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.
For another external article on the issue, see Why are Korean Martial Arts held in such Low Esteem?
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?
- Man of Tradition: Australian Taekwondo Magazine Interview, with additional links on the history of Taekwondo
- Sometimes You Have to Tune In
- Beginning Taekwondo
- Beginning Sparring Part One: Problems Encountered
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