With time these techniques [i.e. grappling techniques] have pretty much disappeared from WTF Taekwon-Do with its extreme focus on sport – Olympic style sparring. In ITF Taekwon-Do some of these skills have remained, but have been marginalized to special “self-defence” techniques and neglected as part of fundamental training. In part, I would guess, because most of these techniques were not systematised into the ITF Encyclopaedia as fundamental techniques, for the simple reason that they were not basic kicks, strikes and blocks, but rather auxiliary techniques taught by instructors as part of self-defence training. Unfortunately, the lack of their documentation has caused them to be mostly forgotten. Some instructors and students seem oblivious to the fact that Ground Techniques “Nowoo Gisool” is an acknowledge subsection of techniques in the Taekwon-Do arsenal. I would go so far as to say that in some Taekwon-Do schools students may go through the ranks without ever learning to do a break fall, hip throw or chocking technique. For many ITF practitioners, the only time they get close to a ground technique is at second Dan level when a kick and punch from the ground are included in one of the patterns. It is a lamentable reality.
I want to talk about the Korean grappling art Yusul, which is basically the Korean version of Japanese Jujitsu. The reason I wish to talk about Yusul is two fold. Firstly, very few people are familiar with Yusul because it has gone practically extinct, partly because Yusul evolved into Hapkido, and because Brazilian Jiu-jitsu has become so famous that all other lessor known grappling styles are practically forgotten. Secondly, the grappling techniques that includes both stand-up grappling techniques [ 체포술기 / 금니] and ground techniques [ 누워술기 ] in ITF Taekwon-Do were sourced from this earlier version of Hapkido -- the more aggressive type of Hapki-Yusul. Basically, if you want to rediscover the original grappling techniques that were part of ITF Taekwon-Do, one needs to look at Yusul.
Yusul is the Korean version of Jujitsu (the Japanese grappling concepts) from which Hapkido developed. In other words, Yusul is what Hapkido was when it was still brutish, focusing more on joint breaks than on "Hap Ki Do", i.e. "Joining-Energy-Way." Hapkido used to be called Hapki-Yusul. The Hapkido of today have much more in common with Aikido than with original Jujitsu. The Chinese characters on which Hapkido and Aikido are based are practically the same: 合氣道 and 合気道.
The Korean word "Yusul" [ 유술 ] and the Japanese word "Jujitsu" are based on the same Chinese characters.* Knowing that Yusul looks more like Jujitsu (and Judo) than current Hapkido is the first step in trying to rediscover the grappling techniques in Taekwon-Do. The next problem we face is that easy access to Yusul is quite difficult. In Korea one is more likely to find a sport Jujitsu school or Judo school and nowadays even more likely to find a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu gym. We are then faced with a new problem, the most accessible versions of jujitsu are the sport versions. While these may give us a good introduction to the basic principles required for grappling, they do not by default reveal to us the type of grappling techniques that was originally part of Taekwon-Do.
Why do I consider it a problem? Well, sports are innately limiting. The very nature of sport will prefer techniques that are better at scoring points, while tournament rules automatically reduce techniques. (I spoke about this in more detail in the posts "What I Have Against Tournament Sparring", Part 1 and Part 2.) Sport versions of martial arts do not fully reflect the original purpose and full extend of that martial art.
I have some experience in both Yusul and BJJ and while I can't claim -- even by a long shot -- to be an expert in these styles, I think I can superficially speak about some differences between Yusul and BJJ. The obvious difference, I would postulate, is that BJJ is much more of a sport than Yusul is. During BJJ I learn the typical techniques one would learn at any BJJ gym and which one typically sees in MMA tournaments like UFC. And what I like about my BJJ training is that these techniques are drilled in, so that their execution becomes rather instinctive. In the Yusul training we do learn these typical techniques, but then we learn all types of strange techniques, weird variations, obscure applications. The difference between Yusul and BJJ is in variety. Yusuls seem to have a greater variety of techniques, while BJJ is more streamlined.
Recently a historic thing happened in UFC that has the UFC community raving. The Korean fighter Jung Chan Sung 정찬성, aka The Korean Zombie, applied the first "twister"-technique in UFC history. A little known fact about Jung Chan Sung is that he practiced Hapkido as a child and while at university he studied under my Yusul instructor, Master Kim Hoon. Master Kim is a 7th Dan in Hapkido, but his original black belt was in Hapki-Yusul, before it became known as Hapkido. In other words, Master Kim's style resembles more Jujitsu and less Aikido. I want to suggest that part of Jung Chan Sung's success in pulling off the first twister in UFC history is his exposure to a different type of grappling -- one with more "strange techniques, weird variations, obscure applications." Don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying this is the reason for his successful "twister." There is no doubt that he was influenced by Eddie Bravo; in fact, Jung admitted that he learned this technique by watching Eddie Bravo videos on YouTube. He also said that it's a technique he "practiced because it looks fun." (Watch his interview in which he mentions this and also watch Eddie Bravo's break down of Jung Chan Sung's application of the "twister.") Still, his exposure to Yusul / Hapkido gives him a different way of approaching grappling, one less confined to the typical sport grappling limitations.
What I'm trying to come at is that when we want to rediscover grappling for Taekwon-Do purposes, it is okay to do so from sport grappling styles like BBJ, sport Jujitsu and even Judo. However, we should remember that our only purpose for thinking about grappling in Taekwon-Do is for self-defence purposes. Grappling techniques in Taekwon-Do need not, in fact should not, be limited to typical "legal" grappling techniques. Rather, we should also try and find all those unusual and "illegal" grappling techniques that are too dangerous for the sport arena. These are the types of techniques that were most likely incorporated into early Taekwon-Do.
I am conscious of a big probable flaw in my argument. There are two types
The only way to pull of a proper grappling technique is when you've done it enough time to become instinctive and the only way to do that is to train in the type of gym where such type of training is common, and generally the only gyms that do teach in this way are the sport grappling gyms, like BJJ. I know for myself this is very much the case. The techniques I get my opponents to tap out with are of two sorts. They are the during training sessions are the more common techniques that I've drilled in BJJ.
* 柔術 means "soft" / "gentle" and "skill" / "technique". Remember that the translation "soft" or "gentle" should not be taken at face value. The "gentle skill" refers to a strategic approach of redirecting force to your own advantage. One need only look at Judo, which means "gentle way", or Yusul meaning "gentle techniques", and it is obvious that "gentle" or "soft" has a connotative meaning in the martial arts that often results in body throws and joint breaks.