Thursday, 31 May 2012

TKD just is Shotokan with with serial numbers filed off and aggressive marketing.

"TKD just is Shotokan with with serial numbers filed off and aggressive marketing..." 

I found this quote all over the internet the other day. Actually I found it by accident googling "martial arts quotes". I then copy pasted it and searched the quote to see how widespread it was and yes there it was all over the interenet. For those who have read my blog for some time now you will know that i strongly acknowledge my arts martial roots and I have done many a blog post to set the reccord straight on the Taekwondo history. My latest project with writing more indepth about the pioneers to honor them in a "kukki Taekwondo" setting as the Kukkiwon often overlooks them in their official history writings is just one small part of what I have written about this subject. Even in my three latest blog posts (General Choi Hong Hee, Hwang Kee and Lee Won Kuk) I explain their martial arts training prior to Taekwondo being made.

Am I angry because of the quote above? No not really. I was a little irritated at first but then I understood that the quote was probably started out of ignorance or to start trouble more than a well thought out analasys. To make a looong (and complicated) history of Taekwondo short it does have its roots as in Shotokan Karate but Taekwondo also has strong roots in Shito Ryu, and Shudokan Karate, pluss different Chinese influences (at least two Kwan founders had extensive training in Chinese Martial Arts, pluss Hwang Kee is said to have studdied CMA as well), and to top it all up we have influences of older Korean Martial arts either directly as in imported techniques and strategy or indirectly by incorporating ideas that would change the techniques to conform with the popular opinion of older Korean arts. Even Judo is one of Taekwondo`s roots! (Yun Moo Kwan later reopened as Ji Do Kwan started out as a Judo school!) Taekwondo is really a mixed martial art or MMA!.

  • Person A)What martial art do you practise?
  • Person B)Well I practise a mixed martial art with a Shotokan, Shito Ryu, Shudokan, Judo, Kung Fu base with some Taek Kyon sprinkled on top!
  • Person A)Ahh you practise Taekwondo?
  • Person B)Well thats another way of putting it:-)

So is Taekwondo just "Shotokan with with serial numbers filed off "? Not really. It is true that we have a lot of elements in our training that stems from Shotokan and for a traditional Taekwondo student there will perhaps be more simularities than differences but the pioneers did many things to "improve" upon the system they got and combined it all into Kukkiwon Taekwondo. Most of the martial roots of Taekwondo in the 1920s untill 1940s when the founders studied them was "basic techniques", "forms" and one, two and three step sparring. That was it. The founders therefore made many innovations to what was to become Taekwondo:
  • Incorporated more loosely and mobile footwork (the martial roots of TKD were very static)
  • Incorporated and innovated an insane number of kicks and foot techniques
  • Made traditional stances transitional stances again (they were practised very static in most Karate at the time)
  • Continous sparring
  • Sparring equipment
  • Full contact sparring
  • Developed new martial forms (patterns)
  • Incorporated Self Defense techniques and basic grappling techniques
  • ETC
Now funny thing is that some of these innovations influenced Karate too. Most noteably the high kicks that you would never see prior to the 1960s are now as much a part of many Karate Dojo as they are in Taekwondo... I do not think for one instance that TKD is just Shotokan with with serial numbers filed off and aggressive marketing. I think that one of Taekwondo`s roots lie within Shotokan and that they have both influenced each other back and forth in the last 50 years. I find the opening quote a little disrespectfull of the Pioneers of Taekwondo who struggled hard under difficult circumstances to spread, research and improve upon their martial systems and eventually make Taekwondo. The quote completly disregards all the innovations the KMA pioneers made and contributed wich is why I was a little irritated before understanding that the quote was made either because of ignorance or to start an internet fight. In the first case maybe this post can help fight this ignorance and if the second reason is the case then I will not bother as I do not have the time or energy to start an internet fight (and I do not think it is worth it).

While Taekwondo does have roots within Shotokan it does also have numerous other sources that contributed to the development of the modern martial art. While we should acknowledge and honor our roots and be proud of them on one side we should not forget to pay tribute to the pioneers of Taekwondo who themselves made many important innovations to improve upon what they where given on the other. Taekwondo has strong roots within Okinawa and Japan but it is also on the same time unique and is its own "thing" so to speak.


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