Grandmaster Hee Il Cho

A Lifetime of Tae Kwon Do...

Influencing the worldwide body of

martial arts through his traditional

practices and innovative techniques.


Body as Weapon Part One


A Living Legend

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Taekwondo Legend, Hee Il Cho, on Korea's Most Comprehensive Striking Art:

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    Revered for its competitive kicks, Taekwondo also includes a little-known set of techniques designed for pure self defense. Although they're taught to some degree in most schools that focus on traditional Taekwondo, we could find no one better equipped to explain their mechanics, targets and tactics than Black Belt Hall of Fame member Hee Il Cho.

    Hee Il Cho demonstrates the ridgehand to the side of the neck, a traditional Taekwondo self defense technique that sees little use in sport-oriented schools.

    Punching the face comes naturally to martial artists and non-martial artists alike. The challenge comes in not hitting the other person's teeth and not breaking the bones in your hand, Hee Il Cho says.


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If the opponent is in front of the defender, the head butt can target his forehead or chin. If the opponent is in the back, the defender can aim for for any part of his face with a rear strike.

Let’s start with forehead.
The forehead bone is one of the strongest in the human body. Many times, at close range, the person in the front of you is very vulnerable. Be careful, though: In a self-defense situation. I once struck with an upward motion and caught my taller opponent’s upper jaw-and ended up with his teeth sticking in my head. A strike to a taller person should go straight in, not up and under.
The head butt also works to the rear-for example, when someone is choking you from behind or putting you in a bear hug. Just don’t think one head butt will be enough. As soon as you do it, turn and follow up with strikes to other areas like stomach.

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To boost the power of the ridgehand, Grandmaster Hee Il Cho recommends combining it with a step or jump. Hand conditioning makes it even more effective.

Next is the ridgehand, which uses the thumb-side edge of the hand.
That’s a difficult spot to develop because a lot of nerves pass through the area. In the beginning, it’s very painful, and not many people are willing to endure it.
The conditioning method is the same as with the knuckles: You have to be careful to practice without opening the skin. Take it slowly and think of it as a long-term project. Remember that it’s possible to make your ridghand nearly as strong as your knifehand because your biceps have a lop of pulling power. Moving your arm in is a little stronger than moving it out. It’s why hook punches are effective.

Hand Conditioning

Grandmaster Hee Il Cho hardens his hands by smacking a portable striking board (makiwara).

How do you toughen your hands?
First you have to develop tougher areas of skin, like you get by doing a lot of work. If you’re barefoot all the time, your feet will be tough. But if you wear socks all the time and soak your feet in the water, they’ll soften up. It’s the same principle. Knuckle push-ups can be good, and hitting a heavy bag is great. Beyond that, you can hit a makiwra or other hard surface. Repetitive motion will help you develop calluses.

View Grandmaster Cho's Hand Conditioning

To read more about Body As Weapon, Tae Kwon Do secrets from Grandmaster Hee Il Cho, pick up a copy of the July and August 2009 issue of Black Belt Magazine in newstands or book stores.


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