If you had a few months left to live, how would you spend it? If you were given a second chance, how far would you take it? If your world collapses around you, how hard would you fight to protect it?
This is the crucible which formed Taekwondo – each pioneering individual in its formative years had to put up with incredible adversity. War. Military Occupation. Famine. Coups. Civil Unrest. Each brave Taekwondo Master deserves more recognition than they have received. To understand Taekwondo is to know these people and their ancestors have faced oppression for a thousand years and still retain the courage to fight for what they believe in. Never forget that Taekwondo began with the blood, sweat and tears from these pioneering Masters.
My Taekwondo is directly related to that system employed to train the Korean army after the Japanese occupation ended in Korea. Wikipedia indicates that early Taekwondo could have had origins in native Korean martial arts, or it could have drawn influences from neighbouring countries and their corresponding lineages, or that is entirely based on Karate. If you study the global movement of martial arts through history, you’ll know all of these are plausible … that most ‘new’ arts are really repackaged offerings. The evidence is right there in the DNA of Taekwondo; Taekwondo patterns show a huge influence coming from early 20th century Japanese Karate and strong evidence of kicking techniques that may prove a link to indigenous arts.
From there, exported to the US in the mid 1950s, that system of Taekwondo continued to flourish apart from the global evolution of Taekwondo from a military system into an Olympic sport. More importantly, American practitioners continued to practice it in close proximity to its Karate cousins. They were interested in testing out techniques and seeing what worked, and were happy to ‘borrow’ methods, skills, and training drills from other styles as they saw fit.
This progressive and pragmatic approach influences the core of my Taekwondo. Most often people think of me as a Traditional instructor. I am ‘traditional’ because I reference much of what I teach directly to sequences within our hyungs or patterns. I am ‘traditional’ because I focus on the self defence or combative applications. Most just don’t realise that the heart of tradition is about being progressive, inventive and objective-oriented. To me, this means always looking at the ‘framework’ of Taekwondo and challenging it to match your needs.
The first hyung or pattern of Taekwondo Chon-ji means ‘Heaven and Earth.’ Chon-ji is the seat of the Korean creation myth, and is a hauntingly beautiful place where the sky flows into the Earth through the lens of a large body of water cradled in an extinct caldera. Fighting Heaven and Earth takes its inspiration from both the Korean creation myth and the need to continually challenge the framework of Taekwondo. I invite you to come with me on my journey to build a stronger Taekwondo.
Next: The Korean Way