How much do you know?

As I was writing this post over at, I was quoting an interview with the Grandmaster of the art which I used to study, Kuk Sool Won. In that quote SUH In Hyuk said:

When I asked how many techniques he possessed, he said that there are 57 joint lock techniques. At the same time in the neighborhood, there was another “Yawara” master who had learned the traditional Japanese martial arts, who claimed to know more than Grandmaster Choi.

When I was typing up that post, it really struck me how quantity-centered Suh was. He cares how many techniques Choi Yong-Sool (considered the founder of Hapkido) knew, then seems to scoff because if this guy was such a great grandmaster how could he be if this other guy in town knew more? I guess that’s why Suh makes such a big deal out of touting Kuk Sool hosts 3608 techniques. Of course, most of those are super secret techniques that us common folk will never be privvy to, but hey… keep dangling that carrot.

Another art with similar quantity issues is Hwa Rang Do. Hwa Rang Do is an art contemporary with Hapkido and Kuk Sool (much twisted and interweaved history), and there they claim over 4000 techniques! Wow, they must be t3h d3adly!  There’s a group that’s at odds with Hwa Rang Do called Society of the Hwarang (more joyful bickering). While working on my MAP posting I revisited the Society page to get a link, but then spent some time on the page to refresh myself of the silliness. On the Society’s page there is an Open Letter that works to refute a lot about Hwa Rang Do. I thought this summed things up nicely.

There is one more serious flaw regarding joint locks in the Hwa Rang Do syllabus.  They don’t work against resistance!  I am not talking about someone grappling, or taking the fight to the ground.  I have an article on this point elsewhere in two pages called Joint Locks and Capturing, so, I am not going into detail here.  I can testify, however, that I have repeatedly given my wrist to Hwa Rang Do Black Belts and others as well, and I offered no more resistance than to relax or extend, and they can not execute any variation on the technique.  I learned this problem when I began teaching Defensive Tactics at ESI in 1980.  We get a very large number of accomplished martial artists, body builders and other individuals who have very strong joints.  Some ESI students can bench press 450 or 500 pounds, and they must be convinced that a technique will work on them before they will try it.  I actually learned a different concept in the execution of  joint locks long before starting ESI from an old Aspen Academy friend and associate, John Clodig, a disciple of Daito Ryu Jujitsu.  Clodig taught me the difference between a joint lock executed with a straight line and one executed with a spiral.  One must wonder  what happen in the transition to Joo Bang Lee via Yong Su Choi.  Unfortunately, students of Hwa Rang Do take pride in the number of techniques they remember rather than the ability to apply them in spontaneous settings.

Emphasis added.

The above just echos my past Kuk Sool training. All about memorization; lack of alive and resisting training, little application of the techniques.

Bill “Superfoot” Wallace was a dominant and undefeated tournament fighter, but he didn’t have a gazillion techniques in the ring. Wallace just had a few techniques but knew them very well and knew how to apply them very well. In the end, it isn’t always about what and how much you know, but what you can do with what you know.

3 thoughts on “How much do you know?

  1. While there are limited lessons that can be learned from competitions, the trend certainly seems to be that the winner is not the fighter with the largest arsenal, but rather the fighter that can apply a small number of techniques effectively.

    • I will say it’s a balancing act. It’s unlikely that a single technique is going to cover 100% of the situations, but to know 3000+ techniques… that’s unlikely to do any good, especially since trying to practice them all gets impractical. Nevertheless, it’s like most things: simple tends to be better.

  2. Pingback: Satisfying ego or satisfying results? « Stuff From Hsoi

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