Any Iain Abernethy fans?

Discussion in 'Taekwondo Patterns' started by UK-Student, Jan 26, 2013.

  1. UK-Student

    UK-Student Active Member

    Iain Abernethy is just about my favourite martial artist right now. Really rational and logical and non-dogmatic. Calls himself a "pragmatic traditionalist" in that he maintains the integrity of his art but ensures that it functions fully as civilian self defence by modern standards. He has a great podcast and a great approach to his art of Karate, which as we all know heavily influences most TKD traditional techniques.

    Are there any other fans out there?

    EDIT: In case you were wondering, I put this in the patterns section as most of his writings deal with what forms are, where they came from and how they should be used.
  2. bowlie

    bowlie Well-Known Member

    Never heard of him, but if im going to take advise from someone I like to see they practice what they preach, does he have any proof that his system works fully?
  3. UK-Student

    UK-Student Active Member

    I prefer to make my own decisions about that kind of thing. In a world where we can watch MMA (which is fairly unrestricted in that even fouls often go unpunished), I don't need bar fight stories to interest me in a system (it often makes me less interested, actually). I prefer to use the knowledge I already have to assess systems. Where a system is "street certified", you have to wonder why they were getting into brawls in the first place and whether a habitually violent person can really pass on skills to a sedentary working person (sometimes yes, sometimes no in that often a hard upbringing and brutal personality is what takes the "expert" through fights, not their actual techniques). If you want a logical approach, click the link. If not, you may not enjoy it.

    Having said that, he is associated with the BCA, with people like Geoff Thompson and so in UK terms he constantly is working with people who sparked the "reality" revolution by mixing experience of cross training and doorman work.

    My assessment is that Abernethy's approach to forms is more realistic and true to the purpose of the forms than any TKD group I have seen. But make your own decision. I'm really looking for other fans, I'm not an evangelist.
  4. bowlie

    bowlie Well-Known Member

    I totaly agree, I was thinking more about any TKD or karate tornaments he has won / videos. Obviously self defense is not legal in sport and some techniques are limited by that, but if your teaching a system of self defense you should be able to show you can apply some techniques well in practice. If he gets his ass whopped by a low level amateur boxer or katateist then that shows an inability to apply a set number of techniques and would make me doubt him.

    The way I see it, self defense is fighting dirty, using any technique to get out of danger, but if you cant fight to begin with, how are you supposed to fight dirty? You might know some great arm locks or throws, but if some big dirty thug is trying to mug you you need to be able to out fight him. Sure, you can punch him in the solar plexus, or put him in a headlock, but if they are stronger and bigger you might not be able to apply these techniques outside of a dojo.

    I guess what im saying, is that to be able to fight off an attacker in a self defense situation you need a core set of basic fighting skills, upon which you base your self defense technique. If you cant demonstrate a basic skill of these core skills, how can you apply the self-defense skills built on them?
  5. UK-Student

    UK-Student Active Member

    Good point. It's logical to approach things that way but again, it's not how I think about the world.

    No, he's not a champion of a sport martial art. Sport is his lowest priority and the training is practised through sparring and scenario training. However, they do train with full resistance in striking and clinch-work. Iain also trains Judo in his spare time and cross-trains with other martial artists including kick-boxers.

    I understand the case that sport sparring can provide a core of techniques to which you add "dirty tricks" but Iain is if anything a traditional Karateka in that Karate was never intended to be a sport but to be a method of civilian self defence. Sport can be a great basis but I am sure there are lots of points fighters in most martial arts who have great records but could not teach realistic civilian self defence.

    I don't think it would mean anything if a self defence instructor was beaten by a boxer in a boxing match. In fact, I think all self defence instructors would lose to boxers in boxing matches. Most would also lose to them in MMA matches because of the superior conditioning and fight training. However, most self defence students are not aiming to gain the fundamentals of a professional sportsman. If people trained in boxing with the lack of attention to fitness and conditioning as people train other martial arts, I don't think I would make the statements that I would make above. In any case, the strength of a coach is what he teaches. To use boxing again, the best trainers are not usually top drawer fighters themselves but specialist coaches. Taking Greg Jackson from MMA I don't think he has any championships or impressive videos but he's certainly one of the best trainers there are out there.

    Having said that (dismantling the idea that a good coach or instructor must compete), Iain trains really hard and can strike, clinch and grapple. I don't think he would be respected or certified in the BCA (British Combat Association) if he couldn't hang with boxers, kickboxers, grapplers and other top martial artists. He probably could be a very good sports coach but that just isn't his speciality or desire. He has a traditional karate grade as well as the BCA grade.

    My way of looking at Iain's system is that it is intensely logical and looks at forms in terms of their intention and pragmatic usage. He clearly intends to mix hard physical training with coaching around awareness and posturing before moving on to fundamentals training and then resistant live sparring and scenario training. As his students learn to fight at range, fight in the clinch and fight to SD scenarios (multiple attackers, fighting to protect a third party, fighting from the floor, fighting to escape) I think any of his students gain a far more rounded and real-life version of self defence than you will find in almost any tkd martial arts syllabus (certainly none I have seen). The fact that he can do so whilst referring to basic kata makes him unsurpassed in my mind as I think lots of people write on this subject and release videos that I find thoroughly unconvincing. He takes basic kata and makes them look actually effective instead of completely disconnected from sparring, and not unlike the "realistic" (to our modern eyes) dirty boxing and mma type work, whilst referring to original sources that are very convincing that this is indeed what the forms were supposed to be used for.

    What you will not see is a poke or a special jab or "pain move" that works on the basis of compliance on the part of the partner. All techniques are basic striking and clinch combinations that work through control and damage, not pain compliance, manipulation or pressure points.

    Whether or not you find him a compelling physical martial artist, I think it's impossible to read the way he writes about forms/kata and not reassess what they are and how they should be used. Why for example, do you punch with one hand at the waist in Karate and Taekwon-do? If you feel no doubt about the reasons for that, you may not be curious about his work. If you are curious, there are lots of free articles and podcasts on his website so you don't have to buy anything to decide.
  6. bowlie

    bowlie Well-Known Member

    I will probably download the podcast tonight, but I stand by my earlier statements that even as a non-sport competitor if he uses the type of training needed to get good at fighting,I.e. Hard sparring he should find it easy to show his skills at a basic level.

    I also think that what you said about the conditioning aspects of boxing is important. If you train for self defence but don't have the speed, power and endurance then you won't be able to apply the tequnices you have learnt. The Gracie family came up with the best self defence system ever in my mind, and they proved it's effectiveness through no holds barred vale tudo fights, proving everything they did worked.
    UK-Student likes this.
  7. bowlie

    bowlie Well-Known Member

    I have to say, im impressed so far
    UK-Student likes this.
  8. Nightwing

    Nightwing Member

    I like Ian Abernathy's work in Karate but due to the fact that when the forms for Taekwon-do were created General Choi and those that helped him had no idea what bunkai meant to karate and therefore went about changing the way the techniques are performed in order to make them work within the framework they were taught, which is "block here, punch there" its not very applicable to TKD.

    Stuart Anslow released a book showing the REAL life applications to ITF TKD's patterns called "Taekwon-do Hae Sul" I think. And although I found it somewhat eye opening, the truth of the matter is that what he discovered is basically what remains of Karate's influence on ITF TKD.

    WTF TKD, on the other hand, has none of this due to the fact that it was just some stuff people that saw General Choi's art put together, which in my opinion, is why their "poomsae" are so basic and very strictly follow the "block here, punch there mentality". The only reason ITF TKD even has POTENTIALLY similar applications is because some sequences of techniques were kept in place; for instance if you compare WON-HYO with karate's HEIAN NIDAN you'll see what I mean.
    UK-Student likes this.
  9. Master Dan

    Master Dan New Member

    I was referred to Master Abernathy by my main Kyusho Grand Master who has studied and trained with some of the leading Bonki and Ryukyu Kempo GM's in the world. He started transitioning from TKD and Hapkido in 1996 to better defend myself. I own several of Master Abernathies DVD for explantions of the Bonki and both basic and advanced grapling. I find his teaching very down to earth practical and after talking with him to be a very nice man who lives a very clean life.

    As far as the well has he used it comment. Yes it is always better to have trained with someone who has asctually alot of experience in battle or other wise but correct knowledge and application especially when practiced in real agressive and resistive practice with many size people and many different physical conditions as it applys to joints and presure points is the key. Putting Politics asside its about real self defense. You will do what you practice and if you have no more to your forms than kick block punch and robotic technical perfection to aquire some score that can be your choice. However my first obligation is to my students personal self defense and there is room for all the other sport and traditional party line so to speak requirments as well.

    We pull out good matts at least once a week and have 4 on one agressive attackers with the object to take down and pile on the defender and the goal of the defender is to last 30 seconds with being subdued or taken down. There are injuries but minor and it gives the student invaluable experience. I also like to work in gross motor skill techniques becasue in real application does not matter who you are prefessional or not Adrenelin drop/ black zone/ choke happens in greater or lesser degrees depending on the situation and you need space and time until you can regain your higher brain function to do anything more complicated.

    The whole point to the Ryuku Kempo forms is that everything you everwanted in an offensive not defensive way is there for you to think about. For you TKD people to see and feel what that means with in your forms is not bad but only adds more enjoyment to your forms by adding real world application not just simple dogma in some cases don't ask don't tell?

    They say we are what we eat but we are also what we think. The historic and political discussion of TKD and its roots to Shotokan/Karate ect I certainly believe in by betters opinion and the historical facts which cannot be denied when you analize the history of the Korean Master's at the time and thier background but all that has no bearing on the street unless you have let that restrict you from learning what you need?
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  10. UK-Student

    UK-Student Active Member

    I agree with everything you say, Nightwing except where you say it is not very applicable to tkd.

    You are of course correct that changes were made to the forms both in how each movement was performed and the sequences but actually when you look at it I would say the majority of sequences are the same or similar to those in Kata. A front kick may be turned to a twisting kick here and a inward side fist strike to an inward knife hand but it really doesn't make much difference in most cases. Where the movement itself has been amended, this is usually because the chambered hands have been moved to the side to add body rotation, which I don't think affects many of the applications.

    We should also remember that Shotokan kata are not "pure" in that they have also undergone several changes between the Okinawan tradition and their place in modern Karate. We can look at early Funikoshi texts to see that lengthened stances are basically a modern change that were not used in an age where grappling was an integrated part of Karate - or to put it another way, the length of a stance was determined by it's application usage and was not set to a certain length at all times.

    Do I think we should take the most modern and innovative parts of TKD and try to find applications? No, not really. However, the more books on Kata I read, the more I see exactly the same kinds of movements and sequences that I see in the Tuls.

    Where small changes have been made, a variant of a useful application could be used. This is not damaging to the principle of Bunkai because the form shows only one application and it is up to the student (and hopefully teacher) to explore other usages and applications.

    On your point about the WTF, I met some instructors who use the Palgwe forms and they were very interested in determining real applications for each movement. I cannot comment on the modern Taeguks and Black Belt Forms because I have no training in them.

    You are utterly correct when you say that the possible applications in the Tuls are not intentionally included by Choi et al and that the applications within are merely remnants of the tradition from Karate (I strongly disagree with the implied arguments Mr Anslow makes in his book that the creators of the patterns understood Bunkai or that complex form interpretation was ever practised by the founders of TKD, even if the military version of the art was taught with a more "close quarters" mentality). However, I think there are lots and lots of fragments left for us to look at.

    Also remember that in the days of applications, Karate practitioners were taught just 2-3 long forms. Within our 24 (or 25 plus other exercises) we still have enough left that I think it is a compelling study. I don't think we should abandon the Chang Hon style as a result but I think we can incorporate these ideas into the syllabus in the Hosinsul section as a complimentary practise.
    The reason it seems such a good venture to me is twofold:
    1) They explain and justify the practise of forms with "ancient" (or at least very old) roots that don't easily connect to modern styles of sparring or self defence (for example, keeping hands at the waist is anathema to our modern understanding unless those arms are engaged in a clinch position)
    2) Hosinsool is commonly de-emphasised in modern Chang Hon practitioners in favour of formal display and sport sparring. I LOVE formal display and sport sparring but a lack of Hosinsool leaves the art toothless. Though each teacher can teach Hosinsool in his own way, I think a Bunkai-style approach gives self defence techniques a vital root in the style of taekwondo itself, which synthesise well with modern self defence ideas (another reason I like Mr Abernethy so much is that he could not be described as anything other than "fully up to date" in terms of his self protection mentality)
    I like Mr Anslow's book and it is probably much more accessible than other books but I prefer Mr Abernethy for the actual bunkai techniques as I find them a lot more real and applicable IMO. It is a difficult thing to aim to do perhaps (and again I am not a school owner) but I can't ignore questions like, "what can possibly be the real meaning of a middle inner forearm block in L-stance followed by a punch as it does not seem like a practical block?"
    What are your thoughts?
    P.S. Very much admire Master Dan's approach above.
  11. Nightwing

    Nightwing Member

    I hear what your saying and went on my own odyssey to discover "real" TKD and I use and train in practical applications as part of my Hosinsul just as you say. What I was referring to when I said that it has "potentially" similar applications is because the techniques were changed to fit Genereal Choi's principles of power and the forms where designed without the proper understanding of how to "deconstruct" them as Iain Abernathy calls it. "Whenever your arms cross thats a joint lock," applies to how Karate does a double knife hand block but not to how TKD practitioners do it.
  12. UK-Student

    UK-Student Active Member

    Actually I think the same application works with a little adjustment. The hands are at the side of the body and here can block. They come from a higher position down to the basic guarding position. For me this represents the rear arm over-wrapping the opponent's arm and the knife hand striking/securing the side of the opponent's neck. In terms of last position, this is essentially the same as the Karate version of the application.

    As any single movement has many applications, the karate version can be an alternative application of the principle based on the technique in our form.
  13. bowlie

    bowlie Well-Known Member

    I have listened to some more of his stuff, and im very greatful for you introducing me to him, thanks
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  14. UK-Student

    UK-Student Active Member

    Great. Thanks!
  15. bowlie

    bowlie Well-Known Member

    On this subject, do you know anywhere that has the practical applications of patters? I have seen a few books, but im skint :p
  16. NoBullShitFighting

    NoBullShitFighting Active Member

    No, but if he is good I am ready to become one. I'll look into it and write you back soon.
  17. bowlie

    bowlie Well-Known Member

    I was put off to begin with because he talks so much about traditional training techniques. Keep your mind open and listen to a few different things before making up your mind. Im not sure I agree with everything he says, but his basic ideas of 1) forming a complete art that is based around fighting not sport and 2) understanding why traditional methods are used and when they should be, and when we should acknowledge that modern methods are simply better are things I can agree with
  18. NoBullShitFighting

    NoBullShitFighting Active Member

    I've seen some of his videos now. I like his performance of Kata, he is very present and real. Also his self defense drills seems brutal. One thing he said that really broadened my horizon was that the Kata could be seen as consisting of series of techniques defending against attacker, but he chose to view it more as an alphabet from which he would pluck things out to form what was necessary.

    Really eye-opening in regards to WTF poomsae and ITF tul, that is often just seen as a series of techniques bundled together in a pattern. Now I see a defense technique within every technique, area maki as blocking a jab when forming a cross before sending a hammer hand down to the hip bone, of course I have always done so to some extent, but now I get much more into it. I allow myself to think more outside of the box.
  19. Oerjan

    Oerjan Active Member

    I find your comment on WTF Taekwondo very dissapointing. The WTF is only a sporting organisation, I guess you are referring to Kukkiwon or Kukki Taekwondo? The KTA (Korean Taekwondo Association) had broad roots within Karate and had many prominent masters in their own right. The poomsae they developed is not the result of people that looked at Choi Hong He and copied what he had done and threw something together. The KTA masters included many who were considered Choi Hong Hi senior in Martial arts and had higher ranking in the base arts of Taekwondo.

    I am not writing this to bash the Chang Hon style, I am simply saying that both the Chang Hon Style and the KTA that formed the Kukkiwon both had high ranking practisioners who both developed good forms that can be studied at varying degrees. Saying that one style has a karate influence and the other has none of that because people threw something together is something that sounds like the cold war between WTF and ITF in the 80s early 90s. I thought the Taekwondo comunity had come further than that... Maybe this would make a good discussion in ist own thread, I am sorry if I hijacked this one, and please delete the post if it did.

    To answer the opening question: Yes I am a huge fan of Iain Abernethy and his work. I was grasping at straws before I stumbled over his books, and suddenly I had the tools to start understanding my art.
  20. bowlie

    bowlie Well-Known Member

    Interesting post. These forums tend to be ITF-centric so its good to head some WTF input on this. I dont know any WTF patterns (hell, I dont know any ITF ones properly yet) but I imagine that ITF and WTF patterns were made with a very similar process?

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