How Traditional is Your Tradition?

I have been asked how traditional is my Traditional Taekwondo.

I would answer with a question - how traditional can you be if you were focusing on being progressive?

When my lineage of Taekwondo was exported out of Korea, Taekwondo was in its infancy. The instructor who brought it over to the United States was a Chung Do Kwan practitioner. Since then, however, Taekwondo worldwide continued evolving due to its political and social climate.

Would a school that claimed to do 'Traditional Taekwondo' still look like it was practicing like how the practitioners do in the above video?

My school performs patterns fairly similarly to those practitioners. However, I believe we have finessed the hyungs a little more from that era. I would like to think that we're trying to achieve more deceleration of each technique, punches which are tighter, and keeping centre of gravity steady for most of the steps. Note that none of that includes any mention of the Sine Wave - which is not part a methodology I use in my school.

Application is where our practice differs significantly. In my school, one steps are only a small part of the overall training; our attacks a little less scripted. Such 'traditional' scripted training scenarios are still included, but are just a small part of the overall 'gym bag' of exercises.

I believe the cornerstone of good traditional training is always to move onwards and upwards.



Colin Wee
Principal, Joong Do Kwan (Perth)
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Ørjan Nilsen said…
Personally I use "Traditional" to differentiate "My" Taekwondo from the sportive Olympic style Taekwondo many now associate With Taekwondo. I do believe that the there are 3 Things you have to do to be "Traditional" in my eyes (note this is my opinion)

1. it teaches philosophy/ ethics along its physical techniques
2.It Practises all 5 different Pillars of Taekwondo
3.Because it contains the 5 pillars it works within the framework defined as traditional Taekwondo. The end result may look different, and the emphasis on the pillars may vary, but the underlying principles are there.

The pillars of Taekwondo (again my opinion) is Basics, forms, sparring, self defense and breaking. Now wether you practise Pyungahn, Chonji or Taegeuk as Your first form does not matter, what matters is that you do forms. If you Chamber Your Blocks on the inside or outside does not matter (in this case) what matters is that you do basics. WHat kind of sparring you do does not matter, what matters is that you do sparring etc.

Very good post though Colin and thanks for sharing that Clip:-.)
Ron Jensen said…
Mr. Nilsen - I like your take on what you consider traditional. Just wondering, are weapons considered under one of the five Pillars? Even traditional?

Also, very sly of you to say it doesn't matter if you practice Pyung Ahn, Chang Hon or Taeguek as your forms when you have a poll on your blog asking which is original. :) :)

Great discussion points!
Ron Jensen said…
Great post Mr. Wee. A great question as well!

I think that one can be both traditional and progressive.

The significant difference you mention, specifically application, I believe is a great example of "progressive traditionalism."

I take the one-steps shown in the clip (and taught yet today) as a VERY high level view of application (probably still a generous view even with the emphasis on very).

If your interest is practical applications, then moving past the traditional one-steps like those shown in the clip is a natural learning progression.

After all, the film basically comes across as a "promo" film. While it demonstrates many of the facets of TKD, how in-depth can you get in just under an hour?

I don't believe that your moving beyond the early (I'm think I'm not going to call them traditional any longer) version of one-steps is breaking away from a traditional's simply improving the learning and feedback through better QA (quality assurance).

Anyway, that's my two-cents. :)
Colin Wee said…
Thanks, Ron. I remember reading a joke about how a caretaker has been using the same broom for the last 20 years ... he's just changed the handle a couple of times and then changed the head a couple of times. Basically, the joke is on the gullible person who's fixating on sameness or the value of some sentimental object or practice.

For me, like Ørjan, I use 'Tradition' to separate my Taekwondo from sportive practices. I am using the forms for instance as my core syllabus. And I hope I'm doing a good job 'filling in the blanks' and teaching to those forms.

What I want is a cogent approach to teaching, an appropriate systematic progression for students, and an adequate combative system for them to use. Not too much to ask.

But aside from the forms, I have tried to overhaul as much of the other areas of practice as I need. My objective was to address 'real' issues, so I can't fixate on legacy training methods unless of course they fit back with my model of training. :-)

Maybe one day I'll get to do a show and tell.

Bob Patterson said…
Good post!

I've just started what I'm calling leg three of my martial arts journey. From (mostly) WTF-style TKD, to kung fu, to ITF-style Taekwon-do!

So far these ITF folks like purity in their art. Although it sounds like they occasionally make what they call "revisions."

Still, for the most part, it's the General's catalog!
Colin Wee said…
Hey Bob - sorry I didn't see this response until now. Yeah, I don't understand how organisational revisions occur nor the politics driving those revisions. Saying that I also do revisions and additions to my own curriculum, though I attempt to retain as much of what was on offer before. Mostly the additions 'add' to what's already there in an incremental fashion. If it doesn't then we have to work it in from the beginning and build from there. No point having a syllabus and not helping students progress through it. Glad that you're enjoying your journey! :-). BTW, you might want to check out Locks and Throws in Taekwondo - which talks a little about syllabus and how I integrate locks and throws into a hard style system. Cheers, Colin
Michael Dail said…
New comer here, but dig the site. I have been digging into the posts and finding a lot of material I'm interested in concerning the applications of Chung Hon forms.
As to use of weapons, though I feel that traditional taekwondo started with no weapons, the Okinawan roots did. Kobudo can further refine muscular coordination for strikes, as the physics extends a lever arm beyond the hand. I dabble in Ryukyu kobudo (dojo is a bit far) and feel it has added greatly to my approach to Taekwondo.

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