Chon Ji is the first traditional Tae Kwon Do Tul, the concrete foundation 1st level of the Tae Kwon Do 24 level structure. The quality of materials (blocks, punches, stances) and the percentage of water (technique/stance coordination, breath control, balance and stance shifting) to the materials, properly mixed (the number and thoroughness of repetition) determines the durability of the Chon Ji foundation level and thereby the number of levels (each successive Tul) it will support.
But Chon Ji Tul is not the beginnings of the Tae Kwon Do “building.” This first pattern comes from within 4 Direction Punch and is supported with 4 Direction Block. These two technique sequences should be learned prior to entering the world of Tul. Without them, Chon Ji does not as easily become the needed firm, durable and defining 1st level upon which the remaining 23 Tul levels are added.
Although included in the General Choi Hong Hi book and encyclopedia of Tae Kwon Do, some Tae Kwon Do instructors do not fully utilize 4 Direction Punch and 4 Direction Block in their training programs and some students neglect continuing their practice once past Chon Ji. This is due, in part, to a lack of realizing the long term relationship and importance of these two technique sequences to Tul Training and over all Tae Kwon Do development. They are not a Tul, so what are they? What is their function? Do they have any value as applied to sparring or self-defense?
Using a construction metaphor, 4 Direction Punch (4DP) is the external side boards into which the concrete foundation first story level of Chon Ji is poured. It is a hollow depiction of that first level. The color, height, type of building, its use, its external appearance and what it will contain cannot be discerned by looking at the empty side boards. Yet, without them, the poured concrete used for the foundation 1st story level of the building would run as a useless mass all over the ground. 4 Direction Block (4DB) is the internal iron rod support ties placed inside the empty form boards that will connect the poured concrete foundation 1st story level of Chon Ji to the rest of the solid rock Tae Kwon Do structure.
After the concrete foundation 1st story level of Chon Ji has cured and the external form boards are removed, the valuable shaping task they provided is realized for as long as the Tae Kwon Do building stands, (i.e., as long as that individual continues to train). The internal iron tie rods of 4DB binding the Chon Ji foundation level to the rest of the Tae Kwon Do building remain its unseen strengthening skeleton.
In Tae Kwon Do terms, the primary function of the two technique sequences is to be a transition between regular stance/single-technique linear drill training and Chon Ji’s continuous 90 degree side turn/180 degree backward turn, stance-technique movement. Practicing 4DP teaches the student the skill of making a 90 degree side turn while keeping the pivot foot in place. Balance during stance direction change is begun to be developed as is the concept of putting isolated techniques together while moving from one direction to another.
My first Tae Kwon Do instruction, Master Eun, Sang Ki, used a prison camp scenario to
help us grasp the “pinned foot,” sequential technique concept introduced in 4DP. He told us to imagine we were being kept prisoner by an enemy army by having one foot staked to the ground. One day our soldiers came to free us but they first had to get over and through the prison camp walls. While they were doing that, our guards determined to kill us and we had to defend ourselves with one foot spiked to the ground until our army broke through.
With our left foot pinned, we had to face the assaults coming sequentially from four directions. As long as we had Pil Sung (I am confident of certain victory) we could pivot, turning on our pinned foot, to block and counter the guard’s attacks. The first one, thinking we were weak, believed he could simply walk up to us and choke us. As he approached, we stepped forward into a right walking stance and made a middle right E-pon (one punch kill). The second guard saw our determined defense kill the first guard so he attacks with a low front kick. We pivot on our pinned left foot placing our right foot to the back forming a left walking stance and make a left arm down block and then step forward with our right foot into a right walking stance performing an identical middle punch as before. We proceeded around the square in the same manner. The third guard tried to stab us with a sharpened bamboo pole, the fourth a rifle fixed with a bayonet.
The scenario gave us an imaginary picture to help use visualize how the 4DP sequences worked. After the four defenses on a pinned left foot, we returned to Chunbi (ready position) and then went through the same sequences proceeding from the other direction on a pinned right foot.
Becoming skilled at performing a 90 degree turn, either left or right, was thus developed prior to encountering it together with the 180 degree backward turn performed in Chon Ji.
A secondary function of 4DP is to introduce and drill rhythmical breathing aligned to sequential technique/stance shifting. No longer is proper inhaling and exhaling an isolated event tied to an isolated technique execution. Breath control now becomes an integrated portion of rhythmical motion to – hopefully one day – be an unconscious aspect in all movement.
The practical value of 4DP is introducing the principal of striking first where possible and, where not, to block then counter attack; a theme applicable to both sparring and self-defense.
Four Direction Block (4DB) is the inner “Bare Bones” for Tae Kwon Do Tul support. Its function is to hone the 90 degree turning skill and teach the concept of sequential blocking while maintaining exact techniques and exact stances during direction shifting. The differences between the arm actions of a low knife hand down block (Najundae Son Kol Makie) and a middle inner forearm block (Kaundae Annuro Makie) are defining movements. The preparatory positions combined with the follow through components of each are quite dis-similar. The ability to consistently flow smoothly and rhythmically from the one technique to the other are critical arm motor skills, not only for future Tul study; but, for posture control and middle body/hip action as well. The coordination of sequential technique rhythm, body movement and 90 degree stance shifting should become a comfortable skill practicing 4DB.
Another function of 4DB is to teach the compounded value of a retreat while blocking versus the strategic value of an advance while blocking. In the first, the attacker’s execution force is lessened, thus robbing impact power from the attack while redirecting the attacker’s forward balance control to an unsupported angle. In the second, the student learns the concept of a defender risking increasing the attackers impact power, should the forward stepping block fail, as opposed to the strategic value of closing the distance in order to gain better “field position” for a counter attack; i.e., a control compliance hold, or a technique using one hand to hold while the other strikes, or preparation for a take down or to deliver a close-in counter-attack such as an upset punch. The principle of maneuvering into such techniques is planted even though the student, at this level, isn’t necessary doing them. The idea is ground work for future Tul and combat training. In both defensive technique methods, the student learns that the objective of most blocking is force vector re-direction not cessation of movement.
Four Direction Block’s practical value for sparring and self-defense is teaching the concept of retreat and or advance while blocking. It also teaches the unique principal that by successfully blocking all attacks of an opponent, whether using a retreating step or advancing step, one has effectively neutralized the opponent and has “defeated” him without having to initiate an attack or respond with a counter-attack.
Combined, the practice of 4DP and 4DB prepare the student for the 90 degree side turns in Chon Ji Tul and helps to lessen the difficulty of maintaining balance during the 180 degree backward turns also found in Chon Ji. They develop rhythmical breath control during shifting stance direction while changing techniques.
Without 4DP and 4DB, the transition from sectional class drill up and down the Do Jong floor to Chon Ji becomes much more difficult and the Hoc Sang (student) is deprived of the wealth of blocking technique knowledge, stance shifting control development and practical technique application taught in these vital sequences. It’s like trying to learn to walk without having learned to crawl. Chon Ji came from within 4DP and it is supported and connected to the subsequent 23 Tuls by 4DB. That is why they are essential sequences to be accomplished before attempting Chon Ji.
In addition to preparing the student for Tul training, there is another very important aspect to these sequences. They are blue prints for a training method for a variety of technique and stance changing scenarios. By substituting other blocks and attacks together with other stances the Hoc Sang’s skill and understanding of stance/technique combination versatility is expanded; i.e., at the 8th Gup level, executing a middle front kick (Kaundie Ap Chagie) before stepping into the middle punch (Kaundie Ap Jurigie) thus making a same side kick-punch combination and substituting an “L” stance middle section double forearm guarding block (Niun Sogie Kaundie Palmuck Dabie Makie) for the walking stance down block (Gunun Sogie Najundae Makie) in 4DP.
An example at the 6th Gup level for using the 4DB blueprint would be to substitute stepping the right foot back into a sitting stance left forearm checking block (Anun Sogie Palmok Momchau Makie) for the stepping back walking stance low knife hand block and substituting stepping forward with right foot forming a left “L” stance low section knife hand guarding block (Niun Sogie Najundae Sonkol Daebi Makie) for the forward stepping right walking stance middle inner-forearm block. This particular sequence helps hone stance control between sitting stance and “L” stance while shifting the back stepping foot and pivoting on the “pinned” front foot – a difficult skill for some students.
These are two examples of substitutions at graduated levels of complexity. With such a technique/stance replacement approach to the 4DP/4DB blueprint, the practitioner stretches his Tae Kwon Do thought process and builds a wide range of stance/technique combination diversity. As a student’s skill at diversity with the blueprint increases, technique/stance complexity would also increase. If continued throughout their training, advanced level students (3 – 1 Gup) should be able to execute many improvised stance mixture/hand and foot technique combinations, including jumping kicks.
The Four Direction Punch and Four Direction Block blueprint also becomes a solution for quality training in a small area. Frequently students think they need lots of space in which to practice. Once the value of the 4DP/4DB blueprint is grasped, the student without much maneuvering room at home can maintain a high level of self-practice with a variety of techniques and stances.
Finally, in the practical realm of combat, the greater number of such occurrences takes place in a relatively small space, not an open Do Jang training floor, so skill in maneuvering in a confined location is critical for self-defense. Becoming adept at the 4DP/4DB blue print is essential to developing such a skill.
There are many methods of training and systems of technique development among the Martial Arts. General Choi, Hong Hi, in compiling the book and later encyclopedia of Tae Kwon Do, included 4DP and 4DB because of the multi-purpose significance these sequences have in developing the practitioner of our art. Hopefully this treatise on these two sequences will encourage those now using them to expand their usage and will inspire those who do not now use them to begin.