Your Taekwondo Doesn't Even Look Like Taekwondo



Hey, your Taekwondo looks different.

I get that a lot. Our training is compared to Wing Chun. Our technique interpretation seems to emulate Goju type bunkai.

It's no secret, I often say that a 'style' isn't artistic flamboyance. It's training methodology. It's a school's approach to dealing with threat and risk. Thus, my style is labelled 'Taekwondo' and we do have legacy Taekwondo patterns. But it is also how we interpret our syllabus, how we assess risk, how we prepare our members, how we train, and of course what are our goals for training.

So when a person says we "look Wing Chun" or "move like an Okinawan," it's probably because there's similarities in the various tactics we use or in our perspective of training. Really, it's not like I want to look like a specific something. Nor am I trying to say some other martial art is better than mine so I follow their lead. Of course, you can take it as a compliment to the relevance of the other style. I'm good like that.

Actually, to be honest, the videos I've shared extensively from our training sessions are unlike anything you've seen from Taekwondo. There are very few high kicks, for instance. No trick ninja kicks. No K-pop dancing. No manic drills. And no aerial hijinks.

But more so, yeah ... I would say there's the fact that the techniques we share on YouTube themselves look nothing like the patterns!

What I know from many years of sharing these precious few moments is that they hardly show the context of our pattern practice. And, yeah, you don't get all the drills, the prerequisite buildup of skills, the complementary tactics that may make that video work, and my gosh, because all of these videos are done unscripted, whatever I say is said on the spur of the moment. Often I'll come back and would prompt myself to include issues or tips I want to share from a specific video. And then this tidbit is not associated with the video because, hey, it's not like I have unlimited time. I'm married with kids, don't you know?

For instance, check out the video from 6:25 onwards. This should be the takeaway from the video, rather than the tactical value of the spearhand. Don't get me wrong, I think this lesson is not bad. The video shows technique, shows what to do whilst dealing with a dynamic opponent. But it doesn't include other associated lessons varying the position of the spearhand in relation to the opponent. What happens if my spearhand is over his left shoulder? Or over his right?

This quick tappity tap exchange sure looks impressive. But it is the bane of Hollywood on martial arts training. I can move my hands fast! Wow. I can do cool-looking hand locks. I can do amazing kicks. There's a trend in Hollywood or throughout gyms across the US or social media, and we should then follow it! Right.

There's always benefit to some training. Yes, any training. But going Hollywood will not lead you to the essence of a hard-style system. A hard style system is about putting down the opponent with tactics that make sense to your bag of skills. It's about mitigating the threat. Destroying their structure. Your training should be blitzing out doable tactics. It's a recipe - like baking a cake - so most of your students may have a fighting chance of serving up something palatable.

This is the context of our pattern training - we preserve the pattern but we are not simply trying to visually emulate the pattern. We want to get to the mind of the architect of the pattern. Those guys who came before us who wanted our system to be relevant to all students. It is certainly not to preserve a 'look'.

Colin Wee
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