Martial arts is a broad topic based on a philosophical, scientific, artistic and spiritual approach. The following are eight categories within the martial arts framework known as Mu Sool (Martial Skills). (1)
- Striking/ hitting techniques
- Avoiding and blocking techniques
- Holding or grabbing techniques
- Throwing techniques
- Weapons techniques
- Internal techniques
- Healing techniques
- Spiritual or metaphysical techniques
Mu Sool can also be categorized into four divisions. (2)
- Wae Kong – which is the externalization of Nae Kong and deals with the offensive and defensive combative applications found within martial arts.
- Nae Kong – which deals with one’s internal energy (Ki power).
- Moo Gi Kong – which involves the offensive and defensive use of traditional weapons.
- Shin Kong – which is the study, development, and control of the human mind in order to attain one’s full potential and mental capabilities.
In this paper, martial arts and Taekwondo (TKD) are considered dynamic based action philosophies of Asia. Their pragmatic science, art and philosophies revolve around the Eastern macrocosmic principal known as the Universal Law (Tao) and its microcosmic counterpart the Law of Change (Um/Yang). Both of these in synthesis are known as Samjae (Triple Essence) where in the universe is divided into Heaven, Earth and the Human being.
The force by which all action is utilized is known as Ki. The human’s ability to tap into this life force, via technique, is critical to the quality of energy receptivity and output they wield. Hence, the greater ones power, knowledge, etc, the greater their connection to the Tao and subsequent Ki accessibility. This, in turn, is proportional to the degree of balance they consciously wield in the Law of Change through their daily activity or martial arts training.
I believe that such concepts are indispensable to a comprehensive martial art as a way-of-life (”way-of-life” denoting a direct integrative synthesis between martial arts and ones daily activities). Martial arts cannot utilize these principles optimally if there is an excessive co-dependence with external resources, such as the sciences and technology. In other words, personal power and mastery of self is the quintessential attribute for the martial arts practitioner. Thus, personal power is the only power one truly has control over and so any attainable information must be integrated via personal experience for it to be optimally valuable. Validating information from anything but personal experience, regardless of what the masses do via social science, etc, can only lead to personal neglect and ignorance if direct integration and comprehension isn’t obtained.
At present Taekwondo (TKD) integrates some of the aforementioned categories and philosophy through its four core training methods, which are patterns (poomse or hyung), breaking (kyukpa), sparring (kyorugi), and self-defense techniques (hoshinsul).
However, I am of the opinion that TKD should strive to be a more inclusive martial art eventually expanding into all eight categories, etc. It should predominately focus on holistic paradigms, which in turn engender a stronger connection to self and martial arts as a fulfilling way-of-life.
As the world’s largest martial arts organization, with approximately 5 million black belts and 50 million practitioners residing in 170 nations, TKD has the necessary groundwork to effectively change into a more comprehensive system. (3) Such a large organization offers a vast resource for empirical research and development unpararelled by any other martial arts organization. Conversely a major draw back due to its size, is the ability to find consensus regarding valid or accepted techniques followed by the difficult task of accurate dissemination and integration.
However, with the advent of science and technology there has been a monumental increase in communication mediums and modes of transportation. Such ability has made the world community smaller, contributing tremendously to the possibility of cosmopolitan growth via person-to-person interaction unlike any in history. As such, it is my belief that TKD has current and future resources available to facilitate a workable plan towards making it a more comprehensive martial art.
A major argument against expanding TKD into a comprehensive martial art is the appeal towards simplicity. The theory being that the simpler the art form the more attention to detail and the greater mastery one can obtain. While this is certainly true from a certain perspective, (this simplicity reflected in TKD’s premise that using kicking and punching predominately can be effectively utilized in most traditional combat scenario’s regardless of the opponents style of combat), it is reasonable to conclude that a grounded knowledge in other methods of defense/attack can assist in certain combative instances that the current art of TKD is not fully prepared to respond to.
After attending the first Korean Taekwondo Association Instructions course in 1994 and subsequentially two United States Taekwondo Union Instructor courses, I have witnessed a need for comprehensive growth in TKD. For instance, instead of these seminars being held in a metropolitan area/hotel why don’t they hold mountain style retreats instead. Doing this would foster a stronger connection to the roots of TKD, via a strong connection to nature and simplicity. This would set the tone for a more holistic approach that would resonate with the majority of TKD practitioners and not just sport minded athletes. (Of course such an environment shouldn’t totally dismiss the utilization of any facilities or modern approaches via media, etc, where they may be needed.)
Also, too much emphasis is put on sport TKD and its particular technical approach. I don’t understand this trend since the use of the whole body is needed in fighting and to forgo implementing the hands, grabbing, takedowns, weapons, etc, is unrealistic and eventually damaging to TKD as a martial arts. Further, there are ways of conditioning the hands, etc, for kyukpa using special training methods and liniment that do not scare, disfigure, callous or redden the limbs. And even more advance methods of conditioning using danjon hohup and meditation, which go beyond mere physical conditioning. A comprehensive understanding of vital points for martial and healing needs should also be integrated combined with western medical approaches. Finally, the option to defend physically doesn’t mean that physical harm should always be the end result of the conflict. Knowing and utilizing certain non-collision/ redirecting techniques on your opponent resulting in little to no physical injury should also be a realistic option in pugilism energy/efforts.
By implementing the various topics I have generally discussed throughout this paper in a systemized and thorough manner TKD can expand its technical and scholastic repertoire to a level that few martial arts organization/ systems can compare to. Such a change would catapult TKD to the forefront of true comprehensive martial arts and gain the respect and admiration of the martial arts community in the world.
My views on this topic and TKD began when I meant my Master Sung Hong Park. At the time, (in my teens), I had already studied under my cousin in an eclectic form of Shotokan and was well read on a diverse collection of martial arts. However, I wanted formal education. So I chose to study with Master Park since after our meeting, I felt he represented a true master. In actuality I never sought to study TKD per say.
In the successive years I have evaluated my choice to remain in TKD. Overall it has been very enjoyable and good to me and yet I have often felt an affinity towards a more comprehensive system of martial arts. I was fortunate to have a Master who had a diverse background and so this need was some what satiated. As I mature the need to see TKD grow into a comprehensive martial art increases. This is further prompted by TKD’s trend to disproportionately revolve around the sport and or economic/business sides which often over-shadows what I connote as the traditional martial arts values of TKD.
The term “tradition” may be a misnomer since it often precludes a static unbending concept attributed to mere culture or race. But to me a traditional martial art doesn’t reflect a static predilection to some group or culture without room for growth. It includes research, development and innovation, which in turn are tempered with the long time tested values of sound perennial tradition and lineage which the individual can integrate into their lives. There is room in TKD for tradition, sport and business. In fact it would be imprudent to disavow either since each projects a certain social pragmatic value and philosophical development. But in my humble opinion the trend to focus TKD around either the sport and or business paradigms is not as beneficial as focusing on a comprehensive martial arts approach.
(1) Tedeschi, Marc. Hapkido, 2000: Weatherhill, Trumbull, CT, p.18.
(2) Website, http://www.hwarangdo.com/hrd3.htm.
(3) Tedeschi, Marc. Taekwondo. 2003: Weatherhill, Trumbull, CT, p. 32.
Author: Brian Alexander