Patterns>Fundamentals>Meaning of the enclosed fist

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Meaning of the enclosed fist


In the chunbi (ready) stance of some taekwondo patterns, such as won-hyo, the hand position has the right closed fist enclosed by the left open hand. This hand position is used in most martial arts, not just taekwondo. As with other aspects of the martial arts, this traditional hand position has differing views as to its origin.

Meaning of enclosed fist

The following are some versions of the origin of the enclosed fist hand position:
  • When ancient warriors met one another on a path, they would acknowledge each other by bowing. They would respectively cover the training knuckle of their right hand so one would not know how hard the other had trained, thereby supplying a tactical advantage should a quarrel ensue.
  • Shaolin monks practiced this form of salutation from the period when their monastery was burnt down by persons who opposed Ming rule and the monk's support of Ming. Some say the salutation originally came from the fall of the Ming Dynasty. Ming means "sun and moon" and the position of the hand over the fist looks like a moon over the sun.
  • During the 1911 Boxer Rebellion in China, covering of the right fist with the open hand was a symbol of solidarity and of unity in the rebellion, and was a representation of membership or active participation in the uprising. 
  • The fist and open hand are opposites that work together but are also in constant conflict, just as in the concept of yin and yang. The hard, yang fist represents the power of the martials arts that we should train but also work toward controlling. The soft, yin open hand represents the aspects of the martial arts that temper use of the power of the fist, such as humility, courtesy, integrity, self-control, compassion, etc.
  • Some say the enclosed fist represents a sheathed weapon. Some say the enclosed fist represents the physical being restrained by the spiritual. In some forms of kung-fu, interpret the enclosed fist as a "velvet glove" covering the "iron fist."
In taekwondo, the enclosed fist shows we have the power, but we are restraining the power in respect of the other person. The hard, closed fist represents power and the soft, open hand restrains the power. We humans close our fists in anger and use them to threaten, strike, or to destroy. Whereas, we use the soft, open hand to show we are not a threat, to prevent others from striking, and to build. We use the fist to knock, such as on a door, to get a person's attention, but then we use the open hand to greet and shake hands after gaining a person's attention. The enclosed fist indicates a warrior ready to fight but seeking a fight.

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