Sine Wave – Stepping

Sine Wave

by Paul McPhail, VII dan
Director of Techniques

Master McPhail explaining sine wave at a seminar in Wellington in September.

Those who attended any of my seminars recently will have the latest information on sine wave as it is performed in the ITF. The perfection of the up and down motion known as “sine wave” has been an ongoing and evolving process. Now that General Choi is no longer here to guide us, the ITF Technical Committee came up with some key points presented in the chart below.

Sine wave has always been a part of Taekwon-Do movement, as is evident in the earliest editions of the Taekwon-Do book. The style of the 1970s however was very much emphasising the twisting of the hips rather than the up and down motion.

It was not until the 1984 World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland that we saw it practised in a new way – then called knee spring or “spring style”. Members of ITFNZ were taught the new technique first hand by Master Park Jung Tae in Brisbane, mid-1984, and returned home to teach it to their clubs. There was less emphasis (almost none) on the hip twist and more on the spring of the knee to generate a dropping action into the stances.

During the nineties it was further refined as General Choi taught seminars around the world, as he could see it was not being done correctly. He emphasised strongly that you should use your entire body to generate power (“from your hair to your toes”).

Now we have a nice blend of the two, where the sine wave motion is smooth and subtle, free from any exaggerated bounce and now with plenty of hip twist for extra power.

The ITF Technical Committee have clarified one aspect of sine wave that has caused confusion: how (or when) to perform the “down-up-down” motion when stepping forward or backwards. As you can see in the diagram below, there should be a slight downward motion as the knee bends in the first half of the step (B). By the time you reach the half way point of your step, your body should have risen, then it will reach the apex after that point (D) before landing in the next stance (E). Try not to bounce downward in the middle of your step.
Keep your body movement smooth and free from tension. It should be emphasised that the first half, or downward phase of the step is very subtle. Don’t bend the knee so much that your stance collapses. The most important thing to remember is that we are trying generate power, so put your full effort into the downward part of the sine wave at the end as you execute the technique.


Patterns: Telling it like it is
The Sine Wave!

by Stuart Anslow III

Recently I attended an event that showed me a mass of `sine wave` patterns on display, which in turn prompted me to write this article.

Many students simply don’t understand the relevance of pattern practice, either why they do it, their purpose or what techniques are for! General Choi stated in his manual, under the section `Essential Information` with regards to patterns, that:

7. Students should know the purpose of each movement.
8. Students should perform each movement with realism.

P = 1/2 mv**2 (what I am trying to show here is “v square“)

P= Power
1/2 = constant
m = mass
v = velocity or speed

This equation clearly reveals why developing speed is the most important factor in developing power: For example, if the mass in increased by a factor of three (with the speed kept constant) then the power is also increased by the factor of three. But if the speed is increased by a factor of three (with mass kept constant) then the power is increase by a factor of nine.” The sine wave as performed today (diagram 2), is in fact counter-productive in developing speed!

If we go back to diagram 1, I feel this has always been practiced to certain degrees before the sine-wave by name, was thrust into the spot light but never referred to as sine-wave. Thus, making the ‘new’ sine-wave seem like a different concept to original motion, which is now pushed as a different way of movement (diagram 2), so instructors are teaching something different from what they learnt or originally did, when in fact they should be teaching the same! And it is not a natural movement. Rising up as you shift forward & dropping back down is natural, as the legs straighten & bend that way, dropping, rising & dropping again is unnatural & when students try to emulate that, the results are far from good in relation to helping make patterns applicable to self defence.

Another major point to note is that General Choi said that when moving forward the shoulders should be half facing, this goes in line with the natural motion of walking, where the hips sway, thus creating another natural motion, the hip twist. Try stepping the length of a walking stance (1 & ½ shoulder widths), with your shoulders half facing & hips full facing, it is very uncomfortable & feels very unnatural!

Why remove hip twist from natural motions, i.e. moving forward into a basic punch. Surely for ultimate speed & power, the slight natural dropping motion as described above, coupled with hip twist is required. Both added together create this! In his article on the ‘Theory Of Power‘, which is found in all versions of the encyclopaedia, under the sub-section ‘Mass’ General Choi stated ‘No doubt the maximum body weight is applied with the motion of turning the hip.’

Also, the sine wave was meant to replace the hip twist, but hip twist adds power & when you can do a proper hip twist, long pre-postured blocking techniques aren’t required any more, as the power comes from the hip, thus increasing speed of defence & effectiveness, how can the ‘new’ sine wave motion be shortened in time, with training!

Apparently, the knee spring is no longer emphasized or has been removed completely in favor of sine-wave (diagram b), but in the same sub-section from the ‘Theory Of Power‘ General Choi also stated ‘Another way of increasing body weight is the utilization of a springing action of the knee joint. This is achieved by slightly raising the hip at the beginning of the motion and lowering the hip at the moment of impact to drop the body weight into the motion‘, something I was taught from the very beginning. Never was I taught that the head must remain at the same height like in many Karate kata’s, a slight raise & drop has always been taught, but I never learnt the sine-wave as it is being shown now (fig. B), never was I taught drop, then raise, then drop again! General Choi also stated in the sub-section ‘Equilibrium` that ‘Flexibility and knee spring are also important in maintaining balance for both a quick attack and instant recovery.`

There are other differences between the `original` & `new` type patterns. Certain techniques have been altered & in my opinion not necessarily for the better, but that’s another article.

As an instructor, it is my job to ensure my students benefit from training in the best way possible. It is not the chief instructor’s job or any grading panel, but the instructor’s responsibility. The problems arise when what is deemed in the best interests of the students is not the same as what is required to pass a grading. Thus effectively forcing instructors to teach something that may not actually be in the student’s best interests.

This was highlighted recently when my students entered a tournament, which was run by a group that emphasis the sine-wave (when referring to sine wave I am referring to figure b). Now I’ve no problem with what you or anyone else wants to practice, sine-wave (A or B) or not, but it was billed as an ‘open’ tournament, so all three types of pattern performance should have been taken into account, but unfortunately it wasn’t. My students performed their patterns with power, fluidity & grace as they had been taught; techniques looked effective, as they are meant to be, because they are effective, as they are taught that way! But each one went out 1st round as they did not do the sine-wave. When I mentioned this to someone they stated this truth “in order to win anything, you have to perform their way!”, but to do that would be for me personally to teach in a way that I do not feel is beneficial to the students & thus cannot do. It should also be noted that those same students (with the exception of 2) went on to win the gold medal in each of their sparring divisions!

So, if you take into account that what you teach should be what is most beneficial to the student, which style of patterns (tuls) should you teach? Most instructors have a choice between ‘original’ or ‘new’ types! (Except of course if you’ve only been training 5 years or so!). Of course, anyone who knows the relationship between Tul & Ilbo Matsogi (Patterns & One-Step Sparring) will realise that by the time sine-wave B is performed you would certainly have been struck, even with a basic obverse punch!

When thinking about this consider also the following:

The ‘original’ patterns were the same patterns taught to the Korean military. The same
army that was renowned for its effective techniques during the Vietnam War, so much
so, they were hardly attacked at all.

The ‘original’ patterns are the same patterns that all of the original masters & 1st
instructors of General Choi taught (those that stayed with him through their development
that is). These were the pioneers that spread the art around the world!

Even Grandmaster Ki Ha Rhee was referred to as ‘too karate‘ as he didn’t perform as in
diagram B at one of the Generals last UK seminars & Grandmaster Rhee was
considered General Choi’s number one student & is held in very high regard by probably
all Taekwon-do instructors in the UK for his power & techniques, if he can’t (or doesn’t
want to) get it right, what hope is there for the rest of us! Besides which, Grandmaster
Rhee is a great role model for all Taekwon-do students!

Those that are ‘pro’ sine-wave, inclusive to all other ways of thinking often state that
They do sine-wave & they are in the organisation (formerly) headed by the founder,
so there way is Taekwon-do & all others are not
“. To this I recall someone replying,
That’s incorrect, we learnt the patterns as first passed on by the founder General Choi,
the original patterns, you are now learning are a modified version
” Food for thought!
Although, if you’ve read this article properly you may have realised you were actually
performing sine-wave, even if you never realised it!

Others feel it was a political move to gain some of those that left the ITF Organisation
back into it by saying that if they were not learning patterns with sine-wave, they cannot
be practising or teaching Taekwon-do! Which is of course ridiculous? Unfortunately,
politics & `student’s best interests` do not often go hand in hand! And again, they were
probably already were performing it how the General originally showed it!

Although I obviously speak via my own training in this article, with my own observations,
I wanted a rounded view point from other respected Taekwon-do stylists, both with the
ITF as an organisation & out side of it & they had this to say,

Adam Porter, an ITF instructor I know had this to say (as well as his comments above)
after reading this article: “In all these arguments though it’s worth pointing out you will
always be able to find two people of equal size, each using different methods, one of
whom will be able to display more power than the other.
” Which I feel is a fair point!

Another instructor I know, whom is native Korean & has trained under no less than four
of General Choi`s original, 1st generation pioneering instructors, had this to say:

The sine wave is not accepted by all factions of ITF stylists. It came somewhere
around the 90s. It is a recent thing. Not accepted by all Grandmasters
. ”

He also said “Taekwon-do is different from karate (especially ITF TKD). General Choi found all techniques have much more power if you accelerate faster upon initial acceleration. That is how the kicks and other movements are so powerful and fast and deadly in true Taekwon-do. For example, virtually all movements in the original ITF Taekwon-do techniques have added acceleration. After twisting your body or hips (1st acceleration) your hand or foot techniques speeds up more (2nd acceleration on top of your 1st acceleration) to give more power not found in most other martial arts. Sine wave principle is another version of that. A bit of sine wave was always there even in the old TKD techniques, except this time in my opinion; they went a bit too far and it got over exaggerated.”

Another well respected TKD instructor from Argentina had this to say on reading the article “I cannot agree
more on everything you have written. Excellent. Extraordinary. I have additional reasons against the
exaggerated modern sine wave: It is not compatible with the application of certain techniques which are
supposed to be delivered upward (i.e., Hwa Rang and Gae Bek’s underpunches) or almost horizontally
(like Yoo Sins’s direct reverse punches where the opposite hand is over the punching upper-arm trapping the
opponent’s attack while going for the armpit/ribcage). Furthermore, the exaggeration has lead to make up an
unrealistic rhythm that prevents combinations. One thing is to know we are not karate, but let’s keep the
good things of our ancestors!!!

In summary, I don’t recall anyone, especially General Choi saying “hold on,
I got it wrong” & changing the Diagram/method from A to B!

So what is right & what is wrong?

Neither really if you feel it works for you!
(but there’s a long way between feel & real),

although I certainly have my preference,

but the old adage of ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it` certainly springs to mind!



Rayners Lane Students performing patterns along side students performing sine wave (B!) patterns at a recent tournament!

Won-Yo Tul – 1.96Mb
Rayners Lane Student Bako Kadir performs Won-Yo Tul (Starts left of screen). Notice the difference in speed & power in excecution of techniques, especially notice the side piercing kicks!

Yul-Guk v Hwa-Rang – 2.91Mb
Rayners Lane student Colin Avis (starts right of screen) performs Yul-Guk Tul. Again, notice the difference in both speed & power of execution

Toi-Gye v Choong-Moo – 2.91Mb
Rayners Lane student Dev Patel (starts right of screen) performs Toi-Gye Tul against an opponent who perfroms sine wave more adequetly
Joong-Gun v Yul-Guk – 4.71Mb
Rayners Lane student Justin Goh (Starts left of screen) performs Joong-Gun Tul, here you can notice a big difference in stability!

Hwa-Rang v Choong-Moo – 3.24Mb
Rayners Lane student Parvez Sultan (Starts on right of screen)performs Hwa-Rang Tul. You can distinctly see the difference in speed of execution of technique & between movements

Yoo-Sin v Ge-Baek – 4.40Mb
Rayners Lane Instructor (and the articles author) Mr Anslow (starts left of screen) performs Yoo-Sin Tul. Although the opponent performs a good pattern, there is a distinct lack of fluidity between movements

You should also note that every one of these patterns lost! Most lost to a majority of 5 – 0! Consequently, of the six coloured belt patterns performers above, 5 won medals in the sparring divisions, all 5 of which were golds!!!

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