spinning kife-edge introduced earlier. Speed bag practice produces even faster reaction times. Lastly, ask your instructor for feedback and tips to help you. He well have many, and will probably have insights about how to make them work for you.
These are but a few examples from the many possible spinning techniques in Tae Kwon Do. Study your own forms and notice the hidden spinning hand techniques. Look for the footwork patterns and practice them separately. Notice how the hand position used during the spin helps to generate extra power in the final spinning technique. Work on speeding up the spin to add more force to your technique. Isolate the motion and practice on a heavy bag. The results of practice and concentration may find you spinning to the top in your next sparring match!
About the Authors: Alex & Annellen Simpkins are freelance writers and martial arts instructors living in San Diego, California