12 Road Tan Tui, or Dham Doi Ship E Ro in Korean, is a set of basic Chang Quan (long fist/boxing) combinations with a unique emphasis on kicks. Hwang Kee, founder of Hwa Soo Do, Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan, and Soo Bahk Do, learned these exercises while he was in China training under his instructor Yang, Yuk Jin (Yang Chu Chin in Chinese). The History of Moo Duk Kwan, an autobiography of Hwang Kee, notes his training in China included Seh Bop (Postures), Bo Bup (Steps), Ryun Bup (Conditioning) and two sets of forms: Dham Doi Ship E Ro and Tae Kuk Kwon (Tai Chi Chuan). A future article will be written on these other disciplines.
Since the 12 Set Tan Tui (彈腿)–as they are more commonly known in the martial arts community–were foundational to Hwang Kee’s martial arts career, it’s safe to assume that Tan Tui greatly influenced the Moo Duk Kwan system in a large way, particularly in his study of Soo Bahk found in the Kwon Bup (拳法) section of the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji (武藝圖譜通志). You can quickly identify pieces and even entire sets of Tan Tui exercises in standard Moo Duk Kwan combinations, such as the Sam Kwan Kong Kyuk (Triple Fist Attack).
Any student of Hwang Kee’s famous Yuk Ro forms, will find many correlations with Tan Tui. Yuk Ro, meaning 6 roads, came from the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji and is one line of text each. Some techniques are further explained in the notes section but overall, little guidance is given to the true nature of Yuk Ro. It seems clear, however, that each “road” is a single technique rather than an entire form. Hwang Kee then extrapolated the information and created a signature technique in each Yuk Ro form that shaped the character of the form. It’s safe to say that Hwang Kee then gleaned other techniques to compose the form from his previous training, including 12 Road Tan Tui. Individual movements and combinations can be found in both 12 Road Tan Tui and Yuk Ro forms.
Tan Tui Explained
Tan Tui (彈腿) is commonly translated to “spring legs” or “springing legs” because of the double meaning of spring. The correct meaning for “spring” in this case refers to water. A better translation is likely “pond”. Tan Tui is a foundational exercise in almost all Chang Quan (long fist/boxing) systems in Northern China and came from the Hui Muslim community. Though many variations exist, two main branches are practiced today: 10 Road Tan Tui and 12 Road Tan Tui. 12 Road Tan Tui is what Hwang Kee practiced.
The signature technique of Tan Tui is the “yoke punch”, which Soo Bahk Do practitioners call “Hwa Kuk Jang Kap Kwon”–translated Seize and Smash Long Back Fist. A yoke was a wooden bar that would “yoke” a team of oxen to pull a wagon. The yoked oxen moved as a single unit because of the yoke. In like manner, both arms work and move together in a yoke punch.
The yoke punch differs from a Hwa Kuk Jang Kap Kwon in that the front hand strikes with the front of the fist, rather than the back of the fist. A yoke punch is a straight punch with the chest turned sideways for maximum expansion and reach. The back hand acts as a back fist to the rear, though the back hand is only practiced in the forms as you learn Chang Quan (long fist/boxing) theory. In application, it’s a single handed strike with your body turned. It is quite effective and has defensive characteristics while moving offensively.
A Moo Duk Kwan practitioner will benefit greatly from the study of Tan Tui as it will give him/her a greater understanding of the Moo Duk Kwan system by learning the foundation on which it was built. Some of the more classical movements in Soo Bahk Do begin to be demystified as you study both the motions and applications of Tan Tui. Below is an example of some of the Tan Tui roads, modified to better complement the Moo Duk Kwan’s interpretation of Yuk Ro while still staying true to the spirit of Tan Tui.