Joong Do Kwan 2015

Joong Do Kwan 2015
Joong Do Kwan School of the Middle Way

30 Apr 2011

My Perspective on 'Taekwondo Sucks?'

I typed in 'Problems with Taekwondo' and the first post I see is 'Taekwondo Sucks?' by an online friend Bob Paterson from Striking Thoughts. His post presents a fairly even debate, so I don't think I've got to rehash the dialog much. What I'd like to do is bring out issues with highlight how we do things.

Is Taekwondo primarily a kicking art?You may be surprised to learn but there are actually more hand techniques in Taekwondo than leg strikes.

I've heard this logic and reasoning before. If you look at Traditional Taekwondo forms, kicks not only make a very late entry, they are outnumbered by hand techniques all the way to black belt! But look at the video posted on Striking Thoughts and you see two hard style fighters who are predominantly kickers who do not cover for hand strikes to the head - and from this I presume have not yet spent enough time on hand strikes, proper coverage or defences against a person who is going to come out from their corner punching.

The issue is not whether or not there are more hand techniques, it is that these hand techniques are not being applied in training so that the practitioner can rely on them for strikes, coverage, or defences. Having them in the form is not sufficient for them to be assimilated by the student practitioner. What students need is for techniques to be pulled out of the form and to be used in a reiterative sequence, offering practise for one or both hands.

The problem is that somewhere in history taekwondo proper decided to emphasize kicks over hand strikes. 
That would have to be after the mid 1950s, after early Taekwondo was brought to the US by GM Jhoon Rhee, the father of my lineage. This is evidenced by my system treating both hand techniques and leg techniques rather equally. This however doesn't mean that hand techniques are optimised from what is available from the syllabus. Techniques MUST still be synthesized from the forms, as I mentioned above, so students are able to have the right upper body skills. The analogy that I use in my class is that of a 'windshield wiper.' All you do is turn on the windshield wiper and it works, without you having to think too hard about it. Of course this is not the be all and end all, but where would you find techniques within the forms to create this 'windshield wiper'? Yep, start thinking. When you have some answers, perhaps we should reconvene and share notes?

Even now I realize that with taekwondo’s popularity there are some pretty watered down schools out there.   
While I don't think I run a watered down school, I've thought about this long and hard. I think some of it is because of the myth that 'masters of old' would pass down only an incomplete portion of their knowledge. You would think after several generations of this, most arts (not just Taekwondo) would have been eroded, and would have significantly have diminished their worth.

I don't think this is the entire story. I think lots of the degeneration which afflicts any art or seen through  McDojos is created through apathy. A combative art can't promote the institutionalisation of thought. There is a huge need for independent thinking which leads to the questioning of assumptions, and the identification of the objectives of practice. Think that all you need is kicking speed, fitness, and flexibility? Then join an aerobics class for crying out loud.

I'd like to hear from anyone interested in keeping things fresh. Instructor or student alike. What has inspired you to look at things differently? How have you improved lately?

Links




-- Colin Wee Traditional Taekwondo Techniques, Patterns, and Applications at the Traditional Taekwondo Blog. [Subscribe using email or RSS feeds] [Tkd Sitemap]. Colin is a martial art instructor with 25 years of experience across three continents. Colin leads a small Traditional Taekwondo group for adults in Perth, Western Australia. Connect with Colin on FaceBook and Traditional Taekwondo Group on FB.

12 comments:

B said...

I think I'll have to weigh in briefly!

SenseiMattKlein said...

Hi Colin, I think their are good and bad schools in every style. We had a few guys come in from TKD and their kicks were formidable. However, when they got in close they were not capable of using their hands to attack or defend. Their school did not focus on it.

After some time in Kenpo, which is more hand-oriented, they became very good with their hands, and are now some of our top fighters. I say, always keep an open mind. We have added many kicks from TKD to our system because they are so effective.

Colin Wee said...

Keeping an open mind - while reiterated again and again, is right. We need to keep asking ourselves what it is we're doing and how to keep ourselves relevant. Thanks for the comment. :-) Colin

B said...

The short version: What Sensei Klein said. The longer version at my blog.

:-)

Martial Arts said...

It is the same in other martial arts, when competition and sport become more important than self defense the techniques evolve to score and not to be effective. You can see the same evolution here for karate kumite

SooShimKwan said...

I find exposing myself to different instructors and also different styles (even if it is just by reading blogs like yours) helps me from stagnating into a fixed way of thinking.

As a non-sport TKD (not WTF) practitioner, I've never thought of Taekwon-Do as a predominantly kicking art. Actually, my first instructor often said that Taekwon-Do is firstly boxing, quoting Hee Il Cho. (Couldn't never find that quote, though.)

On a side note, the grey quoted text on the grey background is very difficult to read.

Colin Wee said...

I find exposing myself to different instructors and also different styles (even if it is just by reading blogs like yours) helps me from stagnating into a fixed way of thinking.

I started opening myself up in 2003 when I started doing research on the subject, and I am pleased to say that my passion and my knowledge have increased significantly through interacting with other instructors who are on the same path to discover more about their art. So yeah - I totally understand where you're coming from.

As a non-sport TKD (not WTF) practitioner, I've never thought of Taekwon-Do as a predominantly kicking art. Actually, my first instructor often said that Taekwon-Do is firstly boxing, quoting Hee Il Cho. (Couldn't never find that quote, though.)

What I think is that TKD is a great training program as TKD instructors have a fairly clean slate to work off on. So yeah, if someone wants to make TKD primarily boxing, they can ... but I reckon that there are strengths from TKD being a newish 'traditional' art that shouldn't be ignored.

On a side note, the grey quoted text on the grey background is very difficult to read.

It looked cool, but I agree. I'm trying a different dark background. What do you think?

Colin

SooShimKwan said...

I've looked at it now on two different computer screens; unfortunately the font colour of the quotations is still too dark to read comfortably. I think one can change the quotation font colours specifically in the Design > Advanced field on Blogger. I suggest a lighter font colour, maybe blue to match your link colour, but of a different shade, so it is not confused with links.

Colin Wee said...

This should be better now. :-)

SooShimKwan said...

Very clear, indeed.

Legendary_Toast said...

I think if your creative enough you can figure out how to use your practices from McSchools for practical applications. I was turned away from TKD after getting my black belt mostly because most schools seem to focus on sparring competition and I didn't feel I was learning enough self defense or hand techniques.

But after realizing that it's up to the individual to figure out how to use the technique, I think any martial art is useful as long as you don't expect to be micro managed when being taught.

Colin Wee said...

Hmm... if I'm reading you correct, you're 'McSchool' seemed to have given you enough training that you seem to be firmly on the path. Competition sparring shouldn't be knocked, unless of course you're looking for pragmatic skills. If so, there are take aways that you can apply - breathing, timing, movement, focus, etc. With such insight, your basic training, and your kind of awareness ... it's no wonder that you can still grow. You should be proud of yourself for becoming more than the sum of your training. As you probably have realised, far too few students do that. Cheers, Colin