My Work as Curator of a Taekwondo System

World Organizer of Martial Arts (WOMA) Instructor Training Day 28/29 April, Perry Lakes, W. Australia. Author of Traditional Taekwondo Techniques Colin Wee is standing at the far right.
It's fast coming to the end of my 20th year in Taekwondo.

While I still lead a small Traditional Taekwondo practice, I find myself reaching many more people with this blog and my online network, my FaceBook presence, articles submitted to Stuart Anslow's Totally Taekwondo magazine, the workshop series I started up for my school, and my networking with a broad range of instructors partly from my participation in WOMA's Instructor Training Day (see above photo), and partly through my insistence on an open door policy for my own training hall.

Through the years, I have continued my work as a 'curator' of Traditional Taekwondo, my efforts continually developing my relationship with this art, and at the same time allowing other people to understand that once upon a time, in a land far far away, an oppressed people, through immense hardship and against all odds, repurposed a hard style system which they felt was too rigid and too prescriptive to be of any use to them.

My work in the last few years has been recognised by visitors to this blog, authors who have generously included me in their books, and the various promotions and awards that, in my opinion, have been overly charitable to this practitioner.

While I have often stated that Traditional Taekwondo was exported out of Korea in 1956 and there it was practiced in isolation from the machinations of the ITF and WTF, the truth is that my lineage continued to develop in close proximity to other styles such as Karate and Tang Soo Do, both of which were anathema to Gen Choi's idea of Taekwondo.

While I highly respect the work of the Korean pioneers of Taekwondo, it was my intention to set aside political rancour and recognise that Taekwondo benefited from both the old and the new and does not become any less unique by reaching out equally to the pre-Korean source material. I crystallized this new philosophy with the renaming of my school Joong Do Kwan, which means School of the Middle Way. Middle is that point between older predecessors of the art and newer Korean innovations.

In Joong Do Kwan, the hyungs form the backbone of our syllabus, and in summary:
Chon-ji has strikes to extremities;
Dan-gun speeds it up with block, traps and counters;
Do-san is where we develop powerful close range strikes;
Won-hyo teaches us to gap close, target the neck, and perform takedowns;
Yul-gok works on two hand deflection and counters;
Joon-gun works on controls and hyperextensions of opponent's arms;
Toi-gye focuses on leg defences and takedowns;
Hwa-rang continues to develop close quarter tactics; and
Choong-moo works on blocking and redirection of opponent's strikes.
While there are strengths in the Taekwondo training methodology, there are those skills such as groundwork, grappling, and weapons which would round off our program, and which should be something any serious student should embark on outside of Taekwondo as it is offered in most schools.

As an aside, I highly recommend any Taekwondo practitioner to include striking post training into their daily practice. The heart of our forms is a karate engine that would have continued to teach focus and solid upper body strikes if the essence of those kata had not been changed. However, since many Taekwondo schools are so stylistically different from hard style Karate, it is my recommendation that practitioners return to such simple training equipment to learn how to strike with 'focus'; focus meaning using the entire body by 'locking down' or decelerating upon impact.

What is the future of Taekwondo? Why ask me. My future is way different from yours. This blog was never to indoctrinate others to follow what I'm doing. It was to spark an idea that Taekwondo can give so much more without becoming any less. After all, if it is a methodology, then what is it that you are seeking to develop with that methodology? This answer has always been up to you.

I will end by thanking my teachers and mentors - too many of us forget how fortunate we are that there are individuals who are ready to bestow their precious time so that we may find our own way on the path. I also thank visitors to this blog - for if I didn't get the traffic, I would probably not invest as much time to explore certain topics the way I do so here. Again, remember to write us a few lines or 'like' us on FB if you want to see this blog improving.

Good luck in your training.


Colin Wee
Joong Do Kwan Chung Sah Nim
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Rick said…
"While I have often stated that Traditional Taekwondo was exported out of Korea in 1956 and there it was practiced in isolation from the machinations of the ITF and WTF, the truth is that my lineage continued to develop in close proximity to other styles such as Karate and Tang Soo Do, both of which were anathema to Gen Choi's idea of Taekwondo."

Would you mind explaining this a little further?

I trained for a short time in Jidokwan when I was a teenager. I remember my Korean teacher flat out saying that it was different than Tang Soo Do, but I didn't quite get how.
Colin Wee said…
Jhoon Rhee brought what he learned from Chung Do Kwan which was Tang Soo Do to Texas in 1956. He formally changed his syllabus to include the Chang Hon forms in the late 1960s at the behest of Gen Choi. Chung Do Kwan was the original and largest kwan set up by Lee Won Kok (I think) just at the end or just after WWII.

The 1960s saw the start of some dramatic changes in international Taekwondo. I believe this was sparked off with both the institutionalisation of Taekwondo linked with the General's work on the Taekwondo encyclopedia published in 1965, and his political alienation from Seoul - which would see him continue to differentiate his Taekwondo in order to secure his 'stamp' on the art and to draw a line between himself and his detractors.

From several interviews and articles I have read, I believe a majority of the development he did on Taekwondo was done to differentiate it from Karate as was practiced in the 1920s and 1930s.

Not that this was wrong, mind you. Some of the differentiation was necessary to loosen up what was an overly rigid and overly prescription system, a system more apt for training university students than for what the korean soldiers needed.

Jhoon Rhee however did not have a huge amount of contact with the General, nor was he affected by stylistic changes to Taekwondo. Most of what he practiced was still stylistically Tang Soo Do.

The entire scene for Korean Karate and Taekwondo went into hyperdrive in the US when his students participated in the International Karate Championships in the mid 1960s - 70s. Hard hitting techniques were used, were observed, and were experimented with in what could be described as a style agnostic environment.

When I joined the STA, Jhoon Rhee's student's student's organisation, the club that I practiced in typically had a line up of black belts from various systems all practicing together. The only time when we separated was when we worked on forms. At this time, the 6-7 Taekwondo BBs, me included, would work separately. Then the other black belts (typically as many but from other styles) would work on their own forms.

The core power generation of our style of Taekwondo still was linked with the 'kime' or focus we used during formwork. For this reason continued the general understanding that the best fighters were also very able kata technicians. Funny how that works.

You say your Korean teacher flat out saying that Jido Kwan is different from Tang Soo Do? Jido kwan is an organisation that taught martial arts, and was one of the 9 original kwans that was unified under presidential decree. What they taught had to be influenced by its founder's training in Shotokan karate. Tang Soo Do or Kong Soo Do in Korea were more or less used interchangeably.

The only reason why I suspect that would be the case is because of the branding of Taekwondo - and the order which filtered down from the General to call all Korean systems Taekwondo henceforth.

What forms did you do?

Rick said…
Thanks for all the information.

It was a long time ago, I was in high school.

As I recall we practiced the Palgue forms as opposed to the set that includes Chon-ji, etc.
Colin Wee said…
Yep, that would be a good reason why he said it wasn't Tang Soo Do. :-)

Ørjan said…
Lee Won Kuk had to ask the Japanese for permission to start up the Chung Do "Hwe" (loosely translated as "organisation" or "union" but changed later to the more known term Kwan later) and most sources say 1944, but it was before the Japanese pulled out of Korea so it was before the end of world war two:-) "Legend" says that he had to ask three times and the third time he got permission.

Ji Do Kwan was actually first founded as Yun Moo Kwan in 1946 by Chun Sang Sup who had practised Shotokan Karate and Judo (1st Dan in both arts). Unfortunatly he dissapeared in the Korean war and Yun Moo Kwan was abolished.

In 1953 (after the Korean war)Yun Moo Kwan was reopened as Ji Do Kwan by Yun Kwae Byung and Lee Chong Woo. Yun Kwae Byung had practised Shudokan Karate under Toyama Kanken and Shito Ryu under Kenwa Mabuni. He had 4th Dan in Shudokan and 7th Dan in Shito Ryu. He was the first Kwanjangnim of Ji Do Kwan (or second if you count Yun Moo Kwan as Ji Do Kwan and many do) and ran Ji Do Kwan untill 1967. Lee Chong Woo was one of the highest ranked original students of Chun Sang Sup.

The forms practised were often the Shotokan Kata (but I suspect more advanced students got to practise the Shudokan and Shito Ryu Kata as well). The main thing that put Ji Do Kwan appart from the other Kwan at the time was the importance they put on live and often full contact sparring.

As Ji Do Kwan`s martial roots lie not within one style but several (Shotokan, Shudokan, Shito Ryu and Judo) it is no wonder why they felt different than the rest. But if your teacher practised Palgwe Hyung at the time he said it was not the same as Karate or Tang Soo Do then yes your teacher was very right. Palgwe was developed in 1965-67 and at that point of time many innovations had put "Taekwondo" appart from their Karate origins (much of the source material was kept, but there were many things that seperated the art taught in middle of the 60s from the original arts that the founders learned in the 1920s-40s.)

Hope this helps clarify some of the history?:-)
Colin Wee said…
Ørjan - you're hired! :-) Colin
Ørjan said…
Thanks Colin. We can discuss my fee later:p
Rick said…
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Colin Wee said…
According to Alex Gillis who authored "A Killing Art" Taekwondo was also known then as 'Take My Dough' - with unscrupulous masters trying to make a quick buck. It's very sad.
SooShimKwan said…
Just wanted to mention that it was a comment you made somewhere about the need for some "sine wave motion" practitioner to take up the pen, that started me writing more seriously about the topic. You in effect inspired me to write more specifically about ITF Taekwon-Do (misunderstandings) and so the success of the Soo Shim Kwan-blog is in part your doing.

Thank you, Colin!
Colin Wee said…
Sanko - brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. I just wrote something for Rick at Cook Ding's Kitchen, and commented that Taekwondo draws most disdain from other stylists not for the strengths of our system but for what was given up whilst pursuing those strengths. I am glad you are thus taking up the challenge of deconstructing the Sine Wave to look for opportunities to use the trough and the apex for more tactical advantage. FYI, I've always had a high opinion of Soo Shim Kwan, and I'm glad you're taking these kinds of discussion to a higher level. Congratulations! Colin
SooShimKwan said…
Thanks Colin,

But I feel it necessary to mention here, as I have done on my blog, that I do not see myself as the "Defender of the Sine Wave Motion" or of Taekwon-Do. I see myself merely as an expositor. I'm just trying to explain the system (as I understand it); I'm not trying to defend the system, for although (ITF) Taekwon-Do is my base style, I also practise other martial arts and see the value in them too.

Nonetheless, as I have time and opportunity I try to write and hope that my posts are of value to other practitioners.
Colin Wee said…
They're not many Taekwondo bloggers who are doing what we do, Sanko. We don't have to be flag bearers at all ... we just need to keep at it. :-) Cheers, Colin
David said…
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Lis said…
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David Wright said…
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David Wright said…
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