About The American Jidokwan System

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In the last few decades there has been an increasing trend within Taekwondo toward an exclusive focus on sport fighting.

This drift away from the other important elements of Taekwondo (self-defense, forms, breaking and a defined set of values) is in reality the transformation of a martial art into a sport.

A similar trend can be seen in the development of Olympic fencing in which the modern sport resembles only in a superficial manner its art of origin. There is a difference, however, between the alteration of fencing from art to sport and the modification of Taekwondo: carrying a sword and resolving conflict through sword fighting are not practical endeavors in the modern world.

Having the ability to defend one’s self and one’s family, however, still remains crucially important.  In other words, sport Taekwondo should be seen as a facet of the martial art of Taekwondo, not its core.

Grand Master Thomas Henzey believes that Taekwondo should remain a martial art. With that in mind he, in conjunction with Grand Master Sung Soo Lee have developed the American Jidokwan System, which combines the forms and kicking of Taekwondo, the footwork, self-defense, weapons and philosophy of Jidokwan with the throws, takedowns, joint locks and pressure points of Moohakkwan Hapkido.

The American Jidokwan System was developed to be a complete martial art system, while remaining true to its Jidokwan roots. According to the Jidokwan Historical Society, the motto of Jidokwan is “a tradition of change,”   hence the American Jidokwan System is designed to accommodate evolution.

A signature feature of the American Jidokwan System is the performance all self-defense (hoshinsool) and sparring (gyorugi) from the Jidokwan fighting stance, not from forward stance/low-block.

The Jidokwan fighting stance resembles a boxing stance in which the feet are no more than shoulder width apart.  Such a stance requires only minor shifting of body weight in order to execute a kick or a punch and the stance allows for quick footwork designed to move at angles to an attack rather than in a linear back-and-forth motion.  The stance also has the shoulders angled away from opponent to present the smallest possible target. Fighting from forward stance/low-block is not only unrealistic, it telegraphs kicks due to the major shift in body weight required to lift the leg from that position.

Another distinctive aspect of the American Jidokwan System is the use of punches in sparring matches.  The habit of dropping one’s hands when fighting, as exhibited in Olympic Taekwondo, would spell defeat in any other self-defense situation.  It should be remembered that Taekwondo literally means the foot-hand-way; hand strikes are important weapons in Jidokwan’s arsenal. Moreover, the American Jidokwan System teaches all techniques from both right-side and left-side forward, and trains practitioners in both front and back leg kicking.

Grand Master Henzey promotes five foundational tenets of American Jidokwan:

  • Know the Distance; Work the Angles. Perceiving properly the distance between you and your opponent is crucial to any encounter. In a fight, the person who commands distance (either creating it or closing the gap) maintains a distinct advantage. ‘Working the angles’ refers to a fighter’s ability to move in 360 degrees not merely 180. Too often Taekwondo practitioner’s will attack and defend only in a linear manner.  Using angles is an effective way to gain the upper-hand.
  • Control the Weapon being used against you. Controlling the hand, foot, knife or other weapon being wielded against you is paramount in any encounter.
  • Apply Effective Technique; this may sound self-evident, but the only way to apply effective technique is to practice effective technique. In other words, while training, focus on proper footwork, punching, kicking and blocking. Execute every move with focus and intensity; merely ‘going through the motions’ will not serve you when the time comes to defend yourself.
  • Follow-through; This can also be thought of as “do not practice to miss.” In other words, during training, when punching your opponent in the face as part of a self-defense technique, do not punch air to the side of his or her head; instead make (light) contact with the opponent’s chin. This will train your body to follow through properly in a real situation.
  • Finish; After a self-defense technique has been executed, always implement a finishing technique. This should be spontaneous strikes, throws or take-downs employed after the prescribed technique. Making the finishing technique spontaneous rather than scripted teaches your body to act without hesitation.