I was told that one of the Dan-level Kukkiwon poomsaes include a movement similar to the Kamehameha we see in the Dragonball cartoons.
Is this true? If so, what would be the application for this technique?
I did some research and found the technique in the Kukkiwon website. The Information section on Techniques describes the taesan milgi:
Taesan-milgi (태산밀기) Steep Mountain Pushing
A motion of pushing an imaginary mountain This is a movement of pushing a big mountain in order to focus the performer’s mind and control his or her breathing. This movement can be delivered by putting the heels of both palms close to each other in the form of the Palm Heel. The fingertips on the side of the front foot should point down while those on the side of the rear foot point up. These open hands are to be pushed away at the front of the chest.
This technique is introduced in the 7th Dan poomsae, Chonkwon.
This is the information for current WT/Kukkiwon-style Taekwondo. Read @steve-weigand and @mattm for a broader perspective on this technique.
It is presented as a concentration and breathing control technique, which matches with Karate's Sanchin form. It seems that it lost it's initial grappling function.
EDIT: You can see it being performed in this video.
EDIT2: An application of this technique is shown in this video
Modern wushu, which is perhaps more performance art than martial art, has a nanquan (Southern Fist) form with a similar element. I am not sure what the source style is for this element; my understanding is the form is inspired from multiple styles of gong fu normally classified as southern, as opposed to northern. This is probably related only peripherally to tae-kwon-do, if at all.
I am not aware of a canonical application of this technique. I speculate that one application would be to wrist or ankle locks. The turning of the attacker's hands causes rotation of the opponent's foot or hand around the wrist or ankle combined with a throw.
This is actually a technique found in literally hundreds of martial arts, and it's typically one of the first things taught in those arts.
In Okinawan karate, specifically Uechi Ryu or Goju Ryu, you'll see this very prominently featured in the form "Sanchin". You can see a demonstration here:
This technique typically has roots in older tiger style kung-fu, circa 1600's. From there it got into dragon, crane, and other styles of kung-fu. These are mostly southern style kung-fu arts, but it even appears in northern style. It was adapted from kung-fu to Okinawan karate.
It can be traced back perhaps thousands of years to wrestling arts in China, India, and Greece, because it's such a basic and widely practiced movement.
Question is, what is it doing?
Well to answer that question, please start by reading my explanation for what kata/forms really are here: Why is more time dedicated to exercises and very less for sparring? Is it for the fee?
In short, it's jujitsu. Or chin-na. Or shuai-jiao. Etc.
Basically, it's all about grappling. It's not actually a double palm strike. And it certainly doesn't involve chi/ki projection like you see in cartoons. Haha.
This movement (Dragon Ball's "kamehameha") fits many self-defense situations. If someone is in front of you and grabs your left wrist with his right hand, you can use your right hand to circle under and to the outside of his right hand. Then you grab a hold of his right wrist with your right hand, twisting it and pulling it simultaneously to your right hip. This releases his wrist hold and uses your leverage to extend his arm out and positions it such that his right elbow is now pointing upwards. Next, you can step forward with a "half-moon" circular step (see Goju Ryu video above). This steps around his right foot and places your left foot in between his legs. Next, you press forward with both your palms. Your left palm is placed on top of his arm, above the elbow (or on his shoulder if you like). And your right hand is still locking his right wrist. The combination of all of the above causes a standing arm-bar. It will bend him forward. He'll trip over your left leg now (or you can do a foot sweep simultaneously), and he'll fall face-first to the ground. You'll still have his arm locked and controlled.
Alternatively, if you don't want to send him to the floor, you can get an elbow break if you yank really quickly.
There are many other scenarios where this works, which is why it's a very basic technique taught within the first year in many martial arts. It works if he's punching at you, for example. You can use the circle block while stepping diagonally forward, deflecting the punch and getting your body out of the way of the punch. That lets you get in close to body-check him while pulling his punching arm further forward, causing him to become unbalanced. Next, your palms press on his exposed torso and shoulder, causing him to fall.
There's a scenario where he kicks you, too, and this can be used to deflect his leg and unbalance him or throw him.
Do you see a pattern? Notice that each application involves getting in close to him, using leverage, and unbalancing him. It's all based on good body mechanics and grappling.
I'm not aware of Taekwondo using this specifically, but then I haven't learned all of the forms in Taekwondo. It wouldn't surprise me if Taekwondo borrowed this movement.
I wrote a little article on how Taekwondo came from karate here: History of Shotokan's Influence on Taekwondo
Hope that helps!
Yes, this is in Chongkwon, I compete with it all the time. There are a lot of nuances about this technique, as any Karate-ka can tell you. But like many Taekwondo forms, their presentation seems more abbreviated and less detailed than their Karate roots. That means you'll have a lot of research and learning to do to come up with bunkai (bunhae in Korean) if your instructor doesn't teach it. It also means you have a wider berth when it comes to bunhae: just make sure your bunhae makes sense and that you practice it well.
Breathing is not the object of the technique, but it is certainly the subject of the technique. Of course, that could be said for any technique. I agree also that it's got nothing to do with ki or stuff like that.
Note the tiger stance: This suggests very close quarters to your opponent. It also suggests nearly no mobility, and therefore, it's application is always grappling - not striking, not a reversal, not a weapon, not a block or parry, etc.
Note also that, when you perform the technique correctly, you never lean forward; rather, your back is upright and balanced on the hips. Coupled with the bend in the knees for the tiger stance, this - and the speed of the technique - suggests a resisting opponent and you are rooting yourself. And the direction of the technique is a z-axis - away from you. Timed properly, you push out as you dip low into the tiger stance. This is an example of a technique that ITF Taekwondo-in perform all the time in their sine-wave motions of their forms. By lowering yourself, you lower your center of gravity allowing you to more easily push the opponent.
Next, note how you begin pushing the hands: they start at the hip and rotate with a small circle. Also note your hands are not in a fist, and rather, are open-palm. This means you are not grabbing anything; rather, you are reacting to being grabbed.
When you factor this all in, the technique shows some similarities in application using a push or a throw. If your hands move from chamber, through a circular motion, to an extension outwards, that is reminiscent of a Karate or Aikido "jujinage" - an "X" throw. Such is seen in many styles, like Hapkido, Aikido, wrestling, Judo, and others.
Here's an example:
If you change up the form and your chambering hands are not moving in a circular motion (making this what the Japanese would call a "henka waza" - an alternative but similar technique), then this could be seen as a simple push of the opponent.
Now, this technique is borrowed from Sanchin kata, and there exists a similarity in performance of the technique - but there are also subtle differences. One thing to note is that in Sanchin, the hands are at 2:00 / 8:00 position (or reversed), whereas in Chongkwon, the hands are at 12:00 and 6:00 positions.
In either case, it begs the question: is it really a push, as some people like to teach it? Wouldn't a more effective push be executed at the opponent's shoulders - higher center of gravity - to leverage a more effective push? One interpretation with the kata would be a kaitenage - a throw. But in the taekwondo variant, that isn't really well demonstrated by the technique, although one might take that "wide berth" as I mentioned before, and make use of a similar execution of the technique.
So here is a nice example of a kaitenage at :25 into the video:
...and another at 1:22: